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I was raised Catholic. I raised my family Catholic. I made sure they as well as myself did all the sacraments as we were supposed to: we were baptized as babies, had our first holy communion around age 7, and finally the sacrament of confirmation around age 15. We went through all the steps because we were Catholic.

Now at the age of 56 I realize I did these things because they were "tradition" and that these were expected from us. We lived on Long Island for 40 years. Moved down South for 16 years. The Catholic church here feels lonely. They don't talk to you if you are not in their clique. After going for 6 straight months every Sunday, sitting in the same seat, still no one said "hello" or "welcome to the church".

Then we started attending a Baptist church. The very first day I sat down people came up and said "hello", "welcome", "how are you?" They made me feel they wanted me to be there. Attending the Baptist church, I now understand God and Jesus. I have fully accepted them into my life and heart.

I want to do the believers baptism at that church to let every one know that I now have God in my life and heart. Am I allowed? The pastor says yes. I will always be a Catholic in my heart but I consider myself "born again Catholic".

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    Different denominations are going to give you different answers. For example, Baptists don't consider infant baptism "valid". More than that, however, there are substantial differences in the beliefs of Catholics and Baptists, and you would do well to be aware of those differences before taking any further action. It's unfortunate that your local Catholic church is antisocial, but that's not the best basis for decisions of faith.
    – Matthew
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 17:30
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    As a baptized and confirmed Protestant considering to become Catholic, I fully understand your question. Agree with @eques that from the Catholic point of view, you were "born-again" (received the Holy Spirit) when you were baptized as infant. Some Non-Baptist Protestants (like myself) were ALSO considered to receive the Holy Spirit (Protestant term: regenerated) at baptism (the debate over "baptismal regeneration"), but your Baptist pastor would then say it's not enough, thus they would recommend re-baptism to make it "legit". Some other Protestant churches leave it to you. Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 18:10
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    As your question is posted to Christianity.SE, which is different from other sites that we require the questioner to explicitly specify a point of view in order we can have an objective answer, you will need to be more explicit to identify whether you want a Catholic answer or a Baptist answer? In order to do that, you need to add a tag, either the catholicism tag or the baptist tag. Otherwise, your question will be closed. Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 18:13
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    Like any library, Christianity Stack Exchange offers great information, but does not offer personalized advice, and does not take the place of seeking such advice from your pastor, priest, or other trustworthy counselor.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 19:05
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    Note to all: please do not make substantial edits without the original poster's approval. It is their responsibility to indicate which direction they would like to take a question. And we don't do both-ways questions here.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 21:39

2 Answers 2

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According to the baptist church, you can be rebaptized. In fact, depending on the specific denomination of baptist, they may say you need to be rebaptized. If a baptist denomination says that you ought to be baptized, they would say your baptism needs to be your own choice, and that your infant baptism "doesn't count." Otherwise, the particular denomination in question may not put too much stock in baptism, in which case they may baptize you symbolically, but they will not believe that it is necessary.

According to the Catholic Church, you cannot be rebaptized.

If you are still inclined towards Catholicism, I'd encourage you to try again with the Catholic church. You may need to go to a neighboring town in order to find a more active parish. One of the best ways to get involved is to find activities outside of Sunday Mass. You can usually find these in hte parish bulletin. Your parish almost certainly will have service activities you can involve yourself in. Catholics often do not talk to one another before or after Mass, as we are focused on worship at this time. I'd also recommend getting to know your priest, invite him over for dinner, etc.

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    Isn't it anachronistic to interpret "one baptism" in the Nicene creed as teaching against believer baptism for those who have received infant baptism? That meaning is new to me. I understand "one baptism" there referring to one church authority (i.e. the orthodox-aligned local churches). Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 20:32
  • @GratefulDisciple when I was a Lutheran they referenced the creed as proving that there can be only one baptism. Regardless, the Catholic teaching (and that of many Nicene Protestants) is that there is only one baptism. We'd probably need to study the Greek of the creed to answer your question.
    – jaredad7
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 20:57
  • Great. I'll ask a question about it. Let me know if I need to improve it. Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 21:13
  • "One baptism" is used in the same sense as "one church", "one faith", "one God", etc. The meaning in this context isn't that baptism can only occur once (in which case, one could take that to the absurdity that only one person could ever be baptized!), but that there is only one true form of baptism. That's not to say Catholics do or don't object to "re"-baptism, just that the creeds don't directly support that.
    – Matthew
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 21:22
  • To jaredad7: I'm with @Matthew on this. Posted the question. Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 21:39
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What follows is an objective and an "ecumenical" answer from BOTH the (Reformed) Baptist tradition and the Catholic tradition. This is ALSO not a pastoral answer, but objective information that you can use to decide for yourself whether to return to the Catholic church or to stay in the Baptist church.

Clarifying misunderstanding

You said:

I now understand God and Jesus. I have fully accepted them into my life and heart. I want to do the believers baptism at that church to let every one know that I now have God in my life and heart. Am I allowed? ... I will always be a Catholic in my heart but I consider myself "born again Catholic".

In the Catholic tradition, God gave you sanctifying grace IN the sacrament of baptism, which was given to you when you were baptized as an infant. By this grace, the Trinitarian life started in you (CCC 2021-2023), which is synonymous with being "born again". Also, because you were baptized IN the Catholic church, you have become a Catholic since then. So from the Catholic perspective, saying "born again Catholic" is redundant, since being "born again" is included in being "Catholic". It is also a misnomer if you bring the "born again" meaning from Protestantism, confusing the two traditions. In Catholicism "faith" is a light given to you as a virtue (part of the sanctifying grace) by which you can assent (later when you reached the age of reason) to the statements about God and Jesus (in the creed) and to the dogmas the Church proposes for you to believe. But this light can be clouded or squandered by mortal sin rendering it ineffective, which becomes evident for Catholics who later become apostate. Thus, if until now have NOT rejected the creed, you already have faith, despite still needing the faith to grow more into a mature understanding (hence the motto 'faith seeking understanding'). It seems that the Baptist church has helped you understand more of your faith in Christ, by teaching you the Bible from which you know more of God and Jesus, which should have been covered in your first communion catechism using a book such as this Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism.

In the Baptist tradition, "regeneration" (reception of the Trinitarian life, "born again") happens unconsciously for the elect (prior to baptism), which in turn is the prerequisite of "faith" defined as a conscious assent to the gospel properly understood (unlike the Catholic definition of faith as virtue or faith as light), which in turn prompted a person's decision to want to be baptized as a public declaration (as a SEAL of the regeneration that happened earlier). Baptists emphasize understanding the significance of accepting Christ as a prerequisite to (believer) baptism. That is why they don't accept your infant baptism because a baby couldn't understand the significance of being born again and the tremendous gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Fortunately, both Evangelical Protestants (which includes Baptists) and Catholics have done much dialogue since Vatican II and have removed much animosities and misunderstanding, recognizing that all groups worship the same Jesus and the same God, despite having irreconcilable beliefs about Mary, the Pope, the nature of the Catholic Sacraments, the Priesthood, and a few other minor differences. The commonality is a lot BIGGER than the differences, as both are rooted in the same catholic tradition (with a lower case "c") as we confess the same ancient creeds (Nicene and Apostle's creeds).

Despite the commonality, speaking as someone who has been studying Catholicism, and in the process I came to understand better my own Protestant upbringing, I wouldn't recommend keeping both identities within yourself: either be a 100% Catholic and remedy what was missing in your Catholic life or be a 100% Protestant (explained below).

What follows is a fuller answer on what is essential to consider should you choose to continue being Catholic, or to transition to becoming a Protestant.

Baptist perspective

As explained above, your infant baptism was a non-event so your impending believer baptism is NOT "re-baptism". Now that you fully understand that you want to die with Christ by immersion in water and to rise with Christ to participate in His resurrection they deem you to be ready for believer baptism. Baptists are very explicit in saying that Baptism is an ordinance, not a sacrament. Instead, believer baptism is a lot closer to marriage, in that it's a public declaration of a promise already made (with full understanding).

Because it's not a sacrament, baptism does NOT infuse the Trinitarian life to you. The fact that you now understand the significance of Jesus being your Lord and Savior and that you WANT to be baptized, shows that regeneration ("born again") has already happened. In other words, unlike in Catholicism, we don't quite know WHEN regeneration happens; we just know it already happened. Believer baptism in the Baptist tradition then, acts as a SEAL of what already happened, not the MEANS to obtain the Trinitarian life. Not even faith is the means, but grace. Faith makes explicit what God already did by grace (giving us the Trinitarian life). Grace enables faith which then enables our conscious conviction that God has already adopted us into his family through election.

While they don't necessarily deny that you have faith in Jesus prior to going to the Baptist church (despite that you only become fully aware of the significance of being "born again" NOW), they still want you to make it public, and your intention to do the believer baptism makes sense. Public baptism in the Baptist tradition is a truly joyful event (as in weddings) and you get the sense that the congregation is celebrating with you, and thus you have tangible sense of being part of the people of God (I recently witnessed my teenage kid baptized in a similar tradition).

Some less stringent Baptist churches would probably not require you to do believer's baptism, leaving it to your choice, especially if you have "outed" yourself in a public way by some other means. In my case, I was baptized as an infant and around age 15 after catechism, I went through the Reformed Church confirmation ceremony, which was a public event. So several Baptist churches I attended in the past didn't require me to be re-baptized.

As for your Catholic identity, you will lose more and more of your Catholic distinctiveness because as you continue practicing Christianity as a Baptist those Catholic-specific practices become irrelevant. So one point to consider is whether you don't mind losing them, such as understanding the Eucharist as Transubstantiation (along with the practice of Eucharistic adoration), going to confession to receive explicit absolution from a priest, praying to Mary and to the Saints, etc. All those practices will be redefined solely as spiritual relationship to Christ.

Catholic perspective

There are at least 4 key points to consider.

First, it's your status. From the Catholic church perspective, once a Catholic you are always a Catholic. If you stop going to mass they will categorize you a Lapsed Catholic, a Catholic who is non-practicing. But missing Sunday Mass obligation without a just reason is considered a mortal sin.

Secondly, it's about the Eucharist. Receiving the Eucharist in a Protestant church is no substitute to going to Catholic mass! In fact, the Catholic church frowns upon a Catholic participating in less-than-fully-present Christ in the Eucharist, and not eating Christ's body as "bread of life" and as a sacramental means of grace. This is extremely relevant to you since Baptists is one of the groups farthest away from Transubstantiation (compared with Lutherans, for instance), because in the Baptist understanding, Communion is also NOT a sacrament, but a symbolic observance (as in Baptism). It may be a means of grace but NOT through the elements but through your spiritual communion with Jesus by remembering what Jesus has done for you. So in a Baptist communion the emphasis is on what the pastor was saying for the sake of meditation and what the worship team is singing to help you get in the mood.

Thirdly, it's about the Church as Sacrament. Being a Catholic means participating in a VISIBLE manifestation of the spiritual FACT of the body of Christ, i.e. the Catholic church as Christ's instrument (CCC 774-776). That's the logic behind why everything is public and visible in the Catholic church, including:

  1. How your sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage) are recorded in a parish record somewhere. A Catholic priest I talked to takes pride in the Catholic church record keeping system where a parish can request the record from any other parish in the world. In this sense, your baptism IS already public record, as your marriage.
  2. How seeing the Eucharist is literally seeing Christ and eating Christ. Hence Eucharistic adoration.
  3. How hearing absolution from a priest literally hears absolution from God Himself because the priest acts in persona Christi.
  4. Etc.

Therefore, a Catholic priest I talked to when I asked whether I can be BOTH Protestant and Catholic, he said I can only do that IF I carry myself as a Catholic in the Protestant church in a VISIBLE way, by the above logic of the Church as Sacrament. This means 3 things:

  • Fulfilling my Catholic obligations
  • When relevant, people should know that I am Catholic (i.e. don't be a crypto-Catholic / closet-Catholic)
  • Do not participate in communion at a Protestant church since it means very differently

So if you are comfortable announcing among your Baptist friends that you are ALSO a fully practicing Catholic and for that reason you are refraining from Baptist communion, I suppose you can keep your identity of being Catholic.

By the same logic, the Catholic church also frowns at your believer baptism because it's already "public record" that you are baptized and you can only be baptized once. But if you intend to be BOTH Baptist and Catholic and thus need to be baptized at a Baptist church to participate further, you must consult with your Catholic priest to receive a possible dispensation.

Fourthly, going to Catholic mass is NOT a social act, but for praying together in the liturgy taking part in the Lord's Supper. The meaning of going to mass is COMPLETELY different than going to a Baptist church service. There are DIFFERENT ways to be more socially involved, to learn about God and Jesus, and to deepen your spiritual life in the Catholic church. Ways that you may not know or that you have not tried.

TO BE CONTINUED

Key difference between Baptists and Catholics: baptismal regeneration

Since your question is about baptism in Catholic vs. Baptist traditions, I highly recommend listening to Baptist scholar Dr. Gavin Ortlund debating Catholic apologist Trent Horn about baptismal regeneration in 4 videos:

  1. Dr. Gavin Ortlund's initial presentation: Baptismal Regeneration: Responding to Common Arguments (Mar 14, 2022)

  2. Trent Horn's response: REBUTTING Gavin Ortlund on baptismal regeneration (March 29, 2022)

  3. Dr. Gavin Ortlund's response in 6 questions: Trent Horn and Gavin Ortlund on Baptism (April 27, 2022)

  4. Trent Horn's fuller answers to the 6 questions: DIALOGUE: Answering Gavin Ortlund's Baptism Questions (May 9, 2022)

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  • A discussion of monergism vs. synergism is probably relevant here. ๐Ÿ™‚ I know there's at least one other Question on this SE that may be of interest to the OP that I may try to dig up...
    – Matthew
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 21:28
  • "going to confession to receive explicit absolution from a priest"; I can't speak to Baptists, but at least some Protestant pastors are happy to hear private confession and administer absolution. It's just not emphasized the way it is in Catholicism. OTOH, as a Protestant, I heartily encourage cessation of "praying to Mary and to the Saints". ๐Ÿ˜‰
    – Matthew
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 17:54
  • @Matthew I think I encountered enough Baptists to safely conclude there is no notion of receiving absolution from anyone. I explicitly limit this answer for Baptists only for simplicity. Baptists do encourage confessing sins to one another, but at the same time emphasizing that forgiveness comes directly from Christ. In the CMA church I'm in, there was recently a public confession of sins by each member anonymously writing a card. The cards are then processed and tabulated and the pastor led the commnual prayer of forgiveness for the top 6 sins. Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 17:57
  • "hearing absolution from a priest literally hears absolution from God Himself because the priest acts in persona Christi." Again, I can't speak for Baptists. Pastors in my sect speak "in the stead and by the command [of Christ]", and that would be especially true in case of private confession. We (RCC and my sect) are probably more alike there than different. "I think I encountered enough Baptists to safely conclude there is no notion of receiving absolution from anyone", um... ๐Ÿ˜ฑ (...yet another reason I am not Baptist.)
    – Matthew
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 18:00

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