This video from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly highlights the baptism ceremony and how it is practiced in different Christian denominations. In the Roman Catholic Church ...
Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: "Belief and Practice: Baptism"
Learn more about the Religion & Ethics segment "Belief and Practice: Baptism."
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Produced by Thirteen.
Produced by Thirteen.
The Christian rite of baptism uses water purification to symbolize entry into the faith. It dates back more than 2,000 years ago when a religious leader known as John the Baptist began preaching about spiritual reform and redemption in the Jordan River Valley. In keeping with many Hebrew rituals that preceded his teachings, John believed the Apocalypse was near and that cleansing souls through water purification was essential for spiritual salvation.
John, who was active during Jesus' lifetime, led a religious movement that centered on conducting baptisms in the Jordan River. The practice typically consisted of full-body immersion of adults who were seeking forgiveness for their sins. Among the people John baptized was Jesus, who then encouraged others to experience the spiritual rebirth he had achieved through baptism.
Inspired by the events of Jesus’ life, early Christians adapted the rite of baptism, made it a sacred act and moved it from the Jordan River to within the walls of the church. Baptism continued to represent purification of sin by water, as well as the worshipper’s readiness for God’s kingdom in life and death. As the religion grew, both newborn infants and newly faithful adults were baptized into the faith.
The practice of baptism remained unchanged for more than 1,000 years until the 16th century Protestant Reformation, when large numbers of Christians split from the Roman Catholic Church and began to reexamine once-sacred rituals. Many Protestants started baptizing people once they became adults because they felt that children and infants could not fully grasp the spiritual significance of baptism.
For Baptists, a Protestant denomination that began in England in the early 17th century, baptism has evolved into a way to publicly express devotion to Christ’s teachings. It is not a statement of membership or necessary for salvation, but rather a ceremony to honor those who have been saved by God. Baptists complete this ritual as adults by total immersion in water, just as John the Baptist did with Jesus more than 2,000 years ago.
For those who practice Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and more ritualistic forms of Protestantism, baptism continues to be essential for the salvation of the worshipper. For this reason, the baptism of infants is extremely important. During the baptism, the priest sprinkles water on the head of the infant to represent the forgiveness of original sin, rebirth and connection with God.
Baptism has evolved to meet the needs of contemporary Christians and their differing faiths. In its many forms, the ritual continues to be as important to the faithful today as it was to early Christians.
- What benefits or limitations might Christians see in each of the two methods of baptism depicted in this video?
- Does one seem to be more meaningful to you than the other? Why?
- If you have been baptized, describe what the ritual was like. If you were going to be baptized, what would you want your ceremony to be like?
- Who would you want to be there? Why?