Monday, October 3, 2016

Augustus Strong On Baptism

Augustus Hopkins Strong makes some blind and fallacious assertions in his Systematic Theology regarding baptism, which are based solely on his assumptions, conclusions drawn on assumptions, front-loading, and eisegesis. He states that baptism is "immersion, and immersion only," claiming that the "command to baptize is a command to immerse." He asserts he can show this from:
  1. The usage of Greek writers—including the church Fathers, when they do not speak of the Christian rite, and the authors of the Greek version of the Old Testament.
  2. Every passage where the word occurs in the New Testament either requires or allows the meaning 'immerse.'
Wayne Grudem likewise makes the same blind and fallacious assertions in his Systematic Theology: "The practice of baptism in the New Testament was carried out in one way: the person being baptized was immersed or put completely under the water and then brought back up again. Baptism by immersion is therefore the 'mode' of baptism or the way in which baptism was carried out in the New Testament."

First, the works of James W. Dale regarding the historical usage of baptizo (βαπτιζω) utterly obliterate Mr. Strong's (and Mr. Grudem's) ridiculous assertions. Even the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament does not back Mr. Strong's position. Furthermore, 600 years of secular Greek history using a word in a particular way has no bearing whatsoever on how the writers of the New Testament used a word. Sometimes they would use a word completely different from how the rest of secular society used it. If βαπτιζω meant "to immerse," then the word would have been translated as "immerse" in our English Bibles and John would have been known as John the Immersionist or John the Immerser. The fact is, βαπτιζω has been transliterated, and not translated, because there exists no specific word with which to translate this term. It is used throughout secular Greek history in numerous and varied ways. The translators of the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament) used βαπτιζω to translate the Hebrew word ba'ath (בעת) in Isaiah 21:4, meaning "terrify, startle, fall upon": i.e., to input fear. The literal translation is: "My heart goes astray and lawlessness baptizes my soul." The writer was changed from a state of quiet trust in God to fearfulness as a result of seeing great wickedness and knowing that terrible judgments would follow.

Second, Mr. Strong demonstrates his blind assertions based on assumptions and conclusions drawn on assumptions when he fallaciously states that "every passage where the word occurs in the New Testament either requires or allows the meaning 'immerse'." Mr. Strong has obviously failed to pay attention to the details of each account of baptism presented in the New Testament, as well as failing to observe the circumstantial evidence surrounding each case. When these are examined, one quickly realizes that there is no room made available for immersion. Not to mention that the practice of immersion is more in line with the rigorous rituals required under the Old Covenant than with the simplicity and ease of service instituted under the New Covenant. If you want to examine the details presented in Scripture as well as the circumstantial evidence surrounding some of these baptisms, please read the following blog entries:

Mr. Strong makes many other false assertions with regard to baptism—its meaning, mode, and subjects, but I will only address one final absurd assertion of his. He claims that the "proper subjects of baptism are those only who give credible evidence that they have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit,—or, in other words, have entered by faith into the communion of Christ's death and resurrection." Not only does Mr. Strong eisegetically misapply Romans 6:3-4 here, but once again he fails to pay attention to the witness of the holy Scriptures. "To the law and to the testimony." Baptism identifies us with Christ, whether that identification is true or false. Baptism acts as a witness or testimony either for or against us. In the New Testament, whenever someone made a profession of faith, regardless whether that faith was genuine or not, they were immediately baptized. It was not withheld until they gave "credible evidence that they [had] been regenerated by the Holy Spirit." Judas, Simon Magus, and Demas were all false converts, yet they made professions of faith and were all baptized. They identified themselves with Christ but were never united with Him.