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Comparative Theology, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
3- The disagreements between us Orthodox and the Protestants regarding Baptism
The subject of baptism revolves around in five salient points:
(1) What is the importance of baptism and what are its efficacious?
The Orthodox believe that baptism is the way to receive salvation, purification, justification, renewal of life and membership in the Body of Christ? While these things, according to the Protestant denominations, are only received by faith? If the latter is correct, what is then, the use of baptism? Is it just a sign of Christianity? Or is it merely an obedience to the Lord's commandment: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt.28: 19)?
(2) Should who administer baptism?
Baptism in the Orthodox Church is administered only by the clergy. But our Protestant brethren do not, at all, accept human Priesthood. So in their churches, a minister and not a clergyman administer baptism. He could be an elder (or a lady elder in case of groups who allow women ministers). Anyhow, according to the Protestant belief, the elders or the ministers are not clergymen.
(3) We believe that baptism is one of the Church Sacraments but our Protestants brethren do not.
(4) We baptise by immersion in water whereas the majority of our Protestant brethren baptise by sprinkling water.
(5) We baptise infants on the belief of their parents, but our Protestant brethren do not believe in Paedobaptism since they condition the belief of the baptised prior to baptising him.
Some of the objections raised by our Protestant Brethren:
1. Isnít faith sufficient without baptism?
2. How was the Penitent Thief saved without baptism?
3. Does water have the property that gives birth and renewal?
4. Why a clergyman? What happens if the clergyman who administers baptism is a malefactor?
5. If baptism is renewal of life, why do we sin thereafter?
6. How does the infant inherit the sin of his parents who were previously baptised and whose sins were forgiven?
7. Is the water in baptism a symbol of the word? The Apostle says concerning the relationship of Christ with the Church: "... that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (Eph.5: 26).
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