Definition: The belief that salvation and the new life in Christ is mediated through water baptism. The Catholic Church teaches that the sacraments work by their very application. The latin term for this is Ex Opere Operato – by the working of the works. Under normal circumstances, an infant is baptized and receives sanctifying grace, which removes the inherited sin of Adam. Faith is a necessity for the sacrament to be effective, but it is not the faith of the infant. It is instead the faith of the church that saves the person. Effectively the sacrament requires “double mediation” – both water and faith are mediators. An obvious question that must be answered is: if water baptism results in regeneration, how can a Catholic end up in hell? The Church teaches that their remains concupiscense – the remnants of our sin nature – that causes us to continually struggle against sin. Thus, the other sacraments of the Church are also necessary for our salvation if we sin after baptism. But ultimately we can override our baptism because we have freedom of the will.
Discussion: Baptismal regeneration is a heinous doctrine that lulls one into a false sense of well-being and leads many to hell. It confuses the sign of the covenant with the actuality of spirit baptism. It takes salvation out of the realm of the Spirit (who “blows where He wills – John 3) and places it in the hands of the priest. It places the cart before the horse. Baptism is a sacrament that should be applied to believers who have experienced the gracious salvation through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). We are justified by faith alone, not through baptism, the faith of the Church, and the Roman sacraments.
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