Essays On The Scriptures

By Steve Wolfgang

Baptism And Salvation

In an article discussing the definition of baptism, which appeared in this journal some time ago, we noted that “many who would leave baptism so undefined also deny the necessity of the act for salvation.” Such individuals ignore or pervert passages such as 1 Peter 3:21 (“the like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us”) or Mark 16:16 (“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”). We recently heard an illustration of such an effort on a television program regularly featuring Jerry Falwell (of “Moral Majority” fame). A guest speaker on that program made the following argument. “It is true,” said he, “that one should be baptized, but it is not absolutely necessary, because in the phrase ‘He that gets on a plane and is seated shall arrive at his destination’ everyone recognizes that getting on the plane is essential to reaching the destination, but sitting down is not; one will get to the destination whether he sits or not, as long as he gets on the plane. Now, any fool knows you ought to sit down, but it is not necessary” (chuckles from audience).

Those familiar with the past controversy on the role of baptism will recognize this as nothing more than a warmed-over re-hash (though modernized somewhat/ of an “argument” made popular by the Baptist debater Ben Bogard.(1) Bogard was an Arkansan who was perhaps as well-known a half-century ago as Jerry Falwell is today. He used an earlier version (involving a train) to construct the following “parallel:”

He that believeth and is baptized shall he saved

He that gets on the train and sits down shall go to Little Rock

Bogard argued that while there are advantages to sitting down once one is on the train, one will still arrive at the destination whether he sits or not; likewise, while one should be baptized, it is not absolutely necessary since he is saved by faith only regardless of what else he may do.

If one were to dignify such an argument by replying on a serious level, one could simply point out that an analogy (even a good one, which this one is not) does not prove a proposition; it merely illustrates (and then only if valid). If you have no doubts about the validity of this analogy, try that line on the stewardess the next time you fly and see where it gets you.

However, the best answer may be the one used by W. Curtis Porter, a gospel preacher, to reply to Bogard’s illustration. If one diagrams what Bogard, Falwell, and many other denominationalists actually teach (“He that believeth is saved and can be baptized if he chooses”), and parallel that with the inane plane or train illustration, it comes out like this: “He that gets on the train is in Little Rock already and doesn’t need to sit down!”(2)

We conclude this article simply by pointing out that from the very first preaching of the gospel of Christ on the day of Pentecost, people who inquired as to what to do to be saved were told, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins.” When one studies the history of the early church and the letters written to those churches by Christ’s apostles, one learns that this was a universal requirement for salvation and for inclusion in the body of the saved, the church. We are simply trying to teach the same thing today. Have you obeyed this fundamental command?


1. Bogard made this argument in some of his later debates (for instance, with N.B. Hardeman in 1938 at Little Rock, pp. 136-7, 156; with Eugene Smith in 1942 at Dallas, Texas, p. 150; and with W. Curtis Porter in 1948 at Damascus, Arkansas, pp. 311-312!. Often, as in the Smith and Hardemen debates, Bogard would save the argument for late in the debate, even introducing it in the last negative speech of the Smith debate, where no reply was possible at the time. In his earlier debates, as with Joe Warlick !a written debate published serially in the Gospel Advocate in 1914!, he argued instead that Mark 16:16 is a spurious passage (pp. 43, 52f., 62f). However, in other debates with denominationalists such as LN. Penick and Aimee Semple McPherson, he freely used Mark 16 as an authoritative passage. This vacillation lead N.B. Hardeman to characterize Bogard’s views on the subject as “off again, on again, gone again, Flanagan” (Hardeman-Board Debate, pp. 146-147).

It is interesting to read Bogard’s account of his encounters with Hardeman, Smith, Porter, Warlick, C.R. Nichol, and other gospel preachers whom he debated, in his biography, The Life and Works of Benjamin Marcus Bogard, by L.D. Forman and Alta Payne (Little Rock, Arkansas: Seminary Press, 1966, 3 volumes). Volume II, pp. 17-135 contain his reminiscences of debates with many of those he styled “Campbellites.”

2. Porter also pointed out that Bogard’s own “parallel” makes even faith non-essential, since he paralleled it with “getting on the train.” Bogard simply reminded him that one does not have to get on a train to go to Little Rock; there are many ways by which one may travel – foot, horseback, wagon, or, to use our modern Baptist’s version, airplane. Thus, even if the “analogy” were valid for the elimination of baptism, it would also eliminate the necessity of faith in order to be saved (Porter-Board Debate, pp. 327-328).

Porter used the same line of reasoning to refute the train argument made by Glenn V. Tingley of the Christian-Missionary Alliance at Birmingham, Alabama, in 1947 (pp. 106, 120-21).

Guardian of Truth XXVI: 6, p. 85
February 11, 1982