Dear Mr. Holdeman,
In reading through your book, History of the Church of God, I see that you attempt to make a case for baptizing by pouring. I am not here to make a position for any other type of baptism, but to point out the faulty means by which you make your position.
You point out on in your book that Menno Simons baptized by pouring. First of all, let us consider the context of the words that you quote on page 147. “How anyone who is so unbelieving and rebellious, that he refuses God a handful of water can conform himself to love his enemies, mortify the flesh to the service of his neighbor, and take up the cross of Christ, I will leave the serious reader to reflect upon in the fear of God.”
Remember the conditions of the times in which Menno Simons lived. The Catholic Church was persecuting people for being baptized as an adult, upon confession of faith. First of all, what he is condemning here is refusal to be baptized upon confession of faith. Yes, it would seem to be apparent from what he says here that he baptized by pouring a little water, but the actual point he was making was that it was a rebellious person who would refuse baptism as an adult, upon confession of faith. He was condemning the adults around him who were relying on the handful of water sprinkled upon them as an infant. The great controversy of his times was not the mode of baptism, but in fact rebaptism. Because the Catholic Church baptized by sprinkling, it did not occur to him to baptize by immersion, but rather to modify the means just a little and pour rather than sprinkle.
Never forget that Menno Simons was essentially a Catholic at heart, but simply one who was rebelling against the established religion of his day. He had several issues with the Catholic Church when he left it. He did not believe in transubstantiation, the belief that the bread and wine in the mass were transformed into the actual blood and flesh of Christ. He rejected infant baptism. There were other points of doctrine that he took issue with, but the main structure of the Catholic Church was embedded in his mind. He believed that there was one true church, but he simply did not believe it was the Catholic Church. He walked away from it and claimed the mantle of the One True Church for himself. He didn’t ever stop to think that he might be wrong on that one point. He came out of an atmosphere of religious dissent, where men arose with their teachings and argued strongly for their own version of the truth. Calvin, Luther and others were emerging at about the same time,and all of them were making claim. In the book The Writings of Menno Simons, he has a number of articles addressed to various individuals with whom he debated and disagreed. In the introduction to one of his rather vehement articles, the editor of the book, Mr. Wenger makes an apology on Mennos behalf, trying to cover for his very high handed and bossy tone. He simply says that it was the habit of men in those days who were debating religious matters to become arrogant and rude with one another. I notice that somewhere in my reading, perhaps it was in the book Don Gable wrote immortalizing your works, that the same excuses were made. I don’t really care if it is the habit of the men of your times or not. I would expect you to follow the example of Christ and always be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. Always give a meek answer, and let the truth speak for itself. To become militant in proving the rightness of your position is not the best witness for yourself that you could come up with.
Because most of the religious leaders of that time period were resisting the Catholic Church, they were all consumed with the idea of their own rightness. They were trying to take rightness away from the Pope and claim it for themselves. Menno was no different in this. I do not mean to discredit all of the good that Menno has done. He taught baptism upon true conversion. He had many points of teaching that were quite sound. However, because he was essentially still caught up in Catholicism, he erred in many ways. These errors have been passed down through the centuries. Because you are intent on proving a lineage, you continue to perpetuate the error. Whenever you can, you quote some ancient writings to prove your point. You continually forget that all of these men had an agenda, and that was to replace the Catholic Church with one of their own. This is why it would have been in your best interest to quote only scripture, rather than the writings of man. By doing this, you have insured that you will veer from the path.
The truth of the matter is, when Catholic theologians are proving their points, they quote the early church fathers. Consider this quote from the website staycatholic.com: “Also worthy of note is the fact that the Early Fathers occasionally disagreed on minor issues that were not yet settled by the Church. This does not present us with a problem as we do not claim that the Fathers were infallible. While they were not infallible they were unmistakably Catholic. They clearly illustrate the fact that the early Church had no resemblance to Protestantism.” .
How can the Catholics and Menno Simons claim the same church fathers and both claim that they are in a line of theological succession to them? At what point do they diverge? These are the problems involved in patterning oneself after a man. The best use for the writings of the early church fathers is to make a determination of the point at which a particular false teaching originated. There will be more written about the early church fathers at another time, but let us now return to the issue of baptism.
First of all, the word baptize….let us examine the meaning of the word. Strongs gives this definition…
1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)
2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe
3) to overwhelm
hmmmm, I don’t notice the words sprinkle or pour. Mr. Holdeman, if you want to prove your position on the mode of baptism, the first thing you might want to do is go to the Bible. Check out the actual word “baptize.” Jump right over that ex-Catholic priest, Menno Simons, one who was already contaminated with the priesthood and a lifetime of Catholic indocrination, and go to the Bible. If we are to pour, why is the word denoting baptism not a word that can be translated “pour?”
In the time of the temple in Jerusalem, there were many ritual baths associated with the temple, which were used for cleansing. These baths had a series of steps which led down into them, and another series of steps which led out. The baths were fed with running stream water. The reasoning behind the two sets of steps was that one was unclean upon entering, immersed oneself by bending the knees and going under, and then proceeded out up another set of steps that were clean. It was because of this habit of immersing oneself in order to be cleansed that John the Baptist was able to start baptizing without causing an uproar. When he began to baptize in the Jordan River, he was doing nothing new or strange. For one thing, he was baptizing in running water,which was the correct way of doing it. He was baptizing pilgrims who were on their way to Jerusalem for the festivals, as they needed to be immersed in order to be ritually pure for the feasts.
“During the Second Temple period (roughly from 100 B.C.E. to 70 C.E.), the Jewish population in Palestine had a very distinctive practice of purification within water installations known as mikva’ot. Large numbers of stepped-and-plastered mikva’ot have been found in excavations in Jerusalem, in outlying villages, as well as at various rural locations. Most of the installations in Jerusalem were in basements of private dwellings and therefore must have served the specific domestic needs of the city inhabitants. Numerous examples are known from the area of the “Upper City” of Second Temple period Jerusalem (the present-day Jewish Quarter and Mount Zion), with smaller numbers in the “City of David” and the “Bezetha Hill.” A few slightly larger mikva’ot are known in the immediate area of the Temple Mount, but these installations could not have met the needs of tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims from outside the city attending the festivities at the Temple on an annual basis. It would appear that the Bethesda and Siloam Pools – to the north and south of the Temple Mount – were designed at the time of Herod the Great to accommodate almost all of the ritual purification needs of the large numbers of Jewish pilgrims who flocked to Jerusalem for the festivals. In addition to this, those precluded from admission to the Temple, owing to disabilities and bodily defects, would have sought miraculous healing at these pools and this is the background for the healing accounts in the Gospel of John (5: 1–13; 9: 7, 11)”.
Furthermore, baptism is supposed to be related to the Israelites passing through the Red Sea. They went down under the water, and came up on the other side. 1 Cor. 10:1…Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; v.2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
This passing through the Red Sea was called a baptism. The Red Sea was not poured on them, but rather they went under it. However, Mr. Holdeman, you believe that Menno poured, so we will forget what the Bible says. If Menno poured, you will pour.
Another issue that many who pour have with those who immerse is that they claim that immersionists believe you are saved by baptism. They believe that immersionists claim that you go under lost and come up saved. This is not so. There are those who believe this, but it is by no means part of baptizing by immersion. This no doubt comes from the rabid anti-immersionist teachings of some deluded sect leader somewhere. Any false statement will be put forth in order to make another teaching seem wrong, simply so that his own may seem right. In other words, he creates a strawman argument, (creating a false argument and claiming that the other fellow is actually saying that and then shooting down the false argument.) I’m not so much promoting immersion, Brother Holdeman, as I am pointing out that you stray far from the truth when you try to prove your point. Menno Simons was a former Catholic priest. He made some adjustments, but in many ways he was still Catholic in his thinking. As I often say, we will address the ways in which he was Catholic at another time, but hold on to that thought. Bible Doctrine and Practice and the Catholic Catechism have more in common that some people would like to think.
You can pour if you want to, but remember, the Bible teaches immersion
I started out by saying that I was not going to make a case for a different form of baptism from pouring, but apparently, immersion proves itself. What can I say?