I was surprised at his response. For Baptists, it’s a no-brainer.
But some of the Reformers suggested yes, and even Charles Hodge (among others) have suggested that it is valid. Sproul notes, “many Protestants consider Rome to be a deeply flawed, chock-full-of-serious-errors true church and her baptisms irregular, but valid”. Along with Hodge and many Protestants, I have tended to accept this view. Roman Catholics [who frequently don’t know what they believe] may be Christians.
On the other hand, Sproul writes:
While I certainly understand this common view I do not embrace it. Baptism is, among other things, that sacrament by which one enters into the visible church. Rome, after the formal adoption of the sixth session of the Council of Trent, became an apostate church. That makes her in my judgment not merely a bad church, but a former church. A bad husband is one who is unfaithful. A rightly divorced husband, though he had had to be married in order to be unfaithful, is no longer a husband. If I am correct, being baptized into a local Roman Catholic church is not being baptized into a part of the visible church.
While the Trinity is a necessary, beautiful, critically important doctrine, while I believe that to deny it is to deny the faith, that it was the key issue for the first 500 years of the church after the ascension, this does not make it the alone necessary doctrine for a church to be a church. Any “church” for instance, that denies the resurrection of the body is not a church, and we should not accept their baptisms. In like manner, any “church” that says that anyone who teaches we are justified by faith apart from the works of the law should be damned, as Rome says in the sixth session of the Council of Trent, even if they affirm the Trinity, is not rightly administering the sacrament.
Which brings us to the Reformers. Though they may have addressed this and I missed it, it is important to remember that they are answering the question principally in a pre-Trent context. They are dealing with people who were baptized before Rome ceased to be a church, however weak they might have been up to that point. I don’t think Calvin or Luther or Zwingli, etc. needed to be baptized again because they were baptized when Rome was still a church.
Finally, the distinction between the Donatist issue and this issue is here- I am not saying that the unbelief of the one administering the sacrament makes it invalid. I am saying the unbelief of the institution into which one is being “baptized” makes it invalid. It’s not that the baptizer disbelieves, but that the church is not a church.
Any thoughts on this?