One of my co-workers, a fellow CofC member, was confronted yesterday by our immediate supervisor because of language about baptism (too strong for our audience’s Baptist ears it would seem) that he let pass in one of our Sunday School books. It was a pretty long discussion that ultimately went nowhere.
Anyway, I was reminded of it again when I came across this post from Edwin Crozier’s “Give Attention to Reading” blog (some of you may recall that Edwin preaches for the Franklin Church of Christ, south of Nashville). The post itself is worth a read, but what really caught my attention was the comment thread.
A commenter put this question to him:
“How do you argue with those in other denominations who believe baptism is something you do after you have been saved (‘the outward sign of an inner grace’ argument)? If it was as simple as pointing them to a scripture and showing them examples of true Biblical salvation, those who take that view of baptism could be easily converted.”
Here is his reply:
Brent, great question. Actually, I’m not sure I can give you a great answer. The fact is no matter how many verses we have, we can’t force people to believe something even when we see it very clearly. Keep in mind that others think they have showed us some very clear passages that say we are saved without baptism, but neither you nor I believe them.
I can’t force folks to believe baptism is essential. I can simply keep sharing what the Bible says in passages like Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2:12; I Peter 3:21 and hope that in time they will see what they say as well. It is not easy to get someone to relinquish a position they’ve held their entire life. It simply takes patience, persistence, and perseverance.
The one key I want to get across is there is no magic formula. We need not take everything on our own shoulders as if we can come up with some perfect way to get everyone to believe. We must simply share God’s word and let it work on the hearts of those around us. (Emphasis mine, CRC)
The part highlighted above is really perceptive (and really helpful — thanks, Edwin). In my Historical Theology class last week (I know, I keep referring to this alot), as an outgrowth of our reading of Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?, we discussed “presuppositional apologetics.” Simply put, Edwin’s answer recognizes that apologetics involves more than presenting the brute facts (in this case, presenting Scriptures that deal with the essentiality of baptism in the ordo salutis). Rather, it involves addressing the underlying presuppositions — the underlying worldview — that lead someone to believe that baptism is “an outward sign of an inward grace.” Smith would argue, and I agree, that this is exactly the form that apologetics has to take in the postmodern world.
Edwin closes by saying, “We must simply share God’s word and let it work on the hearts of those around us.” Again, this is exactly right. The best way that we can to this is to live our lives as though our baptism actually changed us. That is, as Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, “if you have been raised with Christ [in baptism, see Col 2.12 and Rom 6.1-4], seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” This exact point — that our way of life is the best apologetic we can make for our baptism — is made in a very incisive way by the much-lamented Daniel Sommer.