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.

Turner’s Addendum (posted 08/09/06):

First, a point of order. During this debate, Keith has stood the rule book of honorable debate on its head. I do not mean the rules outlining this particular debate, which were some minor formatting and length of response rules—rules which he has, in fact, followed. The rules I am talking about, the ones he has consistently and frequently violated, involve the general rules of debating—rules I had mistakenly assumed Keith, as an academician, would know and honor, like (1) stick with the proposition under discussion, (2) the negative, in his response, is obligated to address the affirmative’s arguments before introducing his own, and (3) the final arguments (both affirmative and negative) should address only what has already been discussed. In other words, a final argument is not the place for introducing new or undiscussed material.

(Therefore, in the next two positions, I must insist that these basic and well established rules be agreed to by Keith. He should have no immediate problem with this, for he will be in the affirmative during the next proposition and I intend to honor these rules while in the negative. However, when we enter the third proposition, he will again be in the negative and it is imperative that he be willing to conduct himself according to these rules. Therefore, I want to know now [viz., before starting the second proposition] if he will agree to do so.)

Second, another point of order. Mark 16:15-16, was the very first passage I used in this debate. Did Keith attempt to answer what I said in that First Affirmative? No, not until his Third Negative, which meant I would have no chance to respond to any argument he made on this passage. So, my complaint is not just with his Eis Aphesin Hamartion, Part II methodology. Therefore, I am also taking this opportunity to refer to his arguments on Mark 16:15-16, as well.

Mark 16:16 And John 5:24

In his arguments on Mark 16:16 and John 5:24, Keith stated, “Consequently,...the unbiased interpreter is apt to think that baptism may not be a condition for salvation after all.” And what did his statement hinge on?: He claimed that passages that teach a person is saved by “faith only” made the mention of baptism in Mark 16:16 only a coincidence. In point of fact, John 5:24, or any of the other passages Keith has mentioned in this debate, say nothing about “faith only.” Nevertheless, Keith insists on making the claim that baptism is not “an essential condition” of salvation. He illustrates his point this way:

An illustration helps illumine the logic: “He who boards a train and sits down will arrive in Phoenix.” Of course, the traveler will wish to sit during the trip, but it is not an essential condition... (One can attack this illustration—no illustration is perfect—but I trust the readers can understand my point.)

Now, if traveling to Phoenix was the issue, the above illustration would be fine, as all can readily understand that being on the train to Phoenix is the essential thing, not one’s position on the train (viz., sitting down, standing up, laying down, or hanging out the window, as long as one doesn’t hang so far out of the window that he falls off the train). But consider this illustration:

He who believes I will give him a $100.00 and is baptized will receive $100.00.

Now, does anyone think that all one has to do in order to receive the $100.00 is to believe I would give it to him? But if one did, per chance, think his belief was all that was necessary and he showed up without being baptized to collect his money, does anyone think he’d get it? So, illustrations may not be absolutely perfect, as Keith claims, but some illustrations are “more perfect” than others, and I really think this is all I have to say about whether salvation as a result of belief (one condition) and baptism (another condition) is the truth being taught in Mark 16:16.

Third, a final point of order. Keith quoted me as saying:

No reputable Greek scholar has ever thought eis should be translated because of! Go figure. Sort of makes one wonder what in the world they’re teaching in seminaries these days, doesn’t it?

Although he directly followed this with the admonition, “Such is unbecoming of any Bible student,” he is in error on what it is that is really unbecoming. For example, even though these quotes appeared in a short paragraph in Keith’s section on Eis Aphesin Hamartion, Part II, with the statement they had to do with my reaction to “the evidence for causal eis,” in truth, these statements did not, in any shape, form, or fashion, occur as represented by Keith. Actually, they are three separate, unrelated quotes. In fact, the first sentence (a partial quote, incidentally) does not represent anything I’ve said in this debate at all. It was lifted from an article I wrote and posted on my website some years ago. It is found within the immediate context of a discussion of the Greek prepositional phrase eis aphesin hamartion as found in Acts 2:38 and Matthew 26:28, and my statement had to do with the fact that no reputable Greek scholar thinks eis in these two parallel prepositional phrases should be “because of.” The article, entitled Bible Baptism Vs. Baptist Baptism, can be read by clicking here. You may read it for yourself to determine if I have properly represented the context.

For the record, I do not believe, nor have I taught in this debate, that the Greek preposition eis cannot be translated “because of,” or something similar, in some contexts. In fact, there are examples, other than those Keith cited, where it has been so translated. (Matthew 3:11 is one of those occasions. In other words, and even though eis isn’t actually translated “because of,” I believe the passage is teaching that John baptized them because of their repentance. Another example is Matthew 12:41, where we are told that those in Nineveh repented “at” (eis) the preaching of Jonah.) So, this particular quotation, which wasn’t even made in this debate, was made to appear within the context of what Keith describes as my sneering (that’s his word) at the idea that eis could be legitimately translated “because of” or something similar, which is patently false. And, if he would have actually engaged me concerning this during the debate, something I felt he was under obligation to do, he would not have to conjure up all sorts of ideas about what it is that he thinks I believe. Thus, Keith’s characterization of me based on a quote that wasn’t even made in this debate is what is really “unbecoming,” using his term once again. That is, this quote never meant what he tried to make it mean in this debate, and I believe those who read here are entitled to know it.

The second quote, “Go figure,” was something I said concerning Keith’s argument on Acts 22:16, which had nothing directly to do with eis, although this is what he wanted you to think. Here is the quote, in its context, so you can see for yourself:

Before getting into Keith’s interpretation of Romans 6:3-4, which will serve to conclude my remarks on this topic, I need to make a few remarks about his interpretation of Acts 22:16. But as I do so, I want you to remember that Keith has repeatedly criticized me for what he has called my “non-literal” hermeneutic. But now, he turns around and criticizes me for thinking that Acts 22:16 is literally saying that baptism serves as the place where God has agreed to wash away our sins. Go figure.

I assure you this was not meant to be a “sneer,” as Keith categorized it, but was, instead, intended to demonstrate the irony of the charge Keith was making against me. That’s all!

The third quote, “Sort of makes one wonder what in the world they’re teaching in seminaries these days, doesn’t it?,” was made within the context of Keith’s interpretation of Romans 6:3-4 and had nothing directly to do with any argument about eis. Instead, it had to do with Keith’s claim to have discovered, using what he calls a “strict literal interpretation,” a “‘metaphorical baptism,’ as he called it, and to do so, evidently, with a straight face.” This was immediately followed with the statement in question. Yes, this was a barb, and he was completely deserving of it, in my opinion. But a “sneer,” nope, not at all, although such a characterization certainly fit his ad hominem slur. And a slur, no doubt, is exactly what he intended.

Although Keith characterizes my defense of what I believe to be true as a “fiasco,” hoping you will believe I readily involved myself in conduct “unbecoming a Bible student,” I believe most who read here will recognize these misrepresentations for what they are, knowing who it is who is really engaged in conduct unbecoming. So, with this said, I’ll now offer a reply to Keith’s concluding arguments on eis aphesin hamartion.

“Eis Aphesin Hamartion, Part II”

There is a broad consensus that the fundamental significance of eis is “into” (“unto,” “for,” “in order to”). Yes, it is true, as Keith pointed out, that the basic meaning of eis will be modified by the various contexts in which it is used. Yes, it is true, and I never argued otherwise, that eis could mean “because of,” or something similar, in a context other than Matthew 26:28 and Acts 2:38 (and I listed some of these already). But even so, it remains true that into remains its fundamental significance. So, when Keith states, “In fact, one prominent translator for the original New American Standard Bible and General Editor of a leading concordance explicitly confessed to me, ‘In some contexts, eis can be causal,’” he is establishing something that has not been questioned by me in this debate. But, and this is my point, he has not produced one reputable Greek scholar—not one—who actually believes that eis in the prepositional phrase eis aphesin hamartion in Matthew 26:28 or Acts 2:38 should be translated “because of.” That Keith is unable to admit to this is his problem, and has to do more with the doctrine he is defending than what the Scriptures actually teach. In other words, it is his Calvinism, not sound exegesis, that puts him at odds with the majority of Bible scholarship on this subject.

For example, George Benedict Winer says that eis is “the opposite of ek” (A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament, 7th Edition, p. 396). He gives Romans 1:17 and 5:16 as examples to illustrate this. Concerning ek, he writes, “Ek originally denotes issuing from within (the compass, sphere, of) something (antithetic to eis, Luke x. 7; xvii. 24”) [Op. cit.., p. 366]. So the basic significance of ek is “out of,” and the basic significance of eis is “into.” In Acts 2.38, Peter tells the Jews to repent and be baptized eis (viz., “into,” “unto,” “for,” or “in order to”) the remission of sins—not “because of,” as Keith argues. Thus, repentance and baptism are viewed as bringing one “into” the remission of sins (i.e., these bring one into the sphere, state, or condition in which he has the remission of sins). When this is put into idiomatic English, it reads something like, “Repent and be baptized in order to obtain the remission of sins.” And this, dear reader, is the way a majority of the authorities translate Peter’s statement. Respecting eis, Winer further says, “Used topically, of ideal relations, it denotes any aim or end; ...; the purpose and end in view...” (Ibid., pp. 396-397). He lists Acts 2:38 as one of the examples of this usage. Therefore, one may say that, according to this noted grammarian, the aim, end, or purpose of repentance and baptism, as stated in Acts 2:38, is the remission of sins. But so as not to confine the case to one Greek scholar, the following additional testimony is offered.

In the great Greek-English Lexicon of Grimm, translated with additions by Joseph Henry Thayer (henceforth abbreviated GT), the uses of baptizo with various prepositions are discussed. GT states that baptizo is used with the preposition eis “to mark the end” in such passages as Acts 2.38. Specifically writing about Acts 2.38, GT has, “eis aphesin hamartion, to obtain the forgiveness of sins, Acts ii. 38” (GT, p. 94). As I pointed out in my First Affirmative, eis aphesin hamartion is the Greek phrase rendered in the KJV as “for the remission of sins,” and GT says it means “to obtain the forgiveness of sins.”

The Greek-English Lexicon of Walter Bauer, translated by Arndt and Gingrich, is equally clear (abbreviated hereafter as AG). AG says that baptizo is used “with the purpose given eis aphesin ton hamartion Acts 2:38” (AG, p. 131). One of the uses of eis, AG states, is “to indicate the goal.” Under this major heading, AG has a subdivision indicating that eis is used “to denote purpose” and means “in order to.” The illustration given is the one in Acts 2.38, eis aphesin hamartion, which AG translates, “for forgiveness of sins, so that sins might be forgiven” (AG, p. 228).

H.A.W. Meyer, standing at least on a plane with the preceding, if not above them, as an authority on New Testament Greek, wrote, “eis denotes the object of the baptism, which is the remission of the guilt contracted in the state before metanoia” (Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles, 4th Edition, p. 67). Of course, and I know you know this, Keith, metanoia is a Greek noun meaning “repentance.” I simply state this here for the benefit of those readers who may not know the meaning of this Greek word and to point out that whatever those addressed in Acts 2:38 were to repent for (unto), they were also to be baptized for (unto). Personally, I’ve never known of a Baptist, or read behind one, who would argue that one can obtain the remission of sins without repentance. That is, they understand repentance to be a condition of salvation. They acknowledge that without repentance there can simply be no remission of sins. They also know that those being addressed in Acts 2:38 are not being told to repent “because of” the remission of sins (i.e., because they had already received the remission of sins when they believed). Again, whatever one repents “for,” he is to be baptized “for.”

As I mentioned in my First Affirmative way back at the beginning of this debate, even scholars (and there are many of them) whose theological positions deny the necessity of baptism for salvation have seen the force of this passage and have put aside their denominational prejudices to translate correctly in agreement with the scholars quoted above. In fact, the very best analysis of Acts 2:38 I am familiar with is by J. W. Willmarth, the Baptist preacher and scholar. His article, “Baptism and Remission,” originally appeared in The Baptist Quarterly (July, 1877) and was reprinted in 1908 by J.W. Shepherd. Willmarth concluded his careful exegesis by stating:

We conclude without hesitation, and in accordance with such authorities as Hackett, Winer, Meyer, etc., that the proper rendering of eis aphesin hamartion in Acts ii. 38, as in Matthew xxvi. 28, is unto, for, i. e., in order to, Remission of Sins.

The Baptist commentator Horatio B. Hackett, referred to in the quotation from Willmarth, translates eis aphesin hamartion as, "in order to the forgiveness of sins.”

Finally, two Baptist scholars, Charles B. Williams and Edgar J. Goodspeed, have given two of the most forceful translations of this verse. Williams translates, “You must repent—and, as an expression of it, let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ—that you may have your sins forgiven; and then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Goodspeed has, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to have your sins forgiven; then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Thus, if it all came down to this one passage, Acts 2:28, and it dosen’t, then Keith has hitched his argument to something he has, by his own admission, referred to as a “possibility.” But I’ve pointed out in this debate, there are a multitude of other passages that teach baptism is a condition of salvation, washes away sins, or saves us. Suffice it to say that reputable Greek scholars, of whatever denominational affiliation, consistently testify that the language of Acts 2:38 makes the object, aim, or purpose of repentance and baptism the obtaining of the forgiveness of sins.

Thus, I rest my case.

But because Keith is actually the one in the negative, I offer him the opportunity to make his final response and to tell me whether he intends to abide by the rules mentioned above. As soon as he does that, and depending upon his response, we’ll proceed to the second proposition.

Go To Saare’s Addendum

Back To Saare’s Third Negative

Back To Turner’s Third Affirmative

Back To Saare’s Second Negative

Back To Turner’s Second Affirmative

Back To Saare’s First Negative

Back To Turner’s First Affirmative

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