When are Baptisms Valid Outside the Orthodox Church? - Councils, Fathers, & Church Tradition

According to numerous Orthodox Saints, converts who have already received Trinitarian baptism should be brought into the Orthodox Church via Chrismation, not via Baptism. 

Originally appeared at: pravblog.ru

St. Dionysius the Great:

“Those who are baptized in the name of the Three Persons — the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit — should not be re-baptized, even if they were baptized by heretics, as long as these heretics profess the Three Persons. And let baptism be performed on those who turn to the holy Church...” 
(St. Dionysius the Great. To Dionysius and Stephen, primates of the Roman Church)

Council of Arles (314):

“Concerning Africans who use their own law and rebaptize. A decision was made... if someone approaches the Church, having come from a heresy, he should recite the Nicene Creed. If it turns out that he is baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one should only lay a hand on him so that he receives the Holy Spirit [Chrismation]. If, when questioned, he does not answer this way about the Trinity, let him be baptized”

Council of Carthage (348-349):

“at the Council convened in Carthage by St. Gratom... against the Donatists, they were prohibited from re-baptizing heretics and schismatics..."
(Carthaginian Councils // Orthodox Encyclopedia, vol. 31)

“The Council of Carthage in 348, chaired by Gratus, Bishop of Carthage, confirmed the definition of the Council of Arles. At the same Council, the resolution of the Nicaea Council on the acceptance of the schismatic hierarchy (Novatians) with the preservation of rank was extended to the Donatists"
(Liveriy Voronov, Archpriest. Confessionalism and ecumenism. The attitude of Orthodoxy to heterodoxy. // "Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate" No. 8, 1968 . pp. 52 – 72 ).

St. Basil the Great:

“the ancients decided to accept baptism, in no way departing from the faith... from the beginning, the former fathers were pleased to completely sweep aside the baptism of heretics, and accept the baptism of schismatics, as if they are not yet alien to the church ”
(1st rule of St. Basil the Great)

Formally, the words of St. Basil contradict the position of the Council of Carthage in 348 (see previous paragraph) regarding the (non) recognition of the Baptism of heretics. However, it should be borne in mind that the fathers of the Council of Carthage, following the Council of Arles, understood heretics as Trinitarian heretics, and on the other hand, according to the explanation of St. Theodore the Studite, and the rule of St. Basil the Great, like the Apostolic rules on Baptism, “calls heretics those who are not baptized, and who do not baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”, i.e. in the terminology of St. Basil, trinitarian heretics are classified as schismatics. Indeed, as examples of heretics, St. Basil the Great in the 1st and 47th rules cites various Gnostic and Manichaean groups, which we would call representatives of other religions.

St. John of Damascus:

“if those who are Baptized in [the name of] the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and are taught that in the three Persons there is one Divine nature, then are rebaptized, then they crucify Christ again, as the divine apostle says: “It is impossible for those who are once enlightened... to renew again to repentance, for they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:4-6). And those who are not baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity should be rebaptized... ”

(St. John of Damascus. An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. Book 4, chapter 9 [82]).

St. Theodore the Studite:

“I will answer briefly about those being baptized. The judgment about them is threefold. The Marcionites, Tascodrugits, Manichaeans and the like up to the Melchizedekians are baptized... The Quartodecimians, Novatians, Arians, Macedonians, Apollinarians - five in all - will be anointed with the holy oil [Chrismated]. The Meletians, Nestorians, Eutychians and the like, up to the present heresy, are not baptized or anointed, but only anathematize their own and every other heresy, until the present heresy; I do not indicate their number now, because the heresy of the acephalians falls into many parts, and the letter would be too long.

Regarding the objection that the canon does not distinguish, but definitely states that those who are ordained or Baptized by heretics cannot be either clergy or faithful, one must take into account that the only ones the apostolic canon calls heretics are those who are not baptized and who do not baptize in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

We learn the same thing from the divine words of St. Basil the Great. He says that “heresies are those that are completely rejected and become alien by faith itself; schisms are those that, for some other ecclesiastical reasons and on issues that can be corrected, have disagreements among themselves; and unlawful assemblies are assemblies formed by disobedient elders, or bishops, or ignorant people.”

He himself, giving one example of the first, says to Saint Amphilochius: “What is the basis for accepting the baptism of them (the Pepusians), who baptize into the Father and the Son and Montanus or Priscilla? Those who were not baptized were those who were Baptized into something that was not handed down to us.” Therefore, the rule and the Fathers, as the divine Basil says, called them and others like them heretics. Next, Saint Basil gives an example of the second: “The Kafars are among the schismatics.”

If you ask why these and all subsequent ones are called heretics, then we say and understand it this way. The first are heretics in the proper sense, because they teaching impiously about the very essence of our faith in the Trinity. The latter are called heretics because of the abuse of this word and because they are derived from the former. They profess both faith and Baptism in the Trinity, preserving the special properties of each Hypostasis, and not just the one common to the Three, although they teach something else heretically. The example of the third is also given by a Holy Father himself:

“For example, if someone, after being convicted of sin, is removed from the priestshood and does not submit to the rules, but arogates the chairmanship and priestshood to himself.” Just as the second are co-named with the first, so the third are co-named with the second. Thus, the Meletians, who were carried away by the schismatic Meletius, are called schismatics by the ancients, although they do not adhere to false teachings, for they, anathematizing their own schism, are said to have been accepted by the Catholic Church....

About the above, that is, those who are Baptized, anointed with the holy oil, and anathematizing heresy, I wrote not as the divine Epiphanius distributed and listed heresies, but as I found in the interpretation of one of the most ancient industrious men, who made a study and extracted from the books of the Byzantine Church.

(St. Theodore the Studite. Epistle 40. To Naucratius).

St. Joseph Volotsky:

“...heretics do not reason the same way: one reasons one way, the other another way. Thus, the Paulicians, Fatians, Phrygians, Eunomians, Mandonites, Sabellians, Marcionites, Ishmaelites and others like them do not believe in the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, and they do not call our Lord Jesus Christ God, and do not recognize the incarnation; but some call Christ a prophet, others a simple man. All the holy books say about such people that when they come to the Orthodox faith, they must first fast for a long time and stand outside the church, then they must be baptized like the Hellenes, and then granted divine communion.

There are others who, although they are malicious, are not like the first: these are the Novatians, Donatists, Middlemen, Quaternaries, Abstinents and others like that. They confess the Holy Trinity of One Essence, and call our Lord Jesus Christ the true God, and believe in the Incarnation, but adhere to some heretical views. And if they want to convert to the Orthodox faith and renounce their heresies, then the holy books command not to baptize them, but to accept them as baptized and soon after that to grant them communion of the Divine Mysteries. It is about such heretics that the sacred canons, St. John Climacus, and the interpretation of the holy evangelist John the Theologian speak: if a heretic confesses and renounces his heresy, then he is immediately given the Holy Mysteries.”

(St. Joseph of Volotsk. Enlightener, 17).

Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Church of the East:

“this is a Sacrament [Baptism], which having once been accepted, should not be repeated again, provided that the person who performed the Baptism rightly believed in the one Trinitarian God, and accurately, without any changes, uttered the above words, namely: “In the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen", according to the understanding of the Catholic and Orthodox Church"

(St. Peter Mogila. Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Church of the East, trans. Sergius Fedorov) https://vk.com/doc-184478279_588792182?hash=a4be7a7ce2b3457fff&dl=121094300c306a 9a62.

The words “according to the understanding of the Catholic and Orthodox Church” in the above quotation can be interpreted in two ways: they can refer:

a) to the content of faith in the Trinity. From the point of view of this understanding, for the validity of Baptism, it is necessary that the celebrant of Baptism believes in the Trinity exactly as the Orthodox Church believes (i.e., that the Persons of the Trinity are equal in essence and dignity, the Son is born from the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, etc.);

b) to the Baptismal formula itself, “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen". From this point of view, the “understanding of the Catholic and Orthodox Church” consists in the need to utter precisely these words.

In our opinion, the second interpretation is correct. The first interpretation of the above passage contradicts:

— the consistent position of other councils and fathers (see this selection);

— the position of the Ecumenical Councils, which decided to accept via Chrismation those moderate Arians who believed in the trinity of the Divinity, but distorted the teaching of the Trinity (Ohmians and Macedonians) — (see II Ecumenical council. 7 and VI Ecumenical council. 95);

— the decision of the Pan-Orthodox Council of Constantinople in 1484, which decided to accept Catholics, despite the filioque heresy, through confirmation. This decision was impeccably fulfilled in the Eastern Churches that accepted this Confession at the time of its adoption. Let us note that the Kiev See, which was occupied by St. Peter Mogila, who compiled the Confession, was at that time part of the Church of Constantinople;

— the position of the compiler of the Confession by St. Peter Mogila.

Let us note that in the text of the Confession we find a terminological division into the Orthodox, Catholic, and Apostolic faith itself, the content of which is precisely the belief in the Trinity and the dogmas of faith:

“... the Orthodox, Catholic, and Apostolic faith consists in believing with the heart and confessing with the lips one God in three Persons. As the same Paul teaches us, “with the heart they believe unto righteousness, and with their mouth they confess unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10). In addition, every Orthodox Christian must firmly and without doubt believe in all the tenets of faith in which the Catholic and Orthodox Church believes, those which were handed down by the Apostles of the Church from our Lord Jesus Christ, explained and confirmed by the Ecumenical Councils.”

St. Philaret of Moscow:

Everyone baptized in the name of the Trinity is a Christian, no matter what confession he belongs to. There is only one true faith - Orthodox; but all Christian beliefs - through the long-suffering of the Almighty - hold on "

(St. Philaret of Moscow. Life.)

Metropolitan Macarius Bulgakov:

...the Orthodox Church, following the Word of God (Eph. 4:6), teaches us to confess “one Baptism” - one in the sense that Baptism is given to each person only once, and if done correctly, it should not be repeated for anyone. The ancient teachers of the Church unanimously speak about this indelible seal placed by Baptism on every person, together with the Apostolic Constitutions... For example, let us point out the words ... of St. John of Damascus: “We confess one Baptism for the remission of sins and eternal life. For Baptism marks the death of the Lord, and through Baptism we are buried with the Lord, as the Divine Apostle says (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). Therefore, just as the Lord died once, so one must be baptized; to be baptized, according to the word of the Lord, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19), learning to confess the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. So, all who, having been Baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and taught to confess one nature of God in three Persons, who are rebaptized again, all of them crucify Christ again, according to the words of the divine Apostle (Heb. 6:4-6)." 

Therefore everyone, even those Baptized by heretics, if only they were baptized correctly in the name of the Holy One, The Trinity, according to ancient church rules, were not rebaptized again when they came to the Orthodox Church, and are not rebaptized now, but were and are joined to it through the laying on of hands, or through the sacred act of Confirmation. Baptism was taught again and is taught only to those who were previously Baptized incorrectly, not in the name of the Most Holy One, The Trinity, but according to the Lord's institution, and which follows, were not at all worthy of the grace of this sacred act.” (Metropolitan Macarius Bulgakov. Orthodox Dogmatic Theology. Volume 2, § 204, 2 ).

St. Nicodemus Milos:

“...guided in the matter of baptism performed in a non-Orthodox society by the general instructions of councils and Fathers, the principle of the Orthodox Church can be outlined as follows: baptism, as an institution of Jesus Christ, can only be performed in His Church and, therefore, only in the church can everything be right and salutary; but if other Christian societies outside the Orthodox Church  have the conscious intention of introducing the newly Baptized into the Church of Christ , that is, they have the intention of imparting to him divine grace through baptism so that by the power of the Holy Spirit he becomes a true member of the body of Christ and a regenerated child of God, then Baptism received in such a society will be considered as valid as it is performed on the basis of faith in the Holy Trinity, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, because where such baptism is given and accepted with faith, there it must act with grace and there the help of Christ will not fail to appear. Any society that distorts the teaching about God and does not recognize the Trinity of holy Persons in the Divinity cannot perform correct baptism, and baptism performed in it is not baptism, because such a society is outside Christianity.” (St. Nicodemus Milos. Interpretation of the II Ecumenical event. 7).

St. Philaret of Chernigov:

The Church also taught that Christian baptism should be performed once, and denounced those who acted differently. In the Nicene Creed we read: “I believe in one baptism.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote: “baptism is a holy and indelible seal ..., there is no need to perform ablutions twice or thrice; for there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” St. Damascus taught: “Just as the Lord died one day, so one day we need to be baptized. Those who were Baptized into the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit, if they repeat the baptism, again lift Christ to the cross.”
However, it is clear in itself that in the case when they were baptized not with a sacred baptism, not in the name of the Triune God, baptism constitutes one rite, and not a sacred one, and therefore must be repeated in the form of a sacred act: this is what the apostle did. Paul did so with those baptized by the baptism of John (Acts 19: 1-6 ). That is why at the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea it was prescribed that the followers of Paul of Samosata repeat baptism; it was also prescribed in the ecumenical Constantinople for Eunomians and Sabellians.”

(St. Philaret of Chernigov. Orthodox dogmatic theology. Volume 2, § 242.).

St. Sylvester of Malevan

On the uniqueness of baptism, if it was performed even among heretics, correctly, in the name of the Holy Trinity, witnessed by entire Councils of this period, local and Ecumenical, such as: the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, which decided to accept into the Church only Paulians through new baptism, but those who called themselves pure (followers of Novatus) - without such baptism; The local Laodicean, who decreed the first in relation to the Phrygians (followers of Montanus), and the last, in relation to those converting from heresies, the Novatians, Photinians and the Fourteeners (who celebrated the Passover with the Jews on the 14th day of Nisan); The Second Ecumenical Council, which supplemented this very definition, only with the inclusion of Arians, Macedonians, Savbatians, and Apolinarians among those accepted without new baptism, and among those accepted with baptism - Eunomians, Sabelians and other similar heretics, and, finally, the Sixth Ecumenical Council, which repeated the same definitions."

This kind of rule, accepted and firmly preserved by the Universal Church regarding the uniqueness of baptism, as we have seen, was based on ancient church practice, which in turn was based on the apostolic tradition. But, regardless of this, the Fathers and Teachers in explaining this basis presented some of their own considerations, borrowing them, either from the note in the grace-filled gift of baptism of intolerance and immutability, or from seeing in baptism a sign of the death and resurrection of Christ that will not be repeated again.

...  And St. John of Damascus, teaching that “ baptism marks the death of the Lord, and through baptism we are buried with the Lord... Why, just as the Lord once died, so one day we must be baptized... And therefore, all those who, having been Baptized in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit ... being rebaptized, again crucify Christ to themselves, putting him to an open shame, according to the words of the divine apostle" (Heb. 6:4-6) ( St. Sylvester of Malevan. Experience of Orthodox Dogmatic Theology. Volume IV §133).

“...at the local Council of Laodicea (about 365) it was directly and unconditionally decreed that heavenly anointing or anointing with chrism should be performed both on the newly Baptized, after their baptism, and on the heretics who had received the correct baptism, upon their entry into the Church” (Ibid §137).

St. Gregory the Diologist:

“We have learned from the ancient institution of the Fathers that  all who are baptized in heresy in the name of the Trinity (ut quilibet apud haeresim in Trinitatis nomine baptizantur), when they return to the Mother Church, should be called into her Bosom either through anointing with chrism, either by the laying on of hands, or by profession of faith alone (aut unctione chrismatis aut impositione manus aut sola professione fidei ad sinum Matris Ecclesiae revocentur). Therefore, Arians are accepted into the Catholic Church in the West through the laying on of hands, and in the East through anointing with chrism. Monophysites and others are accepted through the mere confession of the true faith, since the holy baptism that they received from heretics then takes on the power of purification in them when those (Arians) receive the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands, and these (Monophysites) are united to the womb The Holy One of the Universal Church through the confession of the true faith (quia sanctum baptisma, quod sunt apud haereticos consecutei, tunc in eis vires emundationis accipit, cum vel illi per impositionem manus spiritum sanctum acceperint uel isti per professionem verae fidei sanctae et uniuersali Ecclesiae visceribus fuerint uniti).

Those same heretics who were not Baptized in the name of the Trinity, such as the Bonosians and Catafriges, of whom the former do not believe in Christ as Lord, and the latter, from a perverted understanding, believe in a certain vicious man Montanus as the Holy Spirit, and others like them When they return to the Holy Church, they are Baptized, since what they received in heresy not in the name of the Holy Trinity was not baptism. And this baptism [after returning to the Church] cannot be called repeated, since, as stated above, what was given [previously] was not given in the name of the Trinity (nec potest hoc ipsum baptisma dici iteratum, quod, sicut dictum est, in Trinitatis nomine non erat datum).

The Nestorians are Baptized in the name of the Trinity, but they, who are like the infidel Jews and do not believe in the incarnation of the Only Begotten, are overshaded by the error of their heresy. Therefore, when they come to the holy Catholic Church, they must be taught steadyfastness and profession of faith, so that they believe in the same Son of God and Son of Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was divine before the ages, and became man at the end of the ages, for “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) ... All who return from Nestorian error must confess this truth of His birth before the holy assembly of your brotherhood, anathematizing Nestorius with his followers and other heresies.” (Letter from Pope Gregory I to Catholicos Kirion I, trans. R. Bagrov, https://vk.com/@12581929-pismo-papy-grigoriya-i-katolikosu-kirionu-i ).

Questions about the interpretation of these texts, and the correctness of the criteria for receiving the rite of Baptism given in them and their authority in Holy Tradition are discussed in detail here  https://vk.com/doc-184478279_618194698.

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