Understanding Four Views of Baptism

By Mark S. Krause

This article is no longer available online, but all of the articles about baptism that appeared in the March 1 and 8, 2009, issues of CHRISTIAN STANDARD–plus a bonus article–are available for purchase as a single, redisigned, easy-to-read and easy-to-use downloadable resource/pdf (a fuller explanation is below).


Baptism: 7 Practical Perspectives

Item 02973    $2.99



What does the Bible teach about baptism? What does baptism symbolize and what does it accomplish? Why is there so much disagreement?

Seven writers offer their insights on this controversial but fundamental topic in this 14-page resource that—with the exception of one article—originally appeared in the March 1 and 8, 2009, issues of Christian Standard.

The writers closely examine the Scriptures, while also offering insights drawn from personal experiences. As one writer puts it in his summary statement: “Baptism is a richly meaningful act, commanded by Christ, in which we humbly ask the risen Lord for what he alone can give. It is a prayer that confesses our need and his supremacy. It does not detract from truth that the Lord alone saves; it confesses that truth.”


All downloads include permission to reproduce the material up to 10 times for ministry and educational purposes. To order this resource, CLICK HERETo sample the first few paragraphs of Mark S. Krause’s review of the book, Understanding Four Views on Baptism, continue reading below . . .  


Baptism has been a contentious doctrinal and practical issue in the churches of the Restoration Movement since the movement’s inception in the first half of the 19th century. In the last two decades or so, these churches have had an expanded circle of influence due to the growth of megachurches and the rise of Restoration Movement scholars who have earned respect in the larger evangelical world.

This widening circle has gone both ways, however. Many churches today are staffed by ministers and staff who have no concept of an “historic position” for the Christian churches and churches of Christ with regard to baptism. Doctrinal understanding of baptism is often borrowed from other evangelical traditions or watered down to be inoffensive to the largest possible audience.

Zondervan recently published a helpful book in this area, Understanding Four Views on Baptism. This comes in the “Counterpoint” series, in which four scholars from distinct traditions each writes an essay on the topic that represents his tradition’s understanding. Each essay is followed by responses from the other three authors containing their points of agreement and critique.

The four traditions represented are the Baptist, the Reformed (mainly Presbyterian), Lutheran, and Christian churches/churches of Christ (hereafter CC/CoC). The book’s editor, John Armstrong, defines the primary issue as, “What is the meaning and significance of baptism?” (p. 162), also stated as, “What does baptism mean and why is it important?” (p. 163). All of these authors come from traditions that value the authority of Scripture to understand this issue (p. 20), but they approach the scriptural information in different ways.

One might conclude there are no real surprises in this book for those who know the doctrines of these traditions, but that would be a hasty opinion. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the CC/CoC has even been given a place at this table of discussion. Our position has long been dismissed by most evangelicals as “water regenerationist” or “baptism is necessary for salvation,” without much consideration.

Armstrong chooses John D. Castelein of Lincoln (Illinois) Christian College and Seminary as the representative of the CC/CoC, and this proves to be an excellent choice. His essay presents both the central agreements about baptism from a Restoration Movement point of view while also admitting areas of freedom and divergence. . . .

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