Aug 16, 2009

Garrett's First Rebuttal

The following is part of what I presented (or intended to) in my first negative rebuttal.

"There are only a little more than a half dozen verses in the New Testament that are used to prove the necessity of baptism for salvation. This limited number is an argument against the essentiality of baptism for salvation.

Were water baptism essential, a sine qua non of salvation, then we would expect it to be abundant in scriptural testimony, and certainly more clearly stated.

When the terms of salvation were given to sinners, in the scriptures, they never excluded penitent faith. Yet, with regard to water baptism, we find it excluded in nearly all instances where an evangelist is giving to sinners the terms of pardon. For instance:

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." (Acts 3: 19 KJV)

"To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." (Acts 10: 43 KJV)

"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts 13: 39 KJV)

"And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." (Acts 16: 30, 31 KJV)

Here are four passages in the Book of Acts that are central to this debate. In all four passages the terms of pardon and salvation are clearly given. In each of them the terms are the same. Whoever believes and repents, or whoever has penitent faith, is pardoned and saved. There is no mention of water baptism.

If baptism is essential, then faithful evangelists and soul winners would never omit announcing all the essential terms of pardon. To omit one of the essential terms would be a crime.

Suppose a doctor were to give you a prescription for healing. Suppose this prescription had three conditions to it. Now, further suppose, that in giving this life-saving prescription, the doctor omits one of the necessary conditions. Would that not be criminal? Would that not doom the patient?

Certainly if it were not criminal, it would at least be negligence of the worst sort.

In each of the four scriptures I have cited, from the Book of Acts, where the evangelists are giving sinners the terms of pardon, they leave out water baptism. I argue that this omission of water baptism, rather than demonstrating criminality or negligence on the part of the first apostolic evangelists, rather demonstrates that they did not believe that water baptism was one of the essential conditions for pardon and salvation.

I dare say that my opponent and his brethren, who believe in the essentiality of baptism for salvation, never omit water baptism, when giving to sinners the terms of pardon. Do they not show how unlike they are to the apostles? Does it not show how they have added conditions to the conditions given by God through the apostles? Do evangelists with the so called Church of Christ give invitations where faith alone is mentioned and baptism is omitted?

I believe we have hundreds of verses in the Bible that state that penitent faith is essential to pardon. But, my opponent can only find a half dozen or so verses that we might say come close to affirming his proposition. This I believe is a weighty evidence against the essentiality of baptism for salvation.

Further, in the scriptures, we have an observable rule concerning the essential elements of pardon. It is this. For every thing necessary for salvation, we have both the positive and the negative statement.

For instance, is faith necessary for salvation? Do we have any positive statements for affirming faith as necessary? Certainly we do, and not only a half dozen, but a hundred or more. But, do we also not have the negative? Yes, in many places. For instance, John 3: 36 - "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

What about repentance? Are there positive statements affirming its essentiality? Yes, many. But, are there not also negative statements? Yes, Jesus said - "if you do not repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13: 3)

Now, I challenge my opponent to point to one verse where it is said - "he who is not baptized will be damned," or some other similar negative.

I not only find that there is no negative statement regarding baptism, but I can't even find a clear positive statement. My opponent has brought forth those famous few verses that seem to teach baptism is required for pardon, but, as we shall show, do not teach it.

This issue concerning the purpose of baptism is important. The consequences are enormous, in either case, whether the proposition of my opponent is true or false. If my opponent is correct, then every unbaptized believer is doomed. That person who believed on Christ and yet, through no fault of his own, is suddenly killed before baptism, is doomed if my opponent's proposition is true. No hope for anyone dying like the thief on the cross! Besides, seeing that the only proper baptism in the New Testament is done by immersion to penitent believers, a proposition on which my opponent and I agree, then his proposition, if true, dooms every believer in Jesus who was only sprinkled.

On the other hand, if the Bible does teach the necessity of water baptism for salvation, we should not shun to declare it. Certainly, as I have said, we should never omit it from our witnessing to sinners about the way of pardon. To do so would be a case of criminal negligence.

Does God have different ways of salvation and rebirth for people under the Old and New Covenants? Does he create the new heart and spirit differently now than he did in the days of the patriarchs? How did Abraham experience circumcision of heart? Through water baptism? No! Ergo. Water baptism is not essential to the experience of circumcision. Did the thief on the cross experience inward circumcision of heart? Yes. But, he was never baptized in water. Yes, he was baptized in the blood, when he put his faith in the blood, but he was never ceremonially baptized.

In the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, wherein Christ spoke of salvation as being all the same as "entering" or "seeing" the eternal kingdom of God, Jesus said that being "born of water and spirit" was an absolute requirement. That is to say, all the privileged entrants into the "kingdom of God" have been "born again" of the Spirit. There are no exceptions. Now, if this is so, then we can say that every saved soul has been "born of water and spirit," no matter what dispensation of time he lived.

Is Abraham one who will "enter" the "kingdom of God"? Well, then he was "born of water and spirit." Is the thief on the cross one who will "enter" the "kingdom of God"? Well, then, he too was "born of water and spirit."

Now, it contradicts the teachings of our Lord to say that Abraham, or the thief on the cross, was "born of water and spirit" in a manner different from how people today are "born of water and spirit." Jesus said all are born again the same way. In verse 8 Jesus said - "SO is EVERYONE who is born of the spirit."

Water baptism is important. Simply because I reject the view of my opponent about it being a necessary condition of pardon does not mean I do not recognize its importance in the life of a believer in Jesus. I believe my opponent has greatly overemphasized baptism's importance. He has taken an ordinance of Christ, intended as it is for the edification of believers, and made it into an essential means of grace, and in so doing has given it a significance far beyond that which our Savior intended.

And now let me say a few things about Alexander Campbell, the man who supposedly "restored the lost gospel" by being the first to teach, in modern times, immersion in order to the remission of sins, and who is one of the founders of my opponent's denomination, or those today who call themselves "Church of Christ," or "Christian Church," or "Disciples of Christ."

Campbell was first taught wrong on the subject of baptism, being a son of a Presbyterian Pedo-Baptist, Thomas Campbell, and did not believe in immersion of believers only. When he "saw the light" on this topic, however, he became a Baptist and was baptized by Elder Luce. At this time he did not believe that baptism was essential for pardon of sin or eternal salvation; And, what he said at this time, is what Baptists believe. Yes, Campbell did later go into error on water baptism, after becoming Baptist, but it was away from the truth as he formerly expressed it.

Here is what Campbell said, in his debate with McCalla, about baptism's relation to "remission" or "washing away of sins," when he was "sound" on that point. Speaking of water baptism, he said:

"I did not exaggerate its import as Mr. McCalla would have it. Nor did I elevate it so as to displace hope and charity."

Campbell, at this time, did not exaggerate the importance of baptism, for he was a Baptist. He recognized, at that time, that the importance of water baptism may be "exaggerated" and so "elevated" as to "displace hope and charity."

Ironically, within a short time after his debate with McCalla, he came to believe that water baptism did not simply remove sin formally or symbolically, but really, thus contradicting what he said in his debate with McCalla. In teaching this view Campbell did the very thing he warned against! He "exaggerated" the importance of baptism and "elevated" it to a level where hope and charity were displaced! Sending many believers to Hell for not being properly baptized, consigning every person to torment who was not immersed, is the very displacing of hope and charity that Campbell warned against! Such a view of the place of water baptism takes hope away from millions of believers and is uncharitable to believers who have not been properly baptized!

One other thing I find ironic about Campbell is the fact that he never was baptized, after he came to believe in baptismal regeneration, for that reason. The only baptism he ever knew was the one he obtained from Elder Luce. He never was baptized "in order to the remission of sins"! And yet this is the man, who with Walter Scott and Barton Stone, supposedly "restored" the ancient gospel! Will my opponent's "exaggerated" and "elevated" view of baptism's importance displace hope and charity as regards the salvation of Campbell?

Campbell said further:

"The blood of Christ, then, really cleanses us who believe from all sin. Behold the goodness of God in giving us a formal proof and token, of it, by ordaining a baptism expressly "for the remission of sins." The water of baptism, then, formally washes away our sins. The blood of Christ really washes away our sins. Paul's sins were really pardoned when he believed, yet he had no solemn pledge of the fact, no formal acquital, no formal purgation of his sins, until he washes them away in the water of baptism."

"The intelligent and well instructed Christian, however, is baptized to obtain the formal remission of his sins."

"He appointed baptism to be, to every one that believed the record he has given of his Son, a formal pledge on his part of that believer's personal acquittal or pardon..." (pg. 135-37)


is by definition a ceremony. A ceremony involves what is formal. Baptism is a ritual, as the Lord's Supper is a ritual. It is part of a believer's protocol or convention. It is what he does once he becomes committed in heart to Christ, and is intended to formally or ceremoniously express the fact, or confess it.

Baptism is also a "sacrament," but not as it is understood by Catholics, but in its proper signification, that of it being a "badge."

Baptism is the way in which disciples make a formal "oath of allegiance" to Christ, where they solemnize the heart's commitment and dedication. What does sacrament mean? The English is simply a transliteration of the Latin word "sacramentum" which means an oath. That is the basic meaning of a sacrament. It means an oath, an obligation, a vow. In legal terminology it means a pledge. For example, it means money deposited by the parties before a legal suit. That is, you pledge by paying this money before a legal case.

It was used of a military oath of allegiance. A military oath of allegiance was called the sacramento, when the Roman armies made their oath of allegiance to their country and to their emperor. This they sometimes did by the raising of their hands as you see today when a president takes an oath, or when somebody takes an oath in a court of law, symbolizing that he or she is doing this in all honesty and truth, with a good conscience. "I will speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

Baptism is intended to "solemnize," as I said, the previous confession and heart commitment. To "solemnize" means "to celebrate or observe with dignity and gravity. To perform with formal ceremony. To make serious or grave."

It is also intended to memoralize the heart commitment of the newborn Christian soul. Baptism, as Campbell said, is a "token" of salvation. It is a token in much the same way as is a wedding ring of a marriage. It is a symbol of salvation, a token of union with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection. Mind you that a wedding ring is not essential to the validity of marriage or to the union of hearts.

It is in baptism, as the scriptures show, that the believer receives his "badge," so to speak. He receives his symbol of authority. It is not what actually saves a man, but what publicly declares him to be so; much like a policeman does not become a policeman by his putting on a badge. The badge is the formal declaration of his already having been made a policeman. The badge has a purpose, but it is not what makes a person a policeman. Jesus was not baptized to make him "Son of God," but to declare it, or manifest it. So too with the believer. His baptism does not constitute him a "son of God," but formally declares it.

According to Galatians 3: 27 baptism is compared to putting on garments, especially symbolic garments, like, for example, a judge who puts on judicial raiment. The judge's raiment becomes symbolic of his position and status. It is not what makes the judge a judge, but it does have its purpose and effect. So too do Christians "put on" Christ in baptism, but it is not what makes them saved people but what demonstrates them to be so.

Baptism is also a personal testimonial. Recall the healing of the leper.

"And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them." (Mark 1: 44; See also Luke 5: 14)

Notice that this man was healed and cleansed of his leprosy before the Lord orders him to "go offer for your cleansing" the specified Mosaic sacrifice. The offering was because of actual cleansing, but in order to ceremonial cleansing, or to formal declarative cleansing. The ceremonial cleansing had nothing to do with the actual cleansing of leprosy. It was intended to be a way of saying "thanks" to God, of "testifying to" of "confessing" God's graciousness in salvation."

No comments: