By Larry Ray Hafley
“A new baptism ceremony proposed for eight merger seeking Protestant denominations would allow either full immersion or sprinkling but urges the seven `sprinkling’ churches . . . not to spare the water.
“The executive committee of the Consultation on Church Union (COCU), in authorizing the distribution of the rite for use and study, also suggested last week that baptisms is as appropriate for infants as it is for mature youths.
“It described the rite as Afresher@ in language than the traditional rite.
“Whichever baptizing method is used, and whatever the age of the candidate, enough water should be used >for it to he seen, heard and felt as a forceful material sign of. God’s active power,’ according to a background paper issued by the committee . . . .
“A common contemporary practice in sprinkling, the paper said, is for the minister to place his hand in the baptismal font, wet it, and place his wet hand em the person’s head either once or three times, while receiting ( sic) the baptismal words.
“Of the eight participating churches in (COCU, only the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) regularly baptizes its members by immersion and usually no earlier than. ages 10, 11, or 12.
“The other COCU participants, which normally use a sprinkling, or sometimes a pouring, method and permit baptizing of infants are The United Methodist Church, The Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church U.S. (Southern.), and . . . the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the AE Zion Church and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. The combined U.S. membership of the eight churches, is about 20 million . . . .” (John Dart, Courier Journal, Louisville, Ky., Dec. 25, 1972.)
To those familiar with the teaching of the New Testament, the above article is its own refutation. It needs no words to reveal its pitiful ignorance. However, the average citizen or sectarian is not informed. The “20 million” membership of the COCU is no doubt oblivious to the appalling absurdity of its baptism rite. The need for constant teaching of the most basic, fundamental doctrines of New Testament is argued in strong and eloquent term, by this “background paper.” If someone thinks too much emphasis is given to the action, design, and subjects of water baptism, show them this article.
The “eight merger-seeking Protestant denominations”what do they want to merge? They have the urge to merge eight Protestant denominations. When they get the urge to purge the denominations out of existence, they may accomplish something. Denominations, Protestant or otherwise, are not mentioned in the Bible. What Scriptures show us how to merge denominations? Surely, the Bible completely furnishes us unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). Where, then, is the Divine blueprint for blending numerous systems of faith? The apostles neglected to draw one up. The Architect of the church planned no denominational structures, hence, He needed no denominational plans or patterns of action.
What right has the “executive committee” to suggest doctrines and practices which transgress and do not abide in the doctrine of Christ? The committee’s rite “would allow either full immersion or sprinkling.” The committee “also suggested . . . that baptism is as appropriate for infants as it is for mature youths.” (But what is “full immersion?” The difference between immersion and “full immersion” is about as easy to explain as the difference between totally and “most totally.”) Sprinkling is not immersion, but immersion is baptism, therefore, sprinkling is not baptism.
Is baptism appropriate for infants? Appropriate means “fit or proper; suitable.” The only way to tell if a thing is appropriate is to see if it is scriptural. If it is authorized by the word of God, it is proper. Infant baptism is not thereby authorized. Nothing in the Scriptures even remotely “suggests” the propriety of infant baptism. So, it is not suitable, except, of course, to the “executive committee” and its ” 20 million” disciples. Well, if one cannot speak scripturally, he may as well use >fresher’ ” language.
If infants may be baptized as appropriately as “mature youths,” would it be proper to take an unbelieving, mature youth and baptize him? If he cried and kicked and screamed, could we still be “appropriate” and baptize him? Why not? Babies often do the same thing, yet they “baptize” them, so why not a mature youth? Oh, how I, would love to place my hands, “either once or three times,” on the executive committee while reciting scriptural words concerning baptism!
“Soak ’em Good”
The ” `sprinkling’ ” churches are urged “not to spare the water,” and to use enough water “to be seen, heard and felt.” With these suggestions, there is likely to be lots of water on the floor. Why, what better way to “see, hear and feel” God’s power than to splish and splash with reckless abandon C hallelujah! Before you know it, priestly robes will have to be waterproofed.
Sloshing water will certainly be “seen, heard and felt” when one is baptized after the New Testament order (Acts 8:38). Why did not the executive committee simply turn to the Scripture and make this matter clear in its “background paper?” But reading and heeding the New Testament is not a “common contemporary practice” of denominationalism, thus, methinks the “executive committee” ought to be “committed” for its unscripturally suggestive remarks.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:30, p.12
May 30, 1974