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The Great Apostasy - How, Why, and When?

David Waltz

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Does the LDS Church have an offical stance on the "Great Apostasy"? I've had many discussions regarding this, but the how, why and when has always been speculation.

It would be nice to nail down the specifics of how, why and when so that we can logically discuss the issue.

Peace be with you.

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Programmer posted:

>>Is this indeed the best way? I decidedly disagree. Best way according to who and why?

(Did you set up a strawman)>>

IMO, this a "black and white" formula, for both cannot be true; in other words, either the early Church did or did not baptize infants

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It may help to understand the Old World apostacy by looking at the New World apostacy in the Book of Mormon. This is probably an oversimplification, but it looks like the apostacy there was a combination of unrighteousness (witness the depravity of the people after about 300 AD) and a corruption of the ordinances (Mormon's diatribe against infant baptism is an example). I don't know that infant baptism is the only possible litmus test of apostacy, since there are other ordinances besides baptism (priesthood ordination, temple ordinances, bestowal of the Holy Ghost, the sacrament come to mind).

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Hello again Programmer,

You posted:

>>Okay, that's fine, you must be right, hence my asking this question. Though I would still like an answer as to how infant baptism is a litmus test?

(I don't know, you may have a perfectly reasonable answer)>>

Me: Don

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Early teachings on infant baptism:

"And they shall baptise the little children first. And if they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot, let their parents answer or someone from their family."

Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition,(c. A.D. 215)

Both in the East and in the West the practice of baptizing infants is considered a rule of immemorial tradition. Origen, and later St. Augustine, considered it a "tradition received from the Apostles." When the first direct evidence of infant Baptism appears in the second century, it is never presented as an innovation. St. Irenaeus, in particular, considers it a matter of course that the baptized should include "infants and small children" as well as adolescents, young adults and older people. The oldest known ritual, describing at the start of the third century the Apostolic Tradition, contains the following rule: "First baptize the children. Those of them who can speak for themselves should do so. The parents or someone of their family should speak for the others." At a Synod of African Bishops, St. Cyprian stated that "God's mercy and grace should not be refused to anyone born," and the Synod, recalling that "all human beings" are "equal," whatever be "their size or age," declared it lawful to baptize children "by the second or third day after their birth."

Peace be with you.

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Hi Bob,

Long time no chat. You posted:

>>I don't know that infant baptism is the only possible litmus test of apostacy, since there are other ordinances besides baptism (priesthood ordination, temple ordinances, bestowal of the Holy Ghost, the sacrament come to mind).>>

Me: Certainly not the only one; however, it is probably the most black and white. As I mentioned to Programmer, there is no room for legitimate development (i.e. no middle ground), either infant baptism is true, or it is false.

Grace and peace,


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The Apostles were continually combatting Apostacy and False Doctrine within the Seven Churches during their time even while alive.

Thus, even if Rome or a few other considered "Orthodox" Catholic Churches practiced Infant Baptizm from the first Century, that certainly doesn't prove that infant baptizm was authorized of the original Church and the Lord. Of course, it doesn't prove otherwise either.

Modern Revelation has set the standard..... But let's continue debating the evidences either way.

Personally, from the Bible alone, I don't see Infant Baptism as proper.

I keep thinking of Matthew 19, which I get that those who aren't able to recieve saving ordainces won't be damned, and that the innocent being a Eunuch of whatever type Mental, non-married etc., and a child can still come unto him though they had not the necessary ordainances. Notice also how the Apostles tried to stop the children from being blessed. Clearly they knew that children weren't accountable yet. Though Christ was giving a blessing, not performing a Sealing Ordaince such as Baptism, hence his allowance.

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The New Testament is not a sacristy ritual describing how to give sacraments and conduct rites. It is not a code of canon law detailing the rights and duties of Christians of every age and state of life. Circumcision was given to baby boys (Gen. 17:12) and to neglect circumcision was to cut the child from God's people (17:14). To refuse baptism to a baby is to exclude the child from the Church, Christ's Body and so to exclude him from the ordinary means by which Christ intends to give us all salvation (***. 3:5) and sanctification (Eph. 5:25-26).

Jesus taught that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children (Mark 10:13-16). Since baptism is the entry to the Church, and the Church is the first stage of the Kingdom, as it appears in this world, babies are baptized to put them in possession of what belongs to them.

During the first few centuries of the Church, although infant baptism was generally practiced, no bishop or theologian and no heretic in any way condemned the practice. Today, most Christians practice infant baptism--most Protestants, Orthodox, Monophysites, Nestorians, and Catholics. Only a very vocal minority of Protestants oppose the practice. Therefore the burden of proof is upon these minority dissidents, and it is a crushing burden. They must explain why there is no documentation clearly against infant baptism until well after the 16th century "reformation". If they cannot come up with these proofs over the first 16 centuries of Christian history, then their refusal to baptize their babies is in trouble.

Peace be with you.

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Again, the logic makes no sense to me. If infant baptism is OK, then why don't we just load up planes with tons of holy water and just dump it on Saudi Arabia. They may think its goofy rain, but in reality, they just became Christians without any say-so on their part.

How is it any different with a baby?

I understand your point because the infant is unable to choose to receive the sacrament of baptism on their own.

It is certainly different than unknowingly "baptizing" Saudi Arabia because when parents in faith bring their child to be baptized, they do so moved by the Holy Spirit. When over the next years, they provide a Christian home and environment in which the child's faith can grow, they do so assisted by Christ's grace. It is Christ who baptizes and Christ who saves the growing child and brings him to the point when he can ratify the promises made in his behalf by his parents at the baptismal font.

The baby did not choose to be born, but he will choose daily as he grows older and shapes his own life. He does not choose to be baptized--Christ called him--but he will make daily choices of faith as he grows older. By grace he will be saved through faith.

Peace be with you.

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The Apostasy was [not] caused by the hellenization of Christianity or the incorporation of Greek philosophy and culture into the teachings of the church;

For the record, I completely disagree with this statement. My view is more in harmony with Hatch:

It is impossible for any one, who whether he be a student of history or no, to fail to notice a difference of both form and content between the Sermon on the Mount and the Nicene Creed.  The Sermon on the Mount is the promulgation of a new law of conduct; it assumes beliefs rather than formulates them; the theological conceptions which underlie it belong to the ethical rather than the speculative side of theology; metaphysics are wholly absent.  The Nicene Creed is a statement partly of historical facts and partly of dogmatic inferences; the metaphysical terms which it contains would probable have been unintelligible to the first disciples; ethics have no place in it.  The one belongs to a world of Syrian peasants, the other to a world of Greek philosophers
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How little  are "little children"? We do baptize 8 year old kids. How do we account for Moroni 8 where it says that it is blasphemy to baptize infants?

I believe "little children" are all children from infants upward.

Strong's Concordance: paidion

If you read up on the very early church and come to the conclusion that infant baptism was practiced in Christ's time, then you have a problem accounting for that passage.

I think that's part of what David is getting at. It's something that is black and white: Either it was practiced, or it wasn't. He has produced links to material which he believes tends to show that it was, and has challenged others to produce material tending to show that it wasn't.

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Hello David and all,

How am I always late to the party?

Because of the position on FAITH necessary for Baptism, it would not be possible to poor holy water on Saudi Arabia. The faith of the community is important with respect to Infant Baptism. It is the communal faith that makes the practice effective in Catholic thought as I understand it.

I think if we could establish that there was never a time that infant baptism was not the practice of the early church, we would prove the restoration was not a restoration. If we could show it as unlikely that infant baptism was not the practice of the early church we would provide a point in the favor of the Catholic Church relative to the CoJCoLDS.

I started looking at your links with your first (have glanced at the rest).

I find the Bible unable to solve this debate. We have had a Bible for 2000 years and still we fight about this. Either some significant portion of the folks who read the Bible are idiots or this is not solvable from the Bible alone (without supernatural guidance which is pretty hard to argue on a message board). I hope we can agree with this.

Second, the position of the Catholic Church is what we are discussing here. I grant that properly understood, infant Baptism is not illogical to the extent that some anti-infant baptism folks would like to say. The ideas: the faith of a community and the free grace of God are wonderful concepts. There is not something within them that is inherently flawed in my opinion. I hope we can grant that the idea that one should exercise faith and choose to be Baptized is also not something to be ridiculed.

I then focus on the witness of the ECF. From the first link:

Polycarp (69-155), a disciple of the Apostle John, was baptized as an infant. This enabled him to say at his martyrdom. "Eighty and six years have I served the Lord Christ" (Martyrdom of Polycarp 9: 3). Justin Martyr (100 - 166) of the next generation states about the year 150, "Many, both men and women, who have been Christ
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When Noel Reynolds says that the Hellenization is a myth, he is talking about the withdrawal of priesthood authority, which he says came very early, and without being influenced by Hellenization.


I heard him give this presentation last October, when he came to Portland OR. But I am reciting this from memory, because I did not take notes.

[End disclaimer]

One of my favorite Apostolic Fathers is Ignatius, bishop of Antioch around 100 A.D. He is emphatic about problems. He rails against people who demand archival proof about Jesus' ministry, saying "my archives are up here (in my memory)!" The implication being that written records are untrustworthy because people can alter and falsify them. (Here is an ancient claim that the NT as it was shaping up already had problems!)


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