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Child's Baptism

Baptism is a Christian ritual or sacrament performed with water, applied 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit', by which the baptised person is incorporated into the life and the teachings of Christ, in the context of a Christian church.

Some feminist Christians refer to the persons of the Holy Trinity with more gender-neutral language, such as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer (or Sanctifier), and substitute this language.

Table of contents
1 Background in Jewish ritual
2 Explanation
3 Ecumenical statement
4 Mode
5 Catholic and Orthodox baptism
6 Baptist baptism
7 Latter-day Saint baptism
8 Non-Christian baptism
9 See also

Background in Jewish ritual

The ritual of baptism originates in the purification rites of Jewish law and tradition. In the Tanakh and tradition of the teachers of the Torah, a ritual bath for purification from uncleanness used to be required under specified circumstances, in order to be restored to a condition of ritual purity. For example, women after menses, and after a number of blood-free days following child-birth, were washed in a ritual bath, called a mikveh. Those who became ritually defiled by contact with something infectious, would also use the mikveh as part of their healing. Washing was also required for converts. Through practices such as these, immersion in the mikveh came to represent purification and restoration, and qualification for full religious participation in the life of the community.

This kind of ablution, or ritual washing, although once common everywhere in Jewish life especially for women, nevertheless was not for the Jews the ordinance of central religious prominence that it is in the New Testament. Bathing is something that is done often, just as eating or toileting are performed repeatedly, and in the life of observant Jews it was governed as nearly all things were, by instructions. The fact that something like a bath is performed frequently underscores its practical importance and ritual ties routine into life before the Lord; but importance of this kind may not be the same thing as religious significance. In Judaism, the ritual bath does not have the same religious significance that it has in Christianity. Most ordinances of ritual washing have been regarded as inapplicable by modern Judaism, although fundamentalist Jews strive to practice, more strictly, what can be found in the ancient instructions.


The Christian explanation of baptism as the definitive rite, by which the baptized person is indicated to be fully qualified for participation in the life of the Church, begins with the career of John, the cousin of Jesus of Nazareth. Those who believe that John was a prophet identify baptism with his message concerning the putting away of sin, in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'"

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

John declared that repentance was necessary, prior to forgiveness. There must be a return to God. This implies that the stain of sin is not ineradicable, but can be removed by putting off polluting acts and returning to the way of the Lord, all of which was symbolized in his baptism.

The Christians believe that John also taught that his baptism was not finally sufficient, and that repentance would not attain to its goal of separation from sin, apart from a greater baptism which it was not in his power to give. According to the Gospel of Luke, John taught, "I baptize you with water; but one comes who is stronger than I, of whom I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire; his winnowing fork is in his hand to clean out his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his storehouse, but the chaff he will burn with inextinguishable fire." Christians believe that John's baptism shows that the effort to make oneself acceptable to God by repentance would be superseded, made complete by the coming of the Lamb of God that takes away sins.

According to the Gospel of John, after John baptized Jesus, he testified concerning him, "I have seen the Spirit coming down as a dove from heaven, and it remained upon him. And I had not known him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water, that one said to me, On whomever you see the Spirit coming down and remaining upon him,this is the one baptizing with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen, and I have testified that this is the son of God." "Behold the Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world." From this point on, water baptism became identified with the followers of Jesus, who preached "Repent, for the kingdom of God is near."

Ecumenical statement

One ecumenical statement prepared by representatives across a spectrum of Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions of Christianity, attempts to express a common understanding of baptism, as it is derived from the New Testament.

" ... according to Acts 2, baptisms follow from Peter's preaching and lead those baptized to life in the community: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (2:42) as well as to the distribution of goods to those in need (2:45). Those who heard, who were baptized and entered the community's life, were already made witnesses of and partakers in the promises of God for the last days: the forgiveness of sins and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all flesh (2:38). Similarly, in what may well be a baptismal pattern, 1 Peter testifies that proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and teaching about new life (1:3-21) lead to purification and new birth (1:22-23). This, in turn, is followed by eating and drinking God's food (2:2-3), by participation in the life of the community - the royal priesthood, the new temple, the people of God (2:4-10) - and by further moral formation (2:11 ff.). At the beginning of 1 Peter the writer sets this baptism in the context of obedience to Christ and sanctification by the Spirit (1:2). So baptism into Christ is seen as baptism into the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13). In the fourth gospel Jesus' discourse with Nicodemus indicates that birth by water and Spirit becomes the gracious means of entry into the place where God rules (John 3:5)." [1]

The most commonly cited reference for the command justifying the continuing practice of baptism by Christians, is the "Great Commission," found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28, verses 18-20. It is typically viewed as a means by which a person is joined to Christ and his body, the Church, after which the newly baptized person is considered to be a Christian.


Most Christians do not believe that the mode by which baptism is administered is essential to the rite. Most Western Church traditions practice sprinkling (aspersion) or pouring as a mode of baptism, often using a specially constructed bowl to hold the water, a baptismal font. Eastern Church traditions specify immersion, symbolizing burial with Christ. Catholic traditions use specially prepared water for baptism when available and believe baptism to be a sacrament intended for infant children as well as for adults. These Christians believe that sacraments are a means by which the grace of God is conveyed or imparted to participants, with a real role in washing away the believer's sins and imparting new life to the person being baptized. This view is held by Roman Catholicism, all of Eastern Christianity, and many Protestant groups including Anglicans, Lutherans and most Reformed churches (each with distinctive understandings according to their traditions). According to Roman Catholic dogma baptism is one of the three sacraments that make an indelible mark upon the soul.

Catholic and Orthodox baptism

The liturgy of baptism in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox tradition makes clear reference to baptism as a symbolic burial and resurrection, and draws parallels to the experience of Noah and the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea divided by Moses. Thus baptism is symbolically not only cleansing, but also dying and rising again with Christ. Those who do not have a liturgy of baptism may also use the same parallels in scripture.

The Catholic Church prescribes that in case of emergency any person, even someone not baptized, can baptize, if he has the required intention. The words "N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," are said while pouring water three times on the head. The sign of the cross is then made over the recipient. The omission of the name or the sign of the cross and the addition of 'Amen' at the end have no effect on the validity of the sacrament. The validity of Baptism is doubtful if impure water is used. In such a case, the sacrament should be repeated conditionally with certainly valid matter as soon as possible if the emergency persists. (See Moral Theology by Fr. Heribert Jone)

Baptist baptism

Baptist groups derive their name from the restrictions that they traditionally place on the mode and subjects of the ordinance of baptism. Immersion is regarded as the only legitimate, biblical baptism; and baptism is not administered to children. Those who hold views influenced by the Baptists, may perform the ceremony indoors in a baptismal, a swimming pool, or bathtub, or outdoors in a creek or river: as long as there is water, nothing prevents the performance of Baptism. Protestant groups influenced by these convictions usually emphasize that it memorializes the death and resurrection of Jesus, which by a gift of God has become the principle of repentance and new life for those who have professed belief in Him, symbolizing spiritual death with regard to sin and a new life of faith in God. They typically teach that baptism does not accomplish anything, but is an outward sign or testimony, a personal act, indicating the invisible reality that the person's sins have already been washed away as a result of their profession of faith. Rather than by what they say baptism is, Baptist views are distinguished more by what they say it is not (not for children, not by sprinkling, not a sacrament, not a means of grace).

Latter-day Saint baptism

Priesthood authorities in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church; see also Mormon) baptize only by immersion. The earliest age at which a person may be baptized is eight years, which is considered the age at which children know good from evil and become accountable for their actions. Latter-day Saints (LDS) believe that baptism is only the first of several ordinances required for exaltation and that faith and repentance precede baptism. Typically soon after a person is baptized into the LDS Church a Priesthood authority lays their hands on the head of the newly baptized person during Sunday Sacrament meeting and confirms the person a member of the Church and confers upon the person the "gift of the Holy Ghost". Furthermore, LDS believe that: legitimate baptism can only be given by some one with legitimate Priesthood authority (that is, it must be given by an LDS Priesthood authority); only baptism by immersion is legitimate; and infant baptism is a perversion of Christianity. See Latter-day Saint condemnation of infant baptism.

Membership into the LDS Church is granted only by baptism whether a person has been raised in the Church or not. The LDS Church also practices baptism for the dead along with all other Church ordinances LDS perform vicariously or by proxy in their temples for everyone who has not received these ordinances while living.

Baptisms inside and outside the temples is usually done in a font although they can be perfomed in any large body of water. In the temples the fonts are usually laid out on the sculptures of twelve oxen representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Great care is taken in the execution of the baptism; if the baptism is not executed exactly it must be redone. The person administering the baptism calling the baptisee by name and must state these words exactly: "Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen." Every part, limb, hair and clothing of the baptisee must then be fully submersed into the water or the baptism must be redone. Two Priesthood authorities stand by as witnesses in part to make sure that the baptism is executed properly.

LDS believe that through repentance and baptism a baptisee is cleansed of all previous sin. The process of repentance and sanctification continues by partaking of the Sacrament every Sunday which LDS consider to be a renewing of the baptismal covenant. They also believe that baptism is symbolic both of Jesus's death, burial and resurrection and of the baptisee's death and burial of the natural or sinful man and rebirth as a disciple of Jesus.

Non-Christian baptism

Mandaeans, who abhor Jesus and Moses as false prophets, revere John the Baptist and practice frequent baptism.

See also