Vol.XV No.XI Pg.5
January 1979

The Lawyer's "Case''

Robert F. Turner

"On the road" one meets all kinds of quibbles that are supposed to pass for arguments. And occasionally they come from one who fancies himself a brilliant logician — like the lawyer who remarked, "You preachers know the answers to the ordinary, but what can you do when you meet a smart man?" He then proceeded to demonstrate. "The Catholic Church established the canon of the Scriptures, and you accept that. But when this same authority says sprinkling will do for baptism, you illogically reject that."

In the first place, truth existed prior to the "church" and was proclaimed by inspired men (Jn. 16:12-f., Acts 2:) so that men who heard, believed and obeyed might become the "called-out" (ones) belonging to the Lord. The ways, paths, law and word of the Lord went forth from Jerusalem (Isa. 2:2-3), by inspiration, NOT by "authority" of some human council. It was passed to following generations by word as well as by epistle (2 Thes. 2:15), and the writings were regarded as "scriptures" before any council so declared (2 Pet. 3:15-16).

Brethren sought to preserve, and to distinguish genuine from spurious material from the beginning-- even as they do now — but God did not appoint "the church" (as an organized society) to "authorize" anything. This aspect of early "church business" was something they assumed for themselves. We do not accept today's "canon" on that basis — in fact, we reject some of the material they accepted.

Second: even if the "church" was the "authority" for the canon (meaning those books accepted as belonging in our Bible) it would not follow that they could alter the meaning of Greek words found in those books. A "smart" lawyer should know the difference in validating a document and interpreting its content. Baptism by immersion stands on the authority of the original language of the text.

And third: lexicographers, both Catholic and Protestant, agree that baptidzo does not authorize sprinkling. The Catholic Church claims the authority to accept sprinkling — it is one of many things offered on the "authority of the church" rather than on Bible authority. If the lawyer thinks the Roman church gives Bible authority for all it teaches or practices, he is far behind in his study. He had better do much more "leg" work before he goes to court with this case. And he might review his undergraduate studies of the fallacy of non-sequitur ("it does not follow").

Baptidzo means, "to immerse, plunge under, dip, wash." Naaman was told to "wash in the Jordan" (louo- bathe completely), and he "dipped himself" (baptidzo- immersed) (LXX, 2 Kng. 5:). We are "buried with him by baptism into death" (Rom. 6:4). John baptized in Enon near to Salim, "because there was much water there" (Jn. 3:23). Philip and the eunuch "went down both into the water ... and he baptized him" (Acts 8:38). The "baptism" of suffering (Matt. 20:22) refers to an overwhelming of suffering; and the same idea inheres in "baptism" of Spirit. It took "cloud and sea" to "baptize" the exodus march (1 Cor. 10:1-2). The lawyer's case (?) must be "Dismissed!"