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    Christian Theology - Thread: Is Baptism Just an Inert Outward Symbol?

    1. #1
      Josiah's Avatar
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      Question Is Baptism Just an Inert Outward Symbol?

      .


      Is Baptism simply an inert, ineffectual action or rite? A ritualistic act that God cannot use for anything? Perhaps symbolizing stuff or reminding of stuff but ineffectual of anything? Or does Scripture suggest that God actually can accomplish something via Baptism, that God can use it for something?


      NOTE: no one argued that symbolism is involved; the new view is that it is ONLY a symbol. Foot washing is a powerful symbol that Jesus instituted; but there is nothing in Scripture or the Early Church that suggests it is anything MORE than that. And so the ACT was never much emphasized or practiced, and nothing is said in Scritpure about it. The Anabaptist position is that Baptism is just such a pure symbol. No one disputes there is symbolism involved (Luther stressed such), the dispute is the dogma invented by the Anabaptists in the 16th Century that that's ALL it is. Much like foot washing.


      In the 16th Century, the synergistic Anabaptists overturned 1500 years of Christian faith by inventing a new dogma that baptism is an ineffectual, inert ritual that accomplishes nothing (spiritual or otherwise). They stressed that it is ONLY a symbol They invented an entirely new and never before heard of concept that "Baptism is visible, outward proof of the person choosing Jesus as their personal Savior, etc., etc." They repudiated and denounced every baptism in history and of every non-Anabaptist because this view was found nowhere but among the Anabaptist. Additionally, they invented several new prohibitions/mandates on the practice of Baptism: 1) A certain never-disclosed AGE must first be attained by the recipient ("Anti-Paedobaptism - no baptisms for children), 2) The recipient must first adequately prove they have chosen Jesus as their personal Savior ("Credobaptism"), 3) The recipient must first prove they have adequately repented of all their sins, 4) The recipient must have every part of their body entirely and fully immersed under water (Immersion Only Baptism). THIS thread is not about those prohibitions/mandates that they invented. There are already threads on these new inventions, but this is about their theology: Baptism is ONLY an OUTWARD symbol of inner good works performed by the recipient. In effect, they claimed that Baptism is what Christians had held Confirmation to be. It was a radical idea, a brand new one, reversing 1500 years of universal Christianity.



      What does SCRIPTURE say?


      I can find no Scriptures that state or indicate that Baptism is inert, ineffectual, just a symbolic ritual. IMO, that new Dogma (one of the defining, distictive dogmas of Baptists) is without any Scripture whatsoever. There is not one Scripture that remotely indicates that Baptism does nothing, accomplishes nothing, that it is SO stressed in the NT and SO important in the Book of Act and placed equal with teaching in the Great Commission, SO important in the Early Church because... well... worthless, not used by God. There is NOTHING in Scripture to support the Anabaptist's invented dogma of "ONLY an outward symbol of an inner good work performed by the recipient."

      But there are several Scriptures, that when taken together, suggest something quite different. IMO, I'm not sure one can create DOGMA here, but there certainly is a powerful implication that God DOES something via baptism,or at least that this can be a "means of grace" - something God can use to convey His gifts. Let's look at some...


      Acts 22:16

      Acts 2:38

      1 Peter 3:21

      Romans 6:3-4

      1 Corinthians 6:11

      1 Corinthians 12:13

      Galatians 3:26-27

      Ephesians 5:25-27

      Colossians 2:11-12

      Titus 3:5

      1 Peter 3:18-22

      John 3:5

      Acts 2:38

      Romans 6:3-4

      1 Corinthians 12:13

      Galatians 3:27

      Colossians 2:11-12


      A couple of quick notes: Nowhere in any of these is the word "then" or "after which" used; the word is "kai" (and) which only associates or connects things; it does not mean or imply sequence or chronological order Also the word "wash" in some of the above verses is a variant of the word "baptize" or "baptism."


      I admit no ONE verse above is indisputable or perspicuous, but together there is a strong indication.
      And equally significant is that we find nothing that indicates that it is a inert, ineffectual ritual; only a symbol.


      We need to also consider that Jesus, the Apostles and the Early Church gave great importance to this! Jesus places it along side of (and seemingly equal to) teaching in the Great Commission, for example. It seems less likely that it would be regarded as so very critical if it is an inert, ineffectual ritual that changes and accomplishes nothing at all. Jesus used the symbol of foot washing, for example, but that ACT was never given much importance and rarely practiced because everyone acknowledged it was a SYMBOL of something inward. Baptism could not be more different.




      What Did the Early Christians believe?


      Again, we find none prior to that synergistic Anabaptist in the late 16th Century who view Baptism as just an inert ritual, only symbol, but great things are ascribed to it. NOT EVEN ONE who spoke of baptism as "an outward act of an inner decision or good work." Below is just a tiny sample. Note that the context of each is WATER BAPTISM.


      The Epistle of Barnabas (A.D. 130) “This means that we go down into the water full of sins and foulness, and we come up bearing fruit in our hearts, fear and hope in Jesus and in the Spirit.”

      The Shepherd of Hermas (A.D. 140?): "they descend into the water dead, and they arise alive.”

      St. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160?) "And we, who have approached God through Him, have received not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it through baptism, since we were sinners, by God’s mercy; and all men may equally obtain it."

      St. Irenaeus (A.D. 190?). "And when we come to refute them [i.e. those heretics], we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole [Christian] faith."

      St. Irenaeus (A.D. 190?) "“Now, this is what faith does for us, as the elders, the disciples of the apostles, have handed down to us. First of all, it admonishes us to remember that we have received baptism for the remission of sins in the name of God the Father, and in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became incarnate and died and raised."

      St. Clement of Alexandra (A.D. 215?) "The same also takes place in our case, whose exemplar Christ became. Being baptized, we are illuminated; illuminated, we become sons; being made sons, we are made perfect; being made perfect, we are made immortal."

      St. Clement of Alexandra (A.D. 215?) "For it is said, “Put on him the best robe,” which was his the moment he obtained baptism. I mean the glory of baptism, the remission of sins, and the communication of the other blessings, which he obtained immediately he had touched the font."

      St. Cyprian (A.D. 255) responding to a man who was asking him the specific question of whether or not the pouring of water in baptism would be valid: "You have asked also, dearest son, what I thought about those who obtain the grace of God while they are weakened by illness – whether or not they are to be reckoned as legitimate Christians who have not been bathed with the saving water, but have had it poured over them."


      There are countless more. My point here is not the individual things here said, but the unavoidable and universal affirmation that Baptism is not an inert, ineffectual, mere ritual or pure symbol... Nowhere do we see any sense of it as some "outward ritual indicating a previous good work." Universally, baptism is seen as something God uses to accomplish something. Not until the late 16th Century.... not until the Anabaptists invented the new dogma of "Baptism Can't Do Anything" did ANY Christian agree with that view or even express it. The Anabaptist invention is found nowhere in the Bible and nowhere among Christians .... it is a radical new dogma invented by the radical Anabaptists in the late 16th Century, used to denounce and repudiate as invalid all baptisms that did not involve them.


      I am NOT saying this is a "slam dunk".... any more than say the Trinity. I'm only saying the suggestion of both Scripture and history is quite solidly on the historic side, and we simply find NOTHING in Scripture or history that supports the Anabaptist reinvention (nor did they even claim such). I wonder, too, about the argument that "it is OBVIOUS by the words in Scripture that Baptism in just a outward symbol of personal accomplishments and good works by the person." IF it's obvious, where are those Scriptures? And why did no one notice that for over 1500 years, if it's "OBVIOUS?"




      I welcome Scriptures that indicate that Baptism is ONLY an outward symbol of inner accomplishments; that it's sole function is to outwardly SYMBOLIZE a proven reality already accomplished.




      Thank you.


      - Josiah




      .
      Last edited by Josiah; 09-19-2019 at 01:33 PM.
      We are justified by works - just not our own.

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      closing thread for staff review.

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      Lämmchen's Avatar
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      Opening this back up...for those who wish to reply please keep in mind what the OP wishes to discuss.
      "Christianity does not require more work but more trust." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "Bearing fruit does not make you a branch. A branch is a branch because it grows from the vine." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "A Christian's life is not defined by what the Christian does. It is defined by Christ and what He has done for us." Pr. Rolf David Preus

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      Quote Originally Posted by Lämmchen View Post
      Opening this back up...for those who wish to reply please keep in mind what the OP wishes to discuss.

      THANK YOU!


      I want (and probably NEED) to be very, very clear....... I'm sharing the historic and most common perspective..... I'm NOT claiming Scripture specifically states anything.... I'm NOT claiming this is a "slam dunk".... the opening post doesn't claim to be RIGHT or anyone "WRONG." It IS claiming that the historic view has solid merit. And in that regard, only in a general sense of being a potential "Means of Grace" AND I am claiming the Anabaptist reinvention has much less (perhaps no) merit. But again, we're looking at a perponderence of evidence, not "proof" or "slam dunk." AND I realize that likely, no opinion will change. There are two very different starting points at work here - and unless those change, these views won't either.

      Keep in mind, too, this thread is NOT about infant vs. adult baptism, sprinkling vs. dunking, repentance, or any other topic. It's about the title.


      Like Lamm, I hope for a respectful, humble, "clean" discussion.
      We are justified by works - just not our own.

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      What does the OP say that baptism effectually does? Once that is established a dialogue regarding that claim can be addressed. Until then the topic is far too vague.

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      Baptism is a public celebration of something that has already happened.

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      Lämmchen's Avatar
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      Acts 2:38 states boldly that in baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. That right there shows that this is not merely a symbolic event but something actually happening to us.
      "Christianity does not require more work but more trust." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "Bearing fruit does not make you a branch. A branch is a branch because it grows from the vine." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "A Christian's life is not defined by what the Christian does. It is defined by Christ and what He has done for us." Pr. Rolf David Preus

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      Quote Originally Posted by JRT View Post
      Baptism is a public celebration of something that has already happened.

      Respected.


      That is the Anabaptist position, first theorized in the 16th Century. In the opening post, I invite/welcome/encourage Scriptures that so indicate or even suggest. So, I appreciate you agreeing with me that that IS the "other view", the reinvention.... but the is to present Scripture (and perhaps early Christians) to support the 16th Century invention.


      Thank you!


      - Josiah
      We are justified by works - just not our own.

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      The London Baptist Confession of faith from 1689 stated:

      Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3–5; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16) (1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith §29.1).

      It doesn't seem that the early church recognized baptism as being symbolic only or there would be numerous writings on the topic as proof.
      "Christianity does not require more work but more trust." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "Bearing fruit does not make you a branch. A branch is a branch because it grows from the vine." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "A Christian's life is not defined by what the Christian does. It is defined by Christ and what He has done for us." Pr. Rolf David Preus

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      Quote Originally Posted by Josiah View Post
      Respected.


      That is the Anabaptist position, first theorized in the 16th Century. In the opening post, I invite/welcome/encourage Scriptures that so indicate or even suggest. So, I appreciate you agreeing with me that that IS the "other view", the reinvention.... but the is to present Scripture (and perhaps early Christians) to support the 16th Century invention.


      Thank you!


      - Josiah
      What does the OP say that baptism effectually does? Once that is established a dialogue regarding that claim can be addressed. Until then the topic is far too vague.

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