Protestants, Catholics and Baptism

The differences between Romanism and Protestantism.

17 AUGUST 2019 · 11:00 CET


Within the grand family of Protestantism, the Lutheran Church is that which has the most ‘Roman’ view of baptism.

Regarding the ceremony, the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church teaches that its, “two principal effects are purification from sins and new birth in the Holy Spirit” (article 1262).

Simply put, baptism produces new birth in the positive and forgiveness of sins in the negative.


Luther, much like the Vatican, was convinced that baptism wrought the forgiveness of sins and regeneration. In his Small Catechism he writes that,

“It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare”.


The German Reformer, Martin Luther, embraced a Roman view of baptism.

The question here would be: how can a child exercise faith (given that Luther believed in infant baptism)? Luther would answer by stating that the Word of God, working effectually through the waters of baptism, creates faith in the one baptized.

Hence the need of baptism to be saved!


The Reformed camp of Protestantism (represented by Zwingli, Calvin and Bullinger amongst others) did not feel all that comfortable with Roman/ Lutheran sacramentalism.


Zwingli and the Reformed fathers believe baptism to be an entrance into the visible church. Faith was not created within the baptized child.

They did indeed believe in the baptism of minors; but not in the sense that it delivers the child from sin and grants him/ her eternal life.

The Reformed take on baptism understood the ordinance to be a gateway into communion with the visible church.

So these theologians hoped that baptized babies would, in later years, come to put their trust in the Gospel after having been guided by godly parents and their local congregations. By no means did they think that baptism was ridding the child of sin or bestowing regeneration.


Much more radical than the Reformed were the Anabaptists. They, in fact, came to oppose the practice of infant baptism all together.

They defended baptism as a rite only for repentant adult believers who knew what they were doing.


All Anabaptist groups, like the Amish, believe that baptism is only for adult believers.

Since a baby cannot place its personal faith in Christ, they reasoned, the newborn should not be baptized.

The name Anabaptist, interestingly enough, means “To baptize again” or “To re-baptize”. They did not believe that infant baptism was valid in the eyes of the Lord.


Within the contemporary British Protestant scene, both infant baptism and believer’s baptism are alive and kicking. But in the wider European context, it is certainly the Anabaptist position which has triumphed.

Published in: Evangelical Focus - Fresh Breeze - Protestants, Catholics and Baptism