baptism
   At the time of the Reformation, the sacraments, those ceremonial acts that dramatized biblical events even as they served as a sign of God's presence, became a key issue between Roman Catholics and Protestants and among Protestants themselves. Protestants dropped five of the seven Roman Catholic sacraments and moved to bring the remaining two, the Lord's Supper (Eucharist) and baptism, into line with their new theological perspective. During the 16th century, the Lord's supper received the bulk of attention, as the major issue dividing Lutherans, Reformed, and Anglicans. Each continued the Roman Catholic practice of baptizing infants.
   The Roman Catholic Church maintained that through baptism, one is freed from original sin (and other sins committed prior to baptism), reborn as a child of God, and admitted into the church. Lutherans and Anglicans had similar beliefs. The Lutheran Augsburg Confession of Faith stated that the grace of God is offered through baptism. Calvinists (including Armini-ans) generally considered baptism as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Baptism paralleled the act of God in washing the sins from the soul of the person being baptized.
   A small group of dissenters in switzerland, known as the swiss Brethren, raised the issue of baptism as essential to their vision of a reformed church. They rejected the idea of a state church including all of the population. Instead, the church should welcome and baptize only those who made a profession of faith after they reached the age of accountability, that is, adulthood (which occurred at a much earlier age than now).
   Infant baptism was invalid. The founding members of the swiss Brethren rebaptized each other, thus becoming known as Anabaptists (rebaptizers). An early Anabaptist statement, the Schleitheim Articles, explained: "Observe concerning baptism: Baptism shall be given to all those who have learned repentance and amendment of life, and who believe truly that their sins are taken away by Christ. . . . This excludes all infant baptism, the highest and chief abomination of the pope."
   The Anabaptist position would be passed on to Mennonites and the Baptists. The Baptists emerged as the most radical wing of the Puritan movement in England. They accepted a congregational form of church governance, separation of the church from the state, and the practice of believer's baptism (only those who had first professed faith could be baptized). The first Baptist church appears to have been formed by dissenters from the Church of England who had taken refuge in Holland at the beginning of the 16th century.
   Believer's (adult) baptism was a distinctly minority position among Protestants until the 19th century, when the Baptist movement experienced a dramatic spread across Europe and North America and assumed a leading role in the world Protestant missionary movement. in those areas in which Protestantism was first being established, adult baptism became a major issue.
   From the start, Baptists also differed with other churches over how to perform baptism. The Catholic Church used affusion, pouring water over the head, especially for infants, though immersion was allowed for those of older years. This practice was commonly continued in the Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches.
   some Anabaptists practiced baptism by immersion, but only Baptists made it the exclusive method, starting in the 1630s at the London congregation headed by John Spilsbury. As stated in the London Confession of Faith of 1644, immersion symbolized "the washing the whole soul in the blood of Christ," and was "a confirmation of our faith, that as certainly as the body is buried under water, and riseth again, so certainly shall the bodies of the saints be raised by the power of Christ in the day of the resurrection."
   The Bible itself does not clearly specify which mode of baptism is preferable. Baptists pointed to Romans 6:4, where Paul speaks of being buried with Christ in baptism, and Matthew 3:16, in which Jesus comes up out of the water after being baptized by John. Methodists, who favored sprinkling, stressed Ezekiel 36:24-29 or I Peter 1:2. Those who practice pouring compared it with God's pouring out His Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Whatever their preference, most Protestants accepted any mode of baptism as legitimate, while Baptists accepted only immersion.
   in later years, some Baptists found an essential connection between baptism and salvation. They cited biblical passages such as Acts 2:38, which quotes Peter: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin." Baptism, they now believed, was a necessary step in the process of salvation. This view, termed baptismal regeneration, was popular in the American frontier Restoration Movement, most notably
   in the Churches of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), from which it passed to a variety of other new denominations, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most Baptists rejected this position.
   other novel approaches to baptism remain the preserve of small groups. German Baptist Brethren (today the Church of the Brethren and related groups) still practice triune immersion. They dip new believers three times, once each for the three persons of the Trinity. other churches identify baptism with the baptism of the Holy Spirit and have discontinued water baptism. A few groups, such as the Salvation Army, have discontinued the practice of baptism altogether.
   Baptists, most other Protestants, and Roman Catholics all agreed on the trinitarian formula found in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19): "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." But starting in 1913, some Pentecostals have interpreted Acts 2:38 and other passages as calling for baptism "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" alone, in line with their rejection of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity. To these Pentecostals, Jesus is the only God. Referring to Matthew 28:19, they argued that Jesus was the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These apostolic or Jesus Only Pentecostals have subsequently become a significant minority voice within the Pentecostal community.
   In the 20th-century Ecumenical movement, mutual recognition of baptism became an important issue. While progress between Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics has been limited, that within the Protestant movement has been significant, leading to intercommunion agreements between Protestant churches and the formation of the Leuenberg Church Fellowship. Today, only a minority of Protestant churches, mostly in the Baptist or Restoration Movement traditions, insist that new members be rebaptized.
   Further reading:
   ■ Jay E. Adams, The Meaning and Mode of Baptism (Phillipsburg, N.J.; Presbyterian and Reformed Press, 1975)
   ■ Rollin S. Armour, Anabaptist Baptism: A Representative Study (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1966)
   ■ Baptism, Eucharist and Minister 1982-1990. Report on the Process and Responses. Faith and Order Paper No. 149 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1990)
   ■ Alexander Carson, Baptism... Its Mode and Subjects (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1981)
   ■ Nicholas Lossky et al., eds., Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement (Geneva/Grand Rapids, Mich.: WCC Publications/William B. Eerd-mans, 1991)
   ■ J. Gordon Melton, The Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds, 2 vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1988, 1994)
   ■ W. H. Murk, Four Kinds of Water Baptism (St. Paul, Minn.: Northland, 1947)
   ■ John R. Rice, Bible Baptism (Murfreesboro, Tenn.: Sword of the Lord, 1943)
   ■ Thomas O. Summers, Baptism (Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Methodist, 1882).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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