Dumbing Down Baptism
By Dr Roger Copeland
Baptism is important. Your baptism is important! Yet, there is an attempt by some to dumb down baptism; to speak of it as though the candidate, mode, and authority do not matter. The source of this dumb down tactic may be surprising. Baptist people have Biblically and historically maintained that baptism is scriptural only when the candidate is a genuine believer in Jesus Christ, the mode is immersion, and the administrator is a scriptural church. Ultimately, behind all perversions of truth is Satan. Because baptism pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, Satan seeks to pervert it any way he can. He has many willing pawns.
The First Baptist Church in Springdale, Arkansas has a new twist on baptizing children. In their children’s department, they have a baptistery built inside a fire truck. You read it right – a fire truck. When the child is baptized, bells ring and confetti is sprayed on the child. The article this editor read said, “It’s a pretty big deal to get baptized in Springdale, Ark.” Silly me – I thought getting baptized in Ten Mile Creek was a pretty big deal! What child would not want to get baptized, saved or lost, if they knew getting baptized would set bells to ringing and confetti shooting into the air? A baptistery built inside a fire truck is a long way from the Jordan River in more ways than one. Baptism is dumbed down when it is portrayed as entertainment.
Another, equally disturbing, attack on baptism comes from the Henderson Hills Baptist Church (SBC) in Edmond, OK. Earlier in the summer, the church was set to vote on a proposal to eliminate baptism as a requirement for church membership. According to BP News, the pastor of Henderson Hills said, “Our concern is for Christians in two categories, those who physically cannot experience immersion due to a disability, and for those who are under the mistaken conviction that sprinkling is baptism.” The pastor continued, “We often sacrifice our opportunity to teach and influence those mistaken Christians by rejecting them or we unintentionally promote an unbiblical motive for baptism, making it little more than a rite of initiation into church membership. Why not allow them the blessings, responsibilities, and protection of church membership, and then teach, pray, and influence them towards biblical baptism?”
There was quite an outcry from Baptists people both inside and outside the state of Oklahoma. The “elders” of Henderson Hills Baptist Church later decided against bringing the issue to a church vote. The pastor said the elders were “no longer in consensus that we are ready to move forward.” In the articles I have read, the pastor never admitted any wrong. Instead he said, “We do not believe that the intent of the bylaw change is wrong but the concern exists that we may have been incomplete and we are out of time to even begin to discuss and possibly adjust it and meet the announced schedule. Because of this, we are not going to ask the church to vote on the proposal. We simply are no longer in consensus as a council.”
The Bible, to this editor, makes it clear that the church membership is to be made up of people that have been saved and scripturally baptized. The Great Commission given by the Lord states, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20). There is a logical order to the Commission.
The first church understood and practiced this order. They never envisioned that someone would say “yes” to Jesus, but “no” to baptism. Further, it is unfathomable that one would be saved and baptized but refuse to become a member of the baptizing church. Acts 2:41 states, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there added unto them about three thousand souls.”
The commands and pattern concerning baptism in the New Testament cannot be improved. Baptism is not to be put on a level with a game show. Baptism is not to be considered unimportant because people in the world do not agree with what we believe about it. Baptism is the command of the Head of the church, Christ Jesus. He left the rules that govern baptism and man is in no position to change them.
[This article originally appeared in the Missionary Baptist Searchlight, published by the Missionary Baptist Seminary in Little Rock, Arkansas, Volume 66, Number 1, October 2006. “Dumbing Down Baptism” was the topic of “Editor’s Notes” by Dr. Roger Copeland. It is reprinted here with permission from Dr. Roger Copeland.]