Baptizo - Immersion vs. Sprinkling

Discussion in 'Baptism' started by Coram Deo, Jan 15, 2008.

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  1. Coram Deo

    Coram Deo Puritan Board Junior

    I had a very interesting conversation this week with a Greek Eastern Orthodox Minister. He asked me where I went to church which struck up a conversation about Baptist and Presbyterians. I was explaining how presbyterians believe that you can sprinkle for baptism because they do not believe that the Greek word Baptizo means Immersion...

    He butted in and said "What do you mean that Presbyterians do not believe it means immersion", "They can't redefine OUR Greek word." "IT is Our Word, and We know what it means and it means Immersion."

    So Sprinklers, How would you answer this?
  2. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    I'm no sprinkler, but my answer is that in Scripture it obviously doesn't always mean immersion.

    I don't know about the particular minister you spoke with, but I've spoken with others. I find that their knowledge of the Bible is often quite limited. One I talked with was not aware of the Septuagint!
  3. GenRev1611

    GenRev1611 Puritan Board Freshman

    Hebrews 6:2 and 9:10 in the ESV speak of ceremonial washings. These washing did not require immersions.
  4. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    I don't mean to be rude or condescending but it should be obvious that no one 'owns' any word from scripture, past or present.

    In reference to 'baptizo' we must simply understand the word in its context and usage elsewhere. However the Greeks (or the Greek Orthodox) may use the word is largely irrelevant.
  5. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I am not sure we should base anything on what an Eastern Orthodox minister says. Whether for or against sprinkling or immersion.
  6. Bygracealone

    Bygracealone Puritan Board Sophomore

    Michael, my Michael, when will you stop kicking against the goads? :) Just kidding...

    Hey, if you haven't read the short work on baptism by Jay Adams, I'd encourage you to do so. I might have an extra copy laying around somewhere... Anyway, the title is "The Meaning and Mode of Baptism." In it, he does a solid job of refuting the notion that baptism always means immersion.

    Your brother in Christ our Lord,

  7. Answerman

    Answerman Puritan Board Sophomore

    I am convinced that is has a more generic sense like washing, or that it has multiple meanings. As GenRev1611 mentioned, as in Hebrews 6:2 and 9:10 it carries the meaning of the ceremonial washings carried out in the old testament, which were sprinklings.
  8. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Good to see a pastor instructing one of his flock. :up:
  9. Thomas2007

    Thomas2007 Puritan Board Sophomore


    I think you are confused, we do not believe that the Greek word "baptizo" does not mean immersion. What we believe is that the Greek word "baptizo," is not intended to teach an independent methodology as doctrine tied to the cultural definition of this word segregated from the Old Testament. Hence, we don't believe the Apostles intended us to frame the doctrine of Baptism rooted into Greek culture and not rooted into the Old Testament, so when we look at the Greek Old Testament we find the Greek word "baptizo," translating the ceremonials washings &c.

    Once you put priority upon method then whole other issues arise. Should one be immersed face down, or face up, or should it be a verticle immersion as the word properly ties to dipping cloth into dye? Should they be held under through the whole Trinitarian invocation, or brought up and re-immersed upon each Divine Name? In the history of the methodology debate, things like this are involved, because there are baptistic Churches in history that wouldn't accept your face up baptism, which is common in American baptistic culture, even though you were fully immersed.

    In the end we don't believe the Greek word is intended to teach methodology tied to the Greek cultural definition of the word.


  10. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner

    As a Baptist, even I don't think that the methodology was the point. In fact, the earliest Baptists were not immersionists. "Baptist" polity originally addressed the candidates for baptism (i.e., infants vs. believers), not the mode (the "who" rather than the "how"). Coming out of congregationalism, they assumed sprinkling in the early days. It is my understanding that the SBC requires strict immersionist practice now. Ironically, even Karl Barth argued that the early church practiced immersion, however.
  11. Thomas2007

    Thomas2007 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hello Dennis,

    I understand the issues completely as I was once a Baptist minister, raised a Baptist, my grandfather was a Baptist minister, my sister married a Baptist minister. I struggled against this for a decade if not more.

    The issue you bring up concerning paedobaptism vs credobaptism and the methodology are tied together though, because if the definition is properly tied to the Old Testament, and not the Greek cultural definition, then the issue is settled.

    The problem, of course, is that a Presbyterian Church would accept a properly administered immersion as being a valid baptism, where a Baptist Church would not accept a properly administered adult sprinkling or pouring as being a valid baptism. There the methodology is asserted as a priori necessity over the Trinitarian invocation.


  12. tellville

    tellville Puritan Board Junior

    The Eastern Orthodox not only Baptise by immersion they do it three times! In the name of the Father <dunk>, and the Son <dunk>, and the Holy Spirit <dunk>. This includes infants! Boy, are they screaming loud at the end! It was intense seeing it.

    While I do not think Baptism needs to be done by immersion, I find it interesting that the EO do it by immersion. I can't really think of any historical reason why they would have gone from sprinkling to immersion, while there are some reasons why the West possibly went from immersion to sprinkling (don't ask me, because I forget them now!).

    Yeah, arguing with the EO on Greek issues gets annoying. They refuse to listen.
  13. larryjf

    larryjf Puritan Board Senior

    [bible]Luke 11:38[/bible]
    The "wash" is baptizo...i doubt immersion was the normal custom of washing before dinner.
  14. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

    The thing that's consistently bugged me in debates surrounding "baptizo" is the insistence by some of my fellow Presbyterians that immersion is somehow a less valid mode of baptism than sprinkling. The converse error is still error.
  15. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner

    Thomas, I am still a Baptist minister and chair the committee that has examined the ordinands in our fellowship (at least the last 450 or so going back 26 years). I realize that most Baptists today tie the mode to the meaning (particularly in the SBC although generally so in most other Baptist bodies as well). My point was simply that originally mode was secondary to meaning in the minds of the earliest Baptists.

    It was not until the second/third generation of Baptists that the issue of mode arose. Since then, most Baptists will only accept immersion as normative, although there ARE exceptions.

    Again, generally true but not universally. One of the congregations I pastored (it ran about 500 per Sunday) insisted upon believer's baptism for anyone we baptized but accepted any mode for members who transferred from other evangelical churches. After 10 years it is difficult to remember if any of our members had been poured on, but several had been sprinkled. Of course we were not SBC which seems to take a firmer stand on the issue than practically any other Baptist body.
  16. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Just out of interest, would Baptists are that the "immersion" mentioned in the above verse would be that of the hands rather than of the entire body. Though I doubt that even hand washing at that time would have involved immersion. :confused:
  17. Coram Deo

    Coram Deo Puritan Board Junior

    My Apologies... I guess I sort of stuck my foot in my mouth and spoke before doing some research into the subject.... It is more complexed then I realized at first....

    I admit that the passages of 1 Corinthians 10:2, 1 Peter 3:18-19 and less with Hebrews 6:2, Hebrews 9:10, do present a problem for the immersion onlyism... But I need to study this out some more.... I looked up those passages to see what other immersionist have said on the matter and sadly I did not like their answers... They tried to dodge those passages by saying that it was either figurative or are obscured passages. I never like that approach and find it a slippery slope.

    Two questions though,

    1. How Hebrews 6:2 and Hebrews 9:10 be used against immersion? Can not various washings also be immersion? In biblical times they did not have running water from a faucet.. They had a wash bowl, etc... Did they not immerse their hands into the wash bowl for cleansing? or when washing feet, did not the feet become immerse in the wash bowl? What about the Jewish Proselyte Baptism? They did immerse, did they not?

    2. How does Pouring or Sprinkling symbolizes burial? We know that aleast with immersion when you go down you symbolize death to old self and when raised from the water you symbolize newness of life.. How does pouring or sprinking symbolize this?
  18. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner


    1. It may include immersion, but can refer to more than that.

    2. Baptism symbolizes union with Christ, which includes union in His burial, no matter what mode is employed it symbolizes that.
  19. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    The baptisms of the old testament included washings of couches.

    How does one immerse a couch?

    I think there's a chicken and egg thing going on here. Where does Scripture say that baptism symbolizes burial? Yes there is a connection between baptism and the death of Christ, but I think it's a stretch (created by the assumption that baptism means immersion) to say that the act of baptism needs to look like a burial. (also, where does the "raised to newness of life" require a "raising up from out of the water"?)

    Also, even if burial was to be symbolized somehow in the physical act of baptism, baptisms by dunking in the water look NOTHING like burials in Palestine, which are ABOVE GROUND, not burials as we in the west know them.

    Just two cents to start off..

    I second the suggestion that you check out Adams... it's really very good - or else "William the Baptist", which is an old publication but also a good discussion of what baptizo does and does not mean.
  20. Kaalvenist

    Kaalvenist Puritan Board Sophomore

    For myself, I tend to rely especially on Hebrews 9:10ff. to vindicate sprinkling. It's the "ff." that you should notice here ;) ... just keep reading from that verse, especially verses 13, 19, and 21.
  21. Bygracealone

    Bygracealone Puritan Board Sophomore


    Adams really does answer these questions very well. Give him a read...

    WRT baptism of proselytes, Adams quotes a guy by the name of John Scott Johnson who says:

    There is no assured evidence available that John or any other Jew of that time, knew anything of immersion as a Bible rite. It is stated that Jews in those days immersed proselytes, but this statement lacks historical proof. God told Moses how to receive proselytes (it was by circumcision--"When a stranger...will keep the passover..let all his males be circumcised'--Ex. 12:48,) and there is no adequate historical evidence that the Jews in Christ's time added anything to God's direction. If sufficient evidence ever appears that the Essenes (it is held that they immersed) or any other body of Jews practiced such an anomaly as immersion, such a repudiation of every Bible command and example relating to purifying, it would show only how far the Chosen People had retrograded, had fallen away from obedience to God. it would not prove that John--"filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15)--followed a procedure so entirely without Bible precedent, and with not a word of explanation or justification. He alleged no revelation calling for such a departure from all the related commands and practices of the Old Testament. But if John was ever guilty of such an irregularity, and if he was able to "put across" to the Pharisees and Sadducees such an oddity and that the Lord Jesus, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, in fulfilling "all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15)--which is obedience to law--would have submitted to a proceeding which was not commanded, was not prefigured, and utterly disregarded His own detailed instructions to Moses. Immersion is foreign to Bible usage, is not in the Bible picture anywhere.

    Commenting on this Adams goes on to say:

    ...True, there is evidence [from Edersheim] that at a later period the Jews laid down three requirements for the admission of proselytes: circumcision, a sacrifice, and baptism. But the sources for this are late, and by their time Jewish thought itself possibly may have been influenced by John the Baptist or even Christian practice...
  22. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Just to show you how unSBC I am, I did not even know that so many Baptist churches would not accept believer affusion. Where is this contained in any Baptist confession?

    Immersion may be necessary to administrate the ordinance properly, but that does not mean that immersion is necessary to the effectiveness of the baptism.

    I was sprinkled as a believer in the UMC so I guess I better rebaptize myself! :lol:
  23. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Todd, this is the passage:

    Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    I don't have a hard position on the mode issue. Just pointing out that burial symbolism is one of the things associated with baptism.
  24. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Immersion is in every Baptist confession of note that I know of, including the one you posted. The Bunyan view that immersion is not a prerequisite to the Lord's table and church membership has been a distinct minority view among Baptists, although it appears to be gaining more adherents lately. However, probably the majority of SBC churches today practice what amounts to open communion while restricting church membership to those who have been immersed.
  25. Sydnorphyn

    Sydnorphyn Puritan Board Freshman


  26. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner

    Chris, you are absolutely correct about the confessions requiring immersion. However, few Baptists in the official Baptist denominations care much about the Baptist confessions anymore. Much to my consternation, several of the Baptist groups pride themselves on being the Christians who are allowed to believe any fool thing they want to. The leadership of the ABC, for example, practically brags that Baptists believe in "soul competency" and are unfettered by creeds and confessions whatsoever. That is how they have been able to claim to be "evangelical" and still permit the ordination of active gays and lesbians as pastors (including "married" ones in MA). I sat in a hotel room with the current head of the ABC a couple of years ago as he explained to me that he had no power or authority to discipline doctrinal or moral deviation by pastors in the ABC. He claimed that in his role he had perfected the "queen wave" (indicating the officious, but powerless, ceremonial wave of the Queen of England as she travels--no offense brothers in Great Britian, it was his term). I not only know of ABC congregations that utilize other modes from immersion, some of them even baptize infants (granted these are typically "federated" churches that are made up of congregations aligned with both Baptist and non-Baptist denominations).

    Even the more conservative Baptist denominations (actually that is somewhat of an oxymoron since Baptists pride themselves on being autonomous congregations, NOT a connectional or hierarchical denomination) shy away from referencing, let alone USING the LBCF, The New Hampshire Confession, or the Philadelphia Confession. Few, other than an occasional Al Mohler, have attempted to recover confessional integrity at SBTS (e.g., the Calvinistic Abstract of Principles). However, even this only applies to teachers at Southern Seminary, NOT to congregations or pastors.

    Chris, you are certainly correct that anything other than immersion is a "distinct minority" view. However, when even "conservative" Baptists accept people with Presbyterian or Methodist baptism without requiring re-baptism and some (albeit very few) even practice infant baptism, it becomes VERY difficult to generalize.
  27. Robert Truelove

    Robert Truelove Puritan Board Sophomore

    You might want to listen to a recent lecture I did on the mode of baptism. It's a free MP3. Just go to Christ Reformed Church | Sermons & Audio and click the Sacraments category. Then you will see "What is the Proper Mode of Baptism?" on the list.

    Also, the message entitled, "What is Baptism?" may be helpful in that it addresses key differences in how Presbyterians approach the question as opposed to Baptists.

  28. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I'd tell him that just because I can read English and have read Shakespeare that it doesn't make me a Shakesperean scholar.

    I'd also note to him that his dorked up ecclesiology, sacramentology, soteriology, and just about every other -ology hardly gives me confidence that he understands what he's reading even if he can read the language.
  29. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Yes, every Baptist confession will say the proper *administration* should be by immersion, but where does a Baptist confession say that a baptism is made *effectual* by immersion. One travels a 'long and winding road' when he tries to tie effectiveness to administration.
  30. Thomas2007

    Thomas2007 Puritan Board Sophomore


    We view full immersion as representing total judgment, as in the Noahic flood and the Red Sea covering all of Pharoah's armies. Noah and his family were saved in the ark with the rain sprinkling down upon them (1) but bringing a flood of total judgment upon the world, yet saved from the destruction of the waters; the Israelites passed through the cloud through the division of the waters of the sea and being baptized therein and delivered from bondage. (2)

    Hence, we hold that total judgment is symbolized in baptism in Christ's death and burial, wherein we are being sacramentally baptized into that, thus our deliverance is symbolized in not being totally immersed, by Him being raised from dead.

    (1) "Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:" 1 Peter 3:20-21

    (2) "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;" 1 Cor 10:1-2
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