A Woman Baptizes

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Ben Chomp

Puritan Board Freshman
I have a sacraments exam this evening with our credentialing committee and I want to get some help on a question.

The question, as is often posed in these exams, is: "Suppose a family joins your church from a Methodist church which had a woman pastor. This female pastor baptized the children and the family is wondering if they should have their children re-baptized. What do you say?"

As far as I can tell, the correct answer is "no, we do not re-baptize them." The rationale is that even though it is unbiblical to have a female minister, so long as she was "lawfully called thereunto" then the baptism is valid.

Is this the right answer and the right rationale? Any other comments would be appreciated. Thanks!
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I would describe the baptism as (highly) irregular, but still valid. It was done by a church through its recognized minister, even though a church defective in many ways doctrinally and practically; with (I presume) the intent to baptize, with water, and in the Name of the Trinity.
 

Ben Chomp

Puritan Board Freshman
I would describe the baptism as (highly) irregular, but still valid. It was done by a church through its recognized minister, even though a church defective in many ways doctrinally and practically; with (I presume) the intent to baptize, with water, and in the Name of the Trinity.

Thanks I was thinking along these lines as well. In the other oft asked question: "Why is it necessary for an ordained minister to administer the sacraments?" My answer is that the sacraments are an act of the church, but that the church acts officially through its ordained officers. Is that a good answer?
 

TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have a sacraments exam this evening with our credentialing committee and I want to get some help on a question.

The question, as is often posed in these exams, is: "Suppose a family joins your church from a Methodist church which had a woman pastor. This female pastor baptized the children and the family is wondering if they should have their children re-baptized. What do you say?"

As far as I can tell, the correct answer is "no, we do not re-baptize them." The rationale is that even though it is unbiblical to have a female minister, so long as she was "lawfully called thereunto" then the baptism is valid.

Is this the right answer and the right rationale? Any other comments would be appreciated. Thanks!

There probably will be a difference of opinion on this matter. The Reformers, while they regarded Roman baptisms as valid, generally did not regard baptisms performed by women as valid which often occurred when the life of an infant was thought to be in danger and the midwife took it upon herself to baptize the baby, fearing for its soul. The reasoning being that a lawful ordination was required for the validity of the sacrament, even if that ordination was in a corrupted church. That, of course is a different matter than a woman minister who is, at least ostensibly, ordained, and the question from that perspective hinges on how you evaluate the ordination of the female minister. Is it no ordination at all, or is it similar to the ordination of an unqualified man (perhaps a scandalous individual) which is a true ordination even while a failing of the church in administering it. I would find myself siding with the latter and seeing the baptism as legitimate.

Modern Presbyterian theories of baptism often either regard the ordination/ecclesiastic context of the baptism as irrelevant as long as the form is correct and Trinitarian (somewhat following Hodge, although he still recognized a necessary ecclesiastical element) or, opposing Roman baptism, that it must be administered in a faithful church (the Southern Presbyterian position). On the former the baptism is valid, on the latter, perhaps not.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Thanks I was thinking along these lines as well. In the other oft asked question: "Why is it necessary for an ordained minister to administer the sacraments?" My answer is that the sacraments are an act of the church, but that the church acts officially through its ordained officers. Is that a good answer?
I would accept your answer. The issue for us is, manifestly, not what does baptism itself do or accomplish; but what saith the church using baptism as its instrument. Or, what saith the Lord, using the church as his instrument.

This is why we, on the one hand, are not anxious to get a newborn baptized by-hook-or-by-crook if needs be, for some putative blessing obtainable by the rite. So no, an "emergency baptism" by a midwife or a mother (or a father) is little more than a sentimental act (and possibly deeply erroneous, theologically). The act which God intended should mark one as belonging within his visible kingdom administration, is turned into a self-serving witness. A parent's "feel-good" is insufficient justification for misappropriating the sign; and may indicate a defective regard for the sacrament, more akin to magical incantation than the declaratory power of institutional words.

A stillborn child, or one that dies sooner than his baptism, has already received (if so known to God) the reality promised in baptism unto faith. The faith-eyes of this little one are already sight, if God so ordained it. What is the promise of a gift to one who already holds that gift in his hands? Or, in the words of the apostle, "Who hopes for what he already has?" Being a child of the covenant, the parents hope is in the God of covenant who ordained such persons to take his sign early, if time permits; hope is not in the application of the sign.
 
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