Baptism of Infants
I once saw on a forum the claim that “infant baptism” is extra-Scriptural addition and that Christians must rid themselves of this practice, and that we are to believe every word of Scripture. It is true that we need to believe all of Scripture (understanding that believers don't turn into physical sheep and unbelievers into physical goats, i.e., that Scripture requires the wisdom handed down to understand its truth). But is it true that infant baptism is extra-Scriptural?
Faith is not the product of “reason” that is only given to teens and adults, but is trust in the Lord that happens even from infancy: "Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother's breast I was cast upon You from birth. From my mother’s womb You have been My God." Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and none to help” (Psalm 22:9-11). Indeed, a baby can not only believe, but can leap for joy in faith: "For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy." (Luke 1:44).
The fact is, that the view that infants cannot yet decide for themselves and therefore should not be baptized is not only un-Scriptural, it is spiritually wrong. Baptism is spiritual washing. We wash babies all the time even though they are too young to decide for themselves if they should have a bath. Why? BECAUSE IT IS BEFEFICIAL TO THEM. Because without it, they would die. Bacteria would overcome them, they would get sick, and die a young death. The whole human race would be extinct right now. HOW MUCH MORESO IS IT IMPORTANT FOR THE SOUL to not only undergo washing, but to “put on Christ,” for “as many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” We put clothes on a baby even though they are too young to decide for themselves because otherwise they would get ill from the cold and die. How much moreso is it important to clothe the baby in Christ so that the cold of evil is caste away from the soul. Likewise we feed physical food to the infant for otherwise they would starve and die from having no nourishment. How much moreso is it important to feed them Spiritual nourishment, in Holy Communion.
The child by virtue of being created is called to a relationship with his or her Creator, not at some contrived “age of reason” (*not in the Bible), but from the beginning. Let us obey the Lord and bring the children unto Him and not forbid them, for of such is the Kingdom of God.
Question: The Orthodox have icons. Doesn’t God command that we don’t make images in the Bible?
Answer: No, He does not. He forbids graven and molten idols. Otherwise, we could not have pictures of our loved ones, paintings on our walls at home. We could not even carry a cell phone nor look at one, for they are reproduced images of things on heaven and earth. Furthermore, the tabernacle and temple could not have had the very images that God commanded to be put there! Compare the following passages:
Exodus 20.4 reads "Thou shalt not make unto thee any idol (Gr. eidolon/Heb. pecel)."
Compare this to Genesis 1.27: "Let us make man in our image... (Gr. eikon, Heb. tselem)"
The Hebrew word "pecel" is translated correctly into the Greek Septuagint as “eidolon” (idol). In English, unfortunately, is translated as "image," even though it simply means "idol" or "graven," but never "graven image," "image" being something added by old Anglican lexicologists looking through their high Protestant lens of the age back in the days of King James. Unfortunately, the error "stuck."
The temple was built of cedar and lined with ornate carved images of cherubim, palm trees, and opened flowers all overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6.15ff). It had two massive statues of cherubim within it. It housed the ark of the covenant, which also had images of cherubim on it. It also had twelve statues of oxen, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, upheld the large Brazen Sea (1 Kings 7.23-26).
The most striking aspect of the images that God commanded to be made is that they are not even called “images” of the things, but rather the things themselves. The carved cherubim are not called “images of the cherubim” but simply “cherubim”! The understanding is that the honor paid to the image passes to the prototype, and the blessed presence of the prototype is present in the image. It is for this reason that God commanded images in the Old Testament of the Cherubim and plants of paradise, and for this reason that in the New Testament, imagery continued. We see this in the Gospel of St. John where the temple is alluded to “you shall see angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man…”
For more on this please read Fr. Jack Sparks article on this topic entitled “No Graven Image”: http://www.protomartyr.org/image.html
The Virgin Mary
Question: Why do you people make such a big deal about Mary? Isn’t the honor given to her basically honor that should be paid to God?
Answer: The Bible makes it clear that we are to honor our father and our mother. If we are engrafted into Christ’s Body, and she is His mother according to the flesh, then is she not also of necessity our mother, as we have become on one flesh with Him, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bones? It is for this reason that Christ said to the Apostle St. John on the cross “son behold thy mother” and to His mother: “woman, behold thy son.” He Jesus wasn’t making John a son and Mary a mother, He was stating it as already a present fact, and appointing him to the one son among many that was to take her in and care for her. That is because the night before, in Holy Communion, St. John became one with Christ, and Mary became John’s mother. The same for all of us who are one with Christ. She is His mother, she is our mother, and we must obey the commandment to honor our mother. If we fail to follow the commandment, we are stealing worship to God, since we ignore one of the commandments.
God did not roll dice and it came up on Mary’s number. She was hand-picked from the foundation of the world to be the one through whom the Incarnation came about. St. Gabriel, one of the two highest ranking Angels together with St. Michael said “Hail you who are full of grace, the Lord is with you.” The phrase “full of grace” is an immense observation. St. Elisabeth gave her younger cousin honor as “the mother of my Lord.” She was acclaimed as “blessed among women.”
CALLING PRIEST "FATHER"
Question: Jesus says not to call anyone on earth our father in Matthew 23. Why, then do the Orthodox call priests "father"? Is this not a violation of Scripture?
Answer: One must ask if it possible if the Lord contradicted himself, since just a few chapters prior, we know that Christ expressly taught all: "honor your father and your mother" (Matt. 15.4-6, 19.19; Luke 18.20; cf. Eph 6.1-4), and even scolds them for trying to get around the commandment! He did not say "honor your male biological producer." He said "honor your FATHER." Was he really teaching the opposite in Matthew 23.9? For “we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?” (Hebrews 12.9). This is the same Lord who inspired the Apostle Paul to tell St. Timothy that presbyters (the title for priest) should be honored as fathers (1 Tim. 5.1), and even "double honored" if they rule the flock well! Abraham is "the father of us all" (Rom. 4.16, cf. John 8.56). Scripture says that the faithful have many teachers in Christ, but not many fathers in Christ, although St. Paul as an Apostle is one of the fathers in Christ, for he has begotten through the Gospel (1 Cor. 4.15, Phil.2.22). We could cite many other examples: 1 John 2.13: "I write to you, fathers..." 1 John 2.14: "I have written to you, fathers..." James 2.21: "Abraham our father..."
One has to understand that the text (clear in the Greek) does not say "do not call any man your father." Rather, it says "and your father do not summon (bid, call forth) upon the earth."
Summon how? In prayer: compare these two:
πατὴρ ὑμῶν, ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (Matt. 23.9) Your Father who is in heaven
πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (Matt. 6.9) Our Father who is in heaven
“Call” (summon, bid) in Matt. 23 is “pray” in Matt. 6:
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly…For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father who art in heaven,
Thus, both Matthew 6 and Matthew 23 tell us not to be like the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees. Those who are legitimately appointed rather than having usurped power are to be heeded as those with God-given authority.
However, the verses from verse 8 onward are a warning specifically to the Apostles not so seek to dominate the rest of the Apostolic leadership. The "You, moreover" of Matthew 23.8 indicates that Christ has ceased talking to the multitude and started talking to the Apostles. He told the Apostles that none were to be called a rabbi of the other Apostles, nor were any of them to be a "father of fathers" among the Apostles, nor were any of them to be called "master" of the others. Thus, even though we do see St. Paul call Peter, James and John "pillars," and James and Peter clearly had the position of elder brother in the council of Jerusalem, none of them were called father of the rest of the Apostles, nor Master of them, for the only rank above Apostle is Christ Himself, and they are all brethren.
*Note, the audio readings above are provided by Ancient Faith Radio and provides readings based on the Revised Orthodox Julian Calendar, because a majority of Orthodox jurisdictions are on the Revised Julian Calendar, as are the large majority of Orthodox in America. While most of the year the daily readings are the same for the Julian and Revised Julian Calendar, there is a portion of the calendar where they differ. For this reason, we here provide the readings for days when they differ.
The above audio readings are provided by AFR and are based on the Orthodox Revised Julian Calendar because a majority of Orthodox jurisdictions (and the largest three in the US) follow the RJC. There are no audio readings based on the old Julian reckoning of the Menaion.
The Orthodox Calendars (both Julian and Revised Julian) are both the same with regard to the Octoechos, the Lenten Triodion, the Pentecostorian (Flowery Triodion). The only difference is that observation of the Menaion (currently 13 days apart) and "shifts" that occur with regard to the Menaion (such as Lucan jump, and when major feasts fall on a particular day).