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Understanding Four Views on Baptism (Counterpoints: Church Life) Paperback – February 5, 2007
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From the Back Cover
What is the significance of water baptism? Who should be baptized? Is infant baptism scriptural? Which is the proper baptismal mode: sprinkling, pouring, or immersion? Should people be rebaptized if they join a church that teaches a different form of baptism? Should baptism be required for church membership? These and other questions are explored in this thought-provoking book. Four historic views on baptism are considered in depth: * Baptism of the professing regenerate by immersion (Baptist) * Believers' baptism on the occasion of regeneration by immersion (Christian Churches/Churches of Christ) * Infant baptism by sprinkling as a regenerative act (Lutheran) * Infant baptism of children of the covenant (Reformed) Each view is presented by its proponent, then critiqued and defended in dialogue with the book's other contributors. Here is an ideal setting in which you can consider the strengths and weaknesses of each stance and arrive at your own informed conclusion.
About the Author
John H. Armstrong is president of ACT 3 in Carol Stream, Illinois and served as a pastor for more than twenty years. He is an adjunct professor of evangelism at Wheaton College Graduate School. His online commentaries regularly appear at www.Act3online.com. He holds degrees from Wheaton College, Wheaton Graduate School, and Luther Rice Seminary. He is the author or editor of a number of books including The Catholic Mystery, Five Great Evangelists, Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper, and Understanding Four Views on Baptism
Paul E. Engle, series editor for Counterpoints Church Life, is an ordained minister who served for twenty-two years in pastoral ministry in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois, and Michigan. He is an adjunct teacher in several seminaries in this country and internationally. He serves as associate publisher and executive editor in the Church, Academic, and Ministry Resources team at Zondervan. He and his wife Margie, live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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Top Customer Reviews
I fall within the Reformed perspective, and I was impressed by how the Reformed writer not only included several classic terms from Reformed theology (e.g., "covenant", "sign and seal", "means of grace") but also defined these terms and showed how they emerge from the Bible and not just from the Reformed Confessions. Other reviewers will have to assess whether they think the other 3 perspectives were as well-represented, but I thought all the chapters were very well-written. (Perhaps a few additional comments could have helped in a few areas. For example, neither of the two proponents of Infant Baptism addressed very strongly how the biblical data is somewhat inconclusive: just as there is no explicit command to baptize infants, neither is there an explicit command forbidding it; and just as there is no clear-cut example of an infant being baptized in Scripture, neither is there any example of an infant being presented for baptism by his or her parents, and being denied. But this is a small point.)
The respect that each of the authors has for each other is also evident: Several times they list points of agreement with the other positions which sound like they spring from genuine appreciation, and not from a patronizing attempt to avoid sounding too critical. Also, the editor readily admits in the opening introduction that there is no single position on baptism which is the definitive "Christian" or "biblical" view.
Other than the brevity of the chapters and the possibility of a few additional comments that would have solidified the authors' positions, the only other thing (that I can think of) that would have strenghtened this book would have been to include a Roman Catholic viewpoint: I'd be especially interested to hear how a Roman Catholic might respond to and critique the four views that are contained.
But this is a minor quibble. Overall, this book gives a wonderful presentation of four major views on baptism. The reader will come away with a well-balanced understanding of the main strengths and weaknesses of each position. And as an added bonus, the back of the book contains a series of appendices which include a concordance of all the occurences of the word "baptize" (and its derivatives) in the Bible, and a series of quotations from creeds, catechisms, and well-respected theologians that offer additional examples of the differing views on baptism. This book will be a welcome addition to the library of anyone wanting a broader understanding of baptism, as it is viewed by differing Christian traditions.
The first one up at the plate is Thomas Nettles, who represents the Baptist view. He points out that the pattern for baptism is that it is something which follows belief. Therefore, Nettles would not baptize an infant. Nettles struggles somewhat as he tries to explain how difficult texts such as 1 Peter 3:21 and Acts 22:16 fit into his system.
The Reformed view is presented by Richard Pratt, Jr. He contends that infant baptism has a similar function to circumcision in the Old Testament in that it incorporates the child into the visible community (even though it does not confer saving grace on the child).
Nettles and Castelein countered Pratt by noting that Pratt placed an equal amount of emphasis on the Westminster Confession as he did the Bible, and that non_Reformed Christians would object to this. They note that our doctrine should come straight from Scripture.
Robert Kolb presents the Lutheran view, and it is very similar to the Reformed perspective. The main difference is that Lutherans believe that babies ARE born again when they are baptized. Nettles counters this by noting that that there are no known instances of salvation in the New Testament apart from hearing and responding to the gospel, an argument which struck me as quite cogent.
John Castelein presents the Church of Christ view. His presentation is very similar to the Baptist view. The one difference is that Castelein contends that baptism is the occasion for justification, a teaching that Pratt and Nettles effectively challenge.
Armstrong has a short essay encouraging continued dialogue, then there are appendixes which list all the scriptures about baptism and some of the confessional statements issued by the Church in the past.
I don't think that any one of the writers delievered a knockout punch, but my own understanding of Scripture fits best with the view of Thomas Nettles. I am surprised that non one discussed Acts 2:41, which says that "all who accepted the message were baptized." I wonder how infant baptizers would respond to this.
But I thought the essays were crisp and clear, and I like how each one ended with practical questions that people might ask, along with some good answers. Buy this book if you are sifting through your understanding of baptism.