Before I close this chapter, I think it is important to address a few of the Protestant Church of Christ’s arguments that provide constructive reinforcement for people who have erroneously accepted any of the four false premises as true. My intent is not to show who is right and who is not Catholic; what I wish to show is how your group creates a circular pattern of thinking between your false premises and your conclusions, and, of course, to illustrate how the Catholic Church of Christ remains unscathed by such arguments.
Your apologists often defend your group’s position by comparing it to the Catholic Church—they define themselves by what they are not. In doing so, they often quote-mine Catholics who apparently support your group (or your group’s theology), and undermine Catholicism; a way of establishing the “true” Protestant Church of Christ by disestablishing the “false” Catholic Church of Christ. In other words, as with the Bible, they scour Catholic documents for proof-texts.
I will illustrate a couple examples that I have personally witnessed several times, which Christians steeped in Apologetics would readily recognize, and which typify how your group engages the subject of Comparative Religion. One might quote a bishop from the on-line Catholic Encyclopedia New Advent, which reads, “The most ancient form usually employed was unquestionably immersion,”22 and then teach that the Catholic Church “changed” the mode to pouring in later centuries, that she “changed” God’s written Word, and that she “admits” her Baptisms are not “biblical.” Of course, an honest reading of the Encyclopedia recognizes the words that were actually written: immersion was “usually” employed, which means that other forms were also employed, and that all forms are indeed biblical.
Another example of how your apologists proof-text Catholic documents is with Tertullian’s treatise called On Baptism from A.D. 203. In the seventh chapter, Tertullian taught that the effect of Baptism is spiritual, not physical, even though we are “plunged into water.”23 Your apologists latch onto three words from the entire treatise, and present them as both proof for immersion-only Baptisms, and that the Catholic Church is unable to have a unified voice. When read in context, Tertullian had at his disposal various modes to draw upon while teaching that the carnal effect of Baptism is different from its spiritual effect, and immersion (“plunging”) is most capable of exemplifying the carnal effect (physical cleansing). His use of that mode within chapter seven does not exclude the validity of other modes, and we know Tertullian was not excluding other modes because he rightly explained, in chapter two of the same treatise, that Baptism is performed . . .
. . . with so great simplicity, without pomp, without any considerable novelty of preparation, and finally, without cost, a man is baptized in water, and amid the utterance of some few words, is sprinkled, and then rises again, not much (or not at all) the cleaner.24
As with the New Testament, proof-texting other Catholic documents for Protestant gain works for people who are more interested in self-preservation than truth. Are there any ancient Protestant Church of Christ “fathers” one can quote-mine to defend the Protestant Church of Christ? No, there are none, and the only way your apologists can create an aura of antiquity is by quoting Catholic fathers—even if they must resort to deception—or perhaps they randomly open documents produced by a different Faith, while God, in His providence, leads them to the correct proof-text. Or, most likely, people simply trust what they love, and are eager to unquestioningly recycle what the beloved tribe, argument, or tradition might suggest.
Another way your group defends full-immersion Baptism as the only valid mode is by its selective use of scriptural imagery. Your group has rightfully retained the Catholic theological relationship between Baptism and Jesus’ death, burial, and Resurrection:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).
However, your group equates “buried/burial” with a physical (carnal) burial in water to an unreasonable extreme metaphor that leads you to understand the English words “burial” and “cleanse” (cf. Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5) as synonymous terms for submersion Baptism. Forcing the texts’ words to equate to a physical burial and a physical cleansing depletes the meaning of the texts: that Baptism’s effect is primarily (not secondarily) spiritual, and that what is put to burial is the old self, and what rises is a new creation: a new creature, a Christian—Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). The scriptural imagery is good, but abused by your group to force a new (modern Protestant) theology of physical immersion-only Baptism; otherwise, the physical imagery of Jesus on the cross would be of equal influence, and pass the Protestant Church of Christ’s selective imagery filter.
St. Ambrose wrote, “See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the cross of Christ, from his death.”25 The blood and water that poured from Jesus’ side (cf. John 19:34) are types—imagery—of the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. There was no image of immersion (your group’s forced meaning of “burial”) at the cross, but imagery of pouring. And Jesus’ blood was poured for all people, and from then on, it “is possible to be born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).26
Your Baptisms are valid. Your Baptisms, as you know, set you apart from a large part of, as your ministers call it, the “religious world”; but your Baptisms also bring you into closer communion with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I believe most members of your group have never questioned your four popular premises that I showed to be false, and that this chapter might be the first step in that direction for many of you.
The Catholic Church of Christ’s recognition of various modes of Baptism are not “traditions of men” nor hobbit trickery, but are modes that are supported by linguistic facts; and the modes that the Catholic Church employs are biblical, historical, and reasonable. Conversely, your tradition is thoroughly of men, has no linguistic support, is biblically foreign, is historically absent, yet accepted by your group as “true” Christianity.
22 Fanning, William. “Baptism.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. Available at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02258b.htm#VI as of January 12, 2014.
23 Tertullian, On Baptism, chapter 7. Available at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0321.htm as of January 12, 2014.
24 ibid., chapter 2.
25 St. Ambrose as quoted in: Catechism of the Catholic Church #1225.