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Question and Answer

Cross-denominational Baptism

Question:

In a recent leadership class in our church, the discussion arose as to what baptisms would we or do we accept in our church. The answer was given that we would accept any baptism, including Roman Catholic, that was done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I was pretty sure that I had the doctrine down pat, and recall being taught by this very church that we would only accept baptisms done in churches considered to be based in true belief. This is to say that the baptism would be recognized for those from believing households only. What is the OPC position or understanding of this issue? Do you know of a written treatment of this subject? I am very willing to be convinced otherwise, but for now I see this as another of the increasing number of tattered edges in the church.

Answer:

It is generally the practice of the OPC to accept Roman Catholic baptism as fulfilling the requirement for baptism. The reasoning behind this practice is that the sanctity of the ordinance does not depend on the character of the person performing the baptism. The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it this way: "The grace exhibited which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it, but upon the work of the Spirit and the word of institution" (27:3). Also see Matthew 10:8, in which Jesus gave authority to the 12 disciples to heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, etc. Judas was one of them and doubtless performed these wonders. Yet he was an apostate. (See John 12:12 and Acts 1:25.) These miraculous works in Jesus' name were not negated by Judas' defection.

There are some in the OPC who question RC baptism on the basis of the Roman Catholic belief in baptismal regeneration. So, as a matter of conscience, the session or the applicant for membership might call for re-baptism. However, I know of no instances that I can quote, and I'm unaware that the question has come to any General Assembly for adjudication. Moreover, it is my guess that the OPC and the PCA are of one mind on the matter. Let me know if you have information to the contrary of which I am not aware.


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