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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Baptists & the meaning of Water Baptism

It looks like some Baptists are starting to change their minds about the meaning of Water Baptism. Some seem to be leaving the theological tradition of Zwingly for a more sacramental view.

The Links:

Baptism in the New Testament By George Raymond Beasley-Murray

Stanley K. Fowler
Professor of Theology, Heritage Theological Seminary
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

It's good to see some Prespyterian(Auburn Ave, NPP, and Federal Vision) and Baptist groups leave Zwingly for a more sacramental view that is alot closer to the patristic biblical mind & interpretation of Historic Christianity.



Unknown said...

I've seen a lot of good signs coming out of almost all quarters of Protestantism in the last few years; there seems to be a definite trend toward looking to the Fathers and early Christians, as well as an increasing awareness of the spiritual dryness which lack of mysticism and sacramentalism produce. Let's pray the trend continues.

Jnorm said...

I agree!


Chris Schelin said...

For what it's worth, we Baptists were a rather more sacramental and communal bunch until Enlightenment anthropology began to really seep in during the nineteenth century. Early Baptists used the terms "ordinance" and "sacrament" interchangeably and, being of the Reformed tradition, followed Calvin in ascribing greater significance to the dominical sacraments than what is typical now. For baptism in particular a helpful book tracing the history of Baptist views on the rite, and the recovery of sacramentalism (particularly among the Brits) is Stanley Fowler's More Than a Symbol.

As for Zwingli, he is often misunderstood and the so-called Zwinglian-symbolic position is hardly what Zwingli had to say. It is quite clear, for example, that he had a very dynamic view of the Lord's Supper and didn't take some silly "real absence/it's like a visual aid...that you can eat" stance.

Jnorm said...


Thanks for the info about the early Baptists, however, in regards to Zwingly not being associated with the low church symbolic view goes against everything I have read, and so I will need to know your sources.

I'm not saying you are wrong, and I know that it's easy to error when reading tertiary sources, even with secondary sources. And so the best sources would be the actual primary works. However, I would like to know where you are geting your info from......for what you are saying about Zwingly is something new to me.

Until I know for sure that Zwingly didn't have a symbolic view then I will continue to assume that he did......just so you know for future references. I'm not saying I don't trust you. It's just that what you are saying goes against everything I read, and so I will need to know your sources.



あじ said...

The first PDF is fairly defective, at least on the first page. Aland did not refute Jeremias at all, and in fact his entire "refutation" amounts to a massive argument from silence. The author assumes too much. He also errs in making baptismal regeneration normative in the 5th century, when in fact Justin Martyr was teaching it in the middle-2nd. I'm glad the author is taking a fresh look at things, but he's got a long, long way to go.

Hebrews tells us that baptism is elementary, yet Protestants have been arguing about it for centuries. How can we trust their advanced "systematic theology" when they can't figure out what the biblical writer called "basic?"

あじ said...

The google books link is broken…

AB said...

Jnorm said...

Fixed! And thanks for letting me know


Chris Schelin said...


The reassessment of Zwingli has been offered by a number of Free Church scholars. Perhaps the key work to consult would be H. Wayne Pipkin's Zwingli: The Positive Value of His Eucharistic Writings. However, that book will be hard to come by, so you could consult the summary of this argument in the essay "To Feed Upon by Faith" by Curtis Freeman in Cross and Thompson, eds., Baptist Sacramentalism (Paternoster, 2003). Another work would be Gottfried Locher, Zwingli's Thought: New Perspectives (Brill, 1981).

The conventional account of Zwingli presents a view that the Supper contains no mystery and Christ is not really present. But in fact there was a recognition of a mystical union with Christ in his teachings. Zwingli denied what he understood to be the teaching of Christ's physical presence within the elements, but believed that Christ was truly encountered in his divinity when the faithful gather around the table. As Baptist theologian Paul Fiddes writes in his book Tracks and Traces (Paternoster, 2003), this view is not a "static notion of presence" focused on the bread and wine but a "dynamic kind of presence-as-encounter throughout the whole drama of the Supper." As Zwingli himself said, "I do not believe it is the Supper unless Christ is there."

Mysterious Japanese Script Guy,

The debate on the origins of infant baptism in the early church has advanced beyond the Jeremias-Aland debate. I suggest Infant Baptism in Historical Perspective by David Wright, a paedobaptist, and Baptism in the Early Church by Everett Ferguson, a credobaptist, for data and hypotheses concerning the development of paedobaptist practice and theology.

Also, what Hebrews actually says is elementary is "instruction about baptismon, the genitive plural of baptismos. This is a rare word, appearing only three times in the NT, and is not the word denoting Christian baptism, which is baptisma. It's use in context suggests the author is referring to ritual washings, perhaps as a synecdoche indicating instruction about the difference between the old covenant, with its ritual washings, and the new, with its singular baptism. This kind of instruction is the essence of the whole book of Hebrews as he invites his readers to reaffirm the superiority of the new covenant and to move forward.

あじ said...

I've had a library hold on those books for a while now, so I'll be reading them whenever they show up. You might check out Johnson's, The Prevalence and Theology of Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries, East and West, as he gets into the hermeneutical differences between the paedo/credo proponents and how they evaluate the evidence.

I disagree about the usage of βαπτισμῶν in the context of Hebrews. You're right about the normal usage being Mosaic washings, but in context we have something a bit different. It's not only elementary, it's also the foundation, and it sounds pretty evangelical (and eschatological): repentance, faith, baptism/washings, laying on of hands (probably what Orthodox would term chrismation), resurrection, and judgment. I guess you could make the entire series Mosaic, but then I'm not sure how repentance would factor in. That said, I'm pretty incompetent in Greek, so I'm open to correction.

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