Rebaptism: Patristic Consensus or Innovation?
Examining the Church Fathers on the reception of heretics in the Orthodox Church
Baptism is the rite of initiation into the Church performed by the Church. But this leaves us with a perplexing question: if being brought into the Church requires the action of the Church, do Protestants and Catholics have a valid baptism? In pursuing an answer to this question, we must first acknowledge that the Orthodox Church offers us two equally relevant dogmatic points that appear to be at odds with one another. 1. The Orthodox Church is the true Church. 2. There is “one baptism for the remission of sins.”On account of the first, the Church’s self-understanding throughout history would insist, from the stricture of dogmatic logic, that only her sacraments are the sacraments, only her priesthood the priesthood. But on account of the second, the Church would consider the rebaptism of converting Protestants and Catholics – who were baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity – as a grave sin.
For those overly concerned about identifying the boundaries of the Church, this would present a serious dilemma. Intent on solving it, they double down on the first and reconcile it to the second by proclaiming that any baptism outside of the Church is simply a profane washing of the body which is neither valid nor efficacious. Put another way, those baptized outside of the physical boundaries of Orthodox Church are neither in the Church nor considered baptized. Some have termed this view sacramental rigorism.
As swaths of individuals enter the Orthodox Church due to a conviction over the first dogmatic principle, many turn to sacramental rigorism to resolve the predicament posed by the second. The logic goes something like this: A. The Orthodox Church is the true Church. B.Only the true Church has valid sacraments. C. Ephesians 4:5 and the Nicene Creed refers exclusively to Orthodox baptism as the “one baptism” and there can therefore be no baptism outside the Church. D. Other Christian confessions are not “Christian” at all, because they are neither a part of the Church nor capable of bringing people into the Church. And sometimes, E. Because we are saved through the Church and her sacraments, those outside of the Church cannot attain salvation.According to this view, it would seem that the outlook for Protestants and Catholics is bleak.
The Argument for Rebaptism:
While the sacramental rigorists do not prefer the term “rebaptism,” as they do not consider baptism outside of the physical boundaries of the Orthodox Church to be baptism at all, I have consistently used it throughout the article for the sake of clarity when referring to their views.
The historical-patristic argument for sacramental rigorism usually begins with Saint Cyprian (256 A.D.) who argued vehemently against the validity of the baptism of heretics (those outside of the Church).The Council of Carthage in 257 A.D., which was chaired by St. Cyprian, affirmed this opinion, as did St. Firmilian in 269 A.D., and the Council of Laodicea in 363 A.D. (Canon 8). The Apostolic Constitutions of 375–380 A.D. (Canons 46, 47, 49, and 50) – as well as St. Basil the Great’s canons (1, 47) – are also pointed to in defense of sacramental rigorism. Beyond these, there is not a strong case for any other patristic witness to rebaptism in antiquity. It’s not until the Council of Constantinople 1755–1756 A.D. that rebaptism is again defended, followed by portions of The Rudder by St. Nikodemus the Hagiorite (1809 A.D.) and St. Hilarion Troitsky (20th century). Rigorists today will also point to Saint Paisios the Athonite and Elder Ephraim of Arizona to make their case – although from what I can discern, there is no documentation to indicate this view.
One could see how neophytes might take rebaptism as fact if the above is all that is presented to them. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening. Under the online tutelage of Fr. Peter Heers,who self-published on the subject in 2015 (The Ecclesiastical Renovation of Vatican II) and subsequently took to YouTube to spread his message, the world of internet Orthodoxy would see the radical re-popularization of this issue. What’s more, responding to comments on various social media sites, Fr. Peter and his Orthodox Ethos team would advocate for catechumens to disobey their bishop or priest if they would not receive them in the proper form (aka rebaptism) – something that absolutely none of the Fathers or councils that favored rebaptism would ever commend. As a result, by 2020 priests would report trouble in their own parishes due to the flavor of rigorism Heers was propounding. The patristic witness against rebaptism, however, is reiterated consistently from the 3rd to the 21st century and outnumbers those propounding sacramental rigorism by a ratio of approximately ten to one (10:1).
Beyond Fr. Peter Heers’ myopic presentation of the evidence on the reception of heretics throughout Church History, there is yet another obstacle that complicates any theological engagement (with him or his followers): his methodology. He advocates a charismatic tradition that hyperfixates on modern, “charismatic elders” over and against patristic consensus. While charismatic elders certainly have their role in the Orthodox Tradition, Heers’ emphasis of it above hierarchical authority and patristic consensus is misplaced – to the extent that his interpretations are read back into history in order to inform what he takes to be authoritatively binding; his conclusions are made ex post facto and often differ from the conciliar decisions of the Church. He picks his modern, “charismatic elders” by the same criteria. The matter of how heretics are received in the Church is one such example. Unsurprisingly, Heers’ “charismatic” authorities are a fringe group of athonite monks that support rebaptism and practice so-called corrective baptisms. Considering that Heers and those following him do not take into consideration the countless ancient Saints – wonderworkers, martyrs, defenders of the faith, and even “charismatic elders” – that witness against his theories of rebaptism, it would seem that he is guilty of what he routinely accuses others: modernism, innovation.
The Church of the Seven Councils: Patristic Consensus and Catholicity
The Orthodox Church has long been called the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils; this is largely because it holds to a conciliar-style authority structure modeled after the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15. This first council, which was called to settle a dispute among the early disciples, sealed its pronouncement with the phrase, “it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”– a formula that would be repeated as other disputes arose throughout Church history. The key to the conciliar authority structure is that decisions about faith, dogma, and practice are not authoritative if they are made in private or uttered by a single saintly figure, but rather in the presence of the catholic Church over time and affirmed by the conciliar community in accord with the Holy Spirit.
Not just any council or synod is considered binding – and just because something is decided on in a council does not mean it is infallibly true. There are, in fact, many councils and synods that were overturned just decades after being held. The term “Ecumenical Council,” however, has been given to seven particular councils held throughout the Church’s history that are considered universally binding for faith, dogma and practice. The decisions of these councils form the foundation of our Eastern Orthodox dogma.
This makes it all more curious when sacramental rigorists, like Fr. Peter Heers, focus on individual synods and a handful of saints that are separated by centuries instead of relying on what the Ecumenical Councils have already ruled on this issue – a ruling that reflects the patristic consensus as we will see below.
The Patristic Consensus on the topic of Rebaptism:
While the rigorist position might seem convincing to the uninformed, the patristic consensus would come to the exact opposite conclusion on this issue. What sacramental rigorists do not mention is that the three subsequent councils that took place in Carthage after St. Cyprian’s council in 257 A.D. (Carthage 345 A.D., 397 A.D., 419 A.D.) overturn St. Cyprian’s initial proclamation that all heretics must be rebaptized. Neither will they mention that both St. Cyprian and his predecessor, Agripinnus, were not well versed in Christian thought beyond North Africa – and, as a result, were primarily influenced by the writings of Tertullian who fell into the rigorist heresy of Montanism. (Interestingly, Montanism also emphasized charismatic teachings over assimilation to conciliar consensus.)
The reality is that there were objectors to St. Cyprian’s opinions from the beginning. Chief among these were Pope St. Stephen (c. 257 A.D.), Pope St. Sixtus II (c. 258 A.D.), and St. Dionysius the Alexandrian (c. 264 A.D.). In private correspondence with St. Cyprian, St. Stephen would implore Cyprian not to rebaptize heretics, as this was considered innovation:
If any one, therefore, come to you from any heresy whatever, let nothing be innovated (or done) which has not been handed down, to wit, that hands be imposed on him for repentance; since the heretics themselves, in their own proper character, do not baptize such as come to them from one another, but only admit them to communion.
Here we see that as early as the third century, St. Stephen justified the validity of baptism ex opere operato because it is Christ himself that acts in baptism;he further claimed that this was common to Rome, Palestine, and Egypt. Cyprian did not take this well. In a subsequent letter, he revealed that he was unfamiliar with this tradition, charging Stephen with forgetting the oneness of baptism and “adopt[ing] the lies and the contagions of a profane washing.” But in 255/256 A.D. St. Stephen held a Synod in Rome that formally rejected St. Cyprian's opinion (that all should be rebaptized). This decision would be reflected also in an anonymously written 3rd century treatise entitled, A Treatise on Re-Baptism, that wound defend the reception of heretics by the laying on of hands. For his part, St. Stephen would die before seeing the issue resolved. His successor, Pope St. Sixtus II, would work to restore peace between Rome and Carthage without sacrificing St. Stephen’s position. During his short tenure (257–258 A.D.), St. Dionysius the Alexandrian would write a letter to the papal see:
It suffices only to lay hands on those who shall have made profession in baptism, whether in pretense or in truth, of God Almighty and of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. But those over whom there has not been invoked the name either of Father or of Son or of Holy Spirit, these we must baptize, but not rebaptism. This is the sure and immovable teaching and tradition, begun by our Lord after his resurrection from the dead…this then was preserved and fulfilled by his successors, the blessed apostles, and by all the bishops prior to ourselves…and it has lasted down to us, because it is firmer than the whole world.
Here we see that St. Dionysius agreed with St. Stephen and subsequently St. Sixtus II, calling for reception of heretics, who were baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, “whether in pretense or in truth,” by the laying on of hands. He likewise affirms Stephen’s position as the “immovable teaching and tradition.”
On August 8th in 258 A.D., as St. Sixtus II was praying in the catacombs, Emperor Valerian sent a company of soldiers to kill the Roman bishop. Valerian’s decree and St. Sixtus II’s death would put an end to the controversy for St. Cyprian, who would implore his fellow Christians to set their minds on immortality and the treasures to be gained by martyrdom.Soon after, St. Cyprian suffered the same fate.
Not long after the persecution of Christians ended at the beginning of the fourth century, questions concerning the baptism of heretics were once again raised. Under Emperor Constantine I, a synod was called in 314 A.D. at Arles in Southern Gaul that produced 22 canons. Canon 8 would once again distinguish between those who confess the Trinity and those who do not; the former should be received by the laying on of hands, the latter by baptism. Just eleven years later, the First Ecumenical Council (Nicaea, 325 A.D.) would likewise distinguish between Cathari (Novations) and Palianists; the former would be received by written declaration with valid Holy Orders (priests/bishops would not be “reordained”) while the latter must be baptized and ordained (if applicable).
Rather than treat everyone outside of the physical boundaries of the Orthodox Church as a single mass of gracelessness, Saint Basil the Great would note the three degrees of separation, calling some heresies, others schism, and still others parasynagogues. The first category (heretics) applies to those completely separated from the faith as “involving a difference of faith in God;” here St. Basil names Valentinians, Marcionists, and Manichees (all gnostic sects).”Later on, in Canon 47, Basil refers back to Canon 8 of Nicaea concerning the Cathari (Novations) but classes Encratites and Saccophori and Apotactites among the heretics, as they are an offshoot of Marcionism. Although Basil was sympathetic to Cyprian’s view, he did not set forth his sympathies as dogma, but suggested that the Church meet conciliarly to judge them and thereafter issue its determination via a canon. On this, Serbian canonist and bishop Nikodim Milaš (1845–1915) would write,
he adds that this is his personal opinion, and the canonical prescription about this will be issued by the council of bishops, which is in charge of such issues. This canonical prescription was issued by the second ecumenical council, which met two years after the death of Basil the Great , determining exactly which heretics should be baptized when entering the church and which should not (II Ecum. 7).
Regardless of his preference to rebaptize, Basil would leave the final say up to the Church, which would produce a Canon (Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Councils), only two years after his Letter to Amphilochius, that did not affirm Basil's opinion. For his part, Basil would conclude that, regardless of his own opinion, “we must fall back upon custom, and follow the fathers who have ordered what course we are to pursue…[and] only strictly obey the canons.”
Here it would be worthwhile to point out St. Basil’s use of οἰκονομία (oikonomia) and ἀκρίβεια (akribeia). Although Basil would prefer a stricter Canon of reception, he wrote that, regardless of opinion, we should strictly obey (akribeia) the canons. Fr. Peter Heers uses Basil in his explanatory system to infer that the akribeia of the Church is that we rebaptize everyone that comes into the Church and we only Chrismate by oikonomia. But this exactly the opposite of what the Church proclaims.The akribeia is that we do not rebaptize those that have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity; the oikonomia is that we baptize those who are uncertain whether or not they were baptized in this manner.
While Saint Basil the Great is a beacon of light for Orthodoxy, we must recognize that even he subjected himself – and his penchant for the more rigorist approach to reception of heretics – to the conciliar authority of the Church. And even though he suggested the Canons on reception be amended, they never were. This ultimately leaves us with St. Basil's exhortation to strictly follow the canons that have been received (and this is a process that takes time). Today, in the 21st century, we have the luxury of looking back to see how this played out. And if we, like Saint Basil suggested, strictly follow the Canons, then we must not rebaptize Novations or even Arians, Apollinarians, et. al., much less Protestants and Catholics.
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The Ecumenical Councils on Rebaptism:
We come to this conclusion by looking at the canons that were received and accepted at the Ecumenical Councils (Nicaea 325 A.D., Constantinople 381 A.D., Trullo 691–692 A.D.) As previously said, the First Ecumenical Council distinguished between Cathari (Novations) whom we receive as having a valid baptism and Paulianists whom we receive as the heathen. Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople 381 A.D.) states that, Arians, Macedonians, Sabbatians, Novations, Tetradites, and Apollinarians “we receive, upon their giving a written renunciation [of their errors].” However, a peculiarity is noted for the Eunomians (the neo-arians) who are to be baptized because their baptism is with single immersion.This would give rise to yet another question: if Protestants and Catholics baptize with the wrong form (sprinkling, pouring, single immersion) is the baptism valid?
Initially, the 12th-century canonist Theodore Balsamon would seem to maintain that anyone baptized with single immersion should be rebaptized – although he later argued that the Latins should be received by mere confession of faith.Regardless of this discrepancy, “there are no recorded conciliar statements on the issue until the fifteenth century, when chrismation/anointing, rather than baptism, was established as the normative method for receiving Latins,” as Nicolas Kamas of Notre Dame University notes. This is important to point out: at the time of the Second Ecumenical Council, the distinction between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy did not exist. The anomaly of single immersion with regards to Eunomian reception via baptism but Arian reception by chrismation seems to have its origin in a distinction of invocation, not form. While the Arians and Eunomians alike call the Second Person of the Holy Trinity a creature, the former invoked the Trinitarian formula given by Christ (Matthew 29:18) while the latter did not. Instead, they baptized in the name of Christ alone (and thus a single immersion). Today, oneness pentecostals who practice such a baptism would also be baptized if they chose to convert while the majority opinion is that those who are baptized in the name of the Trinity, regardless of form, are brought in by chrismation or simply declaration of faith – reiterating again Pope St. Stephen’s understanding of Sacramental validity ex opere operato.
The Council of Trullo (691–692 A.D.) would present another seemingly intractable conundrum: by accepting the canons of the previous Ecumenical Councils, the Apostolic Canons, Laodicea, and the Council of Carthage (419 A.D.) it would seem, at the surface reading of the text, to accept both St. Cyprian and St. Stephen’s view.
The 12th century canonists Theodore Balsamon and John Zonaras, as well as 19th century canonist St. Nicodemus Milas would comment on this paradox by noting that the decrees at St. Cyprian’s Council in Carthage (257 A.D.) are “not mandatory and thus ineffective” – and that the bishops at Carthage later decreed that they were not referring to all three levels of Church separation (heresy, schism, parasynagogue).Put another way, the Council of Carthage (257 A.D.) was referring to a single group (heretics) and is not binding for all of those outside of the Church, but rather only those that must be baptized. 20th century canonist – and friend of Saint John of Shanghai who also shared his views – Archimandrite Ambrose Pogodin further parsed out the Apostolic Canons in a manner worth quoting at length:
This Apostolic Canon  refers to heretics in the times of the apostles, who offended against the chief dogmas about God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and about the incarnation of the Son of God. The following canons are directed against further kinds of heresies: 1 E.C. 19, Laodicea 7 and 8, and 6 E.C. 95, and Basil Gr. 47.” Thus, this Apostolic Canon refers to the following heretics: whose heresies not only distorted the teachings of the Holy Church, but which could hardly be called “Christian.” They consisted of a fantastic mixture either of Judaism and Christianity or of a pagan philosophy with a superficial coloration of Christianity, resembling Eastern mysteries mixed with fantasy.
As Vladislav Yakovlev notes in his unparalleled article, Sacramental Rigourism: Tradition or Modern Phenomenon?, “This is the official interpretation accepted by the Most-Holy Governing Synod of Russia in 1901.”
Contra St. Cyprian's undifferentiated approach towards those outside the Church, Trullo would also accepted a threefold distinction. Canon 95 affirms that Paulianists, Eunomians, and Montanists are to be received by baptism, Arians, Macedonians, and Novations by Chrismation, and Monophysites and Nestorians by a formal renunciation of their heresy.
The Church’s self-consciousness, both in the 7th century at Trullo and today, would view the reception of the Apostolic Canons, as well as those of Laodicea, in light of distinction among those outside of the Church (viz. Only those considered non-Christian are furthest from the Church and baptized as heathen and they were only referring to this group at the time of the councils). Hence, the sacramental rigorist’s insistence that the Apostolic Canons, the Council of Carthage (257 A.D.), and Laodicea (363 A.D.) – and their reception at Trullo – prove their point (that rebaptism is accepted) does not take into consideration the caveats made about the acceptance of these canons at Trullo. The canonist lists here, also, the 47th canon of St. Basil the Great, noting together with the others that these should be understood as referring to “further heresies.” These heresies, “a fantastic mixture” of Christianity, paganism, and esoteric philosophies should not be read as applying to Trinitarian Protestants and Catholics. Such a view would be absurd.
The Donatist Controversy:
After the Second Ecumenical Council, the Church Fathers would turn their attention to a growing North African sect called Donatism. The Donatists were strident rigorists, having as their forefathers Tertullian, Marcion, and St. Cyprian of Carthage. They believed that the performer of the sacrament must not only administer it in exactitude but that he himself must be worthy to perform it. Those that do not abide by the correct formula and live a pure life baptize invalidly. In a word, baptism is not valid ex opere operato nor is it primarily an act of Christ but depends upon the priest, form, and formula.
In 397 A.D., Saint Optatus of Milevis would argue against the Donatists’ claim by asserting the oneness of baptism.In a striking passage in his treatise, Against the Donatists (1.5) he would claim that the Holy Church does not rebaptize Donatists, even though they are in schism, because the the sacrament is common to both on account of its oneness:
Since the validity of Baptism does not depend upon the character of the man who has been chosen to baptize, but upon an act which lawfully is done but once, for this reason we do not set right baptisms which have been administered by you, because both amongst us and amongst you the Sacrament is one.
Pope St. Siricius would follow suit in 399 A.D., saying that,
[Rebaptism] is not allowed since the Apostle forbids it to be done (Ephesians 4:5, Hebrews 6:4) and the canons oppose it…just as it was determined in the Synod, which, too, the whole East and West observe…For they who have received baptism from heretics, not having been previously baptized, are to be confirmed by imposition of hands with only the invocation of the Holy Ghost, because they have received the bare form of baptism without the power of sanctification.
There seems to be evidence that similar decretals came out from Rome by previous Popes such as Pope St. Liberius (356–362 A.D.).Nevertheless, at the end of St. Siricius’ statement above, we see a glimmer of the distinction St. Augustine would make in his work On Baptism, Against the Donatists (400 A.D.) between validity and efficacy.
For his part, Pope St. Innocent I (401–417 A.D.) would candidly state that the distinction between bringing in individuals by baptism or elsewise was one dictated by the invocation of the Trinity:
From the canon of Nicaea, Paulianists coming to the Church are to be baptized, but not the Novatianists…Clear reason declares what is distinct in the two heresies themselves; for the Paulianists never baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Writing against the Donatists became the chief aim of St. Augustine of Hippo in 400 A.D., who would distinguish between the indelible mark of baptism (validity) and its operative effects (efficacy) which could be hindered through sin.Orthodox Christians might think of this contrast in a similar way as we understand the indelible mark of the image of God in man as opposed to the fluctuation of his likeness to God based on his actions. That is, we can give away our birthright just like Esau, because we are called to actualize it; we are called to “paint the divine likeness over the divine image in us,” as St. Diadochus of Photiki says, with the help of God’s grace.
In the end, Saint Augustine would hold St. Cyprian accountable, at least in part, for the fourth century surge of the Donatist controversy.The argument: illicitly received members through impure clergy would not in fact be in the Church. Here, we might point out a similar difficulty facing the sacramental rigorists of our own day. If there is no baptism outside of the Church, and the Orthodox Church is the only true Church, then that means those received via chrismation are not in fact in the Church (because, as we have already established, baptism is the rite of initiation.) Throughout history and to our own day, we have received priests, and laymen that have become priests, by written statement, repentance, or chrismation. But if these men are not in the Church, they cannot validly be priests, nor can they validly distribute the Eucharist, nor perform the rite of baptism on anyone else. This is the reductio ad absurdum of sacramental rigorism. In other words, one cannot claim that baptism is only valid in the Orthodox Church and that those who are not baptized into the Orthodox Church are in the Church. It violates the law of non-contradiction. Even if the economic theory of heretic reception (Heers’ argument from akribeia and oikonomia) were a valid argument (it is not, as we have shown above), one still is faced with this contradiction.
In summation of the two previous councils in Carthage (345 A.D., 397 A.D) and the works of the Holy Fathers thereafter presented, the Council in Carthage in 419 A.D. would formally codify the reception of those baptized as infants by the Donatist sect by the laying on of hands.That is, following St. Optatus, St. Augustine, et al., they would accept the baptism performed by the schismatic Donatists as valid.
Saint Jerome would look at St. Cyprian’s motivation sympathetically. In Dialogue with the Lucifereans (c. 380s A.D.) he comments that “Cyprian of blessed memory tried to avoid broken cisterns and not to drink of strange waters.”But Jerome would not side with Cyprian on the matter, noting that the bishops who initially sided with Cyprian in the council of Carthage in 257 A.D., later “reverted to the old custom” – that is, to the position of Rome and Pope St. Stephen. St. Jerome would further point to the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) which he claims “welcomed all heretics [via chrismation] with the exception of the disciples of Paul of Samosata.”
In his Commonitory (c. 420 A.D.), Saint Vincent of Lerins would also call St. Cyprian’s decree to rebaptize an “innovation…contrary to the divine canon, contrary to the rule of the universal Church, [and] contrary to the customs and institutions of our ancestors.”But he doesn’t stop there. While claiming that the original authors of this rebaptism innovation (St. Cyprian et al.) are pardoned on account of their ignorance and zeal, those heretics who defend rebaptism today will inherit hell. According to Vincent, those who deny the validity of Donatist baptism “will be consigned to eternal fire with the devil.” This condemnation from St. Vincent cannot be taken lightly, for it is he that set out the criteria of Apostolic tradition as antiquity, universality, and consent (this is often called the rule of Saint Vincent) – and it is he who did not find these in the decrees of St. Cyprian.
Around 427 A.D., Pope St. Leo the Great (440–461 A.D.), the defender of Orthodoxy, would continue along the same vein of thought, calling rebaptism an “unpardonable offense” that is “in opposition to the apostles' teaching.”He writes: “if it is established that a man has been baptized by heretics, on him the mystery of regeneration must in no way be repeated.” Elsewhere, answering a question about what to do about those in Northern Africa who were baptized in some sect but know not which, he would write: “since they have received the form of baptism in some way or other, they are not to be baptized but are to be united with the catholics by the imposition of hands.” Near the end of the 5th century, Pope St. Anastasius II would write a letter to the emperor assuring him that the potency of the sacraments is not affected by the one enacting the ritual as they function by divine operation (ex opere operato).
A saint and bishop of North Africa that is not spoken of often, St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, weighed in on the topic in the early 500s A.D. Following the three councils in Carthage (345, 397, 419 A.D.) that overturned St. Cyprian’s council, he would write:
Anyone who receives the sacrament of baptism, whether in the Catholic Church or in a heretical or schismatic one, receives the whole sacrament; but salvation, which is the strength of the sacrament, he will not have, if he has had the sacrament outside the Catholic Church [and remains in deliberate schism]. He must therefore return to the Church, not so that he might receive again the sacrament of baptism, which no one dare repeat in any baptized person, but so that he may receive eternal life in Catholic society, for the obtaining of which no one is suited who, even with the sacrament of baptism, remains estranged from the Catholic Church.
Here we see that, while maintaining those in schism receive the “whole sacrament,” St. Fulgentius, like St. Augustine, delineates between validity and efficacy.
While the dogmatic principle that the Orthodox Church is the one true Church holds, it should be clear that baptism, as a divine operation, validly exists outside of her walls in some mysterious way. And so the rhetorical rigidity of dogmatic perfection must condescend to the world of men in a similar manner that Christ himself descended and became man. For the world cannot be parsed into such small boxes that reason demands. As Patriarch Sergius of Moscow would write:
it must be remembered that, in discussing the attitude of the Church towards heterodoxy, we are moving in the realm not of dogma in the proper sense, but in the realm of ecclesiastical judgment or discipline. Here it is not a matter of establishing known abstract principles and of the relations between them, but of applying such principles to concrete phenomena, moreover, to living persons. Dogmatic logic here must of necessity make certain concessions to concrete reality: the degree of guilt, incorrigibility, and so on. A living example of such a refraction of principles in the atmosphere of life is the penitential discipline of the Orthodox Church.
The irony here is that sacramental rigorists are quick to claim that we dismiss divine revelation of modern “charismatic elders” in favor of academic sleight of hand. But the opposite is actually true. Those who hold to sacramental rigorism are so intent on solving this rhetorical problem by reasoning in categorical imperatives and strict dichotomies that they sacrifice truth. Indeed, this is exactly what happens with early heretics such as Arians, who could not understand how Christ could be God equal to the Father. These men pry into the mysteries of the sacraments in a way that the Cappadocians and Saint Gregory Palamas alike bemoaned.
But the witness of the Church against rebaptism is not yet exhausted. In his own day, Pope St. Gregory the Great (590–604 A.D.) would reiterate that those baptized in heresy with the invocation of the Holy Trinity are not to be rebaptized but “recalled to the bosom of Mother Church either by anointing with Chrism, or by imposition of hands, or by profession of faith alone.”Pope St. Zacharias (679–752 A.D.) would write similarly, pointing to the invocation of the Trinity as the line in the sand for valid baptism – as would St. Isidore of Sevile (c. 636 A.D.). Common to all these was a disapproval of rebaptism.
A note on baptismal form:
Interestingly, St. Gregory would advise Christians in Spain to baptize by single immersion to combat the Arian heresy, which, it was said, claimed that triple immersion proved three substances of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Here, it should be noted that, concerning form, there are regions in the Balkans where Orthodox Christians baptize by pouring to this day. Similarly, countless infants baptized into the Church around the world are not fully submerged. In many cases, the child will be dipped in the water with the priest using his hand to bring splashes of water up over the baby’s head.
Questions concerning strictness in form by certain sacramental rigorists abound: are these then outside the Church? How do we know that the Apostolic line through which we have been baptized was not broken by such an exception? (And as we have noted above, the “economic theory” does not here solve the problem. Either someone is in the Church or they are not. One cannot say that there are “exceptions” by “oikonomia” while also claiming that no such exceptions exist and one must be baptized in the Orthodox Church.)
In the end, such strictness undermines the very thing the rigorists are trying to preserve: certainty. Yet, throughout history when scrupulosity over certainty manifests, error abounds. Perhaps the reader will remember a certain monk who nailed 95 theses to a Church door in Wittenberg, Germany – this monk was plagued by the need for existential certainty, and yet the more he reached for it, the more his angst abounded.
Yet again we have not exhausted the patristic witness of this issue. Saint John of Damascus would write in his Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (c. 636) that rebaptism is akin to the re-crucifixion of Christ.Saint Tarasius, who presided as patriarch of Constantinople over the Seventh Ecumenical Council, would state that we should receive priests in heresy as priests, bishops as bishops, and so on. In other words, the hertics have valid Holy Orders, to some degree. Fr. George Lardas explains:
[Tarasius]: ‘Many Canonical, Synodal, and Patristic books have been consulted; and they have taught us to accept those returning from heresy, unless there be some evil cause in them,’ that is to say that clergy should remain clergy ‘unless there is some other canonical reason which prevents it.’ This was possible because up to the time of the Council these heretics had not been judged by a general Council and their orders were therefore considered valid. When the zealot monastic party objected, the objection was not that they had come from heresy, but over the accusation of simony against some of the bishops received. Saint Tarasius stated that ‘We should accept those who have been ordained by heretics... because their ordination is from God.’ Saint Theodore the Studite, himself a zealot, a confessor, and a champion of the veneration of icons, defended this action of Saint Tarasius, stating that this was not an innovation, because the Holy Fathers acted in this way from of old. He said ‘If the Metropolitan falls into heresy, it is not the case that all those who are in direct and indirect communion with him are regarded automatically and indiscriminately as heretics,’ despite, of course, the fact that in ignoring this situation and the necessity of walling themselves off from such error, ‘they bring upon themselves the fearful charge of silence.’
Here we see that a “zealot monastic party” existed even in the 8th century. In fact, it was such a party that caused many issues throughout history (fighting for mandatory celibacy for the priesthood and so on).And so today when considering the modern “charismatic elders” of Fr. Peter Heers, we needn’t worry. They are small in number (and the minority opinion even on Mount Athos!) though they are overrepresented by voices such as Heers and Orthodox Ethos. Further, as I have written elsewhere, these elders have a history of notoriously ridiculous predictions and opinions.
The witness of the 11th century canonists, which agrees with our opinion here presented, have already been discussed. Which leaves us with the fascinating case of Saint Mark of Ephesus (c. 1444 A.D.) who would advocate against rebaptizing the Latins:
Why do we anoint them who come to us? — Is not this clear…the 7th canon of the Second Ecumenical Council speaks thus…Latins must not be re-baptized but only after their renunciation of their heresies and confession of sins, be anointed with Chrism and admit them to the Holy Mysteries and in this way bring them into communion with the holy, catholic Eastern Church, in accordance with the sacred canons.
This last sentence, claiming Latins must not be rebaptized, in accordance with the sacred canons (which is to say, via akribeia) again proves our point above: Heers’ system that claims that chrismation is oikonomia and rebaptism of all is the akribeia is unabashedly false. It is in fact, an inverted system that is misinformed at best and out right deceptive at worse.
The Modern Councils:
The Council of Constantinople (1484 A.D.), the Council of Jassy (1642 A.D.), the Council of Moscow (1666–1667 A.D.), the Council of Jerusalem (1672 A.D.), alongside the Confession of St. Peter Moglia (c. 1642) and the Confession of Dositheus (decree 15, c. 1672), abjured the rebaptism of schismatics. Though some have attempted to cast doubt on the reception of these four councils, Craig Truglia recently published an article condignly indicating that the Councils of Jassy and Jerusalem were officially received to the same degree as the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
It is not until the admittedly reactionary and sparsely attended (only 3 patriarchs and a handful of bishops) council of Constantinople (1755-1756) that a select group of bishops seek the institution of rebaptism yet again. But this council was not received by the Church. The late Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, who also disagreed with rebaptism, would write that,
When in 1750 Patriarch Cyril V insisted that Latin converts should undergo a fresh baptism on entering the Orthodox Church, he was attacked not only by the Roman Catholic residents in Constantinople, but also – more surprisingly – by many of his own Orthodox flock, who denounced his actions as an innovation.
In fact, just prior to this an epistle was signed by Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem (c. 1723) forbidding the rebaptism of Roman Catholics.Nevertheless, Patriarch Cyril V persisted; just after the 1755 council proclaimed, at the behest of of the Patriarch, that the Church should recieve Latins through baptism, Cyril V was deposed – because of his action, as it was not in accord with “the majority of the contemporary episcopate.” After writing a letter insisting again on the rebaptism of Latins, Cyril V would again be censored by a synodal decree signed by 18 bishops.
Fast forward to the 19th century and there is the infamous case of the Rudder (Gr. Πηδάλιον) by St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite (c. 1809 A.D.). But this source is not as cut and dry as Fr. Peter Heers and company would like to think. It, in fact, contradicts itself on this very issue throughout the text leading some to postulate that St. Nicodemus’ actual thoughts on the issue were censored by his editor. Regardless of what St. Nicodemus thought about the issue privately, we can confidently assert that sacramental rigorism is not the patristic consensus – and thus whether spoken against by saint or athonite monk, the Orthodox Faith along with St. Basil the Great beckons us to bend the knee to the consensus of Tradition.
Four other heavy hitting 19th century figures would write against rebaptism: Saint Philaret of Moscow, St. Theophan the Recluse, St. Nicholas of Japan, and Archbishop Benjamin of Moscow (c. 1899), who would reaffirm the threefold division of heretics of antiquity and reception method accordingly (in other words, not all are baptized).For his part, St. Theophan would write:
We are private individuals; and in their opinions they must conform to the decision of the Orthodox Church. It seems that our Church is condescending to Catholics and recognizes the power of not only the baptism of the Catholics and other sacraments, but also the priesthood, which is very significant.
As stated by an early 20th century message from the Moscow Patriarchate (1903 A.D.), “We believe in the sincerity of their faith in the Most Holy and Life-Giving Trinity, and therefore we accept the baptism of both. We honor the apostolic succession of the Latin hierarchy and we accept the clerics who come to our Church in their existing rank.”St. Nicholas of Japan would write similarly: “The sacrament of the episcopate is mutually recognized by us [with Catholics] and respected.”
Famous 20th century canonists, Bishop Nikodim Milaš and Archimandrite Amrbose Pogodin likewise wrote against rebaptism. Saint Sophrony of Essex wrote that there is a “real ecclesial nature within heterodox confessions,” to quote Ubi Petrus, as did Dumitru Staniloae. In his own words, St. Sophrony said: “All the other Churches, however, do have grace because of their faith in Christ, but not in its fullness.”Other modern theologians that wrote against rebaptism include St. Seraphim Sobolev (early 20th century), Fr. Georges Florovsky (Mid-20th century), and St. Daniel Sysoev (hieromartyr, † 2009), who wrote that,
St. Tarasius speaks not as just a person, but as the chairman of the Ecumenical Council. This [that we recognize valid sacraments outside the Church] is the official answer of the Council to the question of the monks about the possibility of ordination among heretics. The whole first session is devoted to this. So it is the official teaching of the Church, expressed at the most serious level… If the sacraments were not performed outside the canonical boundaries of the church, then there would always be one rite – Baptism. The opinion of St. Hilarion [Troitsky] that all the sacraments [of heretics are invalid] is not based on the Tradition, and contradicts the spirit and letter of the canons, that in the unification they are given impulsively. Sacraments from personally uncondemned heretics are accepted because they are not personally condemned. This is a manifestation of the authority of the keys that the Church has.
Clearly the patristic consensus, by which all such contentious issues are measured, is that the baptism of heterodox Christian confessions is valid, provided they invoke the name of the Holy Trinity. Or, put another way, clearly the system of ideas being peddled by Fr. Peter Heers, John Coffman,Orthodox Ethos, Bp. Luke (Jordanville), Fr. John Whiteford, and others of like-mind is not the patristic consensus (and is certainly not the Orthodox Ethos or phronema, to use one of their beloved words). Whether they argue from (a) the Church’s unique stance as the true Church, (b) the sacrament’s oneness, (c) St. Cyprian or others, (d) the economic theory, (e) baptismal form, or (d) the witness of modern “charismatic elders,” it is clear that, by Orthodox standards their arguments do not hold up.
Why it matters:
The effect of sacramental rigorism on the individual and the community reaches far beyond the borders of the Church; there is, in fact, an entire worldview nested within it. It informs how one treats non-Orthodox friends, family, and strangers. Saint Cyprian’s chief complaint about St. Stephen indicates this: that he had “no zeal against heretics” (Letter 74.17). As demonstrated, this mindset also informs how one treats authority within the Church and Orthodox theology generally – and in this way becomes itself a sixth sola which we might call sola charismata. Or said another way, sacramental rigorism is c-rate scholarship at best and utilizes a one-dimensional approach to the church history and patrology that functions the same as a-historical protestantism.
Today we are seeing young men attracted to Orthodoxy in waves. Initially drawn by the challenge that Orthodoxy presents, many soon fall into the trap of rigorism which eventually leads to despair – and this despair can lead to spiritual and physical death. Tragically, sacramental rigorism has even led many undiscerning priests to stand as gatekeepers to the mysteries, insisting on a version of perfection before their inquirers enter the Church, or even the catechumenate. Stories of this abound in our parishes across the United States.
I would like to here add two caveats: 1. there can be some merit in waiting. I am by no means recommending immediate reception of inquirers or catechumens. 2. even if we believe that (re)baptism is a grave sin, it is important for the catechumen to obey the bishop concerning this. If the bishop says (re)baptize, that is what we should do. In such a case, the catechumen should not have any anxiety in his obedience, knowing that he will be received into the bosom of the Church and the arms of our Lord. It is his bishop that will answer for this.
As we have seen above, the seemingly paradoxical nature of the Church’s exclusivity and the oneness of the Sacrament, even when performed outside of the visible boundaries of the Church, cannot be exhaustively and rationally solved. On the one hand we are dealing with rhetoric and the life of the mind and on the other we are dealing with life in the world. Those that hold to sacramental rigorism are unable to accept this paradox and, like the heretics of old, blaspheme Christ by their attempt to solve the mystery through rhetoric. It is my opinion that such men should not be priests nor seek out the priesthood. While they may have a penchant for theological thought (the rhetoric of dogma) they do not have consideration for the lived reality of the faithful. The difference is one between law and grace – between a rhetorician and pastor. Indeed, the very job of the pastor is to apply dogma to life – to help his parishioners move from dogma to praxis. This cannot be overstressed: rigorist priests either damage the faithful by pastoral malpractice or convert them to their own view (equally damaging).
While the conversation about this last portion is perhaps most important, as it is underdeveloped, it is not the purpose of this article.
In this article we have demonstrated that the argument for sacramental rigorism is exceptionally weak. While Saints Cyprian (256 A.D.) and Firmilian would not distinguish between heresies, opining that everyone baptized outside of the physical boundaries of the Church should be (re)baptized, the bishops gathered at Cyprian’s council (Carthage, 257 A.D.) would later sign a decree indicating that they were only affirming (re)baptism for one of the three groups: heretics (those who are effectively pagan, gnostic, and non-Christian). The acceptance of Laodicea (363 A.D.), St. Cyprian’s view, the Apostolic Canons, and St. Basil’s canons at Trullo would come with an important caveat, likewise using the three categories: these canons are only to be practiced in reception of heretics (non-Christian) who should be (re)baptized. For his part, St. Basil would clearly delineate his opinion, sympathizing with Cyprian, from the operating law (Canon 8 of the First Ecumenical Council), noting that regardless of his individual affinity for (re)baptism of all, we should strictly follow the canons. Two years after Basil’s letter, the Second Ecumenical Council would re-affirm the three categories of those outside the Church and their reception, effectually rejecting St. Basil’s suggestion to amend Niceae I. Here we noted that Fr. Peter Heers’ economic theory breaks down – because to strictly follow the canons, as St. Basil implores, is to receive most modern Christians by Chrismation or formal verbal anathematization of their former heresies. In other words, to follow akribeia is to not rebaptize.
Given the historical-patristic witness, it would seem that the only two prominent figures that can be relied upon for sacramental rigorism are Saints Cyprian and Firmilian, as the councils (Carthage 257, Laodicea 363 A.D.) were interpreted throughout history as referring to only one of the three groups (non-Christians). Furthermore, if we are to follow St. Basil’s advice to adhere to the akribeia then we must acknowledge that we are called by the Church to practice reception of most modern Christians by either chrismation or verbal/written anathematization of their former errors and affirmation of the Holy Orthodox faith (usually by reciting the Nicene Creed). With these proclamations of the Church, Saints Cyprian and Firmilian are the only two Church Fathers prior to the 18th Century(!) to affirm rebaptism for all. Additionally, the Council of Jerusalem (1755–1756 A.D.) was never received; it was widely criticized by both laity and synodical authorities – and the leader of this council, Patriarch Cyril V, was deposed for insisting on the rebaptism of the Latins. The evidence from St. Nikodemus’ Rudder is not clear given the contradictions in the text and his seeming disagreement with his editor.
Saint Hilarion Troitsky of the 20th century would argue that those outside of the physical bounds of the Orthodox Church are not even Christian(!) – inferring, like St. Cyprian, that if they are not baptized by the Orthodox Church, they are not truly baptized. This should cause us to wonder if he argues that Protestants and Catholics are not Christian in order to class them under the group of non-Christians that must be rebaptized. Given how these groups were traditionally delineated, such an argument cannot stand. Of other modern saints and elders (20th-21st century) all we can say is we have yet to see any reference to where Saint Paisios or Elder Ephraim affirmed (re)baptism. Nevertheless, just as in our view of Basil’s opinion, we are beckoned to follow the established custom and canons, which have already been laid out for us. And no matter what any modern “charismatic elder” has to say, this will not change.
The bottom line for sacramental rigorism: their argument rests on St. Cyprian (3rd century), St. Firmilian (3rd century), the Council of Jerusalem (1755–1756 A.D.), and Saint Hilarion Troitsky (20th century).
The argument for the patristic consensus, on the other hand, relies on a multiplicity of voices and locales: Pope St. Stephen (3rd century), Pope St. Sixtus II (3rd century), St. Dionysius the Alexandrian (3rd century), The Fragment on Rebaptism (3rd century), the Council of Arles (314 A.D.), the three subsequent councils at Carthage (345 A.D., 397 A.D., 419 A.D.), the First Ecumenical Council (4th century), Pope St. Liberius (4th century), St. Basil the Great on account of his advice to follow the canons (4th century), the Second Ecumenical Council (4th century), St. Optatus (4th century), Pope St. Siricius (4th century), Pope St. Innocent I (5th century), St. Jerome (5th century), St. Augustine of Hippo (5th century), St. Vincent of Learns (5th century), Pope St. Leo the Great (5th century), Pope St. Anastasius II (5th century), St. Fulgentius of Ruspe (6th century), Pope St. Gregory the Great (7th century), St. Isidore of Seville (7th century), Council of Trullo (7th century), St. John of Damascus (7th century), Pope St. Zachari’s (7th/8th century), St. Tarasius of Constantinople (8th century), canonist and Greek historian John Zonaras (12th century), canonist Patriarch Theodore Balsamon of Antioch (12th century), St. Mark of Ephesus (15th century), Council of Constantinople (16th century), Council of Jassy (17th century), Confession of St. Peter Moglia (17th century), Council of Moscow (17th century), Council of Jerusalem (17th century), the Confession of Dositheus (17th century), St. Nicholas of Japan (19th century), St. Theophan the Recluse (19th century), St. Philaret of Moscow (19th century), Russian Archbishop Benjamin (19th century), Serbian bishop and canonist Nikodim Milaš (20th century), St. Seraphim Sobelev (20th century), Canonical Synod of Moscow (20th century), St. Alexis Toth, who was brought into the church via chrismation and did not receive a so-called corrective baptism (20th century), Fr. Georges Florovsky (20th century), Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae (20th century), Saint Sophrony of Essex (20th century), canonist and Archimandrite Ambrose Pogodin (20th century), St. John of Shanghai, St. Daniel Sysoev (21st century), et al.
I hope the reader will consider in all seriousness the evidence here presented – and the mystery of the patristic consensus. Rebaptism is and always has been an innovation.
When considering dogma, we are considering the very life of God in relation to human beings – and so, while we say the Orthodox Church is the true Church because this is where we receive the life of God, we also recognize the weakness of human categories to encompass the entire mystery that is God’s Holy Spirit, that blows where he pleases (John 3:8). And much like our inability to reason through the inner workings of the Holy Trinity or the Incarnation, there comes a point when we must take what we have and hold it in tension – insuring that we do not attempt to over explain nor neglect what has been revealed to us. This does not mean we throw up our hands in defeat, but that we must follow what the Church dictates, as Saint Basil the Great entreated. And without a doubt, the dictates of the Church, bolstered by the patristic consensus is as we have outlined above: rebaptism is innovation, a grave sin, and cannot be defended as a valid practice for incoming Protestants, Catholics, or Miaphysites, Monophysites, et al.
So how shall we conclude? Do Protestants and Catholics have valid baptism? It would seem that, insofar as the name of the Holy Trinity is invoked, the answer is yes. Therefore those being brought into the Orthodox Church from such a confession should be received, in accordance with the ancient tradition which has come down to us this very day, by chrismation, the imposition of hands, or verbal/written statement.
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Other Articles worth reading
Sacramental Rigourism: Tradition or Modern Phenomenon? – by Vladislav Yakovlev.
Why I Don’t Support Re-Baptism – by Codex Justinianeus (Ancient Insights)
Concerning Baptismal Form – by Codex Justinianeus (Ancient Insights)
On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, Coming to Her from Other Christian Churches – by Archimandrite Ambrose Pogodin
The Limits of the Church – by Fr. Georges Florovsky.
Can You Baptize Without Baptism? Review: The Ecclesiological Renovation of Vatican II by Fr. Peter Heers – by Fr. John Cox.
Об отношении Церкви Христовой к отделившимся от нее обществам – патриарх Сергий (Страгородский)
Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed; cf. Ephesians 4:5; For the two dogmatic principles that I draw out here I am indebted to this article by Patriarch Sergius (патриарх Сергий (Страгородский), Об отношении Церкви Христовой к отделившимся от нее обществам).
See Didache, 7; See also Saint John of Damascus, who equates the sin of rebaptism with a crucifixion of Christ (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 4.9)
Although it has been argued (by Jerzy Palucki) that St. Cyrpian did not want to universally condemn all those that are outside of the Church (see The Validity of the Baptism of Heretics According to Cyprian of Carthage, Pope Stephen and Firmilian of Caesarea by Rev. Dr. Joseph Grzywaczewski – patristics professor at the University Stephan Cardinal Wyszynski in Warsaw, Poland).
See St. Cyprian, Letter 70 and Letter 72.
See St. Firmilian, Letter 74. Firmilian like Cyprian would ask, are the sins of the heretics forgiven in baptism? He would further argue that because those that were baptized with John’s baptism were rebaptized with Christian baptism that heretics should be likewise be rebaptized.
A rogue, longtime bishopless Orthodox “priest” who runs several online ventures, including the website OrthodoxEthos and YouTube channel, and a publishing house he started (Uncut Mountain Press) to publish his own book.
This has been done in YouTube comments and on social media consistently since (at least) 2020. See below footnote n. 78 for a recent example (12/22/2022).
This correspondence was preserved by St. Cyprian in Letter 73.1; cf. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 7.2, 5. Here Eusebius weighs in, taking St. Stephen’s side. Cf. St. Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Book 5.
Fr. John McGuckin would call this the “standardized view of the Latin Church” by 314 A.D. (See The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture, p. 275. Both Cyprian and Firmilian would argue this point, with the latter claiming that heretics only invoke the name of the Holy Trinity to seduce and deceive (See Letter 74.9, 18).
See Rev. Dr. Joseph Grzywaczewski, op. cit., p. 7; François-Marie Pietri, Les résistances, p. 165; St. Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Book 5; St. Jerome, Dialogue with the Lucifereans, 23.
See St. Cyprian, Letter 73.2.
See Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 7.2–4.
See Ante-nicene Fathers, vol 5 (Roberts and Donaldson). Treatise on Rebaptism, 10.
Dionysius of Alexandria, Newly discovered letters to the Popes Stephen and Xystus, by F.C. Conybeare, English Historical Review 25 (1910) pp. 111-114. Cf. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 7.2, 5.
St. Cyprian, Letter 80.
See Canon 8 and Canon 19 respectively.
Saint Basil, To Amphilochius, Canon 1: “Heresies is the name applied to those who have broken entirely and have become alienated from the faith itself. Schisms is the name applied to those who on account of ecclesiastical causes and, remediable questions have developed a quarrel amongst themselves. Parasynagogues is the name applied to gatherings held by insubordinate presbyters or bishops, and those held by uneducated laities.”
Saint Basil, To Amphilochius, Canon 47.
St. Basil, To Amphilochius, Canons 1, 47. Remarkably, Basil does not hold as strictly to the rigorist position as Cyprian, as he recognizes the validity of baptism outside the physical bounds of the Church, noting that, nevertheless, “those who come to us from their baptism [should] be anointed in the presence of the faithful, and only on these terms approach the mysteries” – which is to say, they are to be chrismated, not (re)baptized (Ibid). St. Basil further comments that he has initiated a kind of “canon of communion” with the Encratites due to his acceptance of the episcopal rank of Izois and Saturninus, and therefore cannot preclude them from the Church. See патриарх Сергий (Страгородский), Об отношении Церкви Христовой к отделившимся от нее обществам).
See Nikodim Milas, Rules of the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church with Their Interpretations, “Rule 47 of Basil the Great.” Available online here.
Ibid, Canon 1.
Notice here how Heers uses akribeia to mean strict adherence to the view of St. Cyprian and the council in Carthage of 257 A.D. This is a word-concept fallacy and not in line with what the Church has received.
See Council of Carthage (419 A.D., Canon 69 specifically, accepting the baptism of Donatists). It is important to note that if there were any doubt as to whether or not they were baptized in the first place, then they would be baptized.
Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople 1), Canon 7.
See Kallistos Ware, Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church Under Turkish Rule, pp. 65-70. Compare with Fr. George Dragas, The Manner of Reception of Roman Catholic Converts into the Orthodox Church.
See Some Notes on the Byzantine Practice of (Re)Baptizing Latins, Nicolas Kamas.
See Receiving the Non-orthodox: A Historical Study of Greek Orthodox Canon Law by David Heith-Stade (Lund University, Sweden).
See Archimandrite Ambrose (Pogodin), On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 1 as quoted by Arche-Athanatos, Sacramental Rigourism: Tradition or Modern Phenomena? Cf. St. Jerome, Dialogue with the Lucifereans, 23.
Concerning any translation disputes, Vladislav Yakovlev pointed to Fr. Daniel Griffith: “I understand there are issues with the translation in question, specifically in numbering groups such as Manichaens, Valentinians, and Marcionites along with Monophysites and Nestorians. Some have argued that a genuine translation would in fact, indicate that Monophysites and Nestorians should be re-baptized along with the aforementioned groups. The late Fr. Daniel Griffith translated each of these canons in parallel with the original Greek in an unpublished document, and demonstrates that in fact, Manicheans, Valentinians, and Marcionites were to be re-baptized” (See Sacramental Rigourism: Tradition or Modern Phenomenon?; Fr. Daniel Griffith (Unpublished,) The Proper Manner of Receiving into Communion Those Seeking Entrance into the Catholic Church According to the Canonical and Liturgical Standards of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church.
Interestingly, the oneness of the sacrament is the exact argument that sacramental rigorists use to prove their position.
St. Optatus, Against the Donatists, 1.5.
Letter 159 to Bishop Himerius.
See Eric Ybarra, The Church Fathers on Rebaptism, pp. 44–45.
See St. Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists, 3.10.
St. Innocent I, Letter to Rufus and the Bishops in Macedonia.
See St. Augustine, op. cit., books 5–6.
See Genesis 1:26–1:27.
See Genesis 25:27–34.
On Spiritual Knowledge, 89. Philokalia vol. 1, p. 288.
See St. Augustine, op. cit., book 4.
See Fr. John Cox, Can you Baptize without Baptism?
Council of Carthage (419 A.D., Canon 47, 57, 69).
Council of Carthage (419 A.D., Canon 69 specifically). It is important to note that if there were any doubt as to whether or not they were baptized in the first place, then they would be baptized.
St. Jerome, Dialogue with the Lucifereans, 23.
Ibid. Which is what the canonists say as well.
St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory, 6.
Pope St. Leo the Great, Letter 166.
Ibid. Cf. Letter 177.
St. Leo the Great, Letter 177.
St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, Rule of Faith, 43.
Pope St. Gregory the Great, Letter 9.67: “We have learned from the ancient institution of the Fathers that those who, in heresy, are baptized in the name of the Trinity, when they return to the Holy Church, are to be recalled to the bosom of Mother Church either by anointing with Chrism, or by the imposition of the hand, or by a profession of faith alone…because the Holy Baptism, which they received among heretics, re-engages in them the powers of cleansing at that time when…they are united to the faith in the bowels of the holy and universal church. But as to those heretics who are baptized not in the name of the Trinity…when they come to the Holy Church, they are baptized, because that was not Baptism, which situated in error, they received not in the name of the Trinity. Nor can this be called a repetition of a Baptism, which, as was stated, was not given in the name of the Trinity.”
Pope St. Zacharias, Letter 80.
De Ecclesiastica, book 2.
St. John of Damascus, Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 4.9.
See On Talks with the Moscow Patriarchate by Fr. George Lardas.
See the First Ecumenical Council in Niceae. The married priesthood was advocated for by an old monk named Paphnutius who censored his brother monks for insisting the priest take a mandatory vow of celibacy.
Like the idea that anal sex during pregnancy produces a homosexual child, etc.
Quoted in Archimandrite Ambrose (Pogodin), On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 1-2.
See Met. Kallistos Ware, Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church Under Turkish Rule, pp. 65-70.
See Archimandrite Ambrosius, On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, ch. 2.
Quoted from Sergei Fedorov, The Reality of Sacraments Outside the Church.
Message of the Most Holy Governing Synod of the Russian Church to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of February 25, 1903.
Quoted from Sergei Fedorov, The Reality of Sacraments Outside the Church.
Quoted in Seraphim Danckaert, “Two Schools: What the Council of Crete Means for the Future of Orthodox Theology”
Quoted from a forum he commented on before his blessed repose (see Ancient Insights).
Heers’ editor – another pseudo-intellectual – who hopes to publish his own work on this issue through Uncut Mountain Press – which has here prior to its publication, been thoroughly refuted.
And recently on twitter:
Excellent article. I would like to add some more points if that is alright.
1. Not only in the theology of St. Augustine, but especially in St. Nicholas Cabasilas' writings, the sacraments are "wholes." The form and the grace together are wholly Christ, Christ is made water, oil, bread and wine in the sacraments. In baptism the form is inseparable from the effect of baptism which is being stamped in Christ's image and freed from original sin, and chrismation can only be received by those who have received baptism as being under original sin makes reception of the spirit impossible according to Cabasilas. There is no idea, in any of the fathers I have read, that the grace of one sacrament can be given under another. Chrismation emphatically is not baptism, and neither is confession. Rigorists will appeal to scattered statements of chrismation "completing" baptism, but all this means is that chrismation is to follow baptism, not that baptism can be given by chrismation. The resulting sacramentology is basically Docetistic, as the form is not integral to the reality and meaning of the sacrament, and undercuts all rigorist polemics against Rome (for example) for disregarding normative sacramental forms.
2. The "sacramental rigorists," in light of the above, are egregious innovators. Sacramental form being interchangeable for them, it becomes completely relative. They no longer need to baptize as Christ commanded, for convenience they can simply receive unbaptized by oil or confession. This means that in trying to follow a minority "tradition" and charismatic elder's visions they disregard the word of God, "making the word of God of none effect through your tradition (Mark 7:13)." This effects their whole view of tradition. The theological thread of the Church's witness in history on the reality of heterodox sacraments is, in principle, to be ignored by sacramental rigorists. For them tradition is not a matter of reasoning in history, history only has validity or value if it can be used to defend the rigorist ideas they hold to.
Sacramental rigorism goes hand in hand not only with an anti-hierarchal elderism, but with an a-historicism, a denial of reason in history. God willing it will be weeded out of the Church as so much chaff.
Great article! I have a couple of observations which I think would buttress some of your points:
1) One must bear in mind the possibility that the 2nd Ecumenical Council's distinction between Eunomians and Arians was based not simply on outward baptismal form/invocation, but also on some dogmatic differences concerning the Trinity. Eunomians were, in fact, radical neo-Arians who regarded the Son as a creature, whereas the "Arian" label proper fell on the old Arians, moderate semi-Arians and homoiousians.
2) The argument made by the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council concerning the validity of ordination from heretics is made even more relevant by the fact that, as precedent, they mentioned the case of St. Meletius of Antioch as someone who had received his ordination from Arians — and this, after the Council of Nicaea! Some rigorist apologists have tried to contest this point, claiming that this particular group of Arians were secret heretics who had not yet been condemned synodically and therefore remained in the bosom of the Church, though the historical evidence is silent on this. Regardless of what might be historically true, the fact remains that the Fathers of the 7th Council affirmed that he was ordained by Arians, who at the time had already been anathematized.