COC #49: COC False Premise #1 Regarding Baptism

False Premise #1: The secular Greek use of the word baptizo is intended to indicate a specific mode for a religious rite. 

True, the Greek word baptizo is the word from which the English word “baptism” is derived, but your group is incorrect when it teaches that the Greek word’s use is intended to communicate a specific mode for a Christian rite. It is a poor assumption to believe that an older word provides the conclusive illuminating exposition of a newer concept.  

Surely you can admit that a word’s spectrum of meaning can widen when it is moved from a secular/older use to a theological/newer use, because the Protestant Church of Christ has done so quite well with its understanding of the word “elder”. Your group admits the Greek word from which we derive “elder” refers to men over the age of forty,2 yet many congregations within your communities elect elders who do not fit the secular definition, and the secular definition itself invalidates any need for any election process. (One’s age is not determined by an election.) Why do you bind other Christians to your arbitrary interpretive and ecclesiological tradition? And of course, who do you think you are to redefine the word—to ascribe a Christian doctrinal nuance to a secular word and then expect the world to comply?  

Some of your members refuse to use the word “Trinity” (triadtrias), but many of your members have not rejected the word. Originally, the secular use of the word referred to any group of three things, but the word has since been grafted into Christian terminology. So are we to assume that whenever a Fundamentalist uses the word “Trinity” that she is referring to anything other than the Godhead?

Another example of how a word’s meaning changes when the Church absorbs it is with the Greek word for “canon” (kanon). The word originally referred to a physical measuring rod, but became a word to indicate a standard of authority, as in the Christian canon of Scripture.

As with “elder”, “Trinity”, and “canon”, other words gain theological meaning when they are grafted into the Church, and baptizo is one that became rich with meaning. There is no reason to assume baptizo must retain its secular meaning, there is no reason why a person must concede to a Protestant Church of Christ minister who demands it must; but most of all, there is no reason to entertain the premise because it is founded on an additional false premise: baptizoalways indicates full-immersion in a fluid, in either a secular or religious sense.  

      2 Edward C. Wharton, The Church of Christ (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1997), 82. Wharton’s book is one of a relatively few written by a member of the Protestant Church of Christ that is intended to work as an explanation of the group’s beliefs. Wharton’s book is not authoritative; it is indicative.