Rebaptism in Christianity is the baptism of a person who has previously been baptized, usually in association with a denomination that does not recognize the validity of the previous baptism. When a denomination rebaptizes members of another denomination, it is a sign of significant differences in theology. Churches that practice exclusive adult baptism, including Baptists, Churches of Christ and Christian Churches, rebaptize those who were baptized as infants because they do not consider infant baptism to be valid.
Rebaptism is generally associated with:
- Anabaptism, from Greek ἀνα- (re-) and βαπτίζω (baptize)
- Denominations that require believer's baptism
- Oneness Pentecostal churches
In the 4th century, controversy was provoked by the Montanist sect's practice of re-baptizing Christians who had renounced their faith under persecution. The mainstream church decided that the lapsi could not be rebaptized, because the sacrament of baptism was irrevocable, leaving an indelible mark on the soul of the baptized. Later, rebaptism of Arians was deemed necessary because Arians did not believe in the identical Holy Trinity as defined by the Council of Nicea and their baptism was therefore not in the name of the Trinity as understood by the Council.
In the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church does not admit the possibility of rebaptism:
1272. Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.
The baptisms of those to be received into the Catholic Church from other Christian communities are held to be valid if administered using the Trinitarian formula. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:
1256. The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon. In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize, by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.
1284. In case of necessity, any person can baptize provided that he have the intention of doing that which the Church does and provided that he pours water on the candidate's head while saying: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
The 1983 Code of Canon Law (1983 CIC) addresses cases in which the validity of a person's baptism is in doubt:
Can. 869 §1. If there is a doubt whether a person has been baptized or whether baptism was conferred validly and the doubt remains after a serious investigation, baptism is to be conferred conditionally.
§2. Those baptized in a non-Catholic ecclesial community must not be baptized conditionally unless, after an examination of the matter and the form of the words used in the conferral of baptism and a consideration of the intention of the baptized adult and the minister of the baptism, a serious reason exists to doubt the validity of the baptism.
§3. If in the cases mentioned in §§1 and 2 the conferral or validity of the baptism remains doubtful, baptism is not to be conferred until after the doctrine of the sacrament of baptism is explained to the person to be baptized, if an adult, and the reasons of the doubtful validity of the baptism are explained to the person or, in the case of an infant, to the parents.
In cases where a valid baptism is performed subsequent to an invalid attempt, it is held that only one baptism actually occurred, namely the valid one. Thus baptism is never repeated.
In the Orthodox Church
Whilst in modern times, some Orthodox Church members have rebaptized Catholics, the claim that they did so in medieval times has been dismissed as a Latin Church slander against the Eastern Church.[clarification needed] Greek Orthodox practice changed in 1755, when Patriarch Cyril V of Constantinople issued the Definition of the Holy Church of Christ Defending the Holy Baptism Given from God, and Spitting upon the Baptisms of the Heretics Which Are Otherwise Administered, however, the Greek Orthodox does not now insist on rebaptizing Catholics.
In other Christian movements
Latter Day Saints practice rebaptism, as they do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity, in whose name mainstream Christian baptisms are conducted. They also believe they are the only church with the priesthood authority to perform saving ordinances.
- Scott Culpepper, Francis Johnson and the English Separatist Influence (Mercer University Press 2011 ISBN 978-0-88146-238-8), p. 203
- Russel R. Paden, "From the Churches of Christ to the Boston Movement", thesis submitted to the University of Kansas 1994
- Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Sacrament of Baptism (Vatican.va Archive)
- CCC 1256.
- CCC 1284.
- 1983 CIC, Can. 869.
- Tia Kolbaba, "On the closing of the churches and the rebaptism of Latins: Greek perfidy or Latin slander?" in Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Volume 29, Number 1, 2005 , pp. 39-51(13) Archived October 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
- John H. Erickson, "The Reception of Non-Orthodox into the Orthodox Church: Contemporary Practice" in St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 41 (1997) pp. 1-17
- "Should You Be Baptized Again?". Awake!: 26–27. January 8, 1994.