Vol.V No.III Pg.3
May 1968

Poor John Doe!

Robert F. Turner

Is the element baptized, or is the subject baptized in the element??

If John Doe is the subject -- a man desiring baptism —- do we baptize John Doe, or do we baptize" the water?? This may sound like a foolish question, but humor me -— give it a serious answer.


According to common usage today, baptism may be by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling. Immersion means act of immersing, to plunge into anything that surrounds or covers; submersion. So, if we baptize by immersion we plunge the subject into the element, so as to cover or submerge.

Pouring means to cause to flow, run in a sluice; to issue as if in a stream. (In all definitions I am compounding noun and verb definitions so as to cover subject as fully as possible.) If we baptize by pouring we cause the subject to flow or run in a sluice, (poor John Doe) or, we cause the element (water) to flow or run in a sluice. Of course if it is the element that flows, then, by our dictionary it is the element that is baptized. If not, why not?

Sprinkling means to scatter in drops or particles; act of one that sprinkles. Now, if baptism means sprinkling we again ask, is the subject sprinkled, or is the element sprinkled? The subject receives the sprinkling, true; but in this we move to a tangent usage of terms. We could as well say the administrator sprinkles — but he sprinkles what? Does he cause the subject to be scattered in small drops, (poor John Doe) or, does he cause the element to be scattered in small drops??

So — this is a lot of foolishness! Do you realize that it fairly represents a theological argument that has been raging for centuries? And all so absolutely unnecessary!! If man would just be satisfied with what God has said on the subject there would be no need for any further argumentation.

Go — teach all nations, baptizing them — (Matt. 28:l9) No problem here; it is the taught people that are to be baptized — to be immersed, poured, or sprinkled, as the case may be. The subject — John Doe -- is to be baptized. The same truth is evident in other passages on the subject: He that believeth and is baptized — or repent and be baptized, every one of you —- (Mk. 16:16 Acts 2:38).

Baptism takes place in the element, as may be seen in Acts 8: 38: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. Much water is required, as we may see from John 3: 23: John also was baptizing in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there:.. And Paul wrote, We are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. BURIAL should and does settle the matter for those who seriously consider the word of God.

The scriptures do not command John to be caused to run in a sluice, or to be scattered in small drops.