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Baptismal Regeneration: Refutation of James White

Baptismal Regeneration: Refutation of James White August 27, 2021

This is a reply to an article by Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White: “A Brief Rebuttal of Baptismal Regeneration” (8 May 1998). White is, in my opinion, the most influential, well-known, and able (and certainly most published and “heard”: through his podcasts and oral debates) Protestant anti-Catholic apologist / sophist / polemicist of our time. His words will be in blue.

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“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” So wrote the Apostle Peter to the early Christians (1 Peter 1:18-19). He, as all the other Apostles, believed that we are redeemed, cleansed, forgiven, in the blood of Jesus Christ. Yet, there are many today who would replace the blood of Christ with the water of a baptistery.

This is absurd and asinine right out of the starting-gate, when we consider that the vast majority of Christians today and throughout history (Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutheran, Methodists, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ) believe and believed in baptismal regeneration. None of the above groups thought that baptism, as a sacrament, “replace[d] the blood of Christ”. It was a physical means of transmitting God’s free, unearned, unmerited grace to human beings (the standard definition of sacrament for Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants alike).

Even among the Christians who reject baptismal regeneration, most of them practice infant baptism, which is also anathema to White’s Baptist theology. This includes his own hero, John Calvin. Here is what Calvin thought of adult, “believer’s” baptism (from a Reformed site):

Calvin declares that “infants cannot be deprived of it[baptism] without open violation of the will of God” (Inst. 4, 16, 8). He reasons this primarily through paralleling circumcision and baptism, asserting that Scripture testifies to the fact that baptism is for the Christians what circumcision was previously for the Jews (Inst. 4, 16, 11). . . . 

Calvin attacks the claim that many years passed after Christ’s resurrection during which infant baptism was unknown. Calvin calls this claim “shamefully untruthful”, noting that “there is no writer, however ancient, who does not regard its origin in the apostolic age as a certainty” (Inst. 4, 16, 8). In his footnotes, Calvin cites Irenaeus, Origen, and Cyprian among some of the early advocates for infant baptism (Inst. 4, 16, 8). . . . 

Calvin plainly affirms that the promise is the same for both covenants (Inst. 4, 16, 4). Both covenant promises receive God’s fatherly favour of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Calvin argues that circumcision was the token by which the Jews were “assured of adoption as the people and household of God” (Inst. 4, 16, 4). Similarly, the people of the Church are consecrated to God through baptism, “to be reckoned as his people” (Inst. 4, 16, 4). . . . 

Some Anabaptists in Calvin’s day argued that circumcision could not be equated with infant baptism because circumcision was a literal sign and its promises were purely carnal (Inst. 4, 16, 10). Calvin counters by claiming that if we regard circumcision as a literal sign, “we must estimate baptism to be the same” (Inst. 4, 16, 11). Calvin bases this assertion on Colossians, chapter two, where Paul makes neither more spiritual than the other. Paul says that we were circumcised in Christ not by a circumcision made with hands, when we laid aside the body of sin which dwelt in our flesh. This he calls the “circumcision of Christ” (Col.2:11). Paul afterwards adds that in baptism we were “buried with Christ” (Col.2:12). Calvin sees this to mean nothing except that “the fulfillment and truth of baptism are also the truth and fulfillment of circumcision” (Inst. 4, 16, 11). Calvin believes that the apostle Paul is demonstrating that baptism is for the Christians what circumcision previously was for the Jews. . . . 

[A]dvocates of believer’s baptism avow that baptism must be preceded by faith and repentance (Inst. 4, 16, 23). These people argue that since this is not possible in the infancy stage, “we must guard against admitting infants into the fellowship of baptism” (Inst. 4, 16, 20). Calvin refutes “these darts” by directing our attention to the testimonies of Scripture that show that circumcision was also a sign of repentance (Jer.4:4; 9:25; Deut. 10:16; 30:6). If God communicated circumcision to infants as a sacrament of repentance and faith, as Calvin argues, it does not seem absurd if they are now made participants in baptism. Although infants, at the very moment they were circumcised, did not comprehend what the sign meant, “they were truly circumcised to the mortification of their corrupt and defiled nature” (Inst. 4, 16, 20). Likewise, infants are baptized into “future repentance and faith” and “the seed of both lies hidden within them by the secret working of the Spirit” (Inst. 4, 16, 20). To refuse infants baptism then, according to Calvin, is to “rage openly at God’s institution” (Inst. 4, 16, 20).

Thus, he thinks baptism and “the grace of God” are antithetical to each other. Above, he said baptism was contrary to “the blood of Christ.” Not only that, he holds that people who believe in baptism as a sacrament (and above all, those — like Luther — who think it is a sacrament that regenerates) ought not be called “Christian” either. I scrutinized the logical implications of this view in a 2003 article of mine, and concluded that White’s view inexorably leads him to the absurd position that St. Augustine, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Wesley, and Philip Melanchthon (along with many many others of similar beliefs) were not Christians at all.

Needless to say, Bishop White (since he has been fleeing in terror from all of my rebuttals of his arguments these past 26 years) has never shown how this is not the case. And it’s important that we understand his radical, extreme, novel, anti-biblical and anti-traditional position on baptism and all sacraments, before we examine his particular arguments.

They teach that we are regenerated, made alive, cleansed, by water baptism.

Yes, “they” do: that is, the vast majority of all Christians throughout history, starting with the writers of the New Testament, who made the teaching of baptismal regeneration very clear indeed.

Some insist that it must be baptism by immersion; others say that sprinkling accomplishes the same thing.

And others, like Bishop White, remarkably thinks that such an important command for all Christians does precisely nothing.

In either case, the work of Jesus Christ on the cross cannot be said to be finished and efficacious until man does something–in this case, adds his work of baptism to the work of God in Christ. 

God and the regenerate, observant, obedient Christian disciples — contra White’s “either/or” nonsense — always cooperate together, with God’s grace being the ultimate cause of any and all good things that human beings do, as the Bible explicitly asserts:

Mark 16:20 (RSV) And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.

Acts 2:40-41 And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
[41] So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 

1 Corinthians 3:8-9 He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me. (cf. 15:58; Gal 5:6, 6:7-9)

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; [13] for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 

1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to your teaching: hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

One might describe the difference in approach as follows:

Reformed / Calvinist (White’s) outlook: God does all, therefore it is senseless and heretical to speak of man doing anything as regards to grace and salvation, and to do so is at least a semi-Pelagian position, detracting from God’s sole work in salvation.

Catholicism / Bible / “Both/and” outlook: God does all and enables all, pertaining to grace and salvation, yet man can also cooperate with God and in a non-Pelagian sense “participate” in the process.

Make your choice: massive and clear biblical teaching (that we cooperate with God and do good works and actions, solely by cause of His prior enabling grace), or James White’s stunted, irrational denial of it, because he is a prisoner of his own false, unbiblical traditions of men.

Baptism is said to be the means of salvation, the method by which Christ’s work at Calvary is taken from the merely theoretical to the actual.

Technically, regeneration, rather than ultimate salvation, because true Christians can fall away from the faith.

Underlying the idea that man, by an action such as baptism, can bring about his own regeneration, is the rejection of the Biblical teaching of sin, and most especially, the truth that sin enslaves man, debilitates man, brings spiritual death to man. 

No one who believes in baptismal regeneration thinks that a person “can bring about his own regeneration.” That would be the heresy of Pelagianism: firmly rejected by the Catholic Church. God does all through the sacrament. The analogy I always use is a prisoner accepting a pardon from the Governor. Does the prisoner “do” anything to receive it? No; nothing except accepting the pardon (just as a baby “accepts” baptismal water, not even knowing what is going on), which is hardly doing anything.

Yet according to Bishop White’s convoluted “logic” the prisoner would be bringing about his own freedom, rather than the Governor doing so. It’s ridiculous. But this is what false presuppositions do to a mind. If a person repents and desires to change their life and follow Jesus, they have “done” something (by deciding they will do so). But of course it was caused and brought about by God’s grace. So God did it. But the person cooperated; he did something (see all the Bible passages above for that).

Man in sin must be freed from slavery to sin. He cannot free Himself, but must be freed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is an offensive truth to the unregenerate man, as the response from these would-be self-made disciples indicates (8:41, 48). Men do not like to hear that they are, in fact, totally dependent upon God’s grace for salvation–they do not want to know that they are incapable of saving themselves, or even of coming unto Christ for salvation, outside of God’s gracious drawing (John 6:44). But as the Lord Himself said, we are slaves to sin. Slaves must be freed.

No Christian who has any theological understanding at all, rejects this, So White is merely flailing away at a straw man. It’s entertaining and comical (like Don Quixote), but it doesn’t advance intelligent discussion on the matter one whit. He’s simply p[reaching to the “Christian choir.” It’s like saying, “I believe that water is essential for life!” We reply with, “Duh!!!” Likewise, grace (often received through physical sacraments) is responsible for all spiritual life and goodness whatsoever. He wastes two more paragraphs reiterating the same redundancies and non sequiturs.

Those who hold to baptismal regeneration would have us to believe that one passes from being a “natural man” to a “spiritual man” through baptism; yet, from whence does this desire to be baptized come? . . . Paul said that the one who is still fleshly cannot please God. If such a person is the enemy of God, enslaved to sin, how is it that he is able to do such a spiritual and pleasing thing as to desire to be baptized? Obviously, this is impossible.

The desire comes from God the Holy Spirit and Gods grace, of course: exactly where White thinks it comes for those in his Christian tradition who at some point dedicate their lives to God (which is a “thing” and an “action” as well): they agree — by His grace — to follow God, just as Paul says in Philippians 2:13: “God is at work in you, both to will and to work.” One wonders whether White is even familiar with a Bible passage like that and the many others above?

In fact, the “normative” way a Baptist publicly declares that he or she has dedicated themselves to Jesus as a disciple and serious practicing Christian is by the (purely symbolic act) of getting baptized. I could just as well ask Bishop White: “from whence does this desire to be [symbolically] baptized come?” And the answer is the same. It always goes back to God. It’s obvious, therefore, that if God can lead a Baptist to publicly proclaim allegiance to Jesus Christ via the act of symbolic baptism, then by the same token He can lead a previously pagan adult Christian to a baptism that he or she and the Church believe actually accomplishes regeneration.

The process of making such a serious resolution is exactly the same in both cases. And actually, Catholics believe that the Baptist also receives regeneration, since it is true baptism that they receive (if a trinitarian formula and proper intent are present). God isn’t going to deprive a sincere Christian of all of that grace simply because he or she is misinformed.

Never is it said that we are justified by baptism.

It is indeed said, here:

Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

For Bishop White, justification essentially is salvation, since in (false) Calvinist teaching, one can never fall away. Hence, if they are justified (and/or regenerated), they are, and will be (eschatologically) saved. And the Bible directly links baptism to salvation:

Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (cf. 3:3: “unless a man is born again …”)

Romans 6:3-4 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,

1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, . . . now saves you, . . .

White is like the poor soul who can look all over the sky on a clear day at high noon in summer and not be able to find the sun. How does one manage to ignore and dismiss so much clear biblical teaching?

In light of the fact that any review of the central passages of the New Testament that directly deal with how a man is made right with God will lead us to recognize our own inability and the great ability of our God to save, what is to be said concerning those passages, drawn from one context or another, that seem to indicate that we are saved or forgiven by baptism? 

See the above. I didn’t even include Acts 2:38 and 22:16, where it is stated that our since are forgiven and washed away (since White mentioned forgiveness there).

First, we must point out that it is common for some to confuse the importance of baptism with the idea of the necessity of baptism.

This is plain dumb. Since all the passages I set forth above speak of salvation and regeneration (and also justification) coming through baptism. Obviously, then, failing baptism, logically speaking, one’s salvation is dubious. One can’t enter the kingdom of God without it (Jn 3:5). That’s certainly a lack of salvation and a necessity of baptism. What part of “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” does Bishop White not grasp or accept?

But just as the holy Law of God was misused by the Pharisees in Jerusalem, and the Judaizers in Galatia, so baptism has been misused by modern proponents of the works-oriented system of baptismal regeneration.

It has nothing to do with works-salvation or Pelagianism or worthless works by unregenerate man, as Paul makes abundantly clear (almost seeming to answer White’s foolish objection):

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,

This passage singlehandedly proves that the act of baptism is not a work in the cynical White / Calvinist sense of “worthless works by unregenerate man.” It’s White’s reasoning that is manifestly unbiblical, not that of the overwhelming majority of Christians for two thousand years who have accepted the biblical teaching of baptismal regeneration.

In fact, the Baptist conception of a Baptism that does nothing whatever is far more of a work of man than Catholic / Lutheran / Orthodox baptism, where God actually does something supernatural and literally life-transforming. God is the key mover, not fallen, flawed, frail man. The Baptist empty “rite” is all human, 100% human. God does nothing whatever. So which “procedure” is more accurately classified as purely a work of man? Let’s get real . . .

Bishop White then attempts to grapple with the biblical passages about baptismal regeneration, starting wit Acts 2:38 (I’ll add a few more verses for context):

Acts 2:38-41 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [39] For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” [40] And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” [41] So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

A tremendously large number of interpretations have been set forth on this passage over the years. We believe the simplest and most consistent manner of approach is to ask a question that is frequently not asked at all: we here have a short snippet of what was obviously a longer sermon by Peter.

In other words, an argument from silence, which is a classic logical fallacy (how strikingly desperate White is here for any “reply” at all, no matter how weak!). But there is enough in the verse itself.

Does Peter elsewhere tell us, in plain language, how our sins are remitted, how we are cleansed from our burden of guilt? Certainly! We began our article with the quotation of 1 Peter 1:18-19, where Peter directly teaches that we are cleansed by the blood of the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

First of all, he’s already told us, “in plain languagein Acts 2:38-41 that baptism brings 1) “forgiveness of . . . sins”, 2) the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (which no Calvinist or anyone other Christian could ever think an unregenerate person possessed), 3) salvation (“save yourselves” [by being baptized]), and 4) being added to the rank of saved “souls” (cf. Gal 3:27). What more does anyone need? But White looks at all that and his eyes glaze over and he sees nothing.  Perhaps he himself might possibly be unregenerate if he is so dense as to not see and perceive these things? He’s like the “carnal man” that Paul talks about, who can’t comprehend spiritual matters. Thus, White ignores all that and seeks to go elsewhere in Peter’s writings, to try to (in effect) make him contradict himself. Quite a methodology . . .

So Peter says we are cleansed by the blood of Christ? Of course we are. No one denies it. But we’re also cleansed by baptism. It’s not “either/or.” Romans 6:3-4, after all, incorporates the blood of Jesus into baptism by referring to His “death” (which certainly included His blood!). So also does the larger passage of 1 Peter 3:14-22; 4:1, for that matter).  No problem. It’s much ado about nothing. Peter then goes on to assert, two chapters later, that “baptism . . . saves” us. If a dispute is whether “baptism saves” us or not, and an inspired Bible passage states “baptism saves”, and Mark 16:16 also asserts “He who believes and is baptized will be saved”: are those not answers to the very question being asked? How could they be any more plain and obvious than they are? But White, acting every bit the part of the clueless carnal man, babbles:

Do we then have sufficient basis to identify the waters of baptism with the blood of Christ? Surely not. Sins are remitted through our participation in the death of Jesus Christ . . . 

Exactly: just as Romans 6:3-4 and 1 Peter 3:14-22; 4:1 expressly state. Now perhaps he is starting to get it?

–it is by the “one time offering” of Jesus Christ that we are made whole (Hebrews 10:10-14). What of baptism then? It is the symbol, the outward representation before men of what the Spirit of God has done in our hearts (Titus 3:5-7). 

Except that this is not what the Bible teaches (as seen above). It’s a false tradition of men. Titus 3:5-7 does not teach at all that it is pure symbolism (this is sheer, rather pathetic eisegesis). To the contrary, it affirms that “he saved us, . . . by the washing of regeneration [i.e., baptism] and renewal in the Holy Spirit”: just as St. Peter in the very first Christian sermon after Pentecost also taught that we receive forgiveness of sins, salvation, and the Holy Spirit via baptism (Acts 2:38). Crystal clear as always. It’s White’s theology (not the Bible’s, nor the Catholic Church’s) that is muddled, confused, and viciously self-contradictory.

Unless we have first had our sins remitted in the blood of Christ, the symbol of baptism is meaningless. 

That’s simply not what the Bible teaches. Rather, baptism intrinsically involves the blood and redeeming death of Christ (Rom 6:3-4). Baptism is the participation in that, not subsequent to it. Paul reiterates two chapters later, the same thought he expressed with regard to baptism:

Romans 6:4-5 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 8:17 . . . heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

But doesn’t this passage say that baptism is for the remission of sins? Yes, but what does “for” mean?

White, like Bill Clinton, who retreated to “what the meaning of is is” in trying to extricate himself from perjury, White desperately retreats to a single word, for. He cites Baptist scholar A. T. Robertson in his favor, who is a good scholar and one I often use myself. But Robertson has a Baptist bias, just as I have a Catholic bias. We all have a bias. It’s best to be honest about it and be aware of it and how it may influence and affect our reasoning and our arguments. That’s all I’m saying. But biased or not, sure enough (I would say, precisely because of his bias) Robertson makes a big logical and exegetical error, in stating about Acts 2:38:

I understand Peter to be urging baptism on each of them who had already turned (repented) and for it to be done in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of sins which they had already received.

This makes no sense at all. He — and White following him — goes into the deep meaning of words, but misses the forest (the relevant Bible passages considered as a whole) for the trees. Robertson’s supposed causal order is:

1) Individual repents (which was, of course, caused by God’s grace).

2) Forgiveness of sins is granted by God as a result.

3) Then we get baptized in the name of Jesus in gratefulness for this forgiveness received prior to the baptism.

But when we closely examine the actual passage in question, we see that it does not, by any stretch of the imagination, teach this sequence. Rather, it plainly, clearly, perspicuously affirms the following sequence:

1) Repent. (Acts 2:38)

2) Get baptized, which is in effect “saving ourselves”: i.e., doing an act led by grace and God, whose effect will be our salvation (2:38, 40).

3) Then we receive forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and salvation (2:38, 40).

4) Baptism also brings about the result of our being “added” to the rank of souls who are regenerated and in the Church (2:41).

It’s baptism, for Peter, that immediately brings all this about. They come into he Church as saved or regenerated members after baptism, not before.  Robertson and White have it exactly backwards. And it is truly shocking to see such a great scholar literally “make” a Bible passage say almost the opposite of what it says. Plainly, Peter is teaching, “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It’s still in the future as he is saying this. It obviously comes through baptism.

Then he says “save yourselves.” He’s not assuming they are already saved, and now willing to do their symbolic public act. No! It’s in getting baptized that they “save themselves.” And they become members of the body of Christ, the Church, which is also obviously (by plain English, grammar, and logic) a result of baptism, rather than vice versa.

White then attempts to eisegete 1 Peter 3:21. Let’s see what he’s got. He’s been shooting all blanks so far.

[W]e point out that foremost in Peter’s mind, again, is the death of Christ as the sacrifice for sin. Men are brought to God, not by what they do, but what God has done in Christ Jesus (v. 18). Upon the heels of this he mentions God’s act of judgment in the days of Noah. At that time eight souls were saved through water. Peter then says that this water “symbolizes” baptism (as the NIV translates the Greek term antitupon, literally, “antitype”). Baptism now saves us, Peter says–just as the water “saved” Noah and his family. But, of course, we know that Peter was not asserting that there was some salvific aspect to the flood waters themselves–God shut up the ark, and God saved Noah and his family. But the water is a symbol, Peter says, a symbol seen now in baptism. But is Peter dropping the symbolization so as to make baptism the means of salvation? Certainly not. 

White misses the most basic point, and this is not rocket science. The Bible often uses natural things as symbols of supernatural ones (e.g., Jonah being in the belly of the whale three days and then emerging alive as a symbol of Jesus being dead for three days and then rising; many parables use similar parallelism). “Saved” in reference to Noah’s Ark meant physical, wholly natural “salvation” from drowning. But then Peter uses that as an illustration of the supernatural sacrament of baptism:

1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Baptism “corresponds” to Noah’s Ark as an analogy (the Ark being a natural prototype of a supernatural thing). It doesn’t follow that Peter’s saying that this baptism “saves” us is also merely symbolic. Peter doesn’t say that! White “reads it in” (eisegesis). In order to drive home the point, Peter throws in the fact that this baptism was not merely “a removal of dirt from the body” (not merely a physical, natural  thing), but related to suffering with (3:14, 16-17; 4:1) and being resurrected with Christ (3:21), just as St. Paul also taught (even more explicitly) in Romans 6:3-4.

White’s still not sure what St. Peter means here? Then he ought to compare the relatively less clear Scripture with the more clear one: in this case, by the same person (Acts 2:38 ff.): according to standard biblical exegesis and hermeneutics. We’ve seen how Peter clearly tied salvation and regeneration to baptism there. He also means the same here, since inspired Scripture doesn’t contradict itself.

White cites linguist and Bible translator Kenneth Wuest this time. He states, like a good evangelical:

The person is saved the moment he places his faith in the Lord Jesus. Water baptism is the visible testimony to his faith and the salvation he was given in answer to that faith. 

But he merely exhibits his preconceived beliefs. Once again, the biblical text doesn’t correspond, since it says “Baptism . . . saves you” as opposed to “your faith brings about salvation and then you go get baptized.” The text doesn’t teach that baptism is a symbolic testimony to a prior faith. It says that the baptism “saves.” Again, how much clearer in meaning could it possibly be? The special pleading to vainly try to escape the clear implications of these texts is extraordinary.

White now turns in his article to Acts 22:16.

The remission of sins is effected by calling upon the name of the Lord in this passage–it is represented, as elsewhere, by baptism. One thing is for certain: given what we have seen previously of Paul’s own theology of justification, he certainly did not interpret Ananias to be teaching any form of baptismal regeneration!

This is at first glance, clever, but at second glance, stupid. White merely sees what he wants to see. Since “calling on the Lord” is mentioned, he seizes on that phrase as “evangelical-sounding” and non-sacramental and enlists it for his purposes. In so doing he completely ignores the plain tie-in between baptism and remission of sins:

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

“Calling on his name: is not inconsistent with baptism. They are wholly compatible. But White cannot accept baptismal regeneration (because he’d have to change religious affiliation if he did), so he chooses to see what he wishes to see and ignores the rest. The fact is, that throughout the New Testament, baptism is seen as imperative and the means by which the early Church would know who was part of their fold or not. This was true for Paul in the passage above. As soon as he was “persuaded” of Christianity, the first thing he did was get baptized, which in turn washed away his sins.

Acts 8:12-13 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. [13] Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. . . . 

Acts 8:34-38 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?” [35] Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. [36] And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?” [38] And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

Acts 9:17-18 So Anani’as departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” [18] And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized,

Here, once again, baptism is tied in with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (cf. also 1 Cor 12:13).

Acts 16:14-15 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyati’ra, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul. [15] And when she was baptized, with her household, [infant baptism] . . . 

Acts 16:32-33 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. [33] And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family. [infant baptism]

Acts 18:8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 

1 Corinthians 1:16 (I did baptize also the household of Steph’anas. [infant baptism] . . . 

In conclusion, we must again insist that the Scriptures must be taken as a whole–when we find in the direct, clear statements of Scripture truths that are contradictory to assumptions based upon passing comments, we must take the clear statements over the assumptions. 

Amen! Would that Bishop White would follow his own advice.

In the issue of salvation, we must take the clear statements of Scripture regarding the work of the Spirit of God in regenerating lost sinners seriously. . . . 

Exactly, just as we take seriously everything else taught about baptism, and not selectively apply some things out of context and completely ignore other relevant considerations, based on our prior preconceived notions. 

When we properly present baptism as it is presented in Scripture, we glorify God’s grace and magnify His work of salvation in Jesus Christ. [my italics and bolding]

Yes we do. I couldn’t agree more.

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Photo credit: [Pinterest / Vimeo]

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Summary: I painstakingly interact with and rebut anti-Catholic polemicist James White’s critique of (biblical) baptismal regeneration, showing how at every turn he distorts clear scriptural teachings.

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