If Quantity Were the Thing . . .

“True baptism is of the internal man, by the Holy Spirit, and if that is missing you do not have a Christian inwardly. You do not have a true Christian, but rather a wet member of the visible covenant. The only thing we control (with the variations we have in our rituals) is how wet that member of the visible covenant is. And there an unregenerate Baptist has a clear advantage over an unregenerate Presbyterian” (Against the Church, p. 18).

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8 thoughts on “If Quantity Were the Thing . . .

  1. “True baptism” is the baptism that Jesus commanded, and it’s done with water. Water baptism just *is* in the hands of the Spirit. There is no “true baptism” other than water baptism anywhere in the Bible.

  2. I don’t think it’s the quantity of water.  It’s the picture.  We’re buried with him in baptism, then raised to walk in newness of life.  It’s a story reenacted.  And as you know, the stories are really, really important.

  3. Doug Wilson wrote:

    “You do not have a true Christian, but rather a wet member of the visible covenant.  The only thing we control (with the variations we have in our rituals) is how wet that member of the visible covenant is. And there an unregenerate Baptist has a clear advantage over an unregenerate Presbyterian”

    Unregenerate Baptists are indeed far wetter than unregenerate Presbyterians, to be sure.   Doug’s point is well made regarding the vital importance of the Holy Spirit and true conversion.  I don’t intend to detract from that at all.   However, I’m not sure I’d use the phrase “true Christian” to argue that distinction; at least not without clearly stipulating a very narrow definition of the word “true”.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        The one who is a “wet member of the visible covenant” is still a true Christian in that visible sense.  They aren’t less than a Christian.   [Just as a husband is not less than a husband if he is unfaithful to his visible marriage covenant.  He can be "grabbed" by his covenant vows precisely because he is a true husband.]   But if a true Christian is not inwardly converted, he’s also not a member of the number ordained to eternal life (NOEL).  Some true Christians will not see eternal glory, just as some true sons of Abraham won’t.  The covenant relationship and covenant identity is God’s ordinary, but not sufficient, means of exposing us to the eternal decree.  It’s a foreshadowing.  God’s visible covenant ownership of us in baptism is a foretaste of God’s faithfulness to His eternal promises.  (I believe Doug may have spoken this way in other places, so I don’t think I’m saying something he would disagree with.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  God has given His Church these covenant rituals to be able to participate in this foreshadowing.  So it may be too strong to say that the “only thing we control is how wet …”.  The Church is performing a very objective seal and pronouncement upon an existing covenant reality.  It’s perhaps more obvious in the covenant ritual of a wedding, where the pastor objectively pronounces a new (and true) husband and wife, regardless of their inner faithfulness or unfaithfulness.  So, in addition to wetness, I would say that the Church also controls the visible administration of that objective coming and going from the covenant family (which is but a foretaste of the eternal decrees which wait to be revealed).

  4. katecho — Maybe the Church pronouncement you’re pining for can remain feeling kinda waffly to be more Biblical?  Remember Jesus with the woman at the well?  Did He say the guy she was with her husband or not?  Would the church pronouncement on that visible covenantal reality do a better job than He did??!!

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