The Apostasy, part II.

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Contents.

1. Changes and Reinterpretation of Ordinances.

2. Recession of the Necessity of Authority.

3. Introduction of Original Sin and Infant Baptism.

4. Introduction of Pouring or Sprinkling as a Method of Baptism.

5. Post-Apostolic Church and Apostolic Views of Church Longevity.

6. Notes.

1. Changes and Reinterpretation of Ordinances.

Aside from doctrines of the Godhead and the nature of Christ and God, another aspect of the apostasy is found in the apprehension of the importance of ordinances in Christianity, especially the ordinance of baptism. Baptism is certainly the most fundamental of Christian ordinances and its evolution from Apostolic times in Christian thought finds us essentially on the same trail of apostasy at roughly the same pace as illustrated by the corruption of the doctrine of the Godhead.(1)

First, it is important to note that at least for modern scholarship, there is no question concerning the form of baptism practiced by Christ and the Apostles and in general in the New Testament period: it was complete immersion, symbolic (in Paul's teaching certainly) of the death and resurrection of Christ and the washing away of the sinful old man (forgiveness of sins) and putting on the new man of Christ.(2) The New Testament's clear command is that it is to be done "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"(compare the commission of Matthew 28:19) and moreover that it is clearly necessary for all (Matt. 5:17) since it was even required of Christ.(3)

The corruption of the necessity of immersion in the form of baptism came fairly early as the 2nd century "Didache" (the so-called "teaching of the twelve apostles") shows:

"But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize. Having first recited all these things, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living (running) water. But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water; and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm. But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

At this early point, it is clear that baptism of infants is not considered an option (a later passage of the Didache shows that the candidate for baptism must be capable of a certain confession of faith.) But the form is allowed to be compromised: "But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

2. Recession of the necessity of authority.

Another early question regarding baptism which clearly illustrates the lack of inspired leadership in the post apostolic church was the use of form versus authority of ministration. After the middle of the third century A.D., individuals baptized in various Christian sects began, in growing numbers, to ask for admission to the Roman church or other "unorthodox" churches. Many smaller sects held to the general practice of admitting to their number without rebaptism those baptized into some other version of the church. The Bishop of Rome (Stephen) held that the same principle should apply to the Roman church.(4) A number of other churches, both in Africa and Asia held out for rebaptism of converts to orthodoxy.(5) Those siding with Stephen believed that merely using the "right words" was enough to guarantee the validity of the ordinance, the important part being the "sincerity of the person receiving baptism."(6) In spite of the protests of the prestigious African bishops, the Roman position became the approved practice as the fourth century opened. Augustine himself seems oddly confused on the subject.

In summary, he states the position of the church as:

"Without doubt the heretic and the sinner baptize illicitly, and they have not the right to baptize, they usurp the formulas and the rites of Christ and the church, however, the sacraments are venerable and to be recognized none the less in their unworthy hands. For the sacrament to be pure it is enough that the formula be pronounced literally, it matters not what meaning the minister gives to the terms that compose it."(7) Hence, baptism is only a form and may be performed by anyone! This is entirely different from New Testament practice where only those with authority could perform ordinances.(8)

3. Introduction of Original Sin and Infant Baptism.

With the gradually lessening emphasis on authoritative performance, the use of baptism radically changes from New Testament practice with the separation of repentance and blessing and the coming of the doctrine of "original sin." Peter's injunction to "repent and be baptized" implied the well established fact that baptism was applied only to believers in the Apostolic period. Augustine based the formulation of inherited sin on a passage of the Vulgate:

(Rom. 5:12) "Propterea sicut per unum hominem peccatum in hunc mendum intravit et per peccatum mors, et ita in imnes himines mors pertrasiit, in quo omnes peccaverunt."

The last phrase, in quo omnes peccaverunt, (applied to Adam) [in whom all have sinned] earlier Greek texts name as eph' O pantes emarton [because all have sinned]. Hence, Augustine's main support for the doctrine collapses with the poor translation of this passage in the Vulgate. Paul's letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 15:20-23) mentions that Adam brings physical death upon all, but that this is removed by Christ for all without any act on the part of the individual. Nevertheless, the influence of Augustine and those who agreed with his ideas was felt strongly throughout the churches and the practice of infant baptism, a curiosity at that point (9) became the accepted practice(10) and then the rule of the church.(11)

4. Introduction of Pouring or Sprinkling.

Tertullian (ca 180) tells us "there is no difference whether a man is baptized in the sea or in a pool, in a river or in a fountain, in a lake or a canal; nor is there any difference between those whom John baptized in the Jordan and those whom Peter baptized in the Tiber.(12)

With the introduction of sprinkling water on the candidate instead of immersion as a matter of convenience, the one sprinkled was regarded as a second class citizen of the Kingdom of God: "In the case of illness, one was baptized by pouring. This was the case of Novatus, but one could not then, as a matter of principle become a priest."(13) The very early "Didache" indicates the practice was regarded as a possible alternative of last resort in case of the scarcity of water [quoted above].

The status of sprinkling baptism gradually became the preferred form. One Catholic historian gives the following development:

The abbot Corlet sets forth the history thus . . . : "In the Orient in the first centuries, baptism was administered by means of a total submersion in the rivers and probably in the baptistries, and not excluding an immersion mixed with infusion (pouring), which has been preserved to the present day in almost all cases in the oriental region. In the Occident, from the fourth to the eighth century, there was a partial immersion in the baptisteries. . . . From the eighth to the ninth, vertical and complete immersion of children in fonts. During this period, and in the whole course of the Middle Ages, various procedures were used for the baptism of adults, when it was not possible to submerge in the bottom of the fonts; from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, horizontal and complete immersion in fonts. In the thirteenth and fourteenth, sometimes partial immersion accompanied by infusion, rarely infusion alone. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, infusion alone was employed, and immersion was preserved until our time in the Mozarabic and Ambrosian rites; to be noted also the reestablishing of immersion in some religious sects. . . . Nevertheless, in the Latin Church ...along with baptism by immersion, there were employed, if only in exceptional cases, as in case of baptizing a sick or dying person, infusion or sprinkling, which was called baptism of the sick (baptimnus clinicomcm ). If indeed, in the Latin Church, immersion prevailed until the sixteenth century, infusion and sprinkling were adopted from the thirteenth century. The form in use today is infusion."(14)

5. Changes in Apostolic Views of Church Longevity.

Fourth and fifth century views of the church show a marked change in the interpretation of attitudes of the primitive church. Records show that the primitive Christians held the view that the church had a limited time before it would cease to exist in its pure authoritative form. The doctors of the church, finding such ideas uncomfortable, sought to reinterpret the concern as immediate anticipation of the Parousia.(15) The early leaders of primitive Christianity, including the biblical writers' quotations from Jesus himself portray the church as having a limited lifetime.(16) While the remarks of Jesus applied directly to himself and the apostles, they were also to apply to the church; apparently the time between the Ascension of Christ and the Second Coming was to be long and dark.(17) The Greek version of Matthew 24:14, etc. shows the word aeon refers to that particular age or period which completes with the death of the apostles themselves.(18) While there were Christians who looked for the imminent coming of Jesus, they were named as fools by Paul and others.(19)

Students of church history have long been taught that whereas the primitive saints, living in an atmosphere of feverish expectation, looked forward momentarily to the end of everything, the later Christians gradually sobered up and learned to be more realistic. Exactly the opposite was the case, for while there is no evidence that the sober first Christians thought the end of the world was at hand, there is hardly a later theologian who does not think so: `From the days of the early church, through the vicissitudes of the lengthening middle centuries, into the twilight of the medieval day, the conviction of the world's end . . . was part and parcel of Christian thought.' It had to be the end of the world, because the end of the Church was inadmissible. Yet such was not the case with the first Christians, thoroughly at home with the idea that divine things, while they are preexistent and eternal, are taken away from the earth and restored again from time to time. If the Church comes and goes like the moon, it is only with reference to this temporal world where all things are necessarily temporary . . . To escape the dark interval between the Apostles and the Parousia, scholars [ancient and modern] have bored two exits. The one recognizes a catastrophe ahead but postpones it to a vague and distant future, while the other admits that it was near at hand but insists that the damage was not so bad after all. Thus both convictions of the early Church, that the end was *near* and that it was to be *disastrous*, receive reluctant confirmation - for no one suggest that only a distant *and* partial disruption was expected. There is a third escape-hatch, around which there has been much milling and crowding in recent years, but it seems to be only a false door, a semantic exercise in which the conflicting claims of Eschatology and History are simply placed side by side and declared reconciled in various ingenious and symbolic ways. [This is an] inclination to have Eschatology, since it can no longer be brushed aside, swallowed alive by the Church: ` . . . the Church is an `eschatological community,' since she is the New Testament, the ultimate and final . . . The doctrine of Christ finds its fulness and completion in the doctrine of the Church, i.e. of `the Whole Christ.' ' Such language actually seeks to de-eschatologize eschatology by making `mythical and timeless what they [the early Christians] regarded to be real and temporal.' . . . the searching question [is] whether after all the real Church may not have been left behind in the march of History . . .(20)

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END NOTES

1. For the later crystallization of baptism in the Catholic Church as a reaction to the reformation see for example, Council of Trent, "Canons on Baptism." Canons 13, 14 also "Decree Concerning Original Sin," 2, 4 have particular relevance to the present discussion.

2. ABD 1:583ff. See also this book by an evangelical minister on the subject of baptism and its necessity.

3. ABD 1:585a.

4. J. Tixeront, History des Dogmas dans l'Antiquite Chretienne, (Paris: J. Gabalda et Fils, 1928-1931), 1:278. [As quoted in James L. Barker, "Aposasy from the Divine Church," (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1960)]

5. James C. Robertson, History of the Christian Church: from the Apostolic Age to the Reformation, A.D. 64-1517, (New York: Pott, Young and Co., 1874), 1:172-173.

6. Cyprian, Epistle LXXIII, I.

7. P. Batiffol, Le Catholicisme, (Paris: J. Gabalda, 1909-1927), 3:159. [Barker, ibid]

8. Heb. 5:1-6; Acts 19:15-17; Matt. 28:16-19; Ignatius, To the Smyrnaeans, 8:2.

9. Duchesne, Histoire Ancienne de l'Eglise, 1:503. [Barker, ibid]

10. Auguste Boulenger, Historia de la Iglesia, (Barcelona: Editorial Liturgica Espanola, 1936), 260. [Barker, ibid]

11. Ibid. See also Council of Trent IV canon 6.

12. Baptism, VIII, 4, 20.

13. Tixeront, 1:250.

14. Enciclopedia Universal Illustrada, (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, c1930), 12:1250. [See Barker, ibid]

15. R. Marle, "Le Christ de la Foi et le Jesus de l'Histoire," Etudes, CCCII (1959), 67ff. [Barker, ibid]

16. John 7:33f; 12:35f; Matt. 9:15; Luke 13:25f

17. Didache 14, Matt. 13:30, 39-43; II Thess. 2:8

18. That the early church believed just that is shown in Origen, In Mt. Comm. Ser. 39, in P.G. 12 1655B, see also, Acts 2:16f, Bultmann, "History and Eschatology in the New Testament," New Testament Studies I (1954), 8.

19. I Clement 23, Barnabas 4:16, for example.

20. Hugh W. Nibley, "The Passing of the Primitive Church," Church History, XXX (June 1961), 131-154