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Here’s a headline for you:
Priest Incorrectly Performed Thousands of Baptisms by Changing Word, Making Them Invalid.
So here’s the story on that.
Father Andres Arango resigned from St. Gregory Catholic Church in Phoenix, AZ after it was determined he used the wrong formula to baptize thousands of people over a period of decades. The formula he used was, "We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The proper formula is, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Mixing up that one little word makes all the difference according to Roman Catholic doctrine. Based on their theology, using the word “we” indicates that it is the community that is responsible for the baptism, when in actual fact it is Christ, and Him alone, who presides at all the sacraments. The problem is, Christ is not physically present to do the baptism. So in Roman Catholicism, the priests become the official representatives of Christ, and are the only ones authorized to do the actual baptismal work. They believe that only a priest ordained by the Church can perform this ritual.
The underlying reason for the problem is that Roman Catholic theology is based on a belief in sacraments. A sacrament is a formal religious act that objectively confers God’s grace on those who receive it. Baptism is one of the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church, and it is considered a requirement for salvation.
Thus, in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, since Father Andres used the wrong formula, all of the people he baptized, who thought they were saved, are actually not. It also means that any other sacraments those people may have received after their invalid baptism are also invalid – including marriage. And according to the Church, there are some who may go the rest of their lives and not even know they are not saved, or not married in the eyes of the Church. In fact, they don’t know if they can even find all of those folks – and some may already be dead.
In order for those they can find to rectify the situation, the church requires that all those who had the wrong word said over them when they were baptized must repeat the sacrament. If they don’t, it will be considered that they were never baptized in the first place, and, thus, never saved. Beyond that, they must also repeat all of the other sacraments they subsequently received. What a mess!
But that’s the situation you find yourself in when you adhere to a doctrine where salvation is achieved by some form of works. If salvation requires the involvement of a human being, it is possible that human errors can also interfere with a person’s salvation. When salvation depends on some mechanical formula, it falls apart when the formula is not followed to a tee.
Fortunately, a true biblical worldview points us in a different direction. According to the Bible, salvation is not dependent on reciting the right formula – in spite of what the Roman Catholic Church might assert. The Bible teaches that a person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ – and that alone (Eph. 2:8-9). There is no kind of work, no kind of formula, and no human priest involved at all. When a person comes to a place in their life where they realize that they are sinners and separated from God because of their sin, and they, by an act of their will, repent and invite Christ to enter their life, God forgives their sin and establishes a personal relationship with the individual. No formula needed.
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
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