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Why I’m Still a Baptist

November 26, 2013 3 comments

DeanGonzales-2008-e1315504931248Why I’m Still a Baptist

by Dr. Bob Gonzales

“Some of my best friends and my most admired heroes of the Christian faith believe in the practice of baptizing infants and bringing them into the membership of the church apart from any profession of faith. My love and respect for these dear brothers and venerable men of God has on more than one occasion inclined me to reconsider whether they’ve got it right and I’ve got it wrong.

But after “revisiting” the issue several times, I’m still a Baptist. I could offer several reasons. But one reason involves the teaching of a text that’s often overlooked in the Infant Baptism (Paedobaptism) vs Believer Baptism (Credobaptism) debate. That text is John 1:12-13. I’d like to make three observations on this text and explain why I believe it doesn’t support the idea of baptizing non-professing children of believers and bringing them into the membership of a New Covenant church.

Conferral of covenant sonship status under the New Covenant is limited no longer to the Jewish nation and is predicated no longer on natural descent but on supernatural descent, the fruit and evidence of which is saving faith in Jesus the Messiah. This is the point made by the apostle John when he writes, “But to as many as received him, He granted the legal warrant to become children of God, even to the ones who believe in His name, who were born not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the decision of a husband, but of God (John 1:12-13; author’s translation). Consider the following three observations and their implication for infant baptism and church membership:”

 

Read the rest here.

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Sprinkling Examined

broadusChapter 4. The Defense of Sprinkling.

In the face of such facts as have been stated, on what ground do any Christian people defend the practice of sprinkling for baptism? Well, some of them have really never known the facts, or never stopped to think about them. But others, with the facts before them, still defend sprinkling. Respect for my fellow Christians requires that this matter be as carefully considered as the time will allow. Yet I can but briefly mention and rapidly discuss.

There are several distinct grounds which are relied on by different classes of persons.

I grant that New Testament baptism was immersion, some hold that “the church has authorized a change.”

Yes; clinic baptism – baptism of a sick person in bed – began, as early as the third century, to be allowed by some ecclesiastics, e.g., Novatian. They poured water copiously around the dying or very sick man as he lay in bed. This practice arose from exaggerated notions of the importance of baptism. We should say, if the man was too ill to be baptized, it was not his duty; but they were afraid to let a man die without baptism, and as real baptism was impracticable they proposed a substitute which, by copious pouring, would come as near it as possible. There were many disputes as to the lawfulness of this, but it came by degrees to be generally recognized as lawful.

As the centuries went on there was gradual progress. The more convenient substitute was preferred in other cases than illness, was further reduced to mere sprinkling, and became increasingly common. It was long with-stood by Popes and Councils, but grew in popularity through the Dark Ages, until, in the thirteenth century, one thousand years after clinic pouring began, the Pope finally yielded, and authorized sprinkling in all cases.

So the Reformers found it. And, unfortunately for our modern Christianity, they did not insist on a change. Luther repeatedly said a change ought to be made, e.g., “Baptism is a Greek word, and may be translated immersion, as when we immerse something in water that it may be wholly covered. And, although it is almost wholly abolished (for they do not dip the whole children, but only pour a little water on them), they ought, nevertheless, to be wholly immersed, …. for that the etymology of the word seems to demand.” Again, he says that baptism does not simply represent washing for sins, but “is rather a sign both of death and resurrection. Being moved by this reason, I would have those that are to be baptized to be altogether dipt into the water, as the word means, and the mystery signifies.” So elsewhere (see Ingham’s “Handbook of Baptism”, p.89).

In like manner Calvin. In commenting on the baptism of the eunuch by Philip (Acts 8:38), he says: “‘They descended into the water.’ Here we perceive what was the rite of baptizing among the ancients, for they immersed the whole body into the water; now the custom has become established that the minister only sprinkles the body or the head. But so slight a difference of ceremony ought not to be esteemed by us so important that on account of it we should split the church or disturb it with quarrels. For the ceremony of baptism itself, indeed, inasmuch as it was handed down to us by Christ, we should a hundred times rather fight even to death than suffer it to be taken away from us. But when in the symbol of the water we have a testimony as well of our ablution as of our new life; when in water, as in a mirror, Christ represents to us his blood, that from it we may seek our purification; when he teaches that we are fashioned anew by his Spirit, that, being dead to sin, we may live to righteousness – it is certain that we lack nothing which pertains to the substance of baptism. Wherefore, from the beginning, the church has freely permitted herself, outside of this substance, to have rites a little dissimilar.” (“Calvin on Acts”, viii, 38). The ancients, in the time of Philip and the eunuch, practiced immersion; a different custom has now become established, the church allowing herself liberty.

The leaders of the Reformation in England attempted a return – not, indeed, to the full New Testament plan, but that of the Fathers in the third century. The rubric of the Church of England has always been, from the Reformation till now, “shall dip the child in the water, …. but if they certify that the child is weak, it shall suffice to pour water upon it.” This is essentially the principle of the old clinic baptism. And this the Greek Church also tolerates as an exceptional practice.

But among the Reformers, on the Continent and in England, the custom of several centuries, with convenience, etc., triumphed over those attempts, and pouring – nay, even sprinkling – became the common practice.

In this sense, then, the church ” has changed the act of baptism. On this ground the Roman Catholics stand – the church has changed it – so they always meet the complaints and censures of the Greek Church. And intelligent Romanists see exactly how the matter stands among us who are called Protestants. Thus the famous Dr. Döllinger says: “The fact that the Baptists are so numerous, or even the most numerous of all religious parties in North America, deserves all attention. They would, indeed, be yet more numerous were not Baptism, as well as the Lord’s Supper, as to their sacramental significance, regarded in the Calvinistic world as something so subordinate that the inquiry after the original form appears to many as something indifferent, about which one need not much trouble himself. The Baptists are, however, in fact, from the Protestant standpoint, unassailable, since, for their demand for baptism by submersion, they have the clear Bible text, and the authority of the church and of her testimony is regarded by neither party.” (“Kirche und Kirchen,” s. 337.)

I may remark here, that on this subject the Baptists belong to the majority. It is often objected to us that we are an insignificant minority of the Christian world, and it is a point about which we are not greatly solicitous. But if anybody cares greatly for majorities in such a matter, let him observe that, in contending for immersion as necessary to the baptism taught in the New Testament, we have on our side the whole Greek Church, and the whole Roman Catholic Church, and a very large proportion of the Protestant world, particularly of the Protestant scholars.

To return. This is an intelligible position. New Testament baptism was immersion, but the church has changed it. Accordingly, in the Church of England, few scholars ever, for a moment, question that baptizo means immerse or that the New Testament baptism was immersion.

The church has changed it. Very satisfactory for a Romanist, but how can a Protestant rest on this? Chillingworth, the Church of England scholar, left a dictum which has grown famous: “The Bible, I say – the Bible only – is the religion of Protestants.” Was this all a mistake?

John A. Broadus-Immersion Essential to Christian Baptism

The Greek ‘baptizo’ means immersion and nothing else

broadusChapter 3. A Correct Translation.

Does someone think our friend’s translation has misled him on this subject? That would be strange, for the translation certainly was not made by Baptists. The translation he reads, our cherished Bible, was made by Episcopalians, members of the Church of England. And what we Baptists ask of everybody is, Do read your own Bible, with your own eyes, and earnestly and prayerfully try to find out this matter, and all such matters, for yourself. But it is asserted that here the plain and obvious meaning of our English Bible is not the true meaning. That would seem matter of deep regret. Is it so that an honest inquirer, who has sense but not erudition, will be led astray on such a point by the common English version of the Scriptures that we all read. Still, it is insisted that our inquiring friend must not trust his own judgment of the meaning of his own Bible – he must ask scholars what the original means. For the sake of the argument, we consent that he shall do so.

This word baptize is said to be borrowed from the Greek baptizo, which is said to be the word invariably used where our version has baptize – what does that Greek word mean?

Well, whom shall we ask in our friend’s behalf? It is a question of scholarship. Therefore we ought to ask those who are unquestionably able and leading scholars.

And they ought to be, as nearly as possible, disinterested in regard to the matter in hand. Such are the conditions required when we refer any matter whatever to the decision of others.

Now as to the meaning of this Greek word, I will just consult, in our friend’s behalf, the three most recent standard lexicons, one of classical and two of New Testament Greek, which are acknowledged by all scholars as scholarly, scientific, and eminently authoritative. They are first, Liddell and Scott’s Lexicon of the Greek Language in general, prepared by two scholars of the Church of England; second, Grimm’s edition of Wilke’s Lexicon of New Testament Greek, published in Germany, and translated by Thayer, a Congregationalist scholar in this country; third, Cremer’s Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek, published in Germany and translated in England.

Liddell and Scott say (sixth edition), baptizo, “to put in or under water” (seventh edition, “to dip in or under water”). And they go on to explain various secondary and metaphorical uses as derived from this, e.g., to sink a ship, a man soaked in wine, over head and ears in debt, drowned with questions. They do not recognize or hint at any other meaning.

Grimm’s Wilke translates it, (I) “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, submerge;” then, (2) “to wash by immersing or submerging, to bathe, to cleanse with water,” adducing as examples Mark 7:4, and the cases of Naaman and Judith; (3) figuratively, “to overwhelm,” as with debts, misfortunes, etc. So much he gives as to the general use of the word. In the New Testament rite, he says, it denotes “an immersion in water, intended as a sign of sins washed away, and received by those who wished to be admitted to the benefits of the Messianic reign.” Grimm gives no hint of its meaning anything else.

Thayer simply refers to some works as giving passages from “the Fathers” in regard to “the mode, ministrant, subjects, etc., of the rite”; viz., as practiced by Christians of the early centuries, but makes no addition as to the meaning of the Greek word or its use in the New Testament.

Cremer gives as the general meaning, “immerse, submerge,” and says that, in the peculiar New Testament and Christian use, the word “denotes immersion, submersion, for a religious purpose.”

Such is the rendering of this word by the three most recent lexicons of acknowledged scientific value; the three which any competent scholar, if asked to recommend lexicons to a student of New Testament Greek, would be sure to name.

I might add that the two German commentators on the New Testament, who are the foremost of the century as to full and accurate scholarship, Fritzsche and Meyer, furnish like testimony as to the meaning of the word.

But why, it may be asked, do some Greek lexicons, besides the renderings “immerse”, “put in or under water,” etc., give the meaning “pour”, “drench”, etc.? The classical lexicons which give this meaning base it on such expressions as I have mentioned, viz., baptized with wine, sleep, misfortunes, debts, etc. Now in these cases (all figurative, you will observe) some such other sense would be possible, perhaps appropriate – the idea then being that wine, debts, etc., are poured over one so that he is drenched with them – but certainly it is not necessary. This is shown by Liddell and Scott, who explain all such uses as derived from the primary sense of “put in or under water,” comparing such English expressions as soaked in wine, over head and ears in debt, etc.; and we may add, immersed in business, in study, sleep, debt, troubles.

Now an important general principle is here involved, a principle indispensable to all reliable interpretation of language, namely, this: We are not at liberty to assign to a word a new meaning, quite different from its primary and established meaning, until we find some passage which absolutely requires it. Examples in which such a new and different meaning would be possible, or even appropriate, or even most natural, will not justify our assigning it as long as the established meaning will suit even tolerably well. Only when the common meaning is impossible or utterly unsuitable is it proper to give a new and very different meaning. Unless this principle be followed, interpretation of language, I repeat, becomes utterly uncertain and unreliable.

Now it cannot be said that the notion of immersed in debts, etc., is an unnatural or unsuitable image. To say that the other conception of having debts poured over one would also fit, is nothing to the point. We must, of course, hold on to the common and recognized sense so long as that will answer. It will thus appear that the classical lexicons in question have no right to give such a meaning as “pour,” because it differs widely from the established and familiar use of the word, and the examples they cite do not require, and therefore do not warrant, any such meaning. As to the lexicons of New Testament Greek, which claim that some passages in the Bible justify the meaning, “pour,” I shall speak afterward. Such, then, is the testimony of the leading lexicons.

To this I need add but one fact, namely, the practice of the Greek Church. Their rule is, and always has been, to immerse. I myself saw a child thus baptized in a Greek church at Scanderoon, or Alexandretta, at the northeast corner of the Mediterranean. An educated Athenian, belonging to the Greek Church, in conversing with me laughed to scorn the idea that their Greek word baptizo can mean sprinkling or pouring. Now the Greek is not really a dead language; scholars in Germany, England, and America are every day seeing this fact more clearly, and recognizing more fully its importance.

I remember when at Athens, a Scottish gentleman who had spent most of his life in Greece and had given very close attention to the language, told me of his own accord that, although a Presbyterian, he thought the Baptists were quite right about the meaning of the word baptizo; and he hunted up a book, in modern Greek, on natural philosophy, in which I found the word repeatedly employed. The Greeks usually leave this as the sacred word and take other terms for common actions. But this writer, in describing the mode of determining specific gravity, explained that we first weigh a body in air, and then immerse it in water and weigh it thus, being suspended by a cord; and this action of immersion he constantly and naturally describes by “baptize.”

There has been published in this country a copious and valuable lexicon of Greek usage in the Roman and Byzantine periods, from B.C. 140 to A.D. 1000, by Professor Sophocles, of Harvard College, who was himself a Greek, long resident in America. He defines baptizo as meaning to dip, to immerse, to sink, and then gives a great variety of uses, all explained as having this same force, e.g, soaked in liquor (intoxicated), sunk in ignorance, bathed in tears, he plunged the sword into his own neck; then, derivatively, to bathe. And as to the New Testament use, he says expressly: “There is no evidence that Luke, and Paul, and the other writers of the New Testament put upon this verb meanings not recognized by the Greeks.”

This, then, is the practice of the Greek Church and this the testimony of the living Greeks who belong to it. The word involved is to them not foreign, but their own word. And one of their constant complaints against the Latin Church – the Church of Rome – is that this has altered the ceremony of baptism. A modern Greek scholar has said: “The Church of the West commits an abuse of words and of ideas in practicing baptism by aspersion, the mere statement of which is in itself a ridiculous contradiction.”

Soon after the taking of Constantinople, five centuries ago, as we learn from Dr. Döllinger (Kirche und Kirchen, p. 188) and others, a council of Greek patriarchs agreed, not that they would practice pouring or sprinkling, but that they would recognize it in the Westerns as valid baptism. They were almost ruined, in danger of being utterly swallowed up by the conquering Turks, and wanted to make friends with the Latin Christians. But at a later period the Greek patriarchs retracted this. It is still observed in Russia, but those to whom Greek was the native language could not stand it. They said that instead of a baptismos the Latin Church practiced a mere rantismos – instead of an immersion, a mere sprinkling. To a man who spoke Greek every day this was “a ridiculous contradiction.”

Such, then, is the evidence which may be given our unlearned friend from scholars, the lexicons, and the living Greeks concerning their own word. Much more might be added in the way of confirmation, but he would probably say: “Well, it is plain that I can trust my English Bible. What these great scholars say – none of them Baptists – and what the living Greeks say and do accords exactly with the impression I got from my own Bible; and so the evidence is enough; I care for no more.” He, for his part, might stop there, being concerned only to determine his own conduct. But I have another and a different task to perform.

John A. Broadus-Immersion Essential to Christian Baptism

Infants are not to be church members just because their parents are

March 22, 2013 2 comments

broadusIt may be well to state briefly what I understand to be the leading distinctive views of the Baptist churches. The fact that certain of these are more or less shared by others will be remarked upon afterward.

2. We hold that a Christian Church ought to consist of only persons making a credible profession of conversion, of faith in Christ. These may include children, even comparatively ye children, for God be thanked that these do often give credible evidence of faith in Christ! But in the very nature of the case they cannot include infants.

The notion that infants may be church members because their parents are seems to us utterly alien to the genius of Christianity not only unsupported by the New Testament, but in conflict with its essential principles; and we are not surprised to observe that our Christian brethren among whom that theory obtains are unable to carry it out consistently; unable to decide in what sense the so-called “children of the church” are really members of the church and subject to its discipline.

The other notion, that infants may be church members because so-called “sponsors” make professions and promises for them, seems to us a mere legal fiction, devised to give some basis for a practice which rose on quite other grounds. Maintaining that none should be received as church members unless they give credible evidence of conversion, we also hold in theory that none should be retained in membership who do not lead a godly life; that if a man fails to show his faith by works, he should cease to make profession of faith. Some of our own people appear at times to forget that strict church discipline is a necessary part of the Baptist view as to church membership.

John A. Broadus-The Duty of Baptists to Teach Their Distinctive Views

John Tombes’ Catechism on Baptism Pt 11

37. Have not all opposers of Infant-baptism, been wicked in the end?

Blessed be God, experience proves the contrary, though some here to fore proved seditious, and entertained great errors.

38. Is there any good by Baptizing Persons at Age, which might not be, though Infant-baptism were continued?

Yes, For thereby they would be solemnly engaged to adhere to Christ, which is a strong tye on the Consciences, when it is done by a Person understandingly, according to Christ’s mind, besides the assurance thereby of Union and Conformity to Christ, and Righteousness and life by him, Rom. 6.3,4. Gal. 3.26. 1 Pet. 3.21.

39. What are Christians to do when they are Baptized?

To associate together in Church-Communion, and to walk according to their engagement, in obedience to them, who are over them in the Lord.

40. Are Persons so joined to serarate from those they have joined to upon deficit in outward order and Ordinances, or variation from the Rule therein by Pastors or People?

No, Unless the evil be such in Faith, Worship, or Discipline, as is not consistent with Christianity, or the estate of a visible Church, or is intolerable oppression, maintained with obstinacy, after endeavours to cure them, to which end each member should keep and act in his station.

A Short Catechism about Baptism by John Tombes, B.D.

Heb 6.2. Of the Doctrine of Baptisms. Luke 7.35. But Wisdom is justified of all her Children. London: 1659

John Tombes’ Catechism on Baptism Pt 10

33. Is not the Infant-baptism sufficient if it be avouched at age?

It is not a sufficient discharge of their obedience to Christ’s command, which requires each Person to be Baptized after his own Repentance and believing in Christ, Mark 16.16. Mat. 28. 19. Acts 2.38. Ephes. 4.5.

34. What is the chief end of Baptism?

To testifie the Repentance, Faith, Hope, Love, and Resolution of the Baptized to follow Christ, Gal. 3.27. Rom. 6.3,4. 1 Cor. 15.29. calling upon the Name of the Lord, Acts 22.16.

35. How came Infant-baptism to be common in the ChristianChurches?

As Infant-communion came from mistake of John 6.53. So Infant-baptism began about the third Age of the Christian Church, from mistake of John 3.5. the opinion of its giving Grace, and the necessity of it to save the Infant dying from perishing, and after Augustin’s time became common, which before was not so frequent.

36. Is there any evil in it?

Infant-baptism tends much to harden People in presumption, as if they were Christians afore they know Christ, and hinders much the Reformation of Christian Churches, by filling them with ignorant and scandalous members, besides the great sin of profaning God’s Ordinance.

A Short Catechism about Baptism by John Tombes, B.D.

Heb 6.2. Of the Doctrine of Baptisms. Luke 7.35. But Wisdom is justified of all her Children. London: 1659

John Tombes’ Catechism on Baptism Pt 9

29. Are there not Infants of Believers Disciples, by their Parents Faith to be Baptized? Mat. 28.19. Acts. 15.10.

No: For the Disciples there are only such as are made by Preaching the Gospel to them, nor are any termed Disciples, but those who have heard and learned: and the putting the yoke, Acts 15.10. was by teaching Brethren, ver. 1 and therefore the Disciples, ver. 10. not Infants.

30. Are not the Infants of believers visible members of the Christian Church, by a Law and Ordinance, by God’s promise, to be God to them and their seed, and precept to dedicate them to God, unrepealed?

There is no such Ordinance or Law extant in Scripture, or deducible from the Law of Nature, nor are Infants any where reckoned as visible members of the Christian Church in the New Testament.

31. Hath God not promised, Gen. 22.16,17,18. to make every believer a blessing, so as to cast ordinarily Elect Children on Elect Parents, and thereby warrant Infant-Baptism?

The promise doth not pertain to any believers seed but Abrahams, who are, Heb. 6.12,13,14, Gal. 3.8,9. Acts 3.25. expounded to be Christ and true believers only, who are to be baptiszed, not their Infants, till they themselves believe in their own persons.

32. Did not Christ appoint, Mat. 28.19. the Disciples to Baptize Children with Parents, as the Jews did Proselytes?

If the Jewish Baptism had been the pattern for Christians, the Apostles would have so practised, but their not so doing, shews they understood not it to be Christ’s mind.

A Short Catechism about Baptism by John Tombes, B.D.

Heb 6.2. Of the Doctrine of Baptisms. Luke 7.35. But Wisdom is justified of all her Children. London: 1659