Monday, September 25, 2006

Over at St. Charles’ Place, there is a lively discussion of Baptism between Charles, Kelly Klages, and a Baptist sectarian. (EDIT: Turns out, the person with whom Charles and Kelly are debating is not a Christian at all, he (she?) is a Christadelphian.) (For those interested, the post is a follow-up to this one.) From the one of the comments of this sectarian, a typical Baptist misunderstanding of various NT events arose that I think needs addressing. The issue is the relationship of John the Baptizer’s administration of Baptism, Jesus’ Baptism, and the Baptism of Christian believers. Here is the comment:

First of all, regarding the thief on the cross, who says he wasn't baptised [sic]? Secondly, who is saved, who wasn't and who isn't, isn't up to mankind. God is the judge, not us. And if grace through faith saves all us non-thieves-on-the-cross, why was Jesus baptized? Why was John baptizing before Christ? If faith is all that's needed, why was the Ethiopian eunuch baptized after a confession of his faith?

Baptists make a very serious mistake of conflating John’s, Jesus’ and believers’ baptisms. In other words, John’s Baptism was a baptism of repentance, and (according to them) ours is also. Jesus’ baptism was an act of obedience, and (according to them) ours is also. Repentance and obedience are the two basic ingredients of baptism, in Baptist thought. Once this mistake is made, it is only logical that (in their system) Baptism must be done subsequent to a confession of faith. We Lutherans often argue this point with Baptists, but the argument seems to go nowhere with them, because we haven’t addressed the critical flaw. And the way we address the critical flaw is thus: Christian baptism has absolutely NOTHING to do with the baptism of the John the Baptizer.

John’s baptism was a Jewish ritual, preached and performed as a prophetic message pointing to the imminent arrival of Israel’s Messiah. It was indeed a message of repentance. But, according to St. Paul, John’s baptism had nothing in common with baptism as practiced by the nascent Church:

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"

They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."

So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?"

"John's baptism," they replied.

Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance.” He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus. On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. (Acts 19:1-7)

John’s baptism was important for the pre-Christian believers, but subsequent to Christ’s ministry, it was no longer adequate, for in John’s baptism, there were no promises. Paul makes an absolute, total and complete separation bwteen the two baptisms: one has NOTHING to do with the other. The Baptist teaching, therefore, that our baptisms are like John’s baptism, is contrary to the teaching of the Bible.

Second, what about Jesus’ baptism? His was an act of obedience, right? So ours should be, too, right?


Jesus’ baptism was “to fulfill all righteousness”. (Matt 3:15) While there may be a ritualistic cleansing component involved here (cf. Leviticus 1:9, and the washing of sacrifices), St. Luke quotes Isaiah in order to explain what Jesus’ baptism meant, in pointing out the anointing of the Holy Spirit. (cf. Luke 4:18 & Isa 61:1-2) Jesus’ baptism is the beginning of his ministry, when he proclaims the Good News promised by God in Isaiah 61.

So, no, Jesus’ baptism is most decidedly not about obedience. It is about the bestowal of the Holy Sprit, and the beginning of ministry. And just are our Baptisms. Which brings us to the third mistake Baptists mistake: the separation of water baptism from the Holy Spirit.

Ask any Baptist what Paul means in Romans 6, when he says that, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life,” and you will most likely get the answer that in this passage, Paul is not speaking of water baptism, but of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This separation of the two is among the most blasphemous and heretical positions the Baptists have in their theology. Let’s begin by explaining it.

Here is the Baptist reasoning:

Premise 1: If Romans 6 is talking about water baptism, then the implication is that something actually happens in baptism.

Premise 2: We know that nothing happens in baptism.

Conclusion: Therefore, Romans 6 cannot be speaking of water baptism.

Their cart outrunneth their horse. The fault of course is in premise number 2. Now some Baptists rather foolishly sidestep this issue by saying, “Oh, sure, Romans 6 is talking about water baptism, but it’s only symbolic.”

Only symbolic?! Then we only symbolically die?

No, folks, it’s a real death. It had better be. Jesus didn’t die so that we may not die. Jesus died so that we may live. We are not immortal in our current condition. We DIE. We rise again in Christ. We receive a new nature. Then we live forever.

But we have to DIE, folks. Baptist theology sidesteps this whole thing. There is no death in Baptist theology. Without death, there can be no life. This is why Baptist theology is heresy.

From premise 2 above, we know that Baptists don’t believe baptism is a supernatural act. From the “symbolic” argument, we know Baptists don’t believe that Christians must actually die in order to be “born again.” It’s just a symbolic death.

No, it’s as real as a bloody body on a cross, because it is HIS death that we die. We can’t survive on our own. To be sure, we die; I’m not saying we don’t. But if our death is not enclosed, encapsulated, clothed, wrapped in His death, then it’s permanent. No resurrection.

In a follow-up post, we'll deal with Baptism as a supernatural act.

posted by Kepler at 10:06 |


At 11/02/2006 09:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

Christadelphians are "Christians" in that they believe in and follow Christ. In what sense would they not be "Christian"?


At 11/02/2006 11:10:00 AM, Blogger Kepler

My understanding is that Christadelphians believe in nether the Divinity of Christ*, nor in the Trinity.

* By "Divinity of Christ" I am speaking of the classic Biblical Chalcedonean formulation of God in the Flesh, two natures: one human, one divine, indivisible.

Both of these doctrines are sine quibus non for being called a Christian.


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