A Response To "A Response"

Gordon J. Pennock
Brookfield, Ill.

Elsewhere in this issue we have from brother Roy Key a response to some strictures which I made upon certain of his writings, past and present, relative to the subject of baptism. That the reader may be brought up to date on the matter, we suggest that you re-read brother Key's articles, and mine, in the March and April issues of Truth Magazine, as well as the Mail-bag section of the June issue.

While we regret the tone of bitterness in this current article from brother Key, we are encouraged by apparent signs that our efforts have not been entirely fruitless. Our purpose in pointing out the inconsistency between his recent writings and those of the past was that some clarifications and adjustments would be forthcoming. We continue to pray, that whether they be mistakes or misunderstandings, that proper disposition will eventually be made of all of them, and that unity will prevail among brethren, and the Banner of Truth will wave victoriously.

"Essential" and "Arbitrary"

We shall respond to but one point in this current treatise from brother Key. We quote from paragraphs 3, 12, and 13:

"My usage of 'essential' and 'arbitrary' has been misunderstood or twisted, and I have been pictured as teaching what I have never taught, but have always repudiated . . . As for Brother Pennock's charge that I claim baptism is not 'fixed' and 'according to God's will,' because I deny it to be an 'arbitrary' command, I can but lay the facts before you. I have consistently used this term to mean 'capricious, according to whim or fancy, tyrannical, despotic.' I even pulled out my Thorndike's Century Senior Dictionary and read him the full definition: '1. based on one's own wishes, notion, or will; not going by rule or law. A good judge does not make arbitrary decisions. 2. capricious. 3. tyrannical.' . . . The unabridged dictionaries show other possible usages, but I employed the common one."

To be sure, we are not going to quibble as to which is the "common" usage of the word "arbitrary." Its commonness might vary in different regions. That it may be employed to mean "capricious, according to whim or fancy, tyrannical, despotic," none will deny. But, if this is the sense in which brother Key used it, then we may assume that he either heard or read the words of some gospel preacher who declared baptism to be a capricious, whimsical or tyrannical command of the Lord. If not, then what and whom was he opposing. If so, then we would be interested in knowing where, when and by whom was such teaching done. In 25 years of hearing and reading the writings of gospel preachers, I have never noted a single instance of such. They did stress baptism as an essential, positive and absolute condition of salvation, enjoined by Jesus as the absolute monarch of the Kingdom of heaven.

That the idea of essentiality or absolutism was being opposed by brother Key in his booklet, "The Law of Christ," seems quite evident from the context of the statement under discussion. Again we quote it in its revised form for the reader:

"Baptism, when regarded as an arbitrary condition of salvation has no place in the Christian era of grace. The comparison sometimes given of two men whose hearts are equally committed to Christ, having no difference, except one has been baptized and the other not, and ascribing salvation to the one and condemnation to the other is a speculative interest only to the legalistic mind."

May we ask, why should we not compare the baptized with the unbaptized, and ascribe salvation to the former and condemnation to the latter? Is that not what Jesus did when he said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mk. 16:16)? Emphatically, yes! To do this of course makes baptism an absolute obligation and an essential condition of salvation. It seems to be fully evident that this is the idea that brother Key is opposing. If so, then when brother Key used the word "arbitrary" he had the notion of essentiality in mind. If not then his whole paragraph is an enigma, with the latter sentence having no logical relationship to the former one. You, the reader, will have to be the judge of this, matter.

It is our fervent prayer that these discussions will lead us all to a clearer understanding of God's will and wisdom and to a better understanding of one another. Certainly we cannot "understand the working of a man's mind or conscience" except as it may be revealed through his words and actions. If our words and actions fail to reflect the real thoughts and intents of our hearts, we can rest assured that the "Father of all mercies," and "The judge of all the earth" will do right.

Truth Magazine II:1, pp. 8-9
October 1957