My daughter has been routinely put on the spot by kids in her class for her doctrinal convictions. She does not accost her friends with her beliefs but is regularly asked how in the world she could believe that baptism is part of salvation.
She engages them in discussion and will give reasons and Scripture references for her beliefs, but will not resort to “endless arguments”. Neither of us feel it’s healthy to do so, and we are not there to debate issues, put people down, tell them they’re not saved–and neither do we feel that they are not followers of Jesus. We believe what the Bible says and we follow it accordingly, but we’re not trying to prove anything to those who believe otherwise.
For being young my daughter is spiritually minded and quite mature in her responses. My question is, just as other believers don’t want to be “judged” for their doctrinal beliefs, why do they tend to put us on the spot for our beliefs about baptism?
I know you’ve stated before that those who are inadequately taught about baptism fall under God’s grace, and I know what you mean. I’m not one who is eager to condemn those who don’t know better, intend to be baptized or just have never been taught but have lived their lives for God.
My issue is with those who have been exposed to the teachings about baptism, forcefully preach against it, and ridicule those who believe in it. They go overboard to try to prove that baptism is unnecessary and unimportant.
Do you have thoughts on why this is still such a hot button and how we should be responding? I grew up with friends who also thought my family was crazy for baptizing people. It tends to be those with Baptist roots and there is a real defensiveness and anger that comes through in their attitudes. Any input you have would be very helpful (and hopefully encouraging!).
Perhaps the best statement on the subject I’ve found is an excerpt from a sermon by Francis Chan —
What I love about his presentation is he cuts through the debates and microscopic distinctions and gets to the heart of the matter: just do what the Bible says: repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit.
I have to confess that I don’t understand the militance of some Baptists on the subject. Most Baptists whom I’ve encountered take from their teachings grace and acceptance of all fellow believers in Jesus. But a very few see the Baptist Church as the very best kind of Christian — which I guess is better than seeing one’s denomination as the onlyest kind of Christian — so we really can’t throw stones — but it’s still lacking in grace. And a few, in congregations with Landmark Movement roots, which share roots with our own Churches of Christ — see themselves as the only ones who get it right and please God. But that’s very unusual in my experience.
I’m no expert on how to persuade teens to act like adults — and in this case, better than their parents, in all likelihood. The temptation to vainglory, to see oneself as particularly pleasing to God and therefore allowed to look down on others, is all too common. And it’s all too common in the Churches of Christ, and not just the more conservative churches. Pride is a sin that infects us all, and the only means of removal for most of us is an humbling experience — and those are none too fun. No one likes to be humbled. And none of us has been anointed to humble others. That’s God’s job, and he can be quite good at it.
My advice is for your daughter to speak in simple terms of obedience. I would not debate when salvation comes or when the Spirit comes. I would only argue that after a sermon focused solely on Jesus and the Spirit, Peter urged repentance and baptism. We should do the same. We are not more inspired than Peter, and whether or not we understand all that goes into the command, we surely understand the command.
Obviously, Baptists believe the same thing. They may disagree as to the exact motivation for baptism, or the exact timing of the Spirit, but they believe that the proper response to the gospel is repentance, baptism, and receipt of the Spirit. So let’s agree that we agree and move on to more important topics: like now that we are Christians, how should we best honor our Savior with our lives?
Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, and David Lipscomb, indeed, nearly every Restoration Movement preacher in the early and mid-19th Century, happily accepted Baptist baptism as sufficient. Campbell himself declared that requiring a Baptist to be rebaptized makes one a “heretic” because it divides the church, the Baptists already being in it and not needing to re-enter! To say otherwise is to treat baptized, penitent believers as damned, which is certainly wrong.
Campbell himself was baptized by immersion as an adult to obey God, long before he realized that baptism is for remission of sins. He was never rebaptized. David Lipscomb was baptized because he wanted “to obey God.” Tolbert Fanning, the great Church of Christ missionary who planted the first Church of Christ in nearly every Southeast town, baptized Lipscomb, declaring that the best confession he’d ever heard!
So maybe her best response would be along the lines of, “I’m just glad we’re sisters in Christ who will be in heaven together forever.”
My own response tends to conclude with (and perhaps this isn’t advisable), “… and when we see Jesus together in heaven, I’m going to ask him that very question, and you are going to be so embarrassed when he answers.” Be sure to smile as you say it.
I look forward to the combined counsel of the readership.