[#] Abanes, abanetis, abaneti, etc.

This is one of those times when I wish there was no internet and no way to meet people that I have read and respected for their work in apologetics. This conversation stems from Fide-o’s observations (some would say criticisms, and they’d be right) about Saddleback church, the church home of one Richard Abanes.

Mr. Abanes is an extraordinary researcher. His book on Mormonism is classic – absolutely foundational reading for those who want to know anything about this cult. But in this thread at Challies’, we see something a little unsettling about Mr. Abanes – an inability to interact with others on a level footing.

Let’s concede, as we look at this conversation, that he is much smarter than I am and has knowledge of the subject I do not. If that’s the case, it would be interesting to see evidence of these extra tools in his response on the matter of whether Saddleback Church takes baptism too lightly.

| centuri0n: #4 is a problem.

For those who didn’t read the whole thread, “#4” is part of a paradigm Abanes proposed as the way a rebaptism at Saddleback might take place:
1. A woman becomes a Christian ten years ago and gets baptized.
2. She's prayed since then that her husband would someday receive Christ. 3. Then, after years of heart-ache, the husband finally accepts Christ and is now a believer serving Jesus, who wants to get baptized.
4. The woman is so over joyed that she and her husband want to be baptized together because it was all such a miracle and to be baptized together owuld be a dream come true that would really serve to bind them together finally as brother and sister in Christ.
5. Both are baptized together.
#4 is definitely a problem.

| RAbanes: Agreed. I said that I pretty much in agreement.

Actually, what Abanes has said in the thread is this:
Sure, I can actually agree with you on this. I don't get [rebaptism]. I don't see a need or reason for it. But it hardly places Saddleback church outside the fold of Christendom or proves Saddleback preaches a low view of God or whatever.
There is a huge gap between saying “I don’t ‘get it’” and saying “rebaptism is a problem”. For example, I “don’t get” why Baptists are juice-users and not wine-users in the Lord’s Supper. There is no theological reason on earth for it that can pass the sniff test. BUT using juice does not denigrate the ordinance – not any more than sprinkling when a deep body of water is not available or practical denigrates the ordinance of baptism.

I “don’t get” juice use – but I let it slide because it is nothing compared to remembering the Lord’s death and the covenant He established as a community. The matter with rebaptism is not that I “don’t get it”: the matter is that it is changing the substance of the ordinance from initiation and identification to merely something else – and I will avoid choosing a word for what that is because apparently doing such a thing makes me a mean person.

| Geez. But I can also see how someone else is seeing
| it. Hey, it's not like anyone is saying there is no
| Trinity, but that is how everyone is acting. I'm just
| saying, c’mon, keep it in perspective. Would I
| personally be baptized again. No. But I've seen it
| done elsewhere and it's not hurting anyone.

That’s hardly the point. You can take the “who’s it hurting” argument in the way you mean it here and apply it to gay marriage: I wouldn’t do it, and it’s not denying the Trinity, but let’s keep it in perspective. I’ve seen it done and it’s not hurting anyone.

Oh wait: that is actually the argument that is used to support gay marriage. So why do we reject it there and accept it for Saddleback’s baptism practice? The reason is simple: in the same way that gay marriage violates the standard of marriage in the Bible, rebaptism of believers violates the standard of baptism in the Bible. You may see baptism as a little thing, Mr. Abanes, but it is not merely a washing of water. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be for the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with Him, in His death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into Him; of remission of sins; and of giving up to God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

It is because you accept a low view of baptism as a matter of taste rather than a matter of an ordinance of Christ for the believer – even if you do not personally practice such a thing, you allow that it is diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks – that the discussion has gone on this far.

Not to mention this:

| (I saw it
| done at a Calvary Chapel, for example).

As if Calv Chapels are bastions of orthodoxy or even orthopraxy? Let’s not even go there, please.

| But see, here
| is the problem, anything (and I mean just abouty
| anything) done at Saddleback sends people into
| paroxysms of rage and ranting and raving.

Please PLEASE PLEASE indicate where I have “ranted and raved” about this. The worst word I have applied to the practice so far can hardly be denied: it is performed as a show, not as an ordinance. One cannot call it ordinance when it is performed in a frankly-reckless manner. Consider Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians about the Lord’s table – the question there was not a matter of elements or order of service: it was a question of being right-minded about the ordinance, and keeping Christ in the right perspective to the act.

When someone is taught – and it is being taught by example if Saddleback is allowing it and demonstrating it – that Baptism is something they can do whenever they feel like they need to or want to, that’s 100% the wrong perspective.

| All
| perspective is being lost.

The irony is that it is lost, but not by the critics of this practice.

| Anyway, whatever. All I am
| saying is that go to any church, find something
| wrong—trust me, it's there. No church is perfect.

Well, that’s a nice platitude, but it’s hardly part of demonstrating why it is OK for Saddleback to perform rebaptism. The issue is not, “Does cent’s church have any things it could do better” or even “Does cent’s church fail to uphold a key matter of doctrine”: I promise you – there is no SBC church that doesn’t have at least one doctrinal problem worthy of mentioning.

The issue is if rebaptism is a little thing – like where the pulpit is placed, or if the pastor decides it is OK to preach in Hawaiian shirts. Man! Who cares about that? If Some pastor if preaching the Gospel in an old t-shirt and jeans but it’s the Gospel, I’m in.

When that same pastor starts rebaptizing people so they will feel good or feel better or whatever, he has a problem – and not with me but with what Jesus established for the church to do with and for baptism.

| I;d
| rather have Saddlbeack re-baptizing some woman
| whose been longing to have her husband accept
| Christ, then go to some chruch where you are
| virtually ignored as a visitor and made to feel like
| some kind of diseased "not one of us" leper. That's
| not very biblical either, is it?

The forgotten visitor is not biblical – no doubt. Christians ought to be paragons of hospitality – we ought to be lavish in hospitality without being wasteful.

That doesn’t get Saddleback off the hook of denigrating Baptism into something we do for the fun of it.

| centuri0n: . . . . there is no Biblical basis for the feeling that
| being baptized together would "really serve to bind
| them together finally as brother and sister in Christ."
| RAbanes: Preaching to the choir, man. Preaching to the
| choir. I'm just explaining.

That’s complete malarchy. Here’s how we can prove it out.

If the Guys with Ties stopped by my bookstore the other day, I could have asked them whether their church still baptizes for the death – that is, can one of them be baptized for the sake of a dead person they don’t believe was baptized?

Let’s imagine for a second that they said, “well, yeah, it’s true. Now here’s why they do that: {insert LDS ravings here} I would never do that, but that’s why it is done.”

Now let me ask you: did they defend the practice, did they just let it go, or did they reject the practice? They defended the practice – even if it was half-hearted because “they would never do it”. It’s like saying – as I have heard atheist apologists say – that it’s fine for women to have as much sex as they feel like having before marriage, but don’t you dare bring up the point that this includes my little sister. My sister’s not a whore.

Well, which is it? Is a woman who has as much sex as she wants before marriage a whore, or should we not care whether she has sex outside of marriage? He can’t have it both ways.

And neither can you, Mr. Abanes.

| centuri0n: If baptism does anything at all, it signifies a
| changed life and joins one visibly to all who are
| joined spiritually in Christ. Rebaptizing the saved
| wife does not do this: it simply makes a show out of a
| solemn rite -- it makes the act about something other
| than Christ.
| RAbanes: Makes "a show"???? See, now why did you have
| to put that ugly, nasty spin on it???? How about
| thinking that maybe no one is making "a show" out of
| anything, but instead is having a really intimate,
| heart-rending moment of rejoicing with someone
| they love who they thought was going to go to hell
| (there's a word that should make you feel better).

Yes, the though of hell always makes me feel better, Mr. Abanes. Especially when someone who has accused me of ranting uses it to make his point. Baptism is not an act we do to demonstrate our joy at some event – we don’t get baptized at birthday parties, or at graduations, or when we get a raise.

We get baptized to be initiated into the body of Christ – to visibly unite ourselves with the church and identify with Christ. Someone who does it a second time (or consider this – maybe this woman was the first in her family to be baptized, and she’s overjoyed into baptism when her husband is saved, and then when each child is saved, and then when each grandchild is saved ... etc.) doesn’t know why they did it the first time. It’s like taking two crackers at communion, or two cups of juice.

It is precisely and exactly a show – a misuse of the ordinance to serve human, rather than divine, purposes.

| Honestly, I just don't get where all of the compassion,
| understanding, gentleness, love, and feeling has gone
| in some of you who have become so rigid that you
| probably would have lambasted Christ himself for
| walking through a cornfield on the Sabbath or eating
| with whores. (Oh wait, they already did that). Really,
| it's just sad to me.

This is not an argument, either: it is name-calling. “You’re a Pharisee because you think that a believer ought to be baptized only once, and understand it in a way that he does not treat it like a can of soda – going back for a second or third just because he feels like it.” That’s not phariseeism to expect that people are being discipled to understand the signs and symbols of our faith.

| centuri0n: I can't say that I don't see the romantic fluffy
| sweetness of wanting to be baptized together. I see it.
| RAbanes: Gee, C., thanks for the bone. And it goes a bit
| beyind that, too, I might add. It's about a family, or
| spouses, who realize they are all going to heaven.
| How about rejoicing a little over that and leaving
| some room for people to do something that really
| harms no one.

There’s no qualm about the rejoicing: it’s about what they use to rejoice! And I explicitly demonstrated why in the next bit, but something interesting happened ...

| centuri0n: Wouldn't it be keen if every marriage ceremony
| began with the baptism of the groom who then
| baptizes his bride? Wow! What a great way to
| celebrate marriage! The problem is that baptism was
| not instituted for the sake of marriage: it was
| instituted as an outward sign of a spiritual truth -- not
| as window dressing,
| RAbanes: Again, the nasty little "window dressing" snide
| remark. It's more than that—it's linked with wanting
| to make a profession of faith together before the
| world. But whatever, if you want to see it as a
| perversion and ugly, then go ahead.
| centuri0n: and not as a vehicle of self-fulfillment, but as an
| act of obedience that marks the start of a new life in
| Christ.
| RAbanes: "Self" fulfillment?? You want an example of
| "self" fulfillment? Go to ANY church in America and
| start messing with the stained glass, or organ music,
| or candles, or heck, just sit in someone else's weekly
| seat that theyv'e made claim to for the last 25 years
| and see just how much "self" fulfillment comes out.

The astute readers of this blog have already started fuming, but notice something: suddenly, when the point of the example is made, Abanes doesn’t say, “well, this isn’t about self-fulfillment because ...” Instead, he points out how “nasty” I am, and how “ANY church in America” has a problem, apparently, renders complaining about Saddleback ineffective.

Your entire argument, Mr. Abanes, is that baptism is fairly used as a vehicle for expressing joy – which is to say, as way to gain satisfaction for the urge of rejoicing. Yet, baptism is no such thing – or, at the very least – it ought not to be if we understand what the Bible teaches us about this thing. When we move it from the category of “thing God ordained for the church for a specific purpose” to “thing we can use for whatever we want it to mean”, we have made the transition to self-fulfillment from obedience.

Calling me “mean” or “nasty” or “smelly” will not change the matter of whether someone ought to be baptized a second time.

| centuri0n: Have a heart? Mr. Abanes: that's not an argument.
| RAbanes: Oh, but it is. You just don't like it.

No. If “have a heart” is an argument, we have to allow divorce to go unchallenged, gay marriage to be sanctioned by the church, abortion to be safe and legal – all sorts of bad ideas that you and I would agree have no bearing on whether we “have a heart”, yet our hearts are constantly being leveraged to make our minds change on the matter.

I do have a heart – and I know it is deceitful above all things. It is only in the renewing of my mind so that I can be a workman who is not ashamed that I can temper the randiness of my heart.

| centuri0n: That's a special pleading.
| RAbanes: It's that, too.

Does that require a response? Here’s a mirror – check to see if your argument is still breathing.

| centuri0n: When Mormons baptize for the sake of the dead,
| you would not accept the argument "have a heart".
| RAbanes: Well, of course, the really big difference is that
| they actually misapply a passage in the Bible to claim
| the the Lord actually commands it (I'll let you hunt
| down the verse). They also teach that such baptism is
| intrinsically linked to receiving salvation in the next
| life.

Again, your argument seems to be fading fast: if “have a heart” doesn’t justify the Mormon false belief, it does not justify your church’s false practice.

| If you want to REALLY talk about a problem within
| the evangelical world with regard to Baptism, I
| suggest that you start with the mainstream churches
| where there is no full immersion. Now, THAT is, in
| my opinion far worse because you have someone not
| even being baptized in the correct, biblical way! In
| other words, in that case, you have one baptism being
| done wrong. In Saddleback's case you have a correct
| baptism being done twice in order to share the
| experience with someone else. In my opinion, there is
| a difference. At the very least, I will assume that you
| feel just as stringly about all of the "Christian"
| churches that do baptisms wrong/unbiblically—
| - Nazarene (allows sprinkling, pouring)
| - Lutheran (allows washing, pouring, sprinkling)
| - Presbyterian (usualy by pouring or sprinkling)

It’s funny you mention this – not one of these groups would baptize a second time. So whatever point you are making, it is not that the multiple baptisms Saddleback allows are justified.

FWIW, the matter of whether full immersion was the baptism practiced in every incidence in the NT is utterly unsupportable – in the best case, there are many in which we cannot say that the method of baptism – except that it is by water – is spelled out at all. For example, when Philip baptizes the Eunich, it says
    36And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?" 38And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.
Now, was Philip rebaptized, or it is obvious that both men went into the water and came out of the water and the ritual occurred between the going in and coming out? It is plainly the latter.

In that, I’m still a Baptist: I believe that the believer is to be baptized, and that baptism is dipping or dunking when possible – but to dismiss (for example) the splashing or sprinkling that occurs for soldiers in Iraq who come to faith and want to be baptized (which is what your argument above does) based on Baptist interpolation of the word “baptism” and use that to disqualify giant classes of Christ churches because one cannot defend his church’s practice of multiple baptisms ... dude, you’re scaring me. I am certain you know better than this in terms of forming arguments. I’ve read your other work.

You are letting your emotion cloud good judgment.