As I read the discussion on Bart’s post yesterday my mind went back to a story I heard a Baptist leader tell not too long ago. I wanted to pose this tough question for our discussion. We ought to form our theology based on biblical teachings, not on difficult quandaries such as this, but it is still interesting to ponder what we might do in particular circumstance.
For the sake of this article, we need not argue the basics of biblical baptism. Apologies to our Presby friend Les who hangs out here, but the readers of Voices are pretty much exclusively people who are convinced that biblical Baptism is 1) by immersion, 2) of believers, 3) a command of God that is incumbent on new converts as a public profession of faith in Christ, and 4) a requirement to membership in an SBC church.
I know there are a few Baptist churches who are experimenting with the idea that one could accept into membership pedobaptists, but most of us reject that out of hand. It is clear, we believe, to anyone who simply reads and follows the scriptures and does not interpose some kind of theological system on it, that baptism is what I described above.
What Would You Do? A Difficult Scenario
Mrs. McGillicuddy has recently been saved at her advanced age. However, she is frail, needs oxygen to breath, and is within days of receiving the inheritance in Christ she so recently came into. She wants to be baptized, but immersion is simply not a possibility. Out of the question. Ol’ Beatrice has only two options.
1) She can die without being baptized.
Like the thief on the Cross she can be with Christ in paradise without ever entering the waters of baptism. She is saved by the finished work of Christ. Salvation is not mediated by baptism, but testified to in baptism. So, as a pastor I could just explain to her that God accepts her in Christ and that baptism is not necessary.
2) We can make an exception.
The Baptist leader I mentioned above made a one-time exception in a situation like this. He “baptized’ the person who could not enter into the waters for the correct form of baptism – immersion – by sprinkling or pouring (don’t remember which).
Church membership is not really an issue here, since the lady is bed-ridden. She just wants to follow the Lord in baptism.
I am not trying to use this exception to set the rule. I agree with the rule. Baptism is AFTER profession of faith by immersion. That is the policy of Southern Baptists because, I believe, it is the biblical policy. But in a narrow moment, in an exceptional situation, would you baptize this new convert, Beatrice McGillicuddy, by extra-biblical means like sprinkling or pouring? Or would you simply remind her that baptism, while an important act of obedience, is not essential to salvation and stand by your Baptist guns?
What would you do?