AskDefine | Define affusion

Dictionary Definition

affusion n : the act of baptizing someone by pouring water on their head

User Contributed Dictionary



affusio, meaning "to pour on"


  1. The pouring of liquid.
  2. A method of Christian baptism where water is poured on the head of the person being baptized.

Usage notes

Sometimes confused with effusion, "an outpouring of liquid".

Extensive Definition

Affusion is a method of Christian baptism where water is poured on the head of the person being baptized. The word "affusion" comes from the Latin affusio, meaning "to pour on" . Affusion is one of three methods of baptism, in addition to total immersion and sprinkling, used by Christians. Christian denominations that baptize by affusion do not typically deny the legitimacy of baptizing by immersion or aspersion. Rather, they hold the more modest view that affusion is a legitimate, if not preferable, method of baptism.
Affusion and aspersion tend to be practiced by Christian denominations that also practice infant baptism. This may be due to the practical difficulties of totally immersing an infant underwater. However, Eastern Orthodox and some Roman Catholics practice infant immersion.

History of affusion

Affusion became the common practice in the church around the 10th century. However, it was practiced to a lesser extent prior to the 10 century. The earliest extra-biblical reference to baptism by affusion occurs in the Didache (c. 100 A.D.) The seventh chapter contains instructions on how to baptize which include affusion:
…But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit (emphasis added)
This text implies that early Christians saw affusion is a viable alternative to immersion when no living water (i.e. running water like a river or spring) or cold water is available.
Acts of various martyrs show that many were baptized in prison, while awaiting martyrdom; this would have made immersion infeasible. The most common use, however, was for ill or dying people who could not rise from their beds. It was consequently known as "baptism of the sick." Receiving this baptism was regarded as a bar to Holy Orders, but this sprang from the person's having put off baptism until the last moment -- a practice that in the fourth century became common, with people enrolling as catechumens but not being baptized for years or decades. While the practice was decried at the time, the extortions are not to baptize by immersion, but refrain from delaying baptism.

Affusion and the Bible

In the New Testament book of Acts, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is sometimes described, as a “pouring out” of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17,18,33; Acts 10:45). Luke, the possible author of Acts, uses the word "baptism" to describe a "pouring," which seems to indicate that the word "baptism" can refer to pouring and not just dipping or immersing. It may also indicate that Luke’s concept of baptism includes, or allows for, baptism by pouring. For instance, on Pentecost, the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit by having the Spirit “poured out” on them from heaven not by being dipped in the Holy Spirit until they were completely immersed.
Passages like these do not directly speak to the issue of water baptism because they are, strictly speaking, about baptism with the Holy Spirit. Affusionists think they indirectly apply to water baptism, though, by telling us something about the general concept of baptism, regardless of whether the medium of baptism is water or Spirit.
Affusionists see more evidence that Luke’s concept of baptism includes pouring by noting an additional possible connection between water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism. In Acts 10, Peter is “astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:45)). Peter responds by saying, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have" (Acts 10:47)).
Affusionists read Peter to be saying "by having the Spirit poured out on them, these people already have been baptized with the Spirit, so why not actually baptize them with water." They understand Peter’s words to imply that water baptism is a symbolic picture of the Holy Spirit baptism. If this is right, affusionists contend, then water baptism should be, or at least can be, by pouring because the baptism with the Holy Spirit that it is a picture of is by pouring.
affusion in Portuguese: Efusão

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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