John the Baptist and Protestant Baptisms

Andrea del Verrocchio / Leonardo da Vinci, The Baptism of Christ (1475)
Andrea del Verrocchio / Leonardo da Vinci, The Baptism of Christ (1475)

Protestants tend to view Baptism as a symbol that doesn’t actually do anything, whereas Catholics view Baptism as a Sacrament that truly saves us. Strangely, both sides are right… it just depends upon which Baptisms we’re referring to.

I. The Protestant View of Baptism

Anytime we’re talking about Protestantism, it’s too simplistic to say the Protestant view, since there’s no Church in Protestantism capable of defining beliefs binding upon all members. Instead, “Protestantism” is more or less a catch-all for various religious movements that are Christian but aren’t Catholic or Orthodox.

Nevertheless, there are certain commonly-held views that many Protestants hold to, including a belief that Baptism is merely symbolic. This is explained clearly on the website of Hillsong megachurch:

Baptism is a symbol. It’s meant to show the world that that you love, trust, and have put your hope in Christ. It’s like a wedding ring…

Let’s say I’m not married right now, but if I put a wedding ring on my finger, would that make me married? No, of course not. Similarly, I can be baptized in a church, but that doesn’t make me a true believer in Christ. Imagine that I really was married, though. My husband and I really did go through the marriage ceremony, but I just didn’t have my ring on my finger. Would that mean I wasn’t married? No way, of course I would still be married. Similarly, I can be a believer in Christ, but not baptized, and my sins are still paid for and forgiven by God. [….]

Baptism does not make you a believer; it shows that you already are one! Baptism does not ‘save’ you; only your faith in Christ does that.

So Baptism symbolizes our repentance, but it doesn’t cause it in any way, just as wearing a wedding ring doesn’t cause you to become married. Given this, you might be wondering, why bother getting baptized at all? The pastor of Hillsong baptized Justin Bieber  in a bathtub. Why go to all that trouble if you don’t really need it? Hillsong’s website explains that it’s because “Water baptism is an act of faith and obedience to the commands of Christ.” In other words, Christ was baptized and told us to do it, so we just do it.

II. The Catholic View of Baptism

From the Catholic perspective, that description of Baptism is impoverished, reducing it to a sort of showy religious ritual that we obey legalistically. Instead, we see four things happening in Baptism:

  1. We are cleansed from our sins;
  2. We are made children of God, true Christians;
  3. The Holy Spirit enters our hearts;
  4. We are saved, justified and sanctified.

We’ll get into why Catholics think that Baptism does each of those things in a little bit, but now, suffice it to say that it’s clear within the Catholic view why Baptism matters: it’s the doorway to the Church and to Heaven. In other words, the Catholic has an easier time than the Protestant in explaining why Jesus and the Apostles and St. Paul focus so much on Baptism. But which view is biblically supported?

III. The Two Baptisms in Scripture

It turns out that both “Protestant baptism” and Catholic Baptism are present in the New Testament, but in very different ways. At the start of his Gospel (Mk. 1:4-5), St. Mark shares how:

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

This is a symbolic baptism: it’s a public way for people to acknowledge that they’ve sinned and need repentance and to turn back to God. There’s not an idea that it does anything, actually forgiving sins or making you a Christian or anything of the sort. But this changes with the Baptism of Christ (Mk. 1:9-11):

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

So what seemed like it would be a merely symbolic action ends up being something so much more, with the descent of the Holy Spirit. Christ then sends His own Disciples to Baptize, distinct from what John the Baptist is doing (John 3:22-23). The critical difference is that Christian Baptism actually does something. St. Paul compares and contrasts these two Baptisms in Acts 19:1-7,

While Apol′los was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all.

There it is explicitly. John’s baptism was a “baptism of repentance” that didn’t actually do anything – more or less what Hillsong thinks Christian baptism is. It’s just a work that you perform. But Christian Baptism is so much more, actually bestowing the Holy Spirit.

IV. How Baptism “Works”

So if the difference is that Baptism does something, just what does it do? Let’s return to the four-part list from where I described the Catholic view and see if it’s Scripturally-supported.

Does Baptism cleanse us from our sins? Yes! St. Peter says this to the crowds at the end of his sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2:37-41):

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Ananias is also explicit about this, telling the newly-converted St. Paul “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).

Does Baptism make us children of God? Yes! St. Paul says as much in Galatians 3:25-27,

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

So through Baptism, we become partakers of Jesus Christ, and thereby sons (and daughters) of God. And if you pay careful attention, you’ll see that the Scriptures treat Baptism as the doorway to the Church (which is to say, the means by which we become part of the Body of Christ, and become sons and daughters of God). Notice that St. Luke, in Acts 2:41 says that ‘those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” In other words, he treats Baptism as the thing that adds souls to the Kingdom. Jesus is explicit about this in John 3:5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Does the Holy Spirit dwell within us in Baptism? Yes! Once again, listen to St. Peter’s words, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38). And notice that this is the key difference between John’s baptism and Christ’s, a difference drawn out by St. Paul in Acts 19:1-7.

Does Baptism save us? Yes! St. Paul says so in Titus 3:3-7,

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another; but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

The reason many Protestants reject the various Bible verses explicitly talking about the salvific role of Baptism seems to be that they view Baptism legalistically, as something that we have to do for God, simply because He commands it. But St. Paul describes Baptism as the way that God freely saves us – that is, he views it as a Sacrament, a thing that God does for us, rather than a work that we do for us.

With that contrast in mind, listen to Christ’s command in Mark 16:15-16, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” If St. Paul is right, that makes sense: God saves us through Baptism. But Protestantism can’t make sense of this command, because it sounds like Christ is saying we are saved by works apart from faith, so you end up finding Protestants perverting the verse until it means that if you believe, you’ll be saved and get baptized, rather than what Christ actually says, which is that if you believe and get baptized you’ll be saved.

In 1 Peter 3, St. Peter mentions Noah’s Ark (in which salvation comes through water and through wood), and then says “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). Hold that verse up alongside Hillsong’s claim that “Baptism does not ‘save’ you,” and you’ll realize that Scripture and Protestantism can’t both be right about Christian Baptism.

One of the clearest passages depicting all four of these elements of Baptism is actually from the Old Testament, in which God tells how in the New Covenant, He will do the following (Ezekiel 36:24-28):

For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

Here we see, all wrapped up at once, how Baptism (1) cleanses us from all of our impurities, (2) makes us God’s own People, (3) involves God sending His Holy Spirit into our hearts; and (4) saves us, cleansing and sanctifying us. These promises are fulfilled, not in the baptism of John the Baptist, but in the Baptism of Jesus Christ, and it’s tragic that many baptized Christians are unaware of the grandeur of the gift that they’ve been given in this Sacrament.

69 Comments

    1. “So one who has NO FAITH can be baptized and become born again…”

      Of course. A week-old baby has no discernment of faith. Read on….

      “Baptism (1) cleanses us from all of our impurities, (2) makes us God’s own People, (3) involves God sending His Holy Spirit into our hearts; and (4) saves us, cleansing and sanctifying us.”

      In other words, it’s a free Gift regardless of our mental state. What we do after receiving this sacramental Gift of baptismal absolution from original Sin (and others, if adult baptism) is, y’know, our free will choice, to sin or not to sin…..that’s why the Sacrament of Confession exists, because pretty much all of us fall down (Proverbs 24:16) in the intervening time after this gift is given and our departure from the earth….confessing to God through an ordained priest acting “in persona Christi” is the mechanism by which we rise again.

    2. AK is right. Jesus desired even infants, who are too young to understand the meaning of faith, to come to Him via these teachings :

      1. “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).

      2. “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God’” (Luke 18:15–16).

      And for those who think these were older children and not actually infants incapable of even talking, the Greek word used in this passage of Luke 18:15, above, is “Brepha”…with the literal meaning “infants”.

      So, infants who have no understanding, and consequently NO FAITH, can indeed be baptized and receive the promised spiritual benefits of the sacrament, even as is implied by these same words of Christ.

      1. It might be remembered that the faith of the parents, and the intent to raise them as Christians is, and was, a necessary requirement for the baptism of infants. It was the mother’s who were in charge of their children who were responsible for this particular teaching of Christ. Apparently, the faith of parents is sufficient for their babies also. At least, that’s the way the early Church believed, practiced and taught.

        1. Thank you Al, and a Merry Christmas to you, yours, and all on this blog.

          Yes, one can love “your own life the way you decide” post-baptism, or post-Confession for that matter. This is an act of free will, an acceptance or rejection of God’s rules (through His Church on Earth) and grace…and acts have consequences.

          1. Not to mention that Baptism is only the beginning of the Christian life…or the good ‘race’, as St. Paul might put it. It still needs to be endured valiantly until the end. And, of this the Lord in His Gospel also said:

            “He that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me.” [Matt. 10:38] And,

            “Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven.” [Matt. 10:32] And,

            “you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved. ” [Matt. 10:21]

            Because of teachings such as these, Catholics of course don’t believe in the ‘once saved always saved’ novel Protestant doctrines. They clearly contradict the words of Christ in these and many other Gospel teachings and quotes.

            ***********************************

            Merry Christmas to you also, AK! And to all the rest here.

  1. My Protestant cousin looks at Mark 16:15-16, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned,” and places all the emphasis on “but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

    She argues that this phrase trumps everything, thereby proving that faith alone is the sole determinant of salvation. If you believe, then you will be baptized.

    Then she backs it up with Act 16:30-33: “….’Men, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night…and he was baptized at once, with all his family.”

    The Apostles were not telling people that they could not be saved without baptism. They were telling them that their repentance would be evidenced by their baptism.

  2. My Protestant cousin looks at Mark 16:15-16, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned,” and places all the emphasis on “but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

    She argues that this phrase trumps everything, thereby proving that faith alone is the sole determinant of salvation. If you believe, then you will be baptized.

    Then she backs it up with Act 16:30-33: “….’Men, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night…and he was baptized at once, with all his family.”

    The Apostles were not telling people that they could not be saved without baptism. They were telling them that their repentance would be evidenced by their baptism.

    1. I think a good way to counter this is to plug the verse in Acts chapter 16 back into Mark. By doing so, you can show that the “believing” in Acts implicitly includes baptism, as per Mark.

      Therefore, the component in believing is receiving baptism, which, as Joe points out elsewhere in his post, includes the forgiveness of sins and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

      1. I think the dilemma is when someone, like my cousin, starts with the presupposition that salvation is by faith alone, then the entire interpretive approach *has to be* within that context.

        Even if I plug Acts 16 back into Mark 16, she only focuses on the “believing” component and ignores the baptism condition. I have to think of an approach that shows it’s faith + baptism for those capable of believing.

        I’m going to anticipate a counter:
        If baptism regenerates (which incl, forgiveness, indwelling of the HS), but the person comes to faith prior to baptism, AND does NOT get baptized, they already have the HS. By not getting baptized, they don’t ipso facto lose faith and the HS. Therefore, baptism cannot be an absolute requirement.

        1. Joe – people make choices, including theological ones. Scripture is pretty clear about the necessity of coming to God ‘through water **and** the Spirit.” (John 3:5, et al.) Doesn’t say “or.” But then again, there’s a lot of theological pick-and-choose if-it-feels-good-do-it amongst 30,000 denominations.

          My advice re: your cousin is to adopt the philosophy of St.Bernadette of Lourdes: “My job in this life is to inform, not to convince…”

        2. The problem with many Protestants is that they take one phrase from the scriptures, one sentence even, and make monumental conclusions from it as if it were a singular teaching, or precept, with more weight than countless other teachings of the New Testament. But, if they would apply the same type of focus to other scriptures, their conclusions would be completely ludicrous.

          For instance, if someone would be scrupulous over, or only focus on, the following saying of Christ, and make it the most important of His teachings, consider what the consequences would be for their spiritual life:

          “you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved. ” [Matt. 10:21]

          Such a person can conclude categorically that every single person living in this world hates him, and he must persist in this world and live with the hatred of absolutely ALL others until the end of his life. And, even his fellow Christians must hate him, because Jesus said ALL, and all means all.

          So, we can see how misinterpretation of the scriptures can lead to all kinds of wild theological theories. And there are countless other scriptures that are similar and which can only be understood by common sense, wisdom and studious consideration of complete context of both the Old and New Testaments.

          It seems that your cousin has this problem, as do many Protestants. It would be good to point it out to her by showing all of the other quotes of Christ regarding baptism, including the details in the NT of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus at His own baptism. And after that, there are plenty of teachings on baptism from the catechesis and practices that occurred in the early centuries of the Church (ie. Google: “Catechumenate history”. But, the real problem is the over scrupulous or hyper focused exegesis that loses track of the overall Gospel message taught by Christ and the Early Church Fathers.

          1. awlms, what you wrote is spot on in re to my cousin. I have told her that she reduces the Gospel to John 3:16, Rom 9:10 (if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved), and similar verses where Scriptures speak of believing-salvation. I’ve told her that she needs to cut out 99% of the New Testament because to her, it’s merely superfluous, full of suggestions and recommendations. Christ and his Apostles commanded more than faith for salvation, e.g., baptism, repentance, loving neighbor, the Eucharist, perseverance in faithfulness and charity, avoidance of deadly sins, etc.

            I need to help her see that the Gospel is not formulaic and truncated to just believing that Christ is the Son of God.

          2. Jesus Himself says that it is KEEPING His word that is essential. And KEEPING isn’t a one and done deal, it’s a continual practice. He also tells His disciples to “baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, TEACHING THEM TO CARRY OUT ALL THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU. This again does not signify a ‘one and done deal’, because it took Jesus 2 1/2+ years to teach His disciples regarding the ‘Kingdom of God’.

            Here is the sequence that Jesus teaches about faithfully following Him, and it starts with keeping His commandments, loving Him and keeping His many teachings in the Gospel message preached by Him :

            “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth me. And he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father: and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith to him, not the Iscariot: Lord, how is it, that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not to the world? Jesus answered, and said to him: If any one love me, HE WILL KEEP MY WORD, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him. He that loveth me not, KEEPETH NOT MY WORDS. And the word which you have heard, is not mine; but the Father’s who sent me.” [John 14:21]

            So, the Protestant notion of “believing in” Jesus is taught by Christ Himself to be more detailed and involved than most of these Christians think. And Christ reiterates this also, in this saying:

            “Then Jesus said to those Jews, who believed him: If you continue in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:31]

            So, we see again here not a ‘one and done’ conversion, but rather, a continual process. We see the sequence above that Jesus describes starting with the initial faith of those who ‘believed in Him’, which led them to “continue in my (Jesus’) word”, leading to a spiritual reward… the knowledge of the Truth… with the end being ‘spiritual freedom.’

            Baptism has it’s own place in this sequence, or process, and which the ancient Church decided that with adults it normally takes place after sufficient catechisis ( a teaching of these very same things). And it is also the Church who decides who is and who isn’t allowed to be baptized.

            Maybe you can explain something like this to your cousin?

        3. Joe,

          Ask your cousin: If when one comes to faith, they automatically receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, as your cousin believes, what did the Apostles receive at Pentecost that they didn’t already have?

          1. That’s an interesting question Duane. Before I ask her, I ought to know the answer myself. They also received the HS immediately after the Resurrection when Christ breathed on them and gave them the power to forgive/retain sins. Therefore, at Pentecost, the BVM and Apostles received the *fulness* of the HS, e.g., all the gifts, incl extraordinary gifts. But they were certainly saved prior to — the BVM as an example.

            Am I incorrect?

          2. Joe,

            Correct, they received different gifts of the Holy Spirit at different times. They did not receive all the gifts at once. Nor do we. Your cousin can clearly see this when juxtaposing the Apostles before Pentecost, with the Apostles post Pentecost.

            The question for your cousin then becomes: If a person comes to faith in Jesus, reads what Peter says in Acts 2:37-38, and yet refuses to be baptized, is that person rejecting Jesus, and how would that affect that person whom your cousin says is saved prior to baptism?

            I take issue with your saved prior to…..Salvation is a process. If any one of the Apostles had not persevered to the end, would they have been saved? Jesus says we must remain in him, which opens up the possibility that we can walk away. If your cousin is OSAS, ask him/her how can someone remain in someplace they have never been? And if they are there, and your cousin believes once there you cannot walk away, then why did Jesus teach for us to remain in Him?

            p.s. When you want to reply to someone and you don’t see the reply button, scroll up to see what comment that person was replying to, and hit that reply button. That automatically puts your answer at the bottom of the replies in that thread.

          3. Joe,

            Baptism is an absolute requirement, FOR THOSE WHO HAVE HEARD THE MESSAGE. This is borne out in Acts 2, when Peter in response to what must be done replies: repent AND be baptized.

          4. Duane,

            >> I take issue with your saved prior to…..Salvation is a process. If any one of the Apostles had not persevered to the end, would they have been saved? <> If your cousin is OSAS, ask him/her how can someone remain in someplace they have never been? <<

            She is not OSAS.

            It seems to me that the struggle for her with these commands is due to her belief in one-time justification. If that is your premise, then it’s difficult to understand the requirements of baptism, confession, the Eucharist, etc. They just won’t fit into a belief structure of salvation being a one-time event.

            I was trying to put my finger on it and it just became clear for me through these comments. As long as one fails to see salvation as a lifelong process, the requirements such as these sacraments, as well as, the admonitions to love and abide in Christ, are viewed as things we SHOULD do because we love Him and desire to obey Him – but not absolutely REQUIRED for our salvation.

            Does that sound right?

    2. Ask your Sola Fide cousin if a person must love God to be saved. If she answers yes, then she is admitting that a person must also have works to be saved, since the act of loving is in and of itself a work. Believing is also a work. If she answers no, then she puts herself in the ridiculous position of having to mount a defense that a person does not have to love God in order to be saved.

      1. James,

        I’ve actually used that approach and took it a step further. Of course she replied that she loves God. However, I noticed what Sola Fideists do. They lump Love into Faith and argue that it is impossible to have “saving faith” without love. To them it’s like having a triangle without 3 sides. Just does not happen. (When bringing up the Letter of James, they dismiss THAT faith as mere assent and claim that Paul is talking about love-filled faith.)

        So… when she says “Of course I love God,” I asked if it is possible to love someone without DOING something? Can you say I love my husband or children and do nothing? I asserted that, if love is authentic, then it is an impossibility to do nothing. Therefore, loving necessarily requires some sort of “acts.”

  3. awlms,
    For some reason the “Reply” button is missing from your last comment.

    Thanks for that detailed explanation. I think it is very helpful!
    I plan on using it.

    Can you help clarify the sequence in Acts (in a couple places) where someone comes to faith in Christ and THEN to baptism. Is baptism there more analogous to Pentecost for the new Christian? Or is it more of the beginning of the Justification process whereby sins are yet to be forgiven and the inherence of the Holy Spirit is not completed until baptism is administered?

    If it is the latter, which I suspect, then can we respond negatively to the question “if I come to faith in Christ and do not get baptized, am I still completely forgiven?”

    Merry Christmas everyone!

    1. Hi Joe,

      You said: “if I come to faith in Christ and do not get baptized, am I still completely forgiven?”

      Everything depends on exactly what you mean by “come to faith in Christ”. what level, or degree, of faith? Is it just hearing a preacher say…believe in Jesus…or is it an actual in-depth study of his Gospel message? To help distinguish what level of faith a person is at, the Early Church separated the stages like this: First is the ‘kerygma’, which is the initial proclamation of the gospel to a person. This is often the role of the laity in trying to reach out to others and bring them to a knowledge of the Lord. Then, if the person has interest, he will advance to the next step, the ‘catechumenate’. He will be brought to the Church…even as St. Paul was… and learn fully the teachings of Christ in greater detail, i.e….”teach them to carry out all that I have commanded you”, etc.. And then, if he accepts what the Church teaches in the more in-depth catechetical lessons then he is baptized into the teachings, sacraments and liturgical practices of the Church. Then, of course, he must continue to grow in faith….or as St. Paul might say, advance from being fed upon ‘milk and honey’ to more substantial and nutritious food. So, even with the conversion of St. Paul, wherein Jesus Himself talked to him, St. Paul still needed to be brought to the Church to be taught by them. This is signified by his healing from his blindness.

      Here is how Catholic Answers describes the process of kerygma and catechesis”:

      “Kerygma is a term that is largely unfamiliar to most Catholics. Kerygma (from the Greek keryssein, to proclaim, and keryx, herald) refers to the initial and essential proclamation of the gospel message. The word appears nine times in the New Testament: once in Matthew (12:41), once in Mark (16:20), once in Luke (11:32), and six times in the letters of St. Paul (Rom. 16:25; 1 Cor. 1:21, 2:4, 15:14; 2 Tim. 4:17; and Titus 1:3). To put it simply, the kerygma is the very heart of the gospel, the core message of the Christian faith that all believers are call to proclaim.

      Kerygma is distinct from didache, another Greek term that refers to teaching, instruction, or doctrine. While kerygma means the initial gospel proclamation designed to introduce a person to Christ and to appeal for conversion, didache (what we commonly refer to today as catechesis) concerns the fuller and more extensive doctrinal and moral teaching and instruction in the Faith that a person receives once he has accepted the kerygma and has been baptized.

      Bl. John Paul II, in his 1979 apostolic exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, describes how catechesis builds upon the kerygma:

      Thus through catechesis the Gospel kerygma (the initial ardent proclamation by which a person is one day overwhelmed and brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith) is gradually deepened, developed in its implicit consequences, explained in language that includes an appeal to reason, and channeled towards Christian practice in the Church and the world (CT 25).”

      for more, see: https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/the-kerygma-enigma

      1. It might be added that the Early Church taught that catechumen’s who died while in the course of their catechetical instruction, that is before receiving their baptism (usually due to their martyrdom), were still considered to be ‘saved’.

        A lot of information on Early Church Catechesis can be found by reading the”Catechetical Lectures” of St. Cyril of Jerusalem ( c. 313 – 386 AD). Even just an hour study of this work can really give a good idea on how the early Church taught the faith in those early centuries. Every Christian should read it, as it is instantly available online for review.

        Here is a New Advent link to it: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3101.htm

  4. Merry Christmas, Everyone! Seattle has had rare snow since Christmas Eve, but today it is slowly melting.

    Partied with an archdiocesan group here, the Crozier Society. Talked to a few seminarians about this site. First thing out of one’s mouth? “Calvinists tend not to take a holistic approach to Scripture. Talk to them about the Fathers….” (Tongue in cheek): “They weren’t Catholic!”

    Best of the New Year to you all too.

  5. There seems to be some vague differences between RCism and Orthodoxy when it pertains to baptism (and vague, I mean, the Orthodoxy make it more vague of course).

    In Orthodoxy, sacramental realities can literally disappear via faithlessness. Hence, an infant who is baptized and does not live up to his baptism essentially forfeits the grace of baptism. Orthodoxy sometimes takes this principle to its logical extent (they re-chrismate apostates, they do ecclesiastical divorces and remarriages, etcetera) and sometimes they don’t (they do not repeat baptisms that are considered valid.)

    If anything useful can be gathered from these inconsistencies, it is that ultimately a sacrament is powerless without the receptivity of the human participant. Of course God wants to bestow grace on men, it is men that don’t always desire His grace and forgiveness. So, unless one clings to Christ and faithfully lives out the sacramental reality, man in effect resists the sacramental reality–and it does not exist. Hence, a baptism may not need to be repeated, but through faithlessness it literally becomes meaningless.

    I just thought the above comments may be interesting to those who want to understand the Orthodox take on baptism and sacraments–it is essentially the same as the RC’s but without the ironing out of the kinks…but some of the kinks are pretty big.

    BTW, Anglicans, Methodists, and Lutherans also affirm baptismal regeneration.

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. Craig,

      I used to read the comments here a couple of years ago and have been absent for a while. I’m sorry for my unfamiliarity with regular posters here. Are you Greek Orthodox?

    2. Craig, ref “ecclesiastical divorces…”

      I had heard something of this in Orthodoxy, but never anything definitive. Is this analogous to the marital validity tribunal (i.e.,annulment process) in Roman Catholicism?

      Thanks!

      1. Joe, I have converted to Orthodoxy and was chrismated on December 24th. For what it is worth, Orthodoxy considers themselves the Catholic Church, so, there are not just Greeks. My church is about half Russian, but really it is American (Orthodox Church of America).

        AK, I am personally not a fan of ecclesiastical divorce, but I defer to canon law. To answer you question, divorces are about as common as annulments in Roman Catholicism (perhaps there are less divorces in Orthodoxy), but while annulments can be given for silly reasons (i.e. 28 year old man married for 30 years with the same woman and having three children with her realizes he never “validly” consented to the marriage), in Orthodoxy they can simply divorce you for adultery. I know people can argue over what the Greek word “pornea” means, but I think the Greeks probably have a pretty good handle on Greek.

        God bless,
        Craig

        1. That’s wonderful. Congratulations!
          Sorry, I just assumed Greek when I saw your last name.

          If I recall correctly, you were the fella that used to often comment contra Joe. 🙂

        2. Craig – interesting the ‘adultery’ exception in Orthodoxy. Being Greek, I might be inclined to agree with you about Greeks and Greek….but then again, most modern Greeks wouldn’t know classical any more than Snooki Polizzi of “Jersey Shore” might speak conversational Latin.

          Having said, my Orthodox roots are deep – I am a convert to Catholicism – and with an attendant respect. We are brothers….

          “…but while annulments can be given for silly reasons…”

          I used to think that myself…until I had experience to see the workings of the Tribunal where I live. I can’t speak for all Archdioceses, but this one treats annulments similarly to the discernment of miracles by the authorities at Lourdes. Lots of attention to the idea that, this decision is going to be scrutinized, publicly…so it better be on sound, defensible logic and canon law.

          Someone, through inertia and duty, can put up with something for 30 years, kids and all, that never should have happened in the first place…it happens….

          There’s more, not for here, but you get the idea…..

          1. Joe, you recall correctly.

            AK, I am honestly not trying to misportray the annulment process, and obviously it depends on which Bishop’s jurisdiction you are in. That being said, I won’t get into any personal details in respect of him, I know someone who studied canon law who spoke of a case that I essentially laid out in my post (give or take a child and a few years–but not a lot.) So, the wrong things do happen.

            I do think that the difference between Orthodoxy and Catholicism is not orthopraxy per se (the practical result is essentially the same), but there is a theological difference between the sacraments. Orthodox, lack of a better way of putting it, are more wishy washy and imprecise.

            For example, how can God bless a second marriage, in that it is sacramental? RCism gives a pretty solid answer–He cannot and will not. Orthodoxy sees an additional marriage as a concession, and not as command, to combat lust (and so much is said right in the marriage ceremony, which you know as a Greek is penitential.)

            Yet, the Scriptures themselves do speak of the sacramental reality of being one flesh existing outside the marriage context. In 1 Cor 6, those who sleep with prostitutes even become one flesh with them. Perhaps this would be a over-literal reading of the Scriptures, but it leaves the door open for the Orthodox view.

            We also know of cases of those with common-law marriages (St Basil’s canons, and I think Augustine commented on it somewhere) being allowed to partake in the Eucharist. We also have in one of the saints lives it recorded that the mistress of a Roman Emperor (I believe Commodus) interceding and protecting one of the saints before their martyrdom. She was said to be a believer. Being that professionally she was a concubine, was she excommunicate or accepted?

            The early Church appeared to have a view of economia. So, the Orthodox approach of the sacraments merely preserves these practices, just as the RC view of chrismating everyone other than Mormons that have Trinitarian baptisms is a much looser view than what we see in the councils and the eastern fathers (and North African fathers before Augustine.)

            But, I cannot help but feel that RCism has less of a view of people “losing” sacramental realities than Orthodoxy views the matter. Orthodoxy is more thoroughly synergistic, so without the human party constantly consenting to the sacramental reality, the sacramental reality ceases to exist. The western view is traditionally more “Augustinian,” though the tradition precedes the mid third century as it was elucidated by Saint and Pope Stephen I.

            GOd bless,
            Craig

  6. 1. Christianity’s ultimate goal: maximize the number of souls that enter Heaven.

    2. Christianity’s ultimate ethos: self-sacrifice for the greater – and ultimately, greatest – good, namely, Heaven.

    Given 1 and 2, why would it be wrong to kill newly baptized infants or adults?

    That act would guarantee heaven for those killed; in fact, it would turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to them since they might have at some later date died while no longer in a state of grace, and ended up Hell.

    The person doing the killing, while his act might still be inherently bad and earn him damnation, would be offering the ultimate act of self-sacrifice for the greatest good of those newly baptized souls.

    What’s gone wrong here?

    1. “What’s gone wrong here?”

      In your twisted screed, what passes for a perverted form of logic, mostly.

      Murder is forbidden by the sixth commandment and by Jesus Himself in Matt 19:18. The taking of human life is reserved for the Creator of that life, absent a case of legitimate and unavoidable self-defense, and its extension the Just War theory of St.Thomas Aquinas, because such might be necessary to preserve innocent life.

      Killing an infant is murder, unjustifiable by any of the cases above, unless you are a psycho or a Muslim regent bent on eliminating royal competition. When God ordered the Israelites to slay rival tribes, He was exercising His privilege as Creator and one assumes the otherwise innocent so slain would instantly achieve some level of the Beatific Vision.

      That should explain it.

      1. Settle down, AK. You’ve twisted and misstated my comment.

        Yes, killing an innocent is murder, and murder is wrong. I grant that, not deny it.

        I’ve pointed out the paradox that follows once you combine that with a sacramental understanding of baptism, the Christian elevation of self-sacrifice as the ultimate moral act, and entrance into Heaven as the ultimate human good.

        Let’s review.

        1. Entrance into Heaven is the ultimate human good.
        2. The goal of Christianity is to maximize the number of souls who enter Heaven.
        3. Baptism confers a state of grace on the baptized.
        4. Dying in a state of grace guarantees entrance into Heaven.
        4a. A person killed in a state of grace is guaranteed entrance into Heaven, the ultimate human good.
        5. Self-sacrifice is the ultimate moral act in the Christian ethos
        6. Killing an innocent person is murder, and murder is wrong.

        I don’t think sacramentalist Christians (Catholic, Orthodox) would find any of the foregoing premises controversial.

        But they, combined together, seem to entail that a Christian can foster 2 expeditiously and securely by committing 6, given 4 and 4a, and though it would violate 6, it would be an instance of 5 since the person is sacrificing their ultimate good (heaven) so that others who otherwise might not be able to remain in a state of grace are guaranteed the ultimate human good, namely, entrance into heaven.

        Basically, why shouldn’t a Christian kill Christians in a state of grace, thereby maximizing the number of people guaranteed entrance into heaven, and in the process exemplify ultimate self sacrifice by losing Heaven for him or herself so that others can be guaranteed entrance into Heaven?

        The sacramental understanding of baptism seems to entail an absurdity – killing a recently baptized infant or adult is the best possible favor that you could do for them.

        1. “Settle down.” Cute. It ain’t workin.’ Settle on this…

          You say I twist and misstate, then proceed to say the-same-thing in your follow-on rant, ignoring everything I said in response to your first post, including the clear reference to the sixth commandment and the principle that the taking of innocent life outside of self-defense and just war is reserved to God alone, the Creator of that life.

          All of us just went through a version of this over more than a year with a psycho Calvinist named Barry. Counterpoints ignored, with a doubledown (in your case, the Christian-theologically abhorrent idea that killing an innocent is “doing them a favor”) preceded by a perverted logic train that would make Aristotle or Aquinas puke, and finally leavened with condescension and cynicism.

          Absurdity, indeed…..not playing anymore.

        2. Craig – good morning.

          “So, the wrong things do happen.”

          Oh trust me, I was not carving on your observation, and yes, absolutely…I doubt every tribunal is as ethical as the diocese in which I reside. Some do make the wrong choice between God and mammon. Recently, a Kennedy ex had publicly to fight to ensure the Church did not wink-wink declare her marriage to a philandering (any other kind?) Kennedy heir, invalid. I understand he’s now a Unitarian, which seems a lot more appropriate.

          Your elucidation of the the differences between the concept (and perception) of “sacramental realities” between orthodoxy and Western Catholicism are appreciated. Catholicism, once in, never out…orthodoxy, attitude counts towards sacramental permanence….that’s what I get from your explanation. Am I correct?

          Thanks and Happy New Year (as well as a blessed Epiphany) to you and yours.

        3. I did supply a cogent response, something your posts neither acknowledged nor merited.

          No huff….only deserved contempt for your obtuse, condescending, and logically fallacious rants. Seen it before, and I recognize the signs, pal…to me, you’re a troll here to disrupt.

          However, if you’re not a troll, and you truly believe killing the newly baptized is “a plan,” then I guess we’ll read about you in tomorrow’s news. Good luck with your legal defense.

          1. Are you drunk?

            I’ve clearly outlined a moral absurdity that follows from a sacramental notion of baptism when taken in conjunction with other key Christian beliefs, something that is entirely relevant to the post, and I’ve done it with civility, free of hyper emotionalism – something that would seem entirely appropriate on a forum dedicated to thoughtful philo-theological analysis.

            Your pointing out that murder is forbidden would be a decisive reply if I wrote a comment asking, Is murder forbidden in Christianity? Anyone with basic reading comprehension can clearly see that’s not the substance of my comment.

            I’ll take your haughty evasion as fear and panic in the face of your inability to counter it.

            I hope someone here can offer a thoughtful response to the reductio ad absurdum that I’ve presented.

          2. Drunk? Well, if I am, then tomorrow I shall be sober.

            You, however, shall still be a scrofulous, intolerable troll. (apologies to Winston Churchill – none to you).

    2. ZoB: Newly baptized souls would go straight to heaven, but the murderer of those innocents would not, so there is definitely no good, no virtue, no love, no honor in such an act.

      As a cradle Catholic, I never once learned that God’s ultimate goal and ethos for Christianity are as you suggest. Where have you caught such ideas?

      All our acts ought to arise from or be motivated by some sense of justice–such as the Golden Rule, or loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Christ commanded that we love ourselves and love our neighbor likewise. We ought therefore to strive that our acts be imbued with virtue and justice. Murder can not be justified or deemed as “self-sacrifice” and as a good to another. As God is the giver of life, we do wrong by taking neighborly lives which God has gifted to us all.

      There is a virtue called longanimity. God rewards those who learn patience and self-sacrifice through virtuous means. See Galatians 5:22. Longanimity is rewarded both in heaven and on earth by those who seek and find it.

      1. Hi Margo,

        Thanks for your reply.

        You write: “As a cradle Catholic, I never once learned that God’s ultimate goal and ethos for Christianity are as you suggest. Where have you caught such ideas?”

        The New Testament and the Magesterium.

        Re: P1 and P2

        The chief end of Christianity is to aid man in achieving his chief end, namely, participation in the life of the Triune Godhead, or in other words, Heaven. I think any well-formed Christian would agree with that.

        Re: P5

        “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” – Gospel of John, 15:13

        Yes, murder violates the letter and spirit of major Christian tenets, which the murderer would probably acknowledge, along with the likelihood of his or her eternal damnation. However, that doesn’t change the objective state of things – more people will end up in Heaven by his act, and he exemplifies Christian service by sacrificing his own eternal life so that he can help others guarantee theirs.

        Imagine a room of 10 freshly baptized adults. They’re now in a state of grace. Chances are that at least some of them might end up losing that state of grace before their death, and thereby incurring eternal damnation. By killing them immediately after their baptism, the murderer secures their eternal life in Heaven, and thereby furthers Christianity’s ultimate end of aiding people to achieve their ultimate end (Heaven) and in the process exemplifies the highest expression of self-sacrifice by forfeiting Heaven for him or herself so others can secure it.

        This is a moral absurdity that follows from the sacramental understanding of baptism combined with other key Christian beliefs.

        1. Just to note – P1, P2 and P5 refer to the six theological claims listed in my earlier comment.

          My claim in a nutshell: a deeply noxious moral absurdity follows from P1 to P6. Obviously murder is wrong, but trying to understanding where the reasoning goes wrong is of philosophical and theological interest.

        2. Sorry ZoB, but this is a highly selfish and egoistic proposition your hypothetical, self sacrificing (to Hell) Christian is proposing. He thinks he is charitable by expediting Christian souls to heaven without considering the fact that these same souls are the ones who are to spread the holy faith, and baptize others, here on Earth in their proper generation. It would be the same as if St. Paul was only concerned with Heaven and therefore was not interested in teaching others in far off countries. It’s ludicrous.

          These same Christians who are newly baptized are called to be the next generation of saints on earth, and to fulfill the request we make to God every time we pray the ‘Lords Prayer’: “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done ON EARTH as it is in Heaven”. So, God desires that Christians do His will HERE on Earth, and not try to get to Heaven before the proper time. And this is a petition we are to be praying many times a day, per Christ’s teaching: “Pray always”.

          It’s a nice, if not excessively morbid, mental exercise you propose, but is actually highly anti-Christian and satanic in all reality. It violates almost everything that Christ taught in His gospel message. It would really be akin to praying the opposite of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom NOT COME, Thy will NOT BE DONE on Earth as it is in Heaven. We don’t need anything done on Earth, and so it’s better to expedite any baptized person to Heaven as soon as possible”. Pure lunacy, absurdity and evil.

          Long live the holy faith…flourishing on Earth as it is in Heaven through all the holy labors of all the baptized!! 🙂

          1. Hi awlms,

            I was analyzing a theological quandary, nothing more than that.

            I agree with your analysis, and there are even other considerations that can flesh it out more, some of which I sketch in my other comments below.

            Thinking through these puzzles can strengthen faith and depend understanding of the Deposit of Faith. In this case, I believe the theological puzzle has helped, me at least, to develop a more mature understanding of the chief end of Christianity.

            I think commenters here should generally be a bit more level-headed when responding to people posing theo-philosophical challenges and difficulties. Not every one who asks hard questions is a troll. Some people genuinely want to reflect and understand.

          2. There was no quandary, Z. Only your inability to accept that in Christianity, there are a coupla things, namely revelation and commandments, that are, y’know, not optional?

            Your painfully contrived, mind-numbing conceit that an individual might justifiably make a decision to murder another for the victim’s spiritual good, is monumentally laughable from the get-go. When I pointed out that this is expressly forbidden by revealed wisdom, and gave references, your response was arrogantly to ignore my response, and with obsessive petulance double down on how only a human-derived logic trail, rather than clear revelation, is necessary to resolve this unnaturally engineered “quandary,” else it stands. Then you accused me of being drunk, or in “fear and panic.” That pretty much confirmed my whiff of troll – possessed of distinctive odor, those – and called it out.

            You may eventually have come to the right conclusion, through your own reasoning, such as it is. As a human, you could just as easily have reached the opposite conclusion, and guaranteed, someone else will, maybe someone else sufficiently unhinged to act on that monstrous supposition.

            Groups of humans syllogized and A+B=C’d the Holodomor and the Holocaust inot existence. Just combine human pride, perversion, power, and a disregard for God’s revealed commandments. I am sure it made sense to them. To the victims, not so much.

          3. Hi ZoB,

            Back in the 1200’s-1400’s it was a requirement of philosophical and theological students to debate/dispute BOTH SIDES of any theological or philosophical argument. It was a daily exercise of early scholasticism, and it achieved exactly what you describe above, a deeper understanding of almost any issue. This sort of disputation was really one of the most effective tools used in the early educational system of the Middle Ages, and it is clearly demonstrated inThomas Aquina’s ‘Summa’ . That is, Aquinas attacks a question by reviewing a variety of possible perspectives, and only after that does he give his own opinion or answer.

            There is an excellent book called “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization”, and this is one of the topics covered in it. Out of such deep study, concepts such as international human rights were debated and developed, largely for the purpose of defending the natural, God given, rights of indigenous peoples throughout the world. If you get the chance, take a look at the book. Our Dominican O.P. parish chose this book for a parish wide Book Study that we conduct each year. Definitely worth reading.

            Best to you.

        3. ZoB: Imagine a room of 10 freshly baptized adults. They’re now in a state of grace. Chances are that at least some of them might end up losing that state of grace before their death, and thereby incurring eternal damnation. By killing them immediately after their baptism, the murderer secures their eternal life in Heaven, and thereby furthers Christianity’s ultimate end of aiding people to achieve their ultimate end (Heaven) and in the process exemplifies the highest expression of self-sacrifice by forfeiting Heaven for him or herself so others can secure it.

          Counter-arguments
          1. Securing someone else’s salvation by yourself committing a mortal sin is not virtuous, but evil. No amount of good intention in an objectively grave evil committed with full knowledge and full consent of the will can cause the evil action to be anything other than evil and a mortal sin on the part of the perpetrator. The ends do not justify the means.
          2. Committing the grave act with the intention of future confession is itself a mortal sin (presumption), and makes it almost entirely certain that the perpetrator will never repent, and earn for themselves a very painful experience of Hell.
          3. Christianity’s ultimate goal is not alone to helping people achieve their ultimate end, but ultimately to glorifying God in this life and the next. An act which is deeply offensive to God in this life hurts Christianity’s main goal, since it denigrates God in this life.
          4. Any act of evil, especially on the part of Christians, brings disorder into the World and greatly hinders the work of Christ.
          5. Self-sacrifice does not consist in depriving oneself of God for the sake of another, since it robs God of your own soul, which is a grave injustice to God. Rather, the highest expression of self-sacrifice is to reject all created goods and consolations for the sake of God and your neighbor (the greatest of which is to give your life — John 15:13).
          6. The victims may not receive eternal life, since mortal sins can be committed in an instant, and may have occurred in-between their baptism and their murder.
          7. The murder represents a grave injustice against the victims spiritually, in that they are robbed of any ability to merit (which can only be done in this life).

          “For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ.” Galatians 3:27

  7. *edit*

    The sacramental understanding of baptism seems to entail an absurdity – killing a recently baptized infant or adult is the best possible favor that you could do for them AND is simultaneously an inherently immoral act AND a supremely moral act given its exemplification of the ultimate Christian principle, given that the killer sacrifices their entrance into Heaven for the sake of others by the act.

    1. Except the best thing that could ever happen to a newly baptized infant or adult is to let them enjoy this life, which is what baptism provides for us….allowing us to enjoy and live this life to the fullest.

      Wouldn’t it be even better to not kill the newly baptized and have the possibility of everyone go to Heaven?

      By the way, do you notice the arrogance in the person who thinks s/he can take another’s life, and what they’re doing is the best possible thing for others, because I, in my subjective arrogance, know what’s best for you, even though anyone with a second grade education would realize that the best thing for the newly baptized would be to let them live this life AND go to Heaven?

      1. “By the way, do you notice the arrogance…”

        Only like the passengers in the Titanic noted something amiss when the ship tilted stern-up.

        The only thing he’ll accept is “oh, what a flash of sublime insight! You just upended two millennia of Christianity with that stunning and superlative stroke of epistemological genius!” He doesn’t get that just because a false premise is absurd, that the response has to be equally absurd. The simple answer – that killing an innocent is forbidden by revealed commandment and that life is sacred, end of story – is not what he wants to hear.

        His inability reasonably to match my response, which covered both commandments and just war theory, to his proposition – in other words, to debate – most likely comes from the devout atheist’s blinding arrogance and overwhelming sense of superiority to believers. You are not his intellectual equal, so what could I – or you – have to say that would possibly be of interest? His mind, such as it is, is made up.

      2. Hi Duane,

        I totally agree with you that the conclusion is noxious, immoral and antithetical to human goodness. But it seems to follow from P1 to P6, so either something has gone wrong in the reasoning or one or more of the theological claims needs to be revised or expanded.

        I would disagree with you about the “best thing that could ever happen.” Yes, a long well-lived terrestrial life is a great good, but Christian theology teaches that the greatest good, or best thing, is Heaven.

        But you make two really good suggestions that could help solve the problem.

        One could say that by killing the newly baptized the murderer is actually blocking the greatest possible good – which would be, as you say, for everyone to go to Heaven, including himself. God does, after all, will the salvation of all.

        Similarly, one could say that while Heaven is the ultimate good, the best version of the ultimate good is one where a soul participates in the Heavenly reality on Earth and in Heaven, and the murderer, again, blocks this by his act.

        I’ll have to mull this a bit more.

        1. “a long well-lived terrestrial life is a great good, but Christian theology teaches that the greatest good, or best thing, is Heaven.”

          But not for ones self only. Heaven for OTHERS is the real Christian message, according to the request of Christ: “The harvest is great but the laborers are few. Pray you therefore the Harvest Master, that he send laborers into the field”.

          God (Christ) descended to this Earth for the sake of others, not for His own sake. Christians also live on Earth for the sake of others and not for merely their own sakes, or own salvation only.

          Your proposition doesn’t address this primary Christian truth…which is probably the most important teaching of the Gospel Message.

          But, then again, we can think up all kinds of Disneyland type fantasy Christologies if we really want to get creative.

          1. Note particularly that Christ desires many “laborers” for the great harvest, in the quote above…and which the hypothetical Christian is supposed to be diligently and persistently praying to God for, which is completely contrary to his misguided (and evil) intentions.

  8. Just thinking….while it might seem that the murderer is enacting the greatest act of self-sacrifice by forfeiting Heaven for himself so that others can secure it, he’s in fact committing a sacrifice that doesn’t line up with the metaphysics of sacrifice as described in John 12:24 – “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

    A sacrifice that would ultimately lead to a fruitless state (Hell in the case of the murderer) isn’t the sort of sacrifice envisioned by Christ. Sacrifice involves…well, sacrifice and its attendant discomfort and even pain and suffering…but ultimately it leads to a greater good or fuller realization of one’s nature/purpose/potential…in the case of the murderer, who as a human is designed to enjoy God’s presence, ends up in a state of definitive exclusion from God’s presence, and so can’t qualify as legitimate self-sacrifice.

  9. So the solution seems to be reformulating P5 (Self-sacrifice is the ultimate moral act in the Christian ethos) to specify the nature of self-sacrifice as having to be in alignment with the metaphysics of self-sacrifice as presented by Jesus – a presentation that would seem to exclude forfeiting Heaven for another’s good as a legitimate instance of self sacrifice.

    1. Praise be God! You seem to have found your answer, which is, as you say, “…presented by Jesus.”

      Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This teaching suggests that we save ourselves as we save others. We are not to save others by the loss of our own salvation. He Alone is the savior who shall judge and determine who deserves hell and who deserves heaven. We are not to take His place: First Commandment. Matthew 25:34ff.

  10. Wow, thank you! Can I quote you? This sheds light on Luke 9:49-50: “And John, answering, said: Master, we saw a certain man casting out devils in thy name, and we forbade him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said to him: Forbid him not; for he that is not against you, is for you.”

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