Arguments on receiving the heterodox into the Orthodox Church through Baptism

These beliefs are called heresies by the Church of the Saint Apostles (that is, the Orthodox Church).

The term heresy means choice, option and denotes the individual choices of some persons or communities, who distort the Truth (the Truth that is accepted by the whole congregation of the Orthodox Church). Namely, the supporters of such pseudo-faiths are called heretics. There is a wrong widespread impression, though, that these terms are contemptuous or that they label someone but, obviously, they do nothing more but describe a state of the art and by no means are they contemptuous or do they label someone.

According to the Holy Scriptures, the Sacrament that paves the way for salvation is Baptism. (He said to them: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16, 15-16).

It is remarkable, though, that according to the very words of the Savior himself, the genuine, redeeming baptism is indissolubly related to the true faith, namely that faith that is in accordance with the Gospel which the Apostles preached and has been kept as such by the Orthodox Church ever since.

The above-mentioned reference from Mark 16, 15-16 is in accordance with Matthew 28, 18-20:

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying: All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”,

emphasizing the connection between baptism and true faith.

In this context, could we actually talk about a redeeming baptism in the case of people who aren’t Orthodox?

It is said that since certain heretics are baptized in the name of the “holy trinity” their baptism must be valid. But in which Holy Trinity do they believe in?

The Papists, for example, believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father but from the Son, as well, whereas the Orthodox believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father as Jesus Christ himself preaches in John 15, 26.

The Catholics (as well as the Protestants) do not believe in God working into the world through His uncreated energies, which consequently means that they do not believe that the Holy Spirit works through Baptism. It is obvious that both the Papists and the Protestants are heretics due to the fact that what they preach contradicts what the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Tradition preach about God and His relationship with mankind. As a result, the separation of those communities from the Orthodox Church is self-evident since they do not share the original teaching of the Gospel and all the Saints.

The Orthodox Church has always considered them heretics since they contradict the Gospel and the Saints in numerous ways. This means that they do not share the faith that the Apostles preached i.e. the faith of the Church of Christ; therefore their sacraments cannot be the work of the Holy Spirit, so their baptism cannot be valid, either.

Heretics’ baptism is invalid and fake as is their entire faith, which unfortunately discredits the Holy Trinity by stating numerous untruths about God and His relationship with the Creation.

According to the Holy Canons (starting with the Apostolic Canons), heretics should be baptized since they do not have the true Baptism. Also, any clergyman who considers the baptism or any other ‘sacrament’ of the heretics valid should be disordained (46th, 47th, 68th Apostolic Canons, Canon 7 of the 2nd Ecum. Synod, Canon 84 and 95 of the 6th Ecum. Synod, 1st Carhid Synod, 1st, 2nd, 20th, 47th Synod of Saint Basil, 15th Canon of the 6th Synod of Carthage).

Taking into account these specific canons, which are part of the foundations of our faith and which can be easily presented, taught and understood – any heretic who wants to become a member of the Orthodox Church should and must be baptized.

However, some local churches “receive” the heretics “into Church” by Chrismation. Also, some local churches baptize the heretics while other local churches only chrismate them. Consequently, some claim that because of this variety it is not really clear who should be baptized and who should only be chrismated. And it was stated that present state of the art should not be changed – that is, to be considered legitimate for heretics to be either baptized or chrismated only.

This claim, however, is totally inadequate and unacceptable for the Church of Christ. The Holy Canons state that if it is not clear whether someone has been baptized then he/she should be baptized so that they won’t be deprived of the armour of salvation. This is the reasonable thing to do, following the principle of caution, and even if the Holy Canons wouldn’t have clearly prescribed that still we should have been led towards such conclusions and practice by the mere care for the salvation of our neighbour.

Only the Orthodox who denied the Orthodox teaching by joining the heretics and return to Orthodoxy are being chrismated, after confessing and abandoning the heretic doctrines. The Sacrament of Chrismation restores the gifts of the Holy Spirit that they received at their first Chrismation (after baptism) and left them when they cut off their relationship with God by accepting the heretic doctrine. Right after Chrismation they receive the Holy Communion, approaching again Jesus Christ after being separated from Him by heresy.

As opposed to the case of a heretic who was never part of the Orthodox Church, it is obvious that Chrismation has no meaning since they had never been members of the Orthodox Church. As members of another “church” (in fact of a heretical “denomination”) whose sacraments are void, neither those peoples’ baptism, nor their chrismation was valid.

Therefore, in their case, Chrismation cannot “somehow” replace Baptism and anyone who claims such a thing ignores the role the Sacraments play in a person’s life and the life of the Church. The Sacrament of Chrismation offers to the baptized (with the true apostolic baptism, into the Orthodox Church) the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the benefit of the person and the community.

It neither restores the human nature, nor replaces Baptism. One cannot replace the Holy Communion and the Holy Liturgy with Chrismation.
The Holy Sacraments are not interchangeable. Not even the Holy Communion, the highest form of union with Christ, does not replace the other Sacraments, since every Sacrament has its own unique place, time, meaning, and purpose in the Church, as taught by the Holy Spirit.

In support of the Chrismation of the heretics instead of baptizing them, some invoke the 47th Apostolic Canon forbidding repetition of Baptism, but without taking into account the fact that the same canon provides that the priest who does not baptize those who received their “baptism” from the heretics should be defrocked. In other words, as also shown in the comments to the Canon, it forbids repetition of the authentic, valid (Orthodox) Baptism in faith (in the Holy Trinity as it is stated in the Creed) and form (the triple immersion)!

It is also said that since Chrismation of unbaptized heretics became a widespread practice it should start to be considered acceptable. But this argument is certainly not right in the sense that if we accept this then we should also accept that just because at certain times in history heresies got widespread then heresies should have replaced Orthodox faith. But what really happened those days was that God strengthened certain people to fight against heresies and overcome them. The Holy Spirit himself worked through those people and strengthened them while the majority wandered away from the Truth.

Besides, the argument that if something is performed by the majority of people then it is the right thing to do may lead us to think that perhaps we should become pagans since the majority of people are pagans.

Another argument of those who claim that Chrismation of heretics equals baptism is that Chrismation is the result of oikonomia (dispensation) as opposed to akribeia (strictness), the heretical “baptism” being accepted by the Church by means of oikonomia. But what exactly do we mean when we refer to oikonomia and akribeia in the Church? Akribeia means using the formally valid canons. Oikonomia means tolerance regarding the temporary, exceptional adaptation of the tradition for the spiritual benefit of persons who find themselves in exceptional situations. One can define oikonomia as the expression of the Church akribeia in specific pastoral and missionary situations.

In other words akribeia is the rule whereas oikonomia is the exception. Oikonomia is applied only with special occasions for a good purpose in unfavorable circumstances. True oikonomia involves a soteriological (salvation) meaning and leads to true faith despite any obstacles. On the other hand, a false understanding of oikonomia does not lead to true faith because by making an unwise adjustment to the Holy Tradition, thus not following their inherent order, one ultimately defies them and actually leads one far away from the Orthodox faith.

For instance, from the perspective of oikonomia, the Holy Canons allow the accommodation of animals inside a church building if, for example, they carry heavy loads and people might be in danger or when the animals might be injured or killed by a storm or by wild animals. But, apart from these specific circumstances, it is considered a desecration for animals to enter a church building.

Another example is the administration of the Orthodox baptism by pouring the holy water on the entire body of a person lying in bed whose triple immersion is not possible because of his or her illness. Here we have an adjustment of Baptism, which is completely necessary in the specific circumstance so that if the person dies, he/she would not go to hell. On the contrary, the case of not baptizing a heterodox, who is not ill or who has nothing to prevent him/her from being baptized in the rightful order of the Church and the Canons, is not considered oikonomia, but disorder. Turning the disorder into rule leads to schism and heresy.

Regardless of the times in which we live, as Christian Orthodox we should respect the Holy Tradition and we should always listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as it is expressed through the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Traditions.

The Holy Trinity does not contradict itself and it provides us with every means of salvation so that people can have the same opportunities for salvation in any era they live in. Salvation depends on the Holy Sacraments and the teaching of the Church about the Sacraments is quite clear and cannot be revised or adjusted. Trying to ‘revise’ or ‘adjust’ them is only an indication of either ignorance or unbelief of the people who do so.


If any bishop or presbyter baptizes again a person, who has been baptized or if he does not baptize the person desecrated by heretics: let him be thrown out as the mocking one at the Cross and death of the Lord and does not distinguish the genuine priests from a false. (46th, 68th Apostolic Canons, Canon 7 of the 2nd Ecum. Synod, Canon 84, 95 of the 6th Ecum. Synod, 1st Carhid Canon).

According to the Fathers’ provisions, we can also decide about children that if there are no true witnesses who can undoubtedly testify about these childrens’ baptism – since children themselves cannot answer whether they were given the Holy Sacrament of Baptism or not, due to their immaturity – then these children should be baptized so that there will be no doubt about their baptism and consequently they won’t be deprived of saintliness. [Carthage: 80]

Therefore if there were synods that stated that heretics (except heresy against Holy Trinity) may be received by chrismation only, three things should be made clear, according to the point of view of some theologians:

1. Such canons seem to have applied to some who were already baptized but fell into heresy and then returned through the confession of faith and the sacrament of Holy Chrismation.

2. If it were not so, Saint Basil the Great points out that this is not the accuracy of the Church, no Ecumenical Council can impose a canon that is contrary to the Apostolic Canons, which state that every heretic should be baptized. Τhe Ecumenical Canons, in order to reclaim their ecumenicity, must not be contrary to the Apostolic Canons.

3. A Canon, in order to be called ecumenical, has to express the Dogma of the Church. The Synod of the Eastern Patriarchs, held in Constantinople in 1753 under the chairmanship of Kollyvad Patriarch Cyril and the spiritual guidance of the Holy Auxentios the New Wondermaker (who had divine vision in this regard) decides to receive all the heterodox by Holy Baptism.

Dispensation (oikonomia) is temporary. Its role is to lead to strictness (akribeia). The 7th Canon of the Second Council is dispensatory. The Church cannot refuse baptismal to those who want it, whichever confession they may come from. Dogmatic minimalism (explicitly fought against by Saint Maximus the Confessor) of which relativist “baptismal theory” is part (affirming that if someone that takes part in heresy is baptised in the name of the Holy Trinity, that person’s baptism is valid, thus the person is a member of the Church) is against patristic thinking. One cannot be inside and outside the Church at the same time. Baptism is not an act of magic, having magical effects, thus the Baptismal ritual itself has no gracious effect if it is not done by a member of the Orthodox Church confessing orthodox faith and renouncing heresy (if it is the case). Saint Nicodemus the Hagiorite tells us that those heretics were admitted through Chrismation because of political issues, in order to save entire peoples from damnation, this was an act of dispensation. Now those reasons no longer exist, while most of those receiving only chrismation believe that their baptism was valid and have a syncretic ecumenist thinking, failing to understand Orthodoxy.


The 1st Canon of St Basil the Great and the position of Saint Cyprian of Carthage as expressed in the local Synod of Carthage (255-256), prescribe the baptism of all heretics coming to the Church; this has been adopted at an ecumenical level through the 2nd Canon of the Trullan (Quinisext) Synod, which means that it is applicable for the entire Church.

Ramsey, John G. The Church: Deifying Relations. Publisher ‎CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform 22 Jun 2018. Footnote 295 (pg. 73)


[..] when we had met together, bishops as well of the province of Africa as of Numidia, to the number of seventy-one, we established this same matter once more by our judgment, deciding that there is one baptism which is appointed in the Catholic Church; and that by this those are not re-baptized, but baptized by us, who at any time come from the adulterous and unhallowed water to be washed and sanctified by the truth of the saving water.



Cyprian of Carthage. Epistle 70, accessed at 18.03.2023,
Cyprian of Carthage. Epistle 71 , accessed at 18.03.2023,
Cyprian of Carthage. Epistle 72, , accessed at 18.03.2023,
Cyprian of Carthage. Epistle 73 , accessed at 18.03.2023,
Cyprian of Carthage. Epistle 74 , accessed at 18.03.2023,
Cyprian of Carthage. Epistle 75, accessed at 18.03.2023,
Epistles of Cyprian of Carthage, accessed at 18.03.2023

Cover photo: Baptism of the Lord (Orthodox Baptistery of Ravenna, mosaic)


Author Protopresbyter Matthew Vulcanescu

Original article here

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