Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 22, 1970
NUMBER 24, PAGE 5a,6a

Baptismal Regeneration

Dan Walters

I am disturbed about the article "To Baptists, on Baptism, From an Outsider," by Brother Edward Fudge, appearing in the July 9, 1970, issue of the Gospel Guardian. There is certainly nothing wrong with "communicating" (Editor Tant's word) with those in religious error, if this means speaking and writing in a tactful and loving manner. If it means minimizing our differences to the point of compromising truth and failing to clearly condemn error, then we had better go back to plain old fashioned preaching. It seems to me that Jesus had some trouble communicating with the Scribes and Pharisees.

Brother Fudge begins by saying that he does not "pretend to minimize" our differences with the Baptists. But then he says that "this is, to some extent, a problem of semantics." And he later asks the question, "Could it be that during passing years both Baptists and members of churches of Christ have developed their particular and exclusive ways of expressing ideas, so that much of our apparent disagreement regarding baptism is actually a matter of expression?" Surely anyone who has debated with a Baptist preacher could answer this question with a simple "no!" The famous Baptist debater L. S. Ballard says, "Yes, 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.' (Mark 16:16). This is a future promise of salvation for the body, and a parallel sentence is this: 'He that enters the train and takes a seat shall go to St. Louis.' But if he enters the train, he will go to St. Louis whether he takes a seat or not. Taking a seat only involves his comfort. So being baptized only involves one's comfort in going to heaven, but if he believes in Jesus Christ he will go to heaven whether he is baptized or not." (Fuqua-Ballard Debate, p. 69) I have no communications problem in understanding Ballard. He teaches that baptism is absolutely nonessential to anyone's salvation. That is the standard Baptist position. Of course one may dig up a few Baptist "laymen" who will disagree. I know a few Holiness who don't approve of women preachers.

Brother Fudge goes on to say, "we, too, reject completely the doctrine of "baptismal regeneration." Now just what does he mean by that statement? The New Testament does not use the phrase "baptismal regeneration," but it does use the words "baptism" and "regeneration." It further teaches clearly that we are regenerated in the process of baptism and as a result of baptism. If this is not "baptismal regeneration," then what is? Don't bring up the old line about water salvation and faith in the water instead of faith in Christ. This is not even a "doctrine," for no sane man ever believed it. It is merely a straw man put up by desperate Baptist debaters.

I am aware of only two basic positions on the subject of regeneration. So-called "spiritual regeneration" is the idea that a spiritually dead person is reborn by the operation of the Holy Spirit before and without the necessity of baptism. Most sectarians hold this view. They differ as to whether the predestined "elect" are the only ones regenerated, and as to whether the Holy Spirit is received before or after faith. But they most all agree that one is regenerated before and without the necessity of baptism.

"Baptismal regeneration" is the scriptural position. Walter Scott, the pioneer gospel preacher, was familiar not only with the scriptures but with denominational dogma and religious history. He wrote that "not a man of the orthodox church, from the apostles downwards, did, for four hundred years, ever assert that regeneration meant anything but baptism." He quoted the Calvinist scholar, Dr. Wall, as follows: "The Christians did, in all ancient times, continue the use of this name, regeneration for baptism, so that they never use the word regenerate, or born again, but they mean, or denote by it, baptism." (The Gospel Restored, pp. 451, 452) Certainly the "washing of regeneration" in Titus 3:5 refers to baptism. Could not this be called "baptismal regeneration" by every rule of common sense and logic? I beg then to be excluded from the "we" of Brother Fudge's article who "reject completely the doctrine of 'baptismal regeneration.'"

— Rt. 1, Bonham, Texas