A question has been raised regarding where my attentions have been. Well … I should think it would have been obvious. I’ve been busy watching Alabama beat Arkansas —
This has got to be one of the all-time great runs — any time, anywhere. I mean, freshman Trent Richardson broke four tackles by an SEC defense to score that touchdown. Oh, wow!
Let’s see. My earlier post defending my views on baptism have triggered a flood of comments (43 and counting). Stan asks whether he is the most annoying commenter. The answer is: you aren’t annoying at all. But we’ve had some SERIOUSLY annoying folks around here in the past. I mean, I know annoying. Disagreeing with me or others here is not annoying — it’s what makes the blog worthwhile and interesting. Annoying? Not even close.
Now, regarding baptism, let me suggest a different way of looking at the question. We seem to want to argue: Is baptism essential? This is a question that divides the Churches of Christ from the Southern Baptist Churches, and so we tend to focus on this one — as it’s an identity issue. Right? But it’s not really the right question. After all, the Baptists do get baptized. They even baptize believers by immersion. They just disagree with us over when salvation occurs.
I think our constant disputing with the Baptists has duped us into arguing the wrong question. We argue our differences — to prove ourselves right. But the truly important question to me is this: will God accept a less-than-perfect baptism? Now that’s a harder and, to me, much better question. You see, if God insists on a perfect baptism, well, many in the Churches of Christ aren’t saved. After all, most of us were baptized denying that we’d receive the Spirit’s indwelling as a result — which is very serious error. Does God’s grace cover that error?
And if God requires a perfect baptism, then does he also require a perfect faith in Jesus? Or perfect repentance? Or, I suppose, perfect hearing of the gospel? And which of these is the weightier element of salvation — faith in Jesus or baptism?
You see, the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians all think they’ve been baptized. They are astonished that we argue that one must be baptized when they are all baptized! What’s the point? they wonder. Most even agree on the necessity of baptism.
It’s easy enough to show that infant baptism or baptism that’s not for remission of sins is in error. It is. It makes the baptism imperfect. But does it make it no baptism at all? How much of a mistake makes a baptism void? Where does God draw the line?
Some would argue that baptism has to be perfect — or at least involve no misunderstanding of its meaning. And that argument damns most in the Churches of Christ. Some argue that God will overlook small errors — such as not going all the way under or a toe popping up or forgetting to say “for the remission of sins” or forgetting to say “into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” If so, then perfection isn’t the standard (thank God!)
So, anyway, the question that really matters — the one we rarely actually discuss — is, given that nearly all believers have been baptized imperfectly, what is God going to do with them?