The Saare-Turner Debate

Part One

Proposition: “The New Testament Scriptures teach that, for the penitent believer, water baptism is for, unto, or in order to the remission of sins.” Allan Turner affirms; Keith Saare denies.

Saare’s Second Negative (posted 07/28/06): As discussed at the end of my first negative, I now resume focusing on pertinent baptism passages to show the proper relationship that baptism has with the remission of sins and/or other salvation blessings. But first, since Mr. Turner now claims to be an advocate of literal interpretation, we will consider further examples of his un-literal use of “literal” to characterize his method of hermeneutics.

Literal Interpretation vs. Non-Literal Interpretation

For the reason that literal interpretation is the grammatico-historical method, one cannot have literal interpretation if he is oblivious to the principles of grammar. My opponent has again demonstrated in his second affirmative for this proposition that he is not bound by the principles of grammar when he desires to make a point based upon his presupposition in favor of baptismal regeneration. His interpretation of Acts 10:43 bears this out in which he stated, “Therefore, I believe that Acts 10:43 is teaching that whoever truly believes…will receive the remission of sins” (emphasis Turner’s). A side-by-side comparison, however, exposes his subtle attempt to tamper with the word of God by changing a key verb tense from the present into the future:

Saare's Second Chart

Is this what Mr. Turner deems as “literal interpretation”? I call it exegetical gymnastics. Because the context of Acts 10:43 in which Cornelius and the Gentiles immediately received the Holy Spirit upon hearing these words of Peter, there is no reason to believe Acts 10:43 utilizes a rare futuristic present tense that seldom appears in Greek grammar. By inserting the English word will, he is able to make room for applying the remission of sins at a later time for the believer who gets baptized. Does Mr. Turner believe the Bible is fully inspired? His method of playing fast and loose with it causes me to doubt. I choose to let the authority of God’s word drive my theology—he chooses to let his theology drive the authority of God’s word. The quality of his interpretive method is no different than the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ technique to render John 1:1c as “the Word was a god.

In another break from literal interpretation, Mr. Turner assigns a double meaning for “in the name” as appearing in Matthew 28:19. Literal interpretation, however, only accepts one true meaning for Scripture, but here he finds liberty to accept multiple, conflicting interpretations.

According to his first affirmative of this proposition, “ ‘into the name’…is...a statement about baptism’s goal—namely, to put one into a relationship with the Godhead” (emphasis mine). But in the next paragraph, “baptism that is in the ‘name’…is nothing other than baptism by the authority of Christ” (emphasis mine). These are not statements building upon a single unified theme; rather they are completely at odds with each other. I am reminded of James 1:8: A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (KJV). Since Mr. Turner has not settled on a single interpretation for Matthew 28:18-20, in essence I can stand aside and let him refute his own self. (For the record, I happen to believe that “in the name” just means “in the authority of.” The concept of name equaling authority or power is well attested in Scripture. Acts 4:7: “When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, ‘By what power, or in what name, have you done this?’” [emphasis mine])

I do not take joy in pointing out Mr. Turner’s exegetical fallacies. They interfere with me trying to deny this proposition. But because baptismal regeneration is supported by non-literal interpretation as Mr. Turner has shown, it is necessary for me to address these things to make an apologetic in favor of biblical baptism. It grieves me to see Mr. Turner attack baptism so fiercely by giving it such unbiblical power so as to nullify the blood of Christ and the concept of grace (cf. Galatians 2:21 & Romans 11:6).

Water Baptism: a Symbol of Salvation

The logic underlying the Scriptural concept of baptism’s symbolism is mortifying to Mr. Turner’s sacramental theology in every respect. Simply stated, a symbol cannot be the reality which it symbolizes. This truth is the inherit nature of all symbols. Take for example the flag of the United States, a piece of cloth with fifty stars and thirteen stripes. The flag represents a nation of people with a massive span of land reaching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. The flag of course is not the nation or its land mass, but it is a graphic representation that brings to mind the United States of America. Since the Scriptures teach that baptism is but a mere symbol, it cannot accomplish anything literal—otherwise it would be the reality that it is supposed to symbolize.

In a Scriptural example of how symbols function, my Lord Jesus spoke of the bread and wine as being His body and blood. Though He explicitly stated, “this is My body…this is My blood,” the symbolism is obvious because Jesus was physically present in His literal body when He made these declarations recorded in Matthew’s gospel. Apparently He felt at ease to speak of a reality in terms of symbolic language without fear that His disciples would be confused. Likewise, Scriptural affirmations attributing salvation blessings through baptism simply speak of reality in terms of symbolic language. Unlike Jesus’ true disciples, however, Mr. Turner is confused.

The clearest evidence regarding the symbolic nature of baptism is 1 Peter 3:21, for in it baptism is explicitly identified as an “antitype.” If Mr. Turner refuses to accept my commentary below about this, I hope he will at least do his own homework to research several lexicons to find out what an antitype is. At the end of his first affirmative, he spent some attention defining the word eperōtēma, but he neglected to address the more important term antitupos (“antitype”) which appears in the Greek text modifying baptism. In essence he majored on a minor point in the text and ignored its major point. Perhaps he was simply unaware of antitupos, or he purposely appealed to selective evidence hoping that the readers and I would not notice. We will have to await his explanation in this regard, but for now it is my pleasure to take up the responsibility of explaining it.

The King James Bible translates the term antitupos as “the like figure.” Mr. Turner, however, does not consider baptism to be a figure, rather in his system it is a wooden-literal means to obtain salvation. This is Roman Catholic sacramentalism in its purest form. His exegetical blunder herein is the figurative fallacy—he confuses what is figurative (namely baptism) for something that has literal merits. This is yet another example where the grammatico-historical method has become his stumbling block.

Since Mr. Turner has demonstrated a working knowledge of Thayer’s lexicon, he should recognize that antitupos according to Thayer means “a thing resembling another.” Could there possibly be a clearer definition of symbolism than this? Liddell and Scott understood the term to mean “figuring or representing”—both of these concepts militate against the idea that baptism results in literal salvation. Wherefore, the emphasis of baptism in 1 Peter 3:21 is upon the efficacy of what it represents, not upon what baptism is because it has no efficacy.

Interestingly, baptism’s symbolism in 1 Peter 3:21 is in harmony with the only other place where antitupos appears in the New Testament. In Hebrews 9:24, the holy place of Herod’s temple is called an antitupos of the spiritual temple in Heaven. In the sense of Hebrews 9:24, an antitupos is therefore nothing more than an earthly picture of a heavenly reality. For the sake that baptism is an antitype, Baptists and other evangelicals are fond of saying that baptism is an outward expression of an inward reality. They have very good justification from the Bible for doing so.

The Picture of Baptism’s Symbolism

If, as I claim, water baptism is a symbol, then just what does it symbolize? I believe the answer is found in Acts 22:16—namely, a cleansing from sin. Whereas Mr. Turner views Acts 22:16 as a literal means to obtain remission of sins, I believe the comprehensive evidence pertaining to Paul’s conversion speaks otherwise.

To see the symbolism in Acts 22:16, it is necessary first to consider the evidence that Paul was already saved by the time of his baptism. Since he was already saved and received the literal remission of sins, Acts 22:16 could be nothing more than a symbolic representation of his prior remission of sins (e.g., one cannot receive two pardons for the same crime). This evidence is revealed in Galatians 1:11-12 where Paul recounts his conversion experience with additional insights not explained in depth by Acts 22:

For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (emphasis mine).

According to Paul who wrote Romans 1:16, the gospel is “the power of God for salvation.” Hence using the language of Galatians 1:11-12, to receive the gospel is to receive salvation. Ananias, who baptized Paul, was a man. But Paul explicitly denied receiving the gospel from man in the passage quoted above. Wherefore, I understand that Ananias did not have a role in bringing salvation to Paul, whether through baptism or preaching. This salvation—via the gospel—came to Paul three days prior to his baptism when Jesus revealed Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus. That is when Paul received the gospel, was saved, and received the literal remission of sins (cf. Acts 3:19; 10:43). The washing away of sins described in Acts 22:16 could be nothing more than a mere symbolic act of cleansing therefore.

What about Baptism in Romans 6:3-4?

The question might arise, “If water baptism pictures a washing away of sins, then what about the concept of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection described in Romans 6:3-4?” I readily admit that all too often my Baptist brethren and other Christians hasten to find a link between water baptism and the metaphorical baptism of Romans 6:3-4. When they do this, it is because they are searching for the spiritual significance that water baptism pictures. I find this approach problematic and therefore break ranks from many of my brethren over this matter. But before we go any further, let us review what the text states:

Romans 6:3-4: Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

If water baptism pictures the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus because of Romans 6:3-4, then why not assign it the additional significance of wearing Jesus Christ like a garment because of Galatians 3:27? Why not also link Christian water baptism to picture the sufferings of James and John because of Mark 10:39, or the exodus of Israel because of 1 Corinthians 10:2? Should not these other baptism verses carry equal weight for determining the significance of Christian water baptism? Why do so many Christians give Romans 6:3-4 preference to connect with water baptism over other equally viable verses mentioning metaphorical baptisms? The logical conclusion to this approach concerns me. Water baptism thus is subject to take on too many competing images that clash and are not easily harmonized.

The truth of the matter is that strict literal interpretation of Romans 6:3-4 reveals there is not a single drop of water to be found anywhere in the context of Romans 6. The baptism of this passage is not immersion into water—rather it is baptism “into Christ Jesus,” baptism “into His death.” These are metaphors in the most basic sense. Because of 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, it is best to understand that this metaphorical baptism was done by proxy; it is not something the believer accomplishes through water baptism:

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Therefore, by strict literal interpretation, I reject the notion that Romans 6:3-4 explains what water baptism symbolizes. In Acts 22:16 we do find water baptism and symbolism, hence there is no need to go elsewhere to look for what the symbol of water baptism pictures. The baptism of Romans 6:3-4 is nothing more than an act accomplished on behalf of Christians by Jesus Christ and that is all. Though Romans 6:5 calls this baptism a “likeness,” there is good reason to believe this “likeness” refers to the manner in which Christ Jesus died and rose again on behalf of all believers per 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.

Looking Ahead

With my final 1,000 words to deny this proposition ahead next, we will look at Mark 16:16 and I will complete my discussion of eis aphesin hamartiōn from Acts 2:38. With John 3:5 being strong support of sola fide, I will incorporate it in favor of my proposition to affirm afterwards.

Allan Turner has two weeks to post his response. As soon as he does, a link to it will be posted here.

Go To Turner’s Third Affirmative

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