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True2Ourselves Forums   > Community Topics > Theology  > Jimmy Akin: What’s the Right Way to Get Baptized?

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Old 01-01-2014, 04:11 PM
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Arrow Jimmy Akin: What’s the Right Way to Get Baptized?


What’s the Right Way to Get Baptized?

By Jimmy Akin
Source: What's the Right Way to Get Baptized?


In the Protestant community, one of the main principles is sola scriptura—the idea that we should do theology “by Scripture alone.”

There are a number of problems with this idea, and we can illustrate some of them by asking a simple question: “What’s the right way to get baptized?”

This is a revealing question, because there is no place in the New Testament that directly addresses it.

As a result, different groups in the Protestant community have proposed different ways of administering baptism:
  • Some hold that one must be immersed—or dunked—in the water for a proper baptism.
  • Others hold that the water should be poured.
  • Some say that sprinkling it is okay.
Which of these is right?

Straining for Clues

Determining the proper mode of baptism from Scripture alone is quite difficult. Since there are no passages that directly address the question, people must strain to find clues in the text.

Books have been written with detailed arguments proposing that the few clues Scripture gives us point in a particular direction, but these books do not agree on what that direction is.

Why This Is the Case

The reason that these books are indecisive is that Scripture simply does not try to tell us the proper mode of baptism.

The documents of the New Testament were written for people who were already baptized Christians, so they knew how it was done. They had been baptized themselves.

As a result, the New Testament documents expect the reader to look to the practice of the Church to discover the proper mode of baptism.

They do not expect him to apply sola scriptura.

It Would Be Nice . . .

Still, it would be nice if we had first century evidence regarding how baptism was practice among the first Christians.

And we do. It’s just not in Scripture.

Instead, it’s in a document known as the Didache, which served as a kind of manual of Church discipline. It dates to the first century, and it covers a variety of questions. On the subject of baptism, it says:

And concerning baptism, baptize this way:
  • Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water.
  • But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot in cold, in warm.
  • But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.
But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whatever others can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before [Didache 7].

Several Modes

One of the striking things about this passage is that it offers several different options for how baptism is to be performed.

It expresses a preference to baptize “in living water.” This means running water.

If that’s not possible, though, it is possible to baptize in standing water, though there is a preference for cold standing water over warm standing water.

If sufficient quantities of water aren’t available for the baptizer and the baptizand to stand in then simply pouring water over the head three times is sufficient.

Unanswered Questions

This passage does not answer every question we might want to ask about the mode of baptism.

It doesn’t, for example, tell us precisely what kind of baptism is envisioned in the first two cases. We know that the document prefers baptism in cold, running water, but how is that supposed to be done?

Should we envision people being immersed in such water? Or should we imagine them standing in it and having water poured on their heads three times?

The document does not tell us.

But it does reveal that baptism was done in more than one way and that pouring was one of those ways.

Learning More

This is one of the many interesting things you can learn by reading the writings of the early Church Fathers.

If you’d like to learn more from them, you should check out my book The Fathers Know Best.

It covers many fascinating questions and what the early Christians had to say about them.
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Last edited by CatholicCrusader : 01-01-2014 at 07:56 PM.
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Old 01-01-2014, 04:14 PM
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Arrow Re: Jimmy Akin: What’s the Right Way to Get Baptized?



Jimmy Akin

Catholic Answers' Senior Apologist

Jimmy Akin was born in Texas and grew up nominally Protestant. At age 20 he experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, Jimmy started an intensive study of the Bible, but the more he immersed himself in Scripture, the more he found it to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he was compelled in conscience to enter the Catholic Church, which he did in 1992. His conversion story, “A Triumph and a Tragedy,” is published in the book Surprised By Truth.

Akin is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a member on the Catholic Answers Speakers Bureau, a weekly guest on the global radio program, Catholic Answers LIVE, a contributing editor for Catholic Answers Magazine, and the author of numerous publications, including the books Mass Confusion, The Salvation Controversy, The Fathers Know Best, and Mass Revision.

His personal blog is www.jimmyakin.org.
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Old 01-03-2014, 06:36 AM
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Default Re: Jimmy Akin: What’s the Right Way to Get Baptized?

I don't know if it's "evidence" of how baptisms then were performed or how they should be now; but it's said Jesus came up out of the water. That suggests strongly to me that he had been immersed although it doesn't mention immersion specifically.
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Old 01-03-2014, 07:54 AM
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Default Re: Jimmy Akin: What’s the Right Way to Get Baptized?

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I don't know if it's "evidence" of how baptisms then were performed or how they should be now; but it's said Jesus came up out of the water. That suggests strongly to me that he had been immersed although it doesn't mention immersion specifically.
I think that is an example of straining to find clues in the text as the OP says.
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Old 01-03-2014, 08:02 AM
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Default Re: Jimmy Akin: What’s the Right Way to Get Baptized?

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I think that is an example of straining to find clues in the text as the OP says.
You call that straining? I can't really think of any other way of him coming up out of the water unless he had been immersed, can you? I'm open for other possibilities if you can present them.
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Old 01-03-2014, 08:21 AM
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Default Re: Jimmy Akin: What’s the Right Way to Get Baptized?

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I don't know if it's "evidence" of how baptisms then were performed or how they should be now; but it's said Jesus came up out of the water. That suggests strongly to me that he had been immersed although it doesn't mention immersion specifically.
And that proves nothing, because we believe that immersion OR pouring is acceptable. But nowhere does the Bible say that immersion is the only acceptable method.
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Old 01-03-2014, 08:53 AM
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Default Re: Jimmy Akin: What’s the Right Way to Get Baptized?

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And that proves nothing, because we believe that immersion OR pouring is acceptable. But nowhere does the Bible say that immersion is the only acceptable method.
It gives us a clue what the word means. We have other evidence too about the word itself means. The first known use of the Greek word was by some fellow named Nicander telling people how to make pickles. From OrthodoxWiki.com:

The word baptize derives from baptizo, the transliterated form of the Greek word βάπτειν or baptivzw. In a historical context, it means "to dip, plunge, or immerse" something entirely, e.g. into water. Although commonly associated with Christian baptism, the word is known to have been used in other contexts. For instance, a 2nd century author named Nicander wrote down a pickle recipe which illustrates the common use of the word. He first says that the pickle should be dipped (bapto) into boiling water, followed by a complete submersion (baptizo) in a vinegar solution. The word was also used to explain the process of submerging cloth into a colored dye. The Christian ritual of water baptism traces back to Saint John the Forerunner, who the Bible says baptized many, including Jesus. Certain forms of baptism were practiced in the Old Testament. Additionally, baptism was practiced in some pagan religions as a sign of death and rebirth.

Saying the Bible doesn't say immersion is the only acceptable method is a little naive. The word itself means immersion.

The article also accurately describes the practice of immersion as the Jews practiced it in the mikveh.

In the Tanakh and tradition of the teachers of the Torah, a ritual bath for purification from uncleanness used to be required under specified circumstances in order to be restored to a condition of ritual purity. For example, women after menses, and after a number of blood-free days following child-birth, were washed in a ritual bath, called a mikvah. Those who became ritually defiled by contact with something infectious, would also use the mikveh as part of their healing. Washing was also required for converts. Through practices such as these, immersion in the mikveh came to represent purification and restoration, and qualification for full religious participation in the life of the community (Book of Numbers Chapter 19). Traditional conversion to Judaism also requires a mikvah, so for converts Jewish initiation is in some ways similar to Christian initiation, although the term baptism is not used to describe the Jewish conversion.

The Gentile convert was considered to have be a new person when he emerged from the water. He no longer was to consider his natural parents as his real parents. He had been adopted in the family of Israel.

You might even say he was considered to have drowned under water and was resurrected.
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Old 01-03-2014, 09:04 AM
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Default Re: Jimmy Akin: What’s the Right Way to Get Baptized?

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It gives us a clue what the word means. We have other evidence too about the word itself means.........
That can be a misleading path to take when interpreting scripture. Words have more than one meaning, and then after that can have different meanings in different cultures.

If I wrote a letter and said that Mickey Mantle stole third base, and someone read that letter 2,000 years from now, they might know the definition of the word "stolen" but they will never have a clue what I actually meant unless it is read in the context of our culture.

The technical definition of the word baptisma is not as important as what the author meant to say is.
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Old 01-03-2014, 09:30 AM
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Default Re: Jimmy Akin: What’s the Right Way to Get Baptized?

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Originally Posted by CatholicCrusader View Post
That can be a misleading path to take when interpreting scripture. Words have more than one meaning, and then after that can have different meanings in different cultures.
I do not think theologians should redefine words to mean whatever they want them to mean.

Scholars are often delighted when an obscure word used in the Bible is found in secular literature since it provides a clue about its meaning.
Quote:
If I wrote a letter and said that Mickey Mantle stole third base, and someone read that letter 2,000 years from now, they might know the definition of the word "stolen" but they will never have a clue what I actually meant unless it is read in the context of our culture.
Most languages allow for both figurative and literal meanings.

Quote:
The technical definition of the word baptisma is not as important as what the author meant to say is.
I take the words as written in the Bible to pretty much mean what most people of the time meant when they used that word. The problem with theologians is that they want to redefine things. I could make the Bible mean anything I wanted it to mean if I changed the definitions of words.

Jimmy Akin could just as well have asked, "What's the right way to get immersed?" The words mean the same thing.

The Bible also contains only a few instances of what to say when baptizing. For some reason or another, most Christians reject most of the instances and stick to the formula in Matthew.

Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 8:16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

Acts 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.


Yet some people say a baptism that does not follow the Matthew formula is invalid. People can argue about almost anything.

Last edited by Giuliano : 01-03-2014 at 09:32 AM.
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Old 01-03-2014, 09:56 AM
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Default Re: Jimmy Akin: What’s the Right Way to Get Baptized?

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......I take the words as written in the Bible to pretty much mean what most people of the time meant when they used that word.......
What's important is what the AUTHOR meant to say.
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