Tuesday
Mar082011

From Where I Stand: Baptism

Although nearly every group in Christendom and its fringes employs water baptism for some purpose, there is hardly unanimity about the subject. Differences arise in mode (immersion, sprinkling, pouring, metaphorical), purpose (forgiveness of sins, infant protection, church membership) and urgency (immediately upon belief or reserved for a certain church-wide day). It is not that the Bible, however, is as unclear as its apparent adherents make it seem. In the New Testament, we find that baptism could be  accomplished in a river, where there was much water, not by dipping fingers in a font (John 3:23). We find the baptizer and the penitent going down into the water, indicating again its volume (Acts 8:38). In the New Testament, we are told by none other than the apostle Peter that baptism is “for the remission of sins” and is “an appeal to God for a good conscience” (Acts 2:38, First Peter 3:21). Baptism, therefore, is done with a certain urgency; there is no pattern for convening a church council, nor even to wait at all until some future point of convenience (Acts 8:36-37, 16:33). Baptism is no mere ritual, but neither is it a meritorious, grace-nullifying work. Baptism is simply what the New Testament, not the creeds, say it is.