28 September, 2006

A Defense of Baptism by Sprinkling

What defense?

There are many people out there (i.e. billions) who argue that sprinkling is acceptable because a specific mode of baptism is never explicitly mentioned in Scripture. They go on to say that baptism is based on faith; the mode in which it's done is of no relevance. In an alternative universe void of divinely set rules and commandments, these would be perfectly acceptable platforms to preach from. Unfortunately, this isn't that universe.

I also recently had someone tell me that because I don't believe in the Trinity, a discussion on an appropriate mode of baptism is impossible. I once told my math teacher that because I thought his views on the death penalty were wrong, 2+2 would no longer = 4 and that I fully rejected his further teachings of basic arithmetic. The doctrine of the Trinity has no relevance in an examination of the existence, or lack thereof, of baptism by sprinkling in Scripture. Telling the world that oranges are green won't affect the colour of apples.

The discussion about which mode of baptism is acceptable starts and ends with the very definition of the word. It's an awfully simply solution to a problem hundreds and hundreds of years old:

English: Baptize
Greek: Baptizo
1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)
2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one's self, bathe
3) to overwhelm

Now, I don't claim any kind of mystical powers of deduction, but as far as I'm able to understand from the definition above, baptism means "submerge". Therefore, the logic goes something like this: Baptism is full immersion because baptism means to "submerge". Sprinkling doesn't "submerge". Therefore, sprinkling isn't baptizing because sprinkling doesn't "submerge".

In any normal situation containing any number of normal, logical conversations, this would be enough to end the debate. But with enough fighting spirit to make a football team blush, supporters of sprinkling trudge on. After exhausting all of their appeals to "faith" and "grace" and Tertullian quotes, they will claim a baptism conversation void by invoking the "You Don't Believe in the Trinity So We Can't Talk About Baptism" rule, all because the Trinitarian formula (Mat. 28:19) is a must for any baptism to be considered valid.

Note: I wonder why it's wrong to defend a single mode of baptism and yet make the formula a requirement.

Much like the definition of baptism, the embarrassing facts surrounding the required baptismal 'formula' aren't hard to miss. Every time the Bible records the name or formula associated with an actual baptism in the New Testament, it describes the name Jesus. All five such accounts occur in the Book of Acts (the history book of the early church):

The Jews - Acts 2:38
The Samaritans - Acts 8:16
The Gentiles - Acts 10:48
The disciples of John (rebaptized) - Acts 19:5
Saul/Paul - Acts 22:16

References or allusions to baptism in Jesus' name - Romans 6:3-4; I Corinthians 1:13; 6:11; Galatians 3:27 ; Colossians 2:12; James 2:7.

Houston...come in Houston...

Anyone fervently defending the use of the Trinitarian formula in baptisms would be left with no choice but to claim these baptisms in Acts null and void. (Gasp) Did anyone ever tell Paul his baptism wasn't legit?

The baptisms were obviously accepted by God, and for obvious reasons: "...it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." (2 Corinthians 1:21-22) "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied." (1 Peter 1:2) It's God the Father who has used Jesus Christ and his Spirit to work in the life of a believer. The so-called "formula" is surprisingly absent from the Bible given it's importance.

I don't know if Scripture could possibly be any clearer: Sprinkling isn't an acceptable mode of baptism because sprinkling doesn't submerge. The Trinitarian formula isn't necessary because there are numerous baptisms which occurred without the phrase ever being used.

There is no defense to baptism by sprinkling.


Blogger Piper said...

If we really want to be Biblical about it I think we should fly over to Israel and get baptized.

July 29, 2007 11:50 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Why would we do that?

August 05, 2007 6:53 PM  

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