Aug 15, 2009

Debate Questions

Here are the questions I asked John on the first night of our discussion, when I was in the negative.

Question # 1

1. "What change of heart, soul, mind, or spirit, takes place in water baptism that has not already occurred at the point of penitent faith?"

I felt that this was the single most important question asked during the debate. It is the pivotal question to be asked in the discussion over what is the nature of the salvation or conversion experience. This question helped draw the line of distinction between what Baptists and what Campbellites or Restorationists believe about the nature, causes, and effects of the salvation experience.

In my second and third speeches on the second night, I summed up this difference by pointing out the condition of John (by his own admission) before he walked down into the waters of baptism. But, I will save narrating this summation in a separate posting.

Question # 2

2. Is water baptism essential for circumcision of heart and for entering the kingdom of God?

This too is an important question. It causes us to focus on what is denoted by "circumcision of heart." Those who are saved are the same as those who have experienced a "circumcision" in their inner beings, in heart, soul, spirit, or mind. This circumcision, I argued, is not primarily an external or legal action, non-experiential, but an internal or character transforming experience, describing the same phenomenon that is elsewhere described, in scripture, as being a rebirth, and resurrection, or new creation, and other such terms. I showed that these terms for conversion denote what occurs in coming to evangelical faith and repentance and, by their very nature, are experienced before water baptism. I argued that all believers, no matter when they lived, had experienced this inner circumcision. Abraham experienced circumcision of heart, but not because he had been baptized in water. The thief on the cross, who believed and turned to the Lord, and to whom Christ promised eternal rest in paradise, also experienced this inner circumcision, but not because he had been baptized in water. I gave other examples.

Question # 3

3. If being baptized is equated with being "begotten" of God, then how could Paul consistently say that he had "begotten" the Corinthians, while saying at the same time, that he had only baptized few of them? (I Cor. 1: 14-16; 4: 15)

I think this argument is irrefutable and speaks for itself. John's oral handling of this question was no better than his written answer which said - "He taught them they must be baptized. Such teaching is an essential part of the begetal process." I really need not say more.

Question # 4

4. If one loses salvation, does he become an "alien sinner" with need to have his "past sins" forgiven?

This question was a "hot potato" for John as it is for all his brethren. He at least must acknowledge that some "alien sinners" (those who lost their salvation) may be cleansed and forgiven apart from water baptism. I also argued that the baptism of the soul, mind, or spirit, into Christ and his blood preceded the baptism of the body, the latter being a symbol or outward expression of the former.

Question # 5

5. How were sinners saved under the Old Testament?

John's written answer - "By obedient faith" (Romans 4: 1-8)." l showed throughout the debate that obedient faith existed before water baptism and did not depend upon it for its creation, as John affirmed.

Question # 6

6. Was your faith living or dead before baptism?

John did not deny that his faith was "dead" before water baptism. This is the position of the "Churches of Christ" that John represents. Their faith, they say, was "dead" until they came forth from the waters of baptism. But, more on this point in other postings.

2nd Night's Questions for John Gentry

Question # 1

1. Did the thief on the cross contact the blood? If so, when and how?

He argued that the thief could "contact the blood" without water baptism because he was getting saved before the death of Christ, which is the precise point when water baptism would become a sine qua non of salvation. This would later become a problem for him for these reasons (expressed in rhetorical form):

1. Why is Nicodemus being told that he must be "born of water" (which to John meant water baptism) when Christ's death was years away? Shouldn't he be telling him simply to believe and repent? Or, does it not prove that "born of water" cannot be the result of John's baptizing?

2. Is John the Baptist preaching baptism "for the remission" of sins, then, or not?

3. Then none of the spiritual and salvation blessings enjoyed by O.T. believers was because of the New Covenant?

Question # 2

2. When and how does one eat Christ to life and salvation?

His written answer was - "When you believe and obey - John 6: 63 & Mark 15: 15, 16 for those who live under the Great Commission."

Thus, according to John, one does not ingest Christ into himself when he unites his heart to him in faith and repentance, but when you are baptized in water. Baptism becomes the true Lord's
Supper! The point when one eats the bread of life!

Question # 3

3. When do the spiritually dead hear the voice of the Son of God and live?

John said when they obey the word (final step), which is the act of water baptism. I showed that such a position affirms that the sinner was not obeying when he believed, repented, confessed, or came to love and know the Lord. According to John, all this occurred in the act of water baptism. This is when and where they heard the voice of the Son of God and came to "life." I thought this was such an outstanding absurdity that needed but exposing.

Question # 4

4. Is obeying God in water baptism a good work or work of righteousness?

John wrote - "Neither, the Bible says it is the work of God. Col. 2: 12"

I later made an argument where I said "I think John agrees that it is a good work and work of righteousness," but John later accused me of saying that I "misrepresented him." He argued that baptism was a "work of God." In taking this position, John was put in the position of 1) affirming that baptism is not a "good work" nor a "righteous work," and 2) of affirming that baptism is what God does, and not what we do. Thus, it is not a "work of righteousness which WE HAVE DONE," but a "work of righteousness which GOD HAS DONE."

From Eph. 2: 8-10 I showed how "good works," like water baptism, follow faith and the new creation, and thus his proposition is false, if baptism is a "good work." From Titus 3: 5 I showed how water baptism could not be equated with the "bath of regeneration" because this would contradict the part of the verse that says "not by works righteousness which we have done."

Question # 5

5. Does the word "baptize" always denote immersion of the whole person in water?

John said "no." This was later quite important, because, sometimes "baptized into Christ" simply means "placed into Christ" and this, I showed, occurred at the point of faith. I later showed how there are more passages that speak of sinners "believing into (eis) Christ."

Question # 6

6. Is Christ's baptism part of the "one baptism" (Eph. 4:5)?

John said "no."

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