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Catholics and Protestants - baptism and original sin. Clarification needed please!

Discussion in 'Religious Education' started by rainbowsandrain, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. Hi there,
    Next term I will be teaching about infant and adult baptism. From having done some research, I can see that baptism is necessary in the Catholic faith to be welcomed into the Church and wash away the original sin that babies are born with so that they can have salvation in Heaven. I cannot seem to find an answer about what Protestants believe about original sin - do they believe that it does not exist (hence no need for baptising babies and people waiting to commit to their faith when they are older), or do they believe that it does exist but infants cannot be held responsible for it?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated - I'm really confusing myself!
     
  2. RCMJ

    RCMJ New commenter

    At the risk of confusing you yet further, you might want to be slightly careful about stating that Roman Catholics believe that baptism is a necessary precondition of salvation. If you state that too forcefully, you get the inevitable question, "what happens to infants who die unbaptised?" The notion of limbo was a hypothesis, never a doctrine, and was never officially taught by the church. The 1992 Catechism made no reference to the idea of limbo, and taught very clearly (or not, depending on your view) that children who die unbaptised are simply "entrusted to the mercy of God".
    So the good news is that RCs and Prots overlap considerably - neither holds that baptism is a precondition of salvation. The bad news is that it's much more complicated than you quite reasonably wanted it to be: Anglicans who are members of the Protestant set don't always like to be referred to as Protestants; they believe in 2 or 7 sacraments, of which infant baptism may or may not be one; and many of them overlap with either Roman Catholic or non-conformist (Baptist/Methodist) doctrine, but very rarely both. Oh, and any sentence beginning "Protestants believe" is almost bound to be perniciosly simplistic.
    Oh the joys of comparative ecclesiology <smiles>.
    If you want a visual aid to lead you into a discussion or original sin, William Blake's Elohim Creating Adam is a fabulous place to look: Satan in the form of the serpent is entwined around Adam's left leg at the moment of creation - ab initio, in fact. [Yes, fellow pedants, I know Blake is at best approximate as an exemplar of Anglican - or any other institutional Christian - position, but as a picure to illustrate an abstract concept and provoke discussion it'a an absolute belter.]
    Good luck!
     
  3. Flanks

    Flanks New commenter

    The fundamental difference between RC and Protestant churches is that Protestants believe in salvation by faith alone, whereas the RC believes in both faith and works.
    When this is interpreted to the sacraments, it means that for Catholics the sacraments are a necessary work as part of a lifelong journey towards salvatio. For protestants, the sacraments are largely (almost entirely) symbolic, they are more outward gestures as a demonstration of an individual's faith.

    Both RC and Protestants believe in the existence of Original Sin. RC believe that Baptism is a real spiritual cleaning which allows a believer to interact honestly with God and partake in other sacraments meaningfully. For Protestants, Original Sin is fought by 'grace' which is granted by faith. If a believer has faith they are granted grace which allows them to perceive God clearly.
     

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