Is immersion the only valid form of baptism?

My 34-year-old son was baptized as an infant and raised in our Catholic faith. He’s very devout and studies Scripture with his non-Catholic wife. He fears his baptism was not effective because there was only a pouring of water rather than immersion like Jesus had. He is also concerned that this was done before his age of reason and not his choice. He feels he now needs to be immersed in oder to be properly baptized. What information can I give him to confirm that the pouring or sprinkling truly is all that is necessary?

It sounds as if your son may be struggling with non-Catholic interpretations of Scripture. For example, he apparently takes it for granted that Jesus was baptized by immersion, but the text does not say that he was immersed (cf. Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John
1:31-34). At most, the text says that Jesus “came up from the water” (Matthew, with a similar variant in Mark). This could mean that he was immersed, but it could also mean that he merely climbed up onto the shore of the Jordan after a baptism by pouring or sprinkling. Indeed, Christian art usually depicts John the Baptist pouring water over Jesus’ head with a shell (a traditional Christian symbol of baptism) while Jesus stands in the Jordan.

While immersion baptism more fully demonstrates the sign of spiritual cleansing, Christians have always held that pouring or sprinkling is sufficient. This is especially true given that many areas of the world, such as frozen tundras and desert climes, are not conducive to a full-body baptismal dunking. For more information, please see the resources below.

Recommended reading:

Infant Baptism
Early Teachings on Infant Baptism
Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating
Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David B. Currie

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