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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why don't Catholics baptize the way Jesus was baptized (i.e. by full immersion)?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question:  Why don't Catholics baptize the way Jesus was baptized (i.e. by full immersion)?
So some Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) came to my door recently, and we had a short and sweet discussion. 

One comment that they made was that they "baptized the way Jesus was", meaning that they baptize by full immersion.  This was an unspoken criticism, I think, of the way Catholics baptize. 

I found this comment curious because it seems that they took one characteristic of Jesus' baptism--that he was fully immersed, but not any of the others.  That is:

  • they don't baptize their converts in the River Jordan, as Jesus was. 
  • they don't even baptize in any river (even one down the street) as Jesus was.
  • they don't baptize when the convert is 30-ish, as Jesus was. 
  • they don't get baptized by their cousin named John, as Jesus was.
So, it would seem, that JWs don't really baptize "the way Jesus was baptized".

And another curiosity is that Catholics actually do recognize baptism by immersion as a valid way to confect the sacrament.  So this JW's comment was merely expressing some misinformation she may have had about Catholic baptism.

Catholics can be baptized by

  • pouring (also known as infusion),
  • sprinkling
  • or by immersion. 
What is required is that we must use water*, and baptize using the Trinitarian formula** (in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit).  Adults must express repentance, and infants must have parents or a proxy who make a profession of faith on their child's behalf.

Incidentally, it's not only JWs who claim that the only valid baptism is through full immersion.  There are many Christians who do not view infusion or sprinkling as a permissible way to baptize--for the same reason that JWs do: because Jesus was baptized by immersion.

I think that Catholics would be right to ask other Christians why they take one aspect of Jesus' baptism (immersion) and apply it to their baptism rite, but not any of the other aspects (in the River Jordan, by his cousin, at age 30, wearing a robe and sandals, after eating fish...etc etc etc).

*Regarding water being required for baptism:  this speaks to the proper form and matter for sacraments.  For example, the Eucharist is not valid if a priest "consecrates" grape juice and Oreos.  Baptism is not valid if water is not used.

**Regarding using the Trinitarian formula:  there are a few sects of Christianity that claim that baptism must be done "IN JESUS' NAME," not using "the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit", citing Acts 2:38
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 will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This is another example of the chaos and confusion that arises from individuals interpreting the Scriptures divorced from the authority of the Church, which received the faith that was once for all handed down to the holy ones.--Jude 1:3.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15


  1. I do believe that the form of sprinkling is not valid. The water must run which is why it can either be poured or submersion.

  2. Ephesians 4:5 - One Lord, One Faith, ONE BAPTISM
    - Baptism by immersion is how Christ showed us it should be done
    - The word "Baptism" is directly translated from Greek as "Immersion."
    - Respectfully, where did baptism by sprinkling come from?

  3. @ Tyler: I appreciate your comment. But if you're going to do it "as Christ showed us", then are you going to take your congregation to the River Jordan and have the person be baptized at age 30 or so by his cousin named John?

    I say this with no disrespect, Tyler, but I don't understand why you take one aspect of Jesus' baptism--the immersion--and say this is a requirement, but not any of the other aspects?

    1. I am sorry but your argument does not hold......"WATER" (hahahehe) if my dad fished with an open face reel an used worms for bait in a lake and caught blue gills and, and I go to a river and fish with an open face reel and use worms for bait and catch perch. Then I am still fishing the way my father fished. Even though we are not the same age and we fished in different places. Or if my uncle taught me how to paint with a roller using horizontal strokes rather than vertical an painted interior walls in a house in a state in the USA with blue acrylic paint, and I use a roller and and paint with horizontal strokes in stead of vertical and I paint exterior walls on a barn in a province in Canada with red oil based paint then even though we use different paints and he paints inside and I paint outside we are not the same age, he is painting a house, I am painting barn, One is in a state while the other is in a province, and they are in completely different different countries I am still painting the same way my uncle painted.

    2. Haha! I enjoyed your pun. :)

      I understand what you are trying to say, Engine 1, but the point remains: what criteria do you use to determine that you are baptizing the way Jesus was baptized? Why do you rather arbitrarily choose the criterion "He was baptized by immersion" and not 'He was baptized by his cousin"?

      I don't understand that.

      If I wanted my children to "get married the way I was", and I was married by my cousin, a priest, wouldn't they assume that I mean, "Get married by your cousin" is the criterion I am using?

  4. As well with no personal disrespect, I think that argument is not very valid. Remember that Jesus Christ was perfect, and because he was perfect, he did not need to be baptized to wash away his sins. Instead, he was baptized to teach us the proper way to do so, which was by immersion. According to Eph. 4:5, there are not multiple ways to perform a baptism. Does it have to be in the River Jordan? No, simply in a body of water in which you may be fully immersed. By your cousin named John? That's a little silly. By immersion? Yes, that much is undeniably clear.

  5. Again, Tyler, why do you take one aspect of the example of Jesus' baptism and make that your criterion? Where does the Bible say that this is the important aspect and not any of the other qualities, such as being 30-ish, in the River Jordan, by your cousin?

    Please cite the verse in Scripture that says that it baptism need not be done in the River Jordan, but "simply in a body of water". Chapter and verse, please.


  6. When people say" the way Jesus was " it simply means that he was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. They do not have to be baptized in a river or sprinkled on or have their head wetted by water. Personally I have not read anything in the Bible that says anything about sprinkleing, or wetting. If you your self have read the Bible then you know this to be true. If you can show me scripture from the Bible then I will acknowledge this. I am not a man of religion but a man of Jesus, not by the beliefs of man or their traditions, mans traditions will damn the world. It's just like the whole Mary thing that, that people seem to think to pray to her and make an idle of her. Even Jesus said, she is not blessed for giving birth to Jesus, but for soon Gods will.
    Follow what the bible says not man, men are fuitial compared to Gods will.

  7. @ Anonymous: I have had many, many conversations with Christians who believe that being baptized "the way Jesus was" means in a river. But then again there are many Christians who believe that being baptized "the way Jesus was" means as an adult. And then there are those who believe that being baptized "the way Jesus was" means by immersion.

    So you see that it's entirely a subjective assessment that one is being baptized "the way Jesus was." They simply take one or two aspects of what we know and decide, rather arbitrarily, that this is the criterion to apply to Christian baptisms. That makes no sense!

  8. @ Anonymous: regarding showing you where in Scripture it says anything about sprinkling or wetting...I'll show you that right after you show me where I am commanded to find everything we believe in the pages of the Bible. :-)

  9. @ Anonymous:

    Praying to Mary does not make an idol out of her. It's simply asking her to pray for us.

    Finally, it's curious to state that one is not a man of religion but a man of Jesus--how is it that you know anything about Jesus, except through a religion? After all, it's a religion that gave you the Bible, right?

  10. I believe that, from what the bible says you must be fully subbmerged . And of my opinion you don't have to be an adult, but rather old enough to undertand what Jesus our Lord did for us and what it means to be baptized. Once you can fully understand what you are doing, then you have done what God wants you to do with the free will that he has givin us. witch is better a man going to church out of tradition,or who one who has come from sin and gave his life to the lord. When you have put your heart to God it is much greater then one who does it just because he was told. But yet again that is my opinion.
    The problem with religion is that they are lead by different aspects, which in turn create different religions.
    I have built my faith not religion from what the bible has said, not by any man on earth

    Well pretty much you are saying that she can hear our prayers. So do you believe in praying to your dead popes. I hope not.

  11. @ Anonymous: the saints in heaven are not dead; rather they are MORE alive than anyone here on earth!

    Do you have a specific Bible verse that says that the saints in heaven cannot hear our prayers?

  12. @ Anonymous:

    To answer your question: "witch is better a man going to church out of tradition,or who one who has come from sin and gave his life to the lord."

    The answer is of course the one who comes from sin and gave his life to the Lord. No doubt about that!

  13. In reference to your comment "I'll show you that right after you show me where I am commanded to find everything we believe in the pages of the Bible. :-)"- I pray that you can prove everything that you believe from the bible. And I am glad that we can agree about a committed man and a traditional man.
    And so you know that I apologize for my typo with the dead saints. I completely agree that any who give their lives to the Lord will certainly have ever lasting life in Heaven.
    2chronicles 7.14. God says, ( in short ) My people, pray to me, seek me, change your ways, I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.) So far I have not read it said that you can pray to others. Just to pray to the one true God through whom all is possible, for he is a jealous God.

    1. You pray that I can prove everything we believe in the pages of the Bible?

      Why are you holding me to a standard that you cannot keep, Anonymous?

      Your own belief: "Everything we believe needs to be found in the Bible" cannot be found in the Bible.

    2. Regarding the verse in 2 Chronicles, Catholics give a hearty "amen!" to that!

      I am still looking for a verse that says that those in heaven can't hear our prayers.

      And again, by praying to others, all we're doing is asking them to pray for us.

      We do not worship anyone except the Triune God.

    3. everything that i believe is found in the Bible,my friend. I do not let someone tell me the Word, without giving scriptures. I will not put my soul in the hands of men so easily.(1 corinthians 2:5)-",so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

    4. That's fine, Anonymous.

      Except that, since this belief is not commanded in Scripture, you are following a man-made tradition.

      You heard somebody say, "Everything I believe is found in the Bible" and believed him or her, but neither of you ever read that in the pages of the Bible.

      It's simply following a man-made tradition.

      That is, unless you can come up with a verse that says, "Everything Christians believe must be found in the Scriptures."

      While it's true that "all Scripture is inspired by God", as 2 Tim 3:16 says, that means that everything you read in Scripture is God-breathed....HOWEVER, that's not the same thing as saying, "Everything I believe must be found in the pages of Scripture.

      There is no verse that says that.

      And, as such, it is a man-made tradition

    5. I haven't read any versus that say those in heaven can not hear us. quite the opposete i have 4 versus that state prayers can be heard from heaven.
      Rom 8:34,"It is Christ Jesus,who died,yes,who was raised,who is at the right hand of God,who indeed intercedes for us."
      Rom 8:27,"And God, who searches the heart,knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."
      Heb 7.25,"Therefore He is able to save completly those who come to God through him, because He always lives to intercede for them."
      1 Tim 2:5,"For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the Christ Jesus."
      These are all great examples that ,God in all, can hear our prayers from Heaven, who else do we need when we have a front row step to His throne.
      Heb 4:16,"Let us approach the the throne of grace with boldness,so that we may recieve mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

    6. Catholics respond with a hearty "amen!" to that!

      And I'm glad that you acknowledge that you can't find any verses in Scripture that say those in heaven cannot hear us.

      Rather, I offer you this:

      Revelations 5:8:And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.

      Clearly, those in heaven heard "the prayers of God's people."

  14. haha...Well it's like i said, quite plainly, That i do not take anyones word for the Word,not even the church's priest. Now lets make something clear. By no means do I say, that i do not attend a church, that is not true. The Bible tells us that we need each other to grow in God through a church.Proverbs 27:17,- "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

    1. You do indeed take someone's word for the Word, Anonymous.

      Each and every time you quote Scripture you are giving tacit acknowledgement to the authority of the Catholic Church to discern for you what was Scripture and what was not.

      You know that the Gospel of Mark is inspired because the Catholic Church discerned for you that it was. You know that the Gospel of Thomas is NOT inspired because the Catholic Church discerned for you that it wasn't.

      There is no other way for you to know what's God's Word, except through the Church.

      Unless you can tell me how it is that you know that, say, Hebrews is inspired and that the Shepherd of Hermas is not?

  15. now with that said i would like you to explain, if you will,how exactly i am following a man-made tradition? as you have notice i never said that i speak for all Bible Christians, where you have claimed to speak for all Catholics. So how does it feel to know the oppinions of every Catholic? but let me ask you this, if you believe something that is not in the Bible, then is it for God? I do not like assumption made of the Bible it could easily lead someone astray, may the Lord have pity on the one who leads Gods sheep astray. Just so you know the versus about the prayers was to show you that, you already have a great audiance in heaven, from God. Who else do you need? I just cant grasp this. mary or the saints can not hear nor heal the prayers, of men. the bible says that one man sharpens another.

    1. Here's the man-made tradition you are following: "Everything I believe (about God) is found in the Bible".

      It's a man-made tradition because it's not based on anything you ever read in the Bible.

      It's based on what you heard a man say, who heard another man say, who heard another man say, but no one ever read "Everything I believe is found in the Bible" in a single page of Scripture.

      That makes it a man-made tradition you're following.

    2. As far as praying to the saints: yes, of course we have a great audience in heaven--God.

      But if you can understand prayer chains--surely your church has one, yes?

      Then you can understanding calling on Mary and the other Saints to add us to their prayer chain. For the prayers of a righteous man avails us much, right?

      And who is more righteous than those in heaven?

      And, as we've already established from Rev. 5:8 we know those in heaven hear our prayers.

      And we've already seen that you cannot provide a verse that says those in heaven can NOT hear our prayers.

      It would appear quite clear that those in heaven are simply part of the prayer chain--just like your church has (or ought to!)

    3. Regarding your comment that Mary and the saints cannot heal. Well, in one sense, that's true. God alone heals.

      But he also gives his saints the power to heal through their own hands. That's from Scripture, too!

      So Mary can heal, just like St. Paul healed (Acts 19:11). And St. Peter (Acts 5:15).

  16. now this will be my last response to you. and it's about the verse that you gave to explain why you pray to whoever besides God.yes i know that you too pray to God. I know your tradition quite well. I used be a Catholic, full pledged and proud.Until i READ the Bible. But i can only speak of how i understood the verse presented by you.----The prayers of Gods people are like insence, that smell sweeter then anything known to us. A Harp that makes the sweetest sound to his ears, that can not compare to any other. And presented to the Lamb in golden bowls, for he wants nothing more then our prayers,love,and fellowship.
    Now i will break it down the way that you saw it. "which are the prayers of the saints." You believe that the prayers are the "collected prayers" to the saints, and presented to the Lamb. but you are wrong my brother. In turn you say that they can hear our prayers, but all the scriptures with out a doubt say that God can hear them. any other scriptures could possible say that some one else can hear your prayers, i soppose in the dark.
    this is my last comment to you, i ask that you post all of these that i have sent you so that you may relook over them. May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. Goodbye

    1. Regarding this comment: "The prayers of Gods people are like insence, that smell sweeter then anything known to us. A Harp that makes the sweetest sound to his ears, that can not compare to any other. And presented to the Lamb in golden bowls, for he wants nothing more then our prayers,love,and fellowship."

      I give a hearty "amen!" to that, as ought all Catholics!

      As for your comment here:
      "Now i will break it down the way that you saw it. "which are the prayers of the saints." You believe that the prayers are the "collected prayers" to the saints, and presented to the Lamb. but you are wrong my brother."

      it would have been helpful if you could have explained how it is that I am wrong. Simply saying so does not make it so, unfortunately.

      Perhaps if you had an argument to offer as to why I am wrong--that these saints in heaven holding golden bowls of our prayers can't know what these prayers are???

      then I could offer a response.


  17. I am sorry to see you leave so soon after we were just getting to the meat and potatoes of your objections to praying to the saints, Anonymous.

    As far as your being raised a Catholic, sadly, that does not give any indication as to your knowledge of the faith. Most people who were raised Catholic cannot even answer a simple Catholic question: "where is Scripture said at Mass?" The only thing they might say is, "Um?? When we say the Our Father? Or when the Gospel is read?"*

    Most likely your poor knowledge of your Catholic faith is not your fault. The Church, in the past, did an abysmal job providing nourishing catechesis for her flock.

    Thankfully, that is changing.

    *Note: here's the answer to "where is Scripture said in the Mass": EVERYWHERE. Practically every word uttered by the priest and the laity comes straight from the words of Scripture. If you remember from your Catholic days we often proclaim, "Thanks be to God!" as our response.

    See 2 Corinthians 9:15 to see where that comes from.

    You may also remember the priest praying, "I leave you peace, my peace I give to you."

    See what the Scriptures say in John 14:27.

    And on and on it goes.

    IOW: if one is familiar with the Bible, when he goes to Mass he will be familiar with all the prayers.

  18. I suppose every priest and liturgical committee has their own idea's of pressing the envelope to the extreme on symbolism or at least their own fancied idea of Baptismal symbolism.

    Not trying to be disrespectful but I find the bathing suits, etc used in Full Immersion Baptisms is far too much of a show display, whether the Adult RCIA candidates are wearing a gown or not. Sadly; IMHO the Spiritual Aspect of Baptism gets lost and pushed aside to a lesser importance in place of the spectacle of full immersion that often brings giggles in the congregation. And really does Full Immersion give a greater Spiritual Significance compared to those Catholics who choose the Trice Baptismal Infusion method? Arguably; some poorly Catechized Catholics might think so.

    For many hundreds of years in the Catholic Church Baptismal Infusion has been the preferred choice for both infants and RCIA candidates.

    I mean really are officials in the Church trying to replace the Baptismal Font for the River Jordon? Sadly that would seem apparent in some parishes.

    Thankfully; my parish doesn't do Full Immersion but maintains Baptism by Infusion without all the extra fanfare. RCIA candidates being Baptized in my parish on Easter Vigil don't wear white gowns either, they wear their Best Sunday Dress and to symbolize their new baptism they naturally get a lit baptismal candle and wear a White Baptismal Stole.

  19. First off, 2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is inspired by God...
    This shows the Old Testament is a foreshadowing of the New Testament.
    Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean....

  20. John3: 1-8, Jesus explains how salvation is achieved by being born of water and spirit.

    So how does birth happen? There's always a transition from the old to the new.

    In the old testament there are a lot of examples of God's people passing through water (Noah & the flood, Israel & dead sea, Israel entering the promised land, jonah & the whale, etc etc.)

    The human baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid before birth. In a sense, the child passes through water into the new life (birth).

    Is it not possible to interpret water baptism to be akin to nature example of birth and old testament example of "passing through water "? Did not God design humans and did not God leads His people in all the examples given?

    Therefore, in all things seek the leading of the Holy Spirit on what to do with the circumstances you are in. It may be that there is plenty of water then baptising by immersion is easy. Or maybe there isn't any body of water big enough to dip in. Perhaps you have medical problems preventing you from being soaked.

    I've heard of people in drought regions bring baptised by lying in a shallow grave, wrapped in burial cloth and having water sprinkle on them.

    In all things seek the leading of the Holy Spirit. He is with us to teach us spiritual things. We will not go wrong of we listen to God's voice and reaffirm that it is of God by referring to the Bible.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Anonymous.

      Regarding your reference to John 3:1-8 and amniotic fluid--are you saying that Jesus said, essentially, that we "must be born of amniotic fluid and the Spirit"?

      Would that mean, since everyone is born of amniotic fluid, that everyone is saved?

  21. Clearly, a red herring argument.

    Ignoring the clear teaching of Christ Himself (catholic men repeat this ignorance in many other important areas)is what leads me to believe that catholicism is not Christian.

    Forget about what river it was, or who's doing the immersion... God's inerrant Word is clear as a bell about the heart condition that is required prior to Baptism. Repentance, and a conscious desire to turn the care and will of life over to our Savior. catholic baptism, by definition, is errant, and in direct contradiction of God's clear direction on baptism simply because infants are incapable of those two things...

    1. What does a baby have to repent of, Ken? As an adult, repentance is definitely required prior to baptism in the Catholic Church.

    2. Also, if we read the words in Act, we see, clearly, that baptism is not to be denied to children: "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" (Acts 2:39)