Question about baptism and original sin

On another thread, a poster responded to a question regarding original sin with “There is simply an inability to respond to God because of a lack of grace…baptism is the normative cure for [this].”

As a Protestant teetering on conversion, I’d like a little more explanation regarding this, especially the inability to respond to God without baptism. If baptized outside the Catholic or Orthodox church, how does a Catholic explain a person’s desire to get baptized/saved/respond to God if no grace was presence in their lives because they were not baptized as infants?

Does the answer to this question, in light of the fact that no one can come to God without grace (I believe Protestants and Catholics agree on this point) and especially in light of the millions of non-Catholic non-Orthodox baptized Christians worldwide, suggest that God’s grace is given freely, without regard to baptismal status therefore contradicting the doctrine of original sin?

Please know that I’m not saying that baptism is not required for salvation, but if the purpose of baptism is to put a “mark of grace” on a person’s soul then I’m just having a hard time reconciling the fact that, obviously, God’s grace is lavished on many without such prior mark. I keep seeing it as a “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” kind of argument. :shrug:

I’m not trying to be antagonist…I’m just simply confused :blush:

Well, I’m not theologian, but what I did notice was the use of the word “normative” in the other poster’s response you shared.

That means there are other ways to receive grace.

Yes, that’s where I’m confused because “normative” would imply that it is the most common occurrence and that any other instances are not normal and are “abnormal”. I just don’t know if the doctrine should rest on that word because clearly MANY are drawn to God BEFORE baptism has occurred, thus implying that grace had been imparted to them prior to baptism. It’s seems rather normal for grace to have been imparted regardless of baptism, actually.

There’s no contradiction if you consider that there may be more than one type of Grace. The Catholic Church, following the teaching of St. Augustine, teaches that God calls everyone to repentance and conversion through a special form of Grace called Prevenient Grace. This is not Saving Grace - all the Prevenient Grace in the world won’t result in your salvation (though it may motivate you to accept salvation).

Not normative is “other” ways, not abnormal ways. You seem to be using the word as a pejorative. The most common way is through baptism, but less commonly it occurs in other ways. This in no way implies that these other ways are less legitimate, less acceptable, or less pleasing to God. Likewise, normative means common or usual.

Ahhh…that’s what I was missing! Thank goodness for prevenient grace as my mind was following the rabbit trail toward Calvinism :eek:

So, infant baptism just bypasses prevenient grace? I was sitting here wondering how this all worked when I clearly remember sitting on my bed reading my Bible as an adolescent/teenage and knowing that I wanted to be/needed to be a Christian when I had come from a home with no religion at all (other than being taken to church as a little child by my Christian grandmother who died a short time later). I knew there was no way that I ended up becoming a Christian without God’s grace but I was just trying to figure out how I got it in the first place when I obviously had not been baptized prior to that. :o

Me also confused at times.:wink:

There is grace and there is grace. Grace is the free and undeserved gift that God gives us to respond to our vocation to become His adopted children. What is known as actual grace is God helping us to conform our lives to His will. Sacramental grace and special graces such as charisms are gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us live out our Christian vocation. (CCC, Glossary, Grace, page 881) My humble understanding is that grace is part of God’s love for us from the moment we are conceived. I like to think of “grace” as the Good Shepherd looking for us.
Lord You have probed me, and You know me: You know when I sit
and stand;
You formed my inmost being; You knit me in my Mother’s womb.
How precious to me are Your designs, O God;
From Psalm 139

Regarding Original Sin. This act shattered humanity’s relationship with Divinity. Because of this, as descendants of Adam and Eve, we are born in the contracted State of Original Sin. We are deprived of Adam’s original State of Holiness and Justice. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases the State of Original Sin. Baptism places us in the State of Sanctifying Grace. In this State, we share in the Divine Life of the Trinity. In Baptism, “grace” is infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. In the State of Sanctifying Grace, we share in God’s own life. After all these years, I find that fact overwhelming especially when I receive Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.
(CCC, 404-405; CCC, Glossary, Sanctifying Grace, page 898; CCC, 1999)

The Catechism uses Original Holiness to describe the state of Adam. Today, that original state is known as the State of Sanctifying Grace.

Not for a moment did God abandon Adam and Eve. God immediately promised the Messiah and Redeemer – this is the traditional interpretation of Genesis 3: 15. Jesus is the fullness of grace. (John 1: 15-18) This does not contradict the doctrines surrounding Original Sin.

Links to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition

Hello slh,
You are correct that God bestows on many people graces for conversion without being baptized. The Catholic Church believes that God gives every human being sufficient graces to save their soul and we know that there are at least some people who haven’t had the gospel preached to them.
In regards to baptism, the Church believes that baptism is necessary for salvation as Jesus taught (John 3:5). Baptism confers on the soul sanctifying grace which is a permanent quality which God infuses on the soul and it also washes away original sin and all personal sins. Sanctifying grace is distinct from actual graces which are transient. God is always giving us actual graces to do good and to be converted but we can also resist those graces.
Though the Church teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation especially for those who are aware of the Church’s teaching and that of Christ, the Church also teaches of a baptism of desire. For example, people who have never heard of the gospel message can be saved through baptism of desire without actually receiving the sacrament of baptism. For God gives these people graces which if they cooperate with them they can be saved and if they knew that baptism was necessary to enter the Kingdom of heaven they would want to be baptized. They have baptism of desire and it has the same effects as actually be baptized, i.e., the bestowel of sanctifying grace and the cleansing of original sin and all personal sins.

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