Cedar Park Church Of Christ


Written Debate On Baptism



By Jim R. Everett

Mr. E. Calvin Beisner is a member of the Evangelical Free Church of America and is a freelance writer in the fields of Christian apologetics, theology, church history, and political science and is currently studying for his master's degree in political science under Dr. Russell Kirk. He is also a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, The Creation Research Society, and the American Philosophical Society, and has written numerous short pamphlets for CARIS (Christian Apologetics: Research and Information Service) and CRI (Christian Research Institute).

In January of 1980, Mr. Beisner penned a booklet called, "Is Baptism Necessary For Salvation? A Critical Analysis" which was printed and published by CARIS. His material is designed to refute what he designates as "baptismal regeneration" which, as far as I am concerned, is a misnomer and does not correctly represent what I believe about baptism. By mutual agreement his analyses of controverted passages will be reviewed in installments in The Preceptor over the next several months. Since I do not use some passages to which he refers in his booklet, I feel no obligation to reply to everything he says. Neither will I deal with those passages which do not relate baptism in some way to the remission of sins-many passages teach about baptism but may relate it to the forgiveness of sins by implication. Mr. Beisner believes baptism is necessary for the fulfillment of God's law for the Christian-he just simply does not believe it is necessary for the forgiveness of sins.

Following those installments each of us is to have a final rejoinder and then, at Mr. Beisner's request, his publishing company, CARIS, is to be granted one, full page in The Preceptor for a critique to my arguments. This can be followed by whatever needs to be said in reply to CARIS.

For a denominationalist Mr. Beisner takes an unusually strong stand against those who he claims teach "another gospel" by saying, "If the Scriptures deny the necessity of baptism for salvation, then its teaching is 'another gospel' than that preached by Paul." I would agree that if his proposition is true and the scriptures do not teach a relationship between water baptism and the remission of sins, it is another gospel. On the other hand, if Mr. Beisner's position, which he states thusly, "We will also show that the New Testament teaches that salvation is strictly by grace through faith without baptism," be false, then he becomes the teacher of another gospel, a gospel which has deceived literally millions.

Mr. Beisner specifies those who he believes teach another gospel as "...several 'Church of Christ' groups, some branches of the 'Christian Church -- Disciples of Christ,' and many small groups in the Christian tradition." I will not seek to defend a "Church of Christ" group. Rather, I am set for the defense of the gospel, and the text of scripture in its context must be the final criteria to decide the issue.

When I first wrote Mr. Beisner, I told him that our real difference was not over baptism but rather was over the "sovereign" and "Monothetic will of God" as that relates to the free will of man. It will, in reality, be impossible to change his mind about baptism as long as he holds a Calvinistic view of salvation. I can only hope that upon examination of his position on baptism that he will be sufficiently shaken so as to cause him to re-examine and reevaluate his basic concepts on the "sovereign" and "monothetic will of God." At which time his eyes wiII be opened to the truth that baptism is not a work of righteousness which earns or seeks to earn salvation, nor is it an act having efficacy in itself. Baptism is simply submitting to a God-given condition of grace by which man is cleansed by the blood of Christ.


MARK 16:16

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;
but he that believeth not shall be damned.

This verse is often quoted as supporting the teaching that baptism is necessary for salvation. A more careful analysis of the verse shows that it teaches nothing of the sort.

While the first clause says that all who both believe and are baptized will be saved, it does not say that all who neither believe nor are baptized will not be saved. In other words, the clause does not exclude any group, while it does tell of a group of people who will be saved, namely, those who both believe and are baptized. But the second clause negates one group: those who do not believe will not be saved. There is no negation of the group of those who believe but are not baptized. Thus while the verse as a whole does teach that belief is essential to salvation, it does not teach that baptism is.

While this does not prove that baptism is not necessary for salvation, it does mean that this verse cannot be used to prove that baptism is necessary for salvation.

In addition, Mark 16:9-20 is a section which does not appear in what some regard as the best of the manuscripts of the New Testament. It appears late in manuscript evidence, and therefore is perhaps not original. These words quoted of Jesus may not be His words at all, but words added a century later than the original by a scribe who was copying a manuscript of Mark. (See the notes about this in the New International Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, and reference editions of the Authorized King James Version. See also the commentaries on the text.) Since there is serious doubt concerning the originality of Mark 16:16 it should not be used as proof of doctrine.


ON MARK 16:16

Mr. Beisner says, "There is no negation of the group of those who believe but are not baptized. Thus while the verse as a whole does teach that belief is essential to salvation, it does not teach that baptism is." His conclusion is inaccurate. The verse as a whole teaches that those who believe and are baptized will be saved but disbelievers will be damned. As a whole, it certainly does not contradict what a part of it teaches. In the whole verse "believeth" and "is baptized" are joined by the coordinate conjunction "and;" therefore, are equally related to "shall be saved." The negative conclusion from that clause is that he that is not saved did not believe and was not baptized. If he eliminates the restrictive, conditional part of the clause (believeth and is baptized), he makes the passage teach universalism; that is, all are saved regardless of their lack of response to the gospel. On the other hand, if he seeks to affirm only the condition of belief, he twists the passage because it teaches both belief and baptism. In fact, his position demands that the passage read: "He that believeth will be saved but need not be baptized." Surely he can see how his theology has caused him to change Jesus's statements.

If, on the other hand, he asks, "Then why did not Jesus say, 'He that believeth not and is not baptized shall be damned?"', he may begin to answer his own arguments on the passage. While Jesus did not give us an explanation, nor should we feel that the Son of God should have to give us a reason for the way he stated his commission to his apostles, we may draw a logical conclusion that relates to sentence structure, human behavior and motivation. Faith, like love, is a strong motive. It should be obvious that when the motive "faith" is removed, normally men are not going to be baptized-there is no reason to act. Furthermore, if a man is baptized without faith, there is no salvation. In one simply negative statement, Jesus took care of both situations-he that does not believe is not going to be baptized because there is nothing to prompt him; and should one be motivated for mundane purposes, he still is not saved because he that does not believe is damned.

Consider a parallel situation to the construction of Mk. 16:16. In John 5:24, Jesus said, "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life..." For the sake of illustration we might inject a negative clause which says, "He that will not hear is damned." Then to follow Mr. Beisner's reasoning we would have to say, "There is no negation of the group of those who hear but do not believe. Thus while the verse as a whole does teach that hearing is essential to salvation, it does not teach that believing is." Does the restrictive, conditional clause in John 5:24, teach that faith is essential to everlasting life? I think that he would agree that it does. In the same way, the restrictive, conditional clause in Mk. 16:16, must also teach that baptism is essential to salvation.

If his second argument, which takes Mk. 16:9-20, from the Bible by questioning its authenticity, be true, then he wasted his time with the first argument. He need not spend time changing Jesus's statements, if those statements are not Jesus's and should not be a part of the text. Neither of us is an authoritative, textual critic, so we must weigh in balance the evidence available to us as it relates to the authenticity of Mk. 16:9-20.

Dr. Philip Schaff, President of the 1901 American Standard Committee said, "...the conclusion is historically authentic and true ... the section is found in most uncial and all cursive manuscripts, in most of the ancient versions, in all existing Greek and Syrian lectionaries as far as examined: and Irenaeus, who is a much older witness than any of our existing manuscripts, quotes verse 19 as a part of the gospel of Mark. A strong intrinsic argument for the genuineness is also derived from the extreme improbability, we may say impossibility, that the evangelist should have closed his gospel with 'for they were afraid."' (Companion To The Greek Testament And English Version, pp. 189, 190).

Only the MSS Vaticanus and Sinaiticus do not have the account and they are fourth-century MSS. On the other hand the Peshitto, Curetorian, Coptic, Sahidic, and Tatian's Diatessaron Versions which are all second-century Versions do contain the account. I do not appeal to these versions as being, necessarily, accurate translations; rather, I appeal to them as evidence for the existence of and acceptance of Mk. 16:9-20, as being genuine. Furthermore, the MSS Washington, Alexandrian, Ephraim and Bezae do contain the account. If the Vaticanus is supposed to be the most reliable MS and he rejects Mk. 16:16, because it is not contained therein, then he must also reject I & 11 Timothy, Titus and Revelation because they are absent from that MS. And what shall we say for the Sinaiticus MS? Not only does it omit Mk. 16:9-20, but it also omits John 21:25; Hebrews 9:15, to the end of the book; Mk. 1:1; John 9:38; Luke 6:1; 22:43, 44; 23:34; John 19:33, 34; Eph. 6:1, and more.

I would suggest that Mr. Beisner is on extremely dangerous ground when he omits not only Mark 16:9-20, but also the other passages from God's word, I would also suggest that instead of slicing Mark 16:16, from his Bible with one deft stroke of his pen, that he re-examine his theology to understand God's grace and man's proper trusting obedience. Jesus sent his apostles into the world with a powerful message designed to bring man back to God and make him righteous by forgiveness. If Mr. Beisner changes that message, he does not help in saving men. Contrariwise, he causes them to be deceived and lost.

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Created on 12-Aug-98

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