There is no “valid” baptism outside the Church — Part 2 of 2

The first half of this post is an excerpt from The Heavenly Banquet: Understanding the Divine Liturgy where we discuss the subject of baptism in our brief commentary on the Creed. The second half of this post is a collection of canons from The Rudder that pertain to Baptism.

The “one baptism” we confess is the one granted in and by the Church. According to St. Nektarios († 1920), “Those who are not reborn by the divine grace in the only ONE HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH, do not belong to any church, either visible or invisible.”1 There are no Mysteries (Sacraments) outside the Church.2 The Church is the great Mystery (see Eph. 5:32) in which all the Mysteries of God are realized. The position of the Church concerning heretical baptism was stated once for all by St. Cyprian of Carthage. Here are two passages from his writings:

Some of our colleagues, by a curious presumption, are led to suppose that those who have been dipped among the heretics ought not to be baptized when they join us; because, they say, there is ‘one baptism’. Yes, but that one baptism is in the Catholic Church. And if there is one Church, there can be no baptism outside it. There cannot be two baptisms: if heretics really baptize, then baptism belongs to them. And anyone who on his own authority concedes them this privilege admits, by yielding their claim, that the enemy and adversary of Christ should appear to possess the power of washing, purifying, sanctifying a man. Our assertion is that those who come to us from heresy are baptized by us, not rebaptized. They do not receive anything there; there is nothing there for them to receive. They come to us that they may receive here, where there is all grace and truth; for grace and truth are one.3

The second quote:

The Church is one and indivisible: therefore there cannot be a Church among the heretics. The Holy Spirit is one, and cannot dwell with those outside the community; therefore the Holy Spirit has no place among heretics. It follows that there can be no baptism among heretics; for baptism is based on this same unity and cannot be separated either from the Church or from the Holy Spirit. It is ridiculous to assert that spiritual birth—that second birth of ours in Christ through the bath of regeneration—can take place among the heretics where, it is admitted, the Spirit has no place. Water cannot of itself purify and sanctify, unless it is accompanied by the Holy Spirit”.4

We repeat the important distinction that we made in our previous post, which should clarify things.

(Acceptance does not mean recognition)

Acceptance addresses the issue how does the Church receive converts.
Recognition addresses the “validity” of baptism.

The Church recognizes no baptism as “valid” that is performed outside of her. However, in the exercise of oikonomia (dispensation), at times and places and special circumstances, at the discretion of a bishop or synod of bishops, she accepts a baptism that resembles to a greater or lesser extent her baptism, of someone who is being received in the Orthodox Church from heresy or schism. Acceptance is not concerned with “validity” or recognition of baptisms performed outside of her, concepts which are foreign to her terminology and practice.

The fact that the Orthodox Church receives certain converts by oikonomia through Chrismation does not mean that the Orthodox Church recognizes a baptism performed outside her pleroma nor does she admit by such action that there is grace among the heterodox.

How the heterodox should be received has become not an issue of whether to exercise akriveia (strictness) or oikonomia (dispensation, exception), but an imposition by the ecumenists of their erroneous belief, namely that there is one baptism and that this one baptism is administered validly by anyone (even by non-Christians!), as long as the name of the Holy Trinity is invoked and water is used in any form.

Because for the prevailing ecumenism, it has almost become an article of faith that any baptism performed, whether inside or outside the Orthodox Church, is a valid baptism (so long as it is performed by invoking the name of the Holy Trinity). For this reason the Ecumenical Patriarchate does no longer allow under any circumstances to receive heterodox through baptism, because it is viewed as a repetition of the one true baptism. They will no longer allow the strictness to be applied even by oikonomia!!

Ecumenists are not willing to accept the patristic and synodal witness, that when the Church allows baptism by oikonomia she does so without addressing at all its “validity” outside the Church–which the ecumenists do because of their ecumenistic and synchretistic considerations.

The holy canons of the Church listed below support fully the above statements.

46th Apostolic Canon

“We ordain that a bishop, or presbyter who has admitted the baptism or sacrifice of heretics, be deposed. For what concord hath Christ with Beliar, or what part hath a believer with an infidel?”

47th Apostolic Canon

“Let a bishop or presbyter who shall baptize again one who has rightly received Baptism, or who shall not baptize one who has been polluted by the ungodly, be deposed, as despising the Cross and death of the Lord, and not making a distinction between the true priests and the false.”

50th Apostolic Canon

“If any bishop or presbyter does not perform the three immersions of the one initiation, but one immersion, given into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed. For the Lord did not say, “Baptize into my death,” but, “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

68th Apostolic Canon

“If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon shall receive from anyone a second ordination, let both the ordained and the ordainer be deposed, unless indeed it be proved that he had his ordination from heretics; for those who have been baptized or ordained by such persons cannot be either of the faithful or of the clergy.”

Canon 1 of the Regional Council of Carthage

“[...] No one can be baptized outside of the catholic Church, there being but one baptism, and this being existent only in the catholic Church. [...] Among heretics ... there is no Church... [...] There being but one baptism, and there being but one Holy Spirit, there is also but one Church... and for this reason whatever they [i.e. the heretics] do is false and empty and vain, everything be counterfeit and unauthorized. For nothing that they do can be acceptable and desirable with God. In fact, the Lord calls them His foes and adversaries in the Gospels: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Mt. 12:30). [...]”

Epitome of Canon 19 of the First Ecumenical Council

“Paulianists must be rebaptized.”

Interpretation by St. Nikodemos: “For how can anyone that has not been baptized in accordance with the Orthodox faith receive a visitation of the Holy Spirit, and grace, in ordination?”

Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council

[Summary:] Certain heretics and schismatics who are baptized the same way Orthodox are baptized are received through recantation of their errors and then through holy Chrism. But those who are baptized with a single immersion and... (those belonging to) any other heresies... we are willing to accept as Greeks [i.e. through baptism].

Summary of Canon 7 of Laodicaea

“Certain heretics are accepted after being catechized and chrismated”, [Interpretation by St. Nikodemos]: “seeing that they used to baptize themselves in identically the same way as are Orthodox Christians, and on this account and for this reason alone they do not need to be baptized a second time.”

Canon 8 of Laodicaea

“As concerning those returning from the heresy of the so-called Phrygians, even though they happen to be in the class which with them is supposed to be the clergy... such persons are to be catechized ... and ... baptized...”

Epitome of Canon 1 of St. Basil

“The ancients... ordered (that) those that were baptized by [heretics and schismatics], and came over to the Church, to be purged by the true baptism, as those that are baptized by laymen. But let none be received without unction.”

Epitome of Canon 47 of St. Basil

“We re-baptize them all.”

Summary/Interpretation of Canon 66 of Carthage

“If persons baptized by the Donatists in their infancy learn the truth of Orthodoxy after coming of age and attaining to discretion, and come to hate the cacodoxy, whether they, I say, seeing that they have been baptized in the baptism which is performed in accordance with tradition, to wit, that performed by the Orthodox... ought not to be baptized” (Interpretation by St. Nikodemos).

Canon 84 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council

“Following the canonical institutions of the Fathers, we order that whoever does not know nor can prove by documents that he has been baptized, he must without any hesitation be baptized.”

Canon 95th of the Sixth Ecumenical Council

Same as Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council.

We end with another quote from our study on the Divine Liturgy, The Heavenly Banquet, taken from our commentary on “The Catechumens” (p. 153).

“The [Greek Orthodox] Church in America does not baptize the converts any longer, admitting them through Chrismation, as they are allegedly already baptized. But if they were baptized they would be members of the Church. What would they be joining then when they became Orthodox? The Church Canons should be strictly adhered to, in administering the true baptism by triple immersion, practiced only in the Orthodox Church, to those who have not received it.”

  1. Note 651 in The Heavenly Banquet. Saint Nektarios, Two Studies, 1. On the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church 2. On Sacred Tradition (in Greek), Bookstore Nektarios Panagopoulos, Athens 1987, p. 28.
  2. Beginning of Note 652 in The Heavenly Banquet. Read the small treatise, I Confess One Baptism... by Protopresbyter Dr. George D. Metallinos, St. Paul’s Monastery, Holy Mountain 1994.
  3. (Epistle LXXI. 1, in Henry Bettenson, The Early Fathers, A Selection from the writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius, Edited and translated by Henry Bettenson, Oxford University Press, Oxford-New York-Toronto 1969, p. 271)
  4. (ibid., LXXIV 4-5)

8 thoughts on “There is no “valid” baptism outside the Church — Part 2 of 2”

  1. Bless Father,

    I cannot find the Canon 1 of Carthage anywhere else online. I’ve tried searching for it through various Christian text databases and nothing came up. Could you tell me what page it is in The Rudder? I am writing a paper for school (I attend the seminary) on this issue and want to cite this canon.

    In Christ,


  2. Could you comment, please, a case when converts are baptized in Orthodox Church a few years after they had been admitted to Orthodox Church through Chrismation?

  3. // –Could you comment, please, a case when converts are baptized in Orthodox Church a few years after they had been admitted to Orthodox Church through Chrismation?
    –Baptism should not be denied from anyone who has not received a baptism.//
    Could you, please, help substantiate this position by the Holy Fathers and Councils? You have mentioned the Canon 19 of the First Ecumenical Council in the article, that Paulianists must be rebaptised. Does 19th canon require to baptize those Paulianists, who before were admitted to Orthodoxy without baptism? Saint Firmilian, Bishop of Caesarea (28th of Oct), considered it necessary to baptize those who had previously been admitted into the Orthodox Church without baptism (Ep. to Cyprian Carth.).
    But is there any more evidence? This question arises because some believe that after Chrismation, new converts are considered baptized, and respectively, it is forbidden to baptize them.

  4. I kiss your Right hand, father Emmanuel. I think another great explanation of using canons that receive (some) heterodox by chrismation or just by libelus is found in Fr. George Dragas’ article* about 1875 Council of Constantinople, where at the end the Council Horos says:

    “…it is left to the spiritual discernment of Your Excellency αnd of the rest of the Synodical members to accept or reject the use of economy which another Church has upheld for more than two centuries without wανering, if, as she writes, this economy implies many benefits to the Church there and secures her from encroaching dangers. Whenever, then, the local orthodox Churches might be able tο gather together, then, with God’s help, the desired agreement οn this subject will take place, as with others as well.”

    Then Fr. George Dragas said these great words:
    “Ιn the above document, the Holy Synod looks to the future for a unanimous Orthodox solution to the ‘problem’ of reception of cοnverts from the Western Church into Orthodoxy. Ι believe that the solution is already there. It is not uniformity, but the freedom, which characterizes the Orthodox position. Such position lays stress οn the act of the Holy Spirit who perfects (teleioi) in us all that the Lord has accomplished for us objectively.”

    So the manner of reception of RC(or others) converts into the Orthodox Church is not a dogma, but a beautiful dinamical way of receving the ones outside The Church without someone become lazy and, as St. Basil’s 1st Canon says «For I am under some apprehension lest, in our wish to discourage them from baptizing, we may, through the severity of our decision, be a hindrance to those who are being saved», riscking not cummuning them with Christ and to fall asleep deprived by salvation. ^^

    • Dear Andrei,

      Have a Blessed New Year!

      Forgive me for the delay in answering your comment. So, it seems that “the solution to the problem” is just around the corner, doesn’t it? It seems that all it takes is for the local Churches to get together, and approve this divine “economy”, right? The problem is that, more likely, a synod whose decision would find all of the autocephalous Churches in agreement will not take place – not in the near nor in the distant future. Why? Because, even if the few local Churches that remain Orthodox will convene, they will not introduce a Canon that would say, “Do whatever God speaks to your heart.” Why? Because a Canon says under what circumstances one who was baptized outside the Church can be received without the true baptism of the Church. But such Canon already exists (First Canonical Letter of Basil the Great to Amphilochios of Iconium (no. 188), confirmed by the First Ecumenical Council, and by Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council).

      Let there be no misunderstanding that the subject of economy concerning baptism is addressed only about the form used by the Church was performed, i.e. triple immersion, with the invocation of the names of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. Even in those cases it does not mean that the Church recognizes such baptisms as “valid”1, but only that a correct form does not have to be repeated, but it can be sealed by the Holy Chrism, which fills the convert with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

      Keep in mind that no Synod can reverse, modify and change the rules established by the holy Fathers and the Ecumenical Synods, just as we cannot change the text of the holy Scripture; we can only interpret them. Therefore, for any variation from the established Canons introduced by single Bishops, or even by local synods, they will give an account at the Great Judgement, because, as already stated, they do not have the authority to change the holy Canons.

      And if your question is, What about all those converts received without baptism, but only by Chrismation, or even by a simple declaration of faith, the answer is left up to the merciful and compassionate Savior, who with a “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (Lk 23:42) assured the thief on the cross of blessed Paradise. But we need to follow the holy Tradition of the Church.

      And concerning our subject, dear Andrei, the Tradition of the Church is solid. So don’t be influenced by deviations of this or that bishop or patriarch or local church, in this or that country, in this or that period, under these or those circumstances. This is what the ecumenists point out, to show that these are not foundational truths. Don’t listen to such voices. Stay faithful to the one faith passed on to us by the holy Fathers. I hope you will be convinced, and you will faithfully follow them. Stay firmly on the via aurea, away from the distortions of the ecumenists, particularly from the late Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware). After his study on “Eustratios Argenti”, in which he concluded that the Cyprianic view is the tradition of the Church, in his influential book “The Orthodox Church” he turned his back, stating that we don’t know where the “borders” of the Church are.

      Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk has it right: “The Augustinian understanding of the “efficacy” of the sacraments was never fully accepted in the Orthodox Church. Such an understanding of the sacraments is unacceptable for Orthodox Tradition, for it is an understanding in which the grace inherent within them is considered autonomous, independent of the Church. The sacraments can be performed only within the Church, and it is the Church that bestows efficacy, reality, and salvation on them.” (Orthodox Christianity Vol. II: Doctrine and Teaching of the Orthodox Church, p. 405).

      There are no Mysteries (sacraments) outside the Church. As there is no Eucharist outside the Church, so there is no baptism, or any other sacrament, outside the Church, which, as the Body of Christ, is the source of every grace.

      Fr. Dragas is not an ecumenist. Forgive me, but his statement, “Ι believe that the solution is already there. It is not uniformity, but the freedom, which characterizes the Orthodox position”, has an ecumenist flavor. He also calls the Horos of the local synod of Constantinople of 1875 one-sided. Read, à propos, the study of a great Orthodox theologian of our time, the late Fr. Professor George Metallinos, I Confess One Baptism (1984). It is truly unfortunate that Fr. Dragas is not fully convinced by his Orthodox exposition on the subject (p. 13). I think Fr. Dragas holds this particular synod to a higher degree that it deserves.

      Dear Andrei,

      There is an abbreviated version of The Rudder. Concerning St. Basil’s position on the reception of the non-Orthodox is summed up, “We baptize them all.” This is the position of the Orthodox Church. Personally, if a heterodox wants to join the Church he or she should request to be baptized. If not, it means that such person has not adequately been prepared to join the Church, and should not be received, until such time, with God’s grace, he or she sees the light.

      I need to stop here. Every blessing from the Lord in the new year of salvation we have entered.

      Fr. Emmanuel

  5. Dear Fr. Emmanuel, let me correct Metr. Hilarion words “The Augustinian understanding of the “efficacy” of the sacraments was never fully accepted in the Orthodox Church.” Actually, it is far more correct to say that the Augustinian understanding of the sacraments outside of the Orthodox Church was fully rejected in the Orthodox Church.
    As it is well known Augustin recognized the baptism of the Gnostics, such as Marcionites and Valentinians (See Augustine. On Baptism, Against the Donatists Book III -15.20; Book VII – 16.30-31). On the other hand, the Sixth Ecumenical Council in Canon 95 decided to baptize the Marcionites and Valentinians. In principle, only the fact that Augustine recognized the baptism of the Gnostics is sufficient to reveal the contradiction in the ecclesiology of Augustine to the teachings of the Church. However, the Sixth Ecumenical Council repeating the 7th Canon of Second Ecumenical Council about the baptism of heretics, especially supplements it exactly with the requirement to baptize the Marcionites and Valentinians, thereby clearly pointing the fallacy of the Augustinian ecclesiology of the sacraments of the Church outside the Church.


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