Friday, June 17, 2011

Baptism (One more time!)

If you are wondering why I've been posting all of this stuff about baptism lately, it's because I came across a blog (or couple of blogs) where the blogger writes strongly in support of some heretical doctrines.  The main one that has come up (and from which the others seem to stem) is the false doctrine that water baptism by immersion is necessary for salvation and that the "dunking" is the point of salvation, where the baptized person is regenerated.
I'm not going to link to the website because I don't want them to get further traffic (which would increase because priority in Google searches depends on how many links to sites there are - making the more popular sites higher up the list (so link to mine!)).  If you are really curious, try searching for "Steve Finnell" and "water baptism" and it's sure to be on the first page.

Initially, I thought I'd be putting just one comment on his blog about a point of doctrine that sounded a bit off and I didn't want him to be misleading his readers with something so essential as the doctrine of salvation.  What it turned into was me addressing Steve, and his readers, while for every hole that I exposed in his doctrine, Steve would write a new blog post attempting to bring a verse that contradicted what I wrote (sometimes on his other blog).  The whole thing seemed a little weird to me as Steve moderates which comments appear on his blog, and was allowing me to post, but at the same time he would not engage directly with the verses or doctrine that I presented.  Instead of responding to my comments, he would keep writing new blog posts which seemed designed to "yell" over the top of my responses by propagating false ideas with a heap of "proof" verses stacked upon a single faulty assumption.  Also, from the start it seemed to me that the large, bold font Steve used suggested he was yelling.  These things combined point towards a lot of manipulative strategies that raised a few alarm bells in my mind.

After about half a dozen comments, I decided that this wasn't a way forward and responded to his latest "yelling" by asking for his direct permission to continue with my comments.  This was so that he would be forced to publicly welcome me rather than trying to marginalise me before his regular readers.  I asked via his comments so that my post would appear on his blog (if he let it) and then his readers would be able to see my perspective in this weird debate.  So far, Steve has not allowed my comment to be posted which only confirms my fears that he is using highly manipulative strategies to get followers and to keep a position of power.

If anyone has come from Steve's blog to visit here, I would encourage you to think carefully about what you read on Steve's blogs as his strategies for convincing are more based upon emotional manipulation and less upon love and reason.  While Steve may have the best of intentions, his teaching is clearly another gospel that is different from that preached by Jesus, Paul and the other Apostles, and much of what counts for orthodox protestant Christianity through history.  I would even go so far as to say that these emotionally manipulative strategies are common among classic cult groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons.  These groups have a lack of intellectual input into the foundation doctrines of their movement and must rely on aggressive recruiting strategies that target the weak, lonely, and abused to be successful.  As Pentecostal-type churches have become more popular, they have also adopted many of these evil strategies to grow and to maintain their membership numbers.  This is again due to a lack of intellectual input into preaching and teaching and a greater emphasis on relative truth like in heavily post-modernist views of knowledge, e.g. Rob Bell.

So, just to finish the debate from this end for any visiting readers wondering why I haven't continued on Steve's blog, I want to respond to Steve's latest blog post, in which he presumably didn't want me to comment.  He made two mistakes in his assumptions upon which he then piled a heap of verses that hold no weight until he can justify his false assumptions (which obviously he cannot do).

First he claims that the disciples weren't called to save people by getting them to baptise people in the spirit, but by water.  This false assumption is a bit tricky to spot, though it feels instinctively wrong to those in the know.  It involves both the false idea that a person can cause a spiritual change in another and that a person can actually perform a physical routine or ceremony that can save.  Remember that salvation is a spiritual change called regeneration, hence the issue of when that spiritual change takes place and how it is caused (and who it is caused by).  Putting this simply, Steve is under the impression that God performs the spiritual act of regeneration only when one man decides to dunk another man.  This means that salvation is in the hands of man and not God.  Remember that salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8)

Second is the misunderstanding, or contradiction, when Steve expects the Holy Spirit to be present at the water baptism (performing the regenerative work presumably) because according to him it is the water baptism when regeneration occurs.  Now, what if the person is a false convert initially, but later believes?  Should they then be re-baptised?  And every time after that that a person has an attack of unbelief and feels that they weren't really saved because they fell back into sin for a time?  Re-re-baptised?  If the person can receive regeneration at any time after their baptism, then doesn't that emphasise that it is the spiritual baptism (which causes regeneration) that is more important than the water baptism?  The classic example is the thief on the cross who didn't have the opportunity to be baptised.  The classic argument used in response to this is that the thief must have been baptised some time in the past.  This still supports the spiritual baptism as he was clearly saved while on the cross beside Jesus.  Remember that there is more than one account of the crucifixion and in one, both of the men that were crucified with him reviled him (Matthew 27:44) but in another there was one who was saved! (Luke 23:43)  This shows that he was saved while being on the cross and with no immersion of water to facilitate the spiritual transformation.

Anyone is welcome to respond to these ideas in the comments below (including Steve himself and those who follow the same ideas).  I will not moderate the comments except in the case of extremely bad language and bad personal abuse.  I see a legitimate place for trolls on the internet (a notorious troller and friend called "duck" from the parkour forums will attest to that) so I even allow comments and ideas that I strongly disagree with, including attitudes that I don't want to promote.

Unless something starts up in the comments here, or unless Steve Finnell decides to invite my comments on his blog, this will be the end of my involvement in this brief bit of conflict.

To finish this post, I want to share a valuable resource: The ministry of Paul Washer.  A proper understanding of what it means to be "born again" really helps with understanding what the bible has to say on whether water baptism has anything to do with regeneration.  The best sermon I've come across (that had a huge impact on me personally) was Paul Washer speaking on Regeneration and Self Denial (from