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Anonymous Amy wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a lot of questions for the Catholic Church, but the most important to me is regarding the following:

I am not sure whether I have been properly baptized.

I was raised as Baptist and was baptized in a Baptist church as a child but am not 100% certain of the method they used. Generally, Baptist churches in that area utilize the Trinitarian method.

When I was in High School, I began attending a Oneness Pentecostal church and was informed by that church that my baptism was incorrect and therefore invalid. They said I'd have to be baptized again the correct way. Eventually, I ended up converting and willingly re-did my baptism according to their Oneness teachings, based on Acts 2:38.

Without adding any unnecessary details, I would like to know:

  • Was my original Baptism really invalid? or
  • Was it made invalid by being rebaptized in a Oneness method?

I have also recently been told that being baptized more than once is a sin because it's blasphemy.

  • Is that true?
  • Is it possible to be forgiven for this?

Amy

  { Did my Oneness baptism make my Baptist Baptism invalid and is being baptized again a sin? }

Mike replied:

Dear Amy,

If Baptist congregations use a Trinitarian form for Baptism, which I believe they all do, you should have no concerns about whether you were validly baptized or not.

I know nothing about the Oneness Pentecostal denomination but my colleagues may have some insights.

Once you are validly baptized, you cannot be re-baptized again. Being re-baptized again would only be a sin if you knew that you could only be validly baptized once, but wanted to be re-baptized anyway.

For short, a sin is not a sin if you didn't know it was a sin.

Any sin can be forgiven for the person that wishes to truly repent of that sin. The best way for the Catholic to repent is through the sacrament of Confession. For all the sins we confess in Confession, we receive extra graces not to commit those confessed sins again.

I hope this helps,

Mike

John replied:

Amy —

Having the proper intention is also required for a valid Baptism but the threshold is very low. Even if the minister doesn't believe in Baptismal regeneration, so long as he intends to perform Christian Baptism, it should be sufficient.

That said, on occasion a minister, not knowing the importance of the form, may just baptize in the name of Jesus (according to Acts) and not use the Trinitarian form. In that case, the baptism is not technically valid. That being the case, so long as the person has an expressed Faith in Jesus Christ and a repentance for one's sins, then that should suffice for an implicit Baptism of Desire.

John

Amy replied:

Hi guys,

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my question. I appreciate your insights.

Amy

John replied:

Amy —

For future reference Oneness Pentecostals are serious heretics. They deny the Trinity and ascribe to Modalism: the doctrine that the persons of the Trinity represent only three modes or aspects of the divine revelation, not distinct and coexisting persons in the divine nature.

John

Amy replied:

Thanks John,

I see. As for that, even knowing what they teach, I wasn't aware it was a heresy until I recently began to study and compare various faiths.

It's hard to understand what the truth is sometimes when some people try so very hard to make it seem as if it makes more sense their way. For sure, it made more sense when they explained it to me but it didn't come without (supposedly) divinely-inspired interpreted Scripture.

Even as for Baptism, they are the only people I've encountered that blatantly avoid acknowledging the Trinity. In all, that should have been more than enough to warn me.

  • I had worried that getting re-baptized would undo my original Baptism, however once done, a valid baptism cannot be undone, can it?

They also told me that only upon baptism (their way) could I receive the holy ghost. Add to that the evidence of actually getting it, (receiving the holy ghost), would be speaking in tongues.

So they ended up saying that I never had an encounter with the Holy Spirit because I had never spoken in tongues. It's my understanding now that this isn't true. It was all twisted. I still don't know how the Holy Spirit works.

  • How is it in my life and how does it affect my life?
  • Is it part of Baptism? and,
  • Does it actually inhabit/possess us?

My apologies for so many inquiries at once.

Thank you kindly for your time, patience, and answers.

Amy

John replied:

Amy,

Please don't worry about number of inquiries. You are asking important questions in a desire to seek the truth. That's why we are here: to answer honest questions from sincere people. We do our best to get them quickly but, as we are all volunteers, it may a take a little time to get back to you. Nevertheless, please don't hesitate to ask us.

In your studies, it is important for you to start looking at the early writings of Christians . . . at least the first few hundred years. Also check out the early Councils of the Church that dealt with these theological questions about the Trinity and Person of Jesus Christ.

Our Protestant brothers, although well intended and certainly very fervent in their beliefs, started down the road to various heresies by adopting a heresy called Sola Scriptura. That is the belief the Bible is the sole rule of faith. Well, for that to be the case the Bible would have to explicitly say so . . . and it says quite the opposite. It says the Pillar and Foundation of Truth is the Church (1 Timothy 3:15) and further St. Paul commanded the Thessalonians to obey the word of God as he transmitted to them either by written letter or oral teaching or tradition. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

So in the 1500s our Protestant Christian brothers, who were actually Catholics at the time, decided to protest the Church and in doing so they threw out 1,500 years of understanding that had been handed down from the Apostles. Then each group splintered, believing that their group had the right understanding of the Scriptures . . . each sect trying to reinvent the wheel.

I was Pentecostal/Baptist Minister. At a certain point I saw all these various groups:

  • each claiming to preach the Bible Alone
  • All convinced they were right

    but none could agree on major points of doctrine.

So I started to read the early Church documents. Because the folks that wrote them, we much closer to the Apostles. In doing so, I found had made a great mistake in leaving the Catholic Church so I left the pulpit to come home. So I would encourage you to look to the early Church Councils for matters such as the Trinity and Christology. To that end, we would be more than happy to help you.

Finally, I want to draw a distinction between the Oneness Pentecostals and the rest of the Pentecostal groups.

First of all the Oneness folks are good people. So when I use the word heresy, I'm not damning these people. I'm simply using it in the classical sense of the word. Heresy means error, or schism to do error. These folks are not evil. They are just wrong and they have gone astray because they don't have the benefit of 2,000 years of constant teaching and Church that has a Christ-given Teaching Authority.

The Oneness folks, take a few Scriptures out context and ignore others. Jesus does say If you seen Me, you've seen the Father — that the Father and I are One. In the book of Acts, it talks about Deacons baptizing in the name of Jesus so they run with these texts, ignoring other Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. It is important not to confuse the Oneness Pentecostal group with mainline Pentecostals that are Trinitarian. Like all Protestant sects, they have their heresies as well but, in terms of the Trinity and Christology, virtually all mainline Pentecostals hold orthodox views yet many would relegate these doctrines as non-essentials, because, like all Evangelical strains, their doctrines flow from Soteriology — the study of how we are saved.

Traditional Christianity — that is Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, start from the question:

  • Who is Jesus Christ?

and all our doctrines flow from the Doctrines of the Incarnation. In fact, before we even ask,

  • What must I do to be saved?

We ask

  • What is Salvation?

And the answer to that question is Salvation is becoming a member of the Body of Christ whereby we participate in His Divine Nature by Grace.

Hence, Salvation is much more than a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card. It is nothing short of entering into and sharing in the Life of the Trinity, by becoming part of Jesus's Body. The purpose of Salvation is to be transformed by Christ into His very image and likeness so that He can make us an ever lasting gift to the Father and we might have eternal fellowship in a covenant with Him.

Salvation is Christ giving Himself for us, so that He might give Himself to us. In order to give Himself to us, He first lowered Himself to become a Man like us in all things but sin and after His complete obedience to the Father and His Glorious defeat of Satan, He now elevates us to Himself.

This is Salvation and unfortunately our Evangelical Brothers, only understand a little piece of this. For them Salvation means you are forgiven and you won't go to Hell. Well, Yes that's true but that is just the start. Were it only that, then Jesus would be Our Lord and Bail-bondsman. He is much more and Salvation is much more.

I hope this helps.

Warmly,

John

Amy replied:

Thank you John!

This is all very helpful. I understand that for various reasons it may take a while to reply sometimes. Please know that I appreciate it at any time.

Thank you for giving me some ideas on how to learn more about the Catholic Church. Definitely, knowing some more about the history, especially the early history, will likely satisfy many other questions I have.

Catholicism is still very new to me. I haven't even begun RCIA yet. Soon, maybe. So far, just asking. (A lot.) I have so many things to learn. Thank you for helping with that.

Though it may sound a bit strange, I find relief in knowing that you have experienced other denominations and returned to the Catholic Church. It is reassuring. I am thankful for such insight.

That particular oneness church was full of very good people. It was their warmness that brought me to the belief that I had possibly found the real truth but aside from their genuine kindness, I didn't feel assured.

  • Is that in any way part of discernment?

I had thought it was only a major lack of faith. I don't know.

  • As for the Baptism, assuming it was done correctly, am I to provide proof of it somehow?
  • I'm sure there might be a record of it (possibly) but does the Church usually request/require such proof?
  • If I were to someday want to become Catholic, and am already baptized, what exactly would happen in the initiation process?

I have a lot of inquires. Apologies if it's too heavy. I will try to limit them to a minimum each message. I hope that it isn't too bothersome. Please respond as your time permits.

I am grateful for your taking the time to reply.

Amy

Mike replied:

Hi Amy,

I noticed we never addressed your last set of questions. Because John did such a great job with most of your original questions, let me address the others.

You said:
That particular oneness church was full of very good people. It was their warmness that brought me to the belief that I had possibly found the real truth but aside from their genuine kindness, I didn't feel assured.

  • Is that in any way part of discernment?

I had thought it was only a major lack of faith. I don't know.

  • As for the Baptism, assuming it was done correctly, am I to provide proof of it somehow?
  • I'm sure there might be a record of it (possibly) but does the Church usually request/require such proof?
  • If I were to someday want to become Catholic, and am already baptized, what exactly would happen in the initiation process?

I would appreciate a reply from Fr. Jonathan on this answer to make sure what I am saying is correct.

If you decide that you want to become Catholic, I think the pastor, who would brings you into the Church, would obtain the Baptismal record from the Protestant congregation where you were validly baptized or ask for an affidavit from the minister.

  • If there was an uncertainty about whether your Baptism was valid
  • if there were no Baptismal record, or
  • if they if they were somehow lost

the priest would perform a conditional Baptism and provide the paperwork.

If you were already validly baptized, your entry into the Church would be celebrated by a profession of faith followed by the sacrament of Confirmation. Later you would receive your First Confession.

I hope this helps,

Mike

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi Mike,

My suspicion is that she is actually not baptized. She may be but it should not be assumed in this case.

Baptists often delay Baptism. What is done at birth is a Christening but not a Baptism.
The person actually gets baptized when they choose to as adults.

It sounds like the second Church did not use the Trinitarian formula so among the possibilities in this case is she in not yet baptized.

She should seek a record of Baptism from the Baptist Church. The affidavit could be from a family member if minister not available.

If they do not have one, it should be inquired what the Church’s practice was back when she was a member as to whether they delay (like many Baptist Churches do) or whether they were doing full Baptisms for infants at that time.

If there is nothing but doubt in the end, then it qualifies for a conditional Baptism.

Fr. Jonathan

John replied:

Amy —

I'd only add to the point about discernment. This isn't about warm fuzzy feelings but about seeking the objective truth. That is not to say that we don't look for good fruit but feelings are subjective. Warmth doesn't necessarily equal Christian Love. Most cults come across as very warm and caring. That doesn't mean they are walking in truth.

That is not to call the Oneness Pentecostal group a cult in the sense of being abusive although it is a theological cult that has denied an essential element of Christian Truth, namely the Trinity.

These folks, although professing Christ, technically aren't Christian. They believe in a different Jesus, like the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Now for that matter, I'm not condemning these folks to Hell or anyone else to Hell but they aren't orthodox in essential beliefs.

The same could be said with the Salvation Army, another denomination that calls themselves Christian but don't baptize at all. They otherwise preach a traditional Evangelical version of the Gospel. They lead folks to Christ by faith so believers are the equivalent perhaps of catechumens. They more than likely have a baptism of desire, because they don't baptize but are ignorant. If they understood the need for Baptism, they would be baptized but we can't call the Christians.

John

Amy replied:

Dear Mike, Fr. Jonathan, and John,

Thank-you all so very much.

Your answers are indeed very helpful.

Now I understand more of what to expect in case the event does arise for me.

I will have to take the time to contact my old church about the Baptism.

According to my mother, I was in fact christened as an infant, but she doesn't recall where however I vaguely remember a Baptism-like event occurring when I was around 10 or so.

It may have very well been something else going on instead. They often did what they called children's devotional practices. I'll make sure myself before making any claims at RCIA . Thank you for the specifics. It certainly helps me better understand what to expect.

Yes, I suppose it's not always about warm feelings but it sure seemed nice at the time. In fact, it made things cloudy sometimes. Anyway, I hope to learn what I can without letting my feelings make me bias.

Again, thank-you all kindly, many times over, for all the questions you've answered. I really do appreciate it.

Take care and God bless.

Amy

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