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Which Religions Practice Baptism? Which Do Not?

Beverley Byer has been writing professionally for a number of years. Her work has been published in magazines and newspapers.

First, what is baptism? It is a ritual practiced by a number of faith traditions, mainly Christian. Not all denominations practice baptism for the same reasons or in the same manner. The word baptize is said to derive from the Greek words baptizo or baptisma, which means “to bath, wash, or immerse.” Ancient pagan religions saw baptism as a ceremony of purification (cleansing), rebirthing, or initiation. Participants were bathed/washed in water or blood. Baptism in the Christian tradition most likely stemmed from the Jewish ritual called Mikvah.

The washing or bathing of one’s person and clothing in water were common practice meant to reestablish purity as required by laws in Jewish texts such as the Tanakh. One could not enter the HolyTemple unclean. According to an eHow article on types of baptism, the Mikvah was also a necessary part of the Judaic initiation process. Seven days after circumcision, the candidate was immersed in flowing water. When he emerged, he was considered an official Israelite.

Tintoretto "Baptism of Christ"

Tintoretto "Baptism of Christ"

Union Between Christian Spirituality and Baptism

Spirituality and the baptismal rite united when John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, appeared. He preached on its association with God (“it came from heaven” -Matthew 21:25) and baptized others, including Jesus, in the Jordan River for the remission of sins. But when Jesus died on the cross, baptism became more than a ritual of repentance and forgiveness. It became the uniting force between believers and Jesus. He was now their savior through “death, burial, and resurrection.” That notion remains with most of today’s Christians. Baptism is considered a public profession of their belief and/ or that of their children (infant baptism or christening as it is called in some denominations).

Types of Baptism

There are two types of baptisms. Some might say three because some denominations perform the rite on objects. But my focus is on the baptism of human beings: infant and adult.

Infant Baptism

Infant Baptism

Infant Baptism

No one can pinpoint exactly when infant baptism began. Most historians believe its somewhere between the first and third centuries. They do know, however, that infant baptism was prevalent in the third century. The ritual is not practiced by all denominations. And those who do, do it for different reasons.

The denominations that do not practice infant baptism believe that children (babies, toddlers) are unable to grasp the concept of Jesus Christ as Savior. The denominations that practice infant baptism are of two minds. Some perform the rite with the belief that we are born into sin and baptism cleanses us from it and gives us eternal salvation. Others see it as no more than an initiation into the faith tradition or Christian community.

Believers tend to baptize their children as early after birth as possible. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodoxy, for instance, it is customary though not mandatory, to baptize infants on their eighth day of life. The practice may have Judaic origins relating to the circumcision of male children.

Adult Baptism

Adult Baptism

Adult Baptism

By the third century, according to religious historians, adult baptism was a mandatory part of Christian life and deemed a sacrament. Later, there were disagreements among the various groups of Christians whether or not baptism really was a sacrament—some thought of it as a symbolic ritual. In Sacramental baptism, believers’ declare their belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior. They receive forgiveness of sins, God’s grace, deliverance from death, and eternal salvation. In the symbolic baptism, Christians believe that it is only a public representation of the Sacramental gifts. In some denominations, it is thought that children at age eight do have understanding and can be baptized as adults. Also, some faiths require adult baptism for membership even if converts were baptized as children.

Baptismal font, Cathedral of Christ the Light, oakland, CA

Baptismal font, Cathedral of Christ the Light, oakland, CA

Methods of Baptism

There are three forms of baptism: immersion, affusion or pouring, and aspersion or sprinkling. Here again, methods differ among the various faith traditions. Those who practice immersion view the rite as cleansing by Jesus’ death and burial, and rising from the water with a new life. Those who use affusion and aspersion see the rite as the gift of cleansing and eternal life of the Spirit coming from above/ God. All agree that the water should be moving to represent living water. Places used to conduct the ritual: rivers, ocean, lakes, indoor or outdoor swimming pools, and baptismal fonts.

Immersion: Baptism by this method could be total submergence of the body into the water or partial submergence into the water where believers just stand or kneel while water is poured over them. Immersion was the method of baptism practiced by the early Christians. Jesus’ cousin, St. John the Baptist, submerged his converts in the Jordan River, according to biblical accounts. There is also pictorial evidence of partial submergence being performed by others. Most of the churches exclusively practicing adult baptisms prefer this method.

Affusion: water is poured onto the head of the convert. This was the main method used in the 10th century. In some instances, the water is poured on the individual’s forehead three times.

Aspersion: This method of baptism involved sprinkling (holy) water on the individual’s head or forehead. It is believed this method derived out of the necessity to baptize children and people who were sick and people who were incarcerated.

St. Patrick's Church, Tuticorin, Tamilnadu, S. India

St. Patrick's Church, Tuticorin, Tamilnadu, S. India

Religions Practicing Baptism

Though the ritual of baptism is practiced by most Christians, it is also practiced by the Sikhs, a monotheistic religion founded more than 500 years ago by Guru Nanak, and the Gnostic Mandaeanism, an ancient religion—still viable today in Iran and Iraq—whose theology favors John the Baptist over Jesus. The Sikh baptismal ceremony is called Amrit. It began in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh. The Mandaeans view baptism as simply a purification ritual. Islam also has a ritual of washing by submersion called Ghusul but it similar to the more modern Jewish Mikvah (women must wash after menstruation and for the Muslim men, after sex. Prayers of forgiveness for unclean or impure actions must follow both rituals).

Christians Who Practice Baptism

  • Anglicans (including Episcopalians): Their philosophy is that baptism is for the cleansing of sins or original sin, rebirth, and entry into the denomination and the body of Christ through God’s grace. Baptism is performed in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit –the Holy Trinity. So, infant baptism is allowed. Methods used are immersion, affusion, and aspersion. Episcopalians prefer the method of affusion.
  • Anabaptists: Their belief is that baptism is not necessary for salvation, but symbolic. Therefore adult baptism is the only true baptism by immersion or affusion. In fact, their name means “to be baptized again.”
  • Baptists: Baptism is symbolic, and by immersion only. Infant baptism is not practiced.
  • Catholics: For all manner of Catholics, baptism is sacramental in the name of the Holy Trinity (the “Great Commission” Matthew 28: 18-20) and grants eternal salvation and remission of sins by God’s grace. They practice infant baptism. Latin Rite Catholics use the method immersion (Ambrosian Rite) or affusion. Roman Catholics use aspersion, but the water must flow on the head. Eastern Catholics use full or partial submersion.
  • Christadelphians: They view the rite of baptism as granting repentance and salvation though it is only for adults and by immersion.
  • Churches of Christ: They too view baptism as granting repentance and salvation, but do not practice infant baptism. They baptize by full immersion following the biblical Book of Acts 8:38.
  • Community Churches: Baptism is the outward symbolism of cleansing as well as the acceptance of salvation and new life through God’s grace. The method used is immersion, and infant baptism is not permitted.
  • Disciples of Christ: Their ideology of baptism is that it is symbolic of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, a cleansing of sin, rebirth through God’s grace, and entry into the Christian faith. Baptism is by immersion or affusion. They do not practice infant baptism.
  • Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodoxy: Baptism is sacramental; for salvation and remission of sins. It is by full or partial immersion, and infants are included.
  • Evangelical Free Churches: Their view is that baptism is the public symbol of the profession of faith, God’s grace, and rebirth. Baptism is by immersion for adults only.
  • Grace Communion International: Their view of baptism is similar to the Evangelical Free Churches.
  • Jehovah’s Witness: They also view baptism as a public symbolism of individual belief performed by full immersion. Therefore, they do not practice infant baptism.
  • Lutherans: Their philosophy is that baptism is sacramental and grants eternal salvation. The method used is aspersion, and infant baptism is practiced.
  • Methodists: Their belief is that baptism grants the sacrament of salvation, profession of faith, and is an initiation into the Christian community. All Methodists including Wesleyans, United Brethren, and the African Episcopal Methodist Church use immersion, affusion, or aspersion and baptize infants.
  • Metropolitan Community Church: Baptism is sacramental and part of worship. The method used is immersion, and infant baptism is practiced.
  • Moravian Church: Baptism is sacramental and necessary for entry into Christianity. They use immersion, affusion, or aspersion and practice infant baptism.
  • Nazarenes/ Church of the Nazarenes: Baptism grants the sacrament of salvation and acceptance of Jesus. Methods used are immersion, affusion, or aspersion. Infant baptism is practiced.
  • Pentecostals: Their baptismal ideology is that it is a symbolic representation of the individual’s belief and acceptance of Jesus as savior, which only adults can understand and profess. The Oneness Group believes baptism is a requirement for salvation. Both Oneness and Trinitarian Pentecostals use full immersion and do not practice infant baptism.
  • Presbyterians: Baptism is a sacrament, seal, and outward symbol of “inward grace.” It also grants membership into the Christian community. So, infant baptism is practiced. Methods used are immersion, affusion, or aspersion.
  • Revivalists: They view baptism as receipt of the Holy Spirit, which is necessary for salvation. Method use is immersion. Infant baptism is not practiced.
  • Seventh Day Adventists: Baptism is a requirement for membership into their church and Christianity. It symbolizes “death to sin and new birth in Christ.” Method used is full immersion, and infant baptism is not practiced.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons): All converts must be baptized or re-baptized. They do not view baptism as cleansing of sins but rather a ritual of forgiveness of sins, repentance, and preparation for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, which occurs in the sacrament of confirmation/ laying of hands. Baptism is by full immersion and is given to individuals from the age of eight upwards.
  • The United Church of Christ (Evangelical & Reformed Churches, & Congregational Christians): Baptism is viewed as an outward symbol of one’s “inward grace” given by God. Some churches use the rite as an initiation into church membership. Methods used are immersion, affusion, or aspersion. Infant baptism is practiced.

Faith Traditions That Do/ Do Not Practice Baptisms and the Types and Methods of Those Who Practice It

ReligionsPractice BaptismTypes of Baptism PracticedMethods of Baptism Practiced

Anglicans (inc. Episcopalians*)

yes

Infant & Adult

Immersion, Affusion (pouring)*, Aspersion (sprinkling)

Anabaptists

yes

Adult

Immersion, Affusion

Baptists (some denominations)

yes

Adult

Immersion

Catholics (all denominations, inc. Latin Rite*, Eastern**, Roman***)

yes

Infant & Adult

Immersion*( Eastern does Immersion only**), Affusion*, Aspersion***

Christadelphians

yes

Adult

Immersion

Churches of Christ

yes

Adult

Full Immersion

Community Churches

yes

Adult

Immersion

Disciples of Christ

yes

Adult

Immersion, Affusion

Eastern Orthodox Churches

yes

Infant & Adult

Immersion

Evangelical Free Churches

yes

Adult

Immersion

Grace Communion International

yes

Adult

Immersion

Jehovah's Witnesses

yes

Adult

Full Immersion

Lutherans

yes

Infant & Adult

Aspersion

Methodists (Wesleyans, United Brethren, African Episcopal Methodist Church)

yes

Infant & Adult

Immersion, Affusion, Aspersion

Metropolitan Community Church

yes

Infant & Adult

Immersion

Moravian Church

yes

Infant & Adult

Immersion, Affusion, Aspersion

Nazarenes/ Church of the Nazarene

yes

Infant & Adult

Immersion, Affusion, Aspersion

Pentecostals

yes

Adult

Full Immersion

Presbyterians

yes

Infant & Adult

Immersion, Affusion, Aspersion

Revivalists

yes

Adult

Immersion

Seventh Day Adventists

yes

Adult

Full Immersion

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)

yes

Age 8 & up

Full Immersion

The United Church of Christ (Evangelical & Reformed Churches, & Congregational Christians)

yes

Infant & Adult

Immersion, Affusion, Aspersion

Baha'i

no

 

 

Baptists (some denominations)

no

 

 

Christian Scientists

no

 

 

Quakers/ Members of the Religious Society of Friends

no

 

 

Salvation Army

no

 

 

Unitarians

no, but they do practice child dedication ceremonies for children of members

 

 

 

 

 

 

Religions That Do Not Practice Baptism

Today in particular, many religions including some Christian denominations, believe baptism is unnecessary. Those who are of this belief are as follows:

  • Baha’i: Their belief, as dictated by their leader the prophet Baha’ u’ llah, is that baptism by water refers to “water of knowledge and life.” Baptism by the Holy Spirit refers to the “spirit of divine bounty.”
  • Baptists: Some groups in this denomination do not believe or view the ritual of baptism as necessary.
  • Christian Scientists: They believe emphasis should be on the inward aspects of Christian sacraments rather than the practice. Their idea of baptism is the daily study of their texts and living life as is dictated: “Spiritual purification by daily prayer.”
  • Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends): They reject all forms of outward or public manifestations of their spirituality. They view baptism as an inward sacrament.
  • Salvation Army: They too do not believe in outward or public displays of the sacraments. Founders William and Catherine Booth believe that Christians must rely on the inward grace granted by God instead of outward symbols.
  • Unitarians: They see no basis for baptism. However, they do conduct child dedication ceremonies for the children of their members.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do you have to be baptized to be Christian and go to heaven?

Answer: To be a Christian, you have to be baptized. To go to heaven, only God can decide (though the Christian church believes one cannot get into heaven without baptism).

Question: Why is baptism done mostly to children?

Answer: It has more to do with tradition. The early church interpreted Scripture as whole families must be baptized in the church & that included children. Also, parents promised to raise their kids in the church.

Question: Does baptism happen differently in some churches?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Would we be considered as a person of religion if we are not baptized?

Answer: You can be a person of religion, but most mainline churches require baptism, especially before joining.

Question: Could any Christian perform a baptism?

Answer: No, only leaders in the Christian faith who are licensed or anointed to perform the sacrament of baptism can perform baptisms.

Question: What is baptism practiced in different cultures?

Answer: Sorry, not sure I understand your question.

Question: when catholics are baptized do they tend to act differently from followers in other denomination?

Answer: Since most Catholics are baptized as infants, hard to say.

Question: In what name must one baptize, Father, Son and Holy Spirit or Jesus Christ?

Answer: Most mainline Christian churches baptize in the name of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Question: Is religion really neccessary?

Answer: Each individual has to make that decision for themselves and their family, but having some sense of spirituality helps our psyche.

© 2014 Beverley Byer

Comments

James Babutek on November 18, 2019:

Hitler was baptized by the Roman Catholic Church but we cant get our 4 year greatgrand son baptized without classes! What a shame!!!

connie feijen on May 27, 2019:

Baptism is from Egypt. When you are born and baptist all your sins from other lives are forgiven if you start living in Christ. This is what it means. This was important so you could not hold it against any form of karma against the child. Yet lately people like the word karma again to hold against people. Well if you are a Christian that is not possible. Only for India.

Beverley Byer (author) from United States of America on January 28, 2019:

Sir, that was not what I said. My response to your earlier question was that that was Christian doctrine. Jesus being our Savior is part of that doctrine. In fact, Christianity began because of Jesus Christ.

Frank on January 28, 2019:

So apparently, you believe that only the ritual of baptism ensures forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation, not acceptance and believe of Jesus as Savior and the Son of God and following his teachings?

Beverley Byer (author) from United States of America on January 25, 2019:

That would be so, according to Christian doctrine.

Frank on January 24, 2019:

Just curious: Adolf Hitler was baptized and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church - does this mean that he is granted eternal salvation and remission of his sins regardless of the atrocities he committed later in life?

Allen on January 20, 2019:

What about the thief on the cross He was promised eternal life.

Terry Blankenship on August 09, 2018:

I believe in "faith plus nothing". Bapism is not required for salvation. Christ does it all. Only believe in him and skip the requirements laid down by man.

Beverley Byer (author) from United States of America on July 05, 2018:

Cynthia, thanks for your kind words. I am humbled.

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on July 05, 2018:

This is one of the best articles about baptism i have come across. I saw a PBS program on the history of baptism years ago that might be a good addition to your hub ( but not necessary). I appreciate how you broke the practice down in the chart according to denomination.

Beverley Byer (author) from United States of America on May 28, 2018:

Thanks for commenting!

ana on May 27, 2018:

For the Catholic faith, baptism is much more than a proclamation of faith. It is a cleansing of original sin (the repentance & purification that John the Baptist preached about) along with us receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit & our identities as adopted co-heirs to eternal life & children of God. This is the foundation of the Christian life! This is biblically found when jesus is baptized by John the Baptist. A spirit descended upon Him (receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit) & God said, “this is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased”. This is the message for us & our baptism. Christ chose to be a model for us - to become His disciple means to become like Him. Baptism was the first thing He did in His ministry (hence why Catholics also baptize infants - because jesus modeled getting baptized as the first part of our journey).

Beverley Byer (author) from United States of America on October 09, 2017:

Yup! Thanks for commenting!

robert alias tibob on October 09, 2017:

I didn't know that some baptist denominations accept the lack of baptism!

Beverley Byer (author) from United States of America on August 02, 2017:

Thanks for commenting.

michelle233111 on August 02, 2017:

salvation is not just through Jesus it is through baptism and the holy ghost/spirit, see the problem with most people is they go to church and just believe what the preacher/priest, etc. interprets for them the don't read it themselves and interpret it themselves,the bible mentions baptism and the holy spirit, Matthew 13:31-33 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. 33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. Mark 16:16, 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. it does not matter what denomination you are it's in the Bible, all bibles say the same thing, both matthew and mark are the new testament

filipe ban pathaw on June 04, 2017:

Salvation is only from Jesus

Beverley Byer (author) from United States of America on January 09, 2017:

Norine, I guess some folks see baptism as more of an initiation into a particular denomination rather than into the Christian faith. However, if your question has to do with form of baptism, wasn't Jesus baptized by water?

norine williams on January 09, 2017:

Hello Bev:

Do you believe one should be "water baptized" seeing that Ephesians 4:5 says there is "one" baptism?"