Catabaptism in the Presbyterian Church in America

Baptismal advice to Western Carolina Presbytery at the 1982 PCA

At the 1982 General Assembly of the PCA, some truly excellent advice was given on a very vexing practical question.  For the General Assembly had been asked by the Western Carolina Presbytery: "May baptism properly be administered to individuals who have been 'christened' or baptized in infancy, when it had been apparent that neither parent was a believer?"644

To this question, the response proposed at the 1982 General Assembly, recorded in its Minutes, rightly remonstrated: "No.  Baptism is but once administered to any person (WCF 28:7).  Baptism [is to be] with water, in the Name of the Triune God, by [the] most significant manner possible." Westminster Confession of Faith 28:2,3,6.

The General Assembly then went on to supply the following good 'Grounds' for the above advice.  Among other things, it rightly remarked:644 "The question of re-baptism has been of concern to believers since the time of the Early Church, when believers fell away from the faith during persecution and later returned to the faith.  Questions were even raised concerning the validity of a baptism performed by a Minister who later fell away from the faith. 

"To the desire of individuals seeking re-baptism, the Church has historically responded that only one administration of baptism is appropriate.  Historically, the Church has not


re-baptized those who have fallen away; been excommunicated; and subsequently have sought re-admission to the Church….

"Their former baptism was not invalidated by their later falling away, necessitating rebaptism….  Neither can the baptism of their children be invalidated.  If one or both parents professed faith in Jesus Christ and were members in good standing within the Visible Church, then the administration of baptism to their infant children was perfectly appropriate — as valid as their own baptism.  If they were not professing believers and were not members in good standing within the Visible Church, then they would have no right to baptism for themselves or their children….

"If however they were professing Members of the Visible Church at the time of the administration of their children's baptism, then the baptism was valid — both for themselves and for their children….  Subsequent events could not invalidate the baptism so as to necessitate a new and subsequent baptism — for themselves or their children….

"In Acts chapter 19…it is clear from the context that the disciples referred to…were not disciples of Jesus Christ.  They were not professing Christians.  They had not been baptized in the Name of Jesus, but in John's baptism. 

“These disciples were ill-informed disciples of John the Baptist, people who did not even know of the Holy Spirit.  They clearly did not know the Gospel of Christ.  For the Apostle has to explain it to them.

“Having heard now of Christ, they were indeed baptized.  But it was not a second Christian baptism.  It was their first and only Christian baptism….  There are no Scriptural examples of people being baptized twice in the Name of Jesus.

"There is another passage which has bearing on this issue.  In Acts chapter 8, we read that Simon Magus professed faith in Christ and was baptized.  Subsequently, Peter uncovered Simon's true spiritual condition and warned him: 'Thy heart is not right in the sight of God.  Repent!' Simon was apparently affected by this warning and apparently repented, saying to Peter: 'Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me!'

"Here, then, is an explicit case of the baptism of a man later discovered to be unconverted.  Peter's counsel to him is not: 'You need to be re-baptized!' but rather: 'You need to repent!'   What Simon Magus needed, was not another external baptism – but…repentance, conversion….

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