Death by baptism

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by rlvaughn, Jan 29, 2006.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Something Craigbythesea wrote in another thread brought my attention to this subject. He mentioned a Baptist preacher in Finland breaking the ice in their church baptismal tank in order to immerse a frail 95 year old woman. I inferred that perhaps she died, but don't know if that is right.

    Are there many documented cases of people dieing in the act of baptism? Many are probably familiar with the recent tragic death of Kyle Lake of Waco, Texas. As for me, this is the only time I have read or heard of someone dieing in/during the act of baptism. But I've never researched the subject.

    I'd like to keep the thread focused on the "historical" and not let this become a debate of the propriety of certain acts of baptism. I'd prefer that any posts be accompanied with verifiable documentation, rather than just asking us to take your word for it. In the absence of documentation, perhaps you can steer us towards further research possibilities on the subject.

    I mainly have in mind immersion, since that is the customary Baptist mode, but other information is OK also. I realize some people have been drowned as "heretics", but that's not what I have in mind. I'm thinking legitimate baptisms where something went wrong. Thanks.
     
  2. Joseph_Botwinick

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    Robert,

    You have a rather morbid mind. :D

    Joseph Botwinick
     
  3. Deacon

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  4. standingfirminChrist

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    During the baptism of King Aengus (in the middle of the fifth century), St. Patrick leaned on his sharp-pointed staff and inadvertently stabbed the king in the foot.

    When the ceremony was over, Patrick, seeing a growing pool of blood, suddenly realized what he had done and begged the king's forgiveness. "Why did you suffer this pain in silence," he asked. Replied the king: "I thought it was part of the ritual!"

    Knowing the Face of God, Tim Stafford, p. 121ff
     
  5. Joseph_Botwinick

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  6. rlvaughn

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    Joseph, I didn't intend to be morbid. I am guessing that some use the idea that immersion is more dangerous than sprinkling or pouring as one excuse to favor the latter over the former. I am also guessing that there are not many documented cases of "death by baptism".

    I have heard of numerous cases of breaking the ice in order to perform winter baptisms. Even my Fundamental Methodist ancestors and relatives in Missouri do so (though I'm sure it's not as cold in Missouri as Finland). But, then again, I think of the Orthodox Church, which is the prominent church in several very frigid climates -- Eastern Europe, Russia, Siberia, etc. Somehow they get away with performing trine immersions and not killing everyone!
     
  7. Bethelassoc

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    Bro. Vaughn,

    I can remember as a child seeing my dad help break the ice in the middle of Dec to help baptize a new convert. And no, they didn't die. [​IMG]
     
  8. Mark Osgatharp

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    Brother Vaughn,

    This may be a little off the subject, but there is a reference to winter baptism in the biography of Thomas Sheardown (a Baptist preacher who planted many churches in southern New York and northern Pennsylvania in the early 1800s).

    He said that they were going to baptize someone and as they approached the water the ice parted and drifted back from the bank. He stated that he had never sought nor expected any miraculous occurance but that he viewed the event as providential act of God.

    I know a lot of Baptist people would view such as hocus pocus or Pentecostalism; but I don't see anything in the Bible that would preclude God doing such a thing. And, unless the man lied about it, which I have no reason to believe he did, it is in fact what happened.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  9. rsr

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    I'm not aware of documented cases, though claims have been made.

    "Opponents ... of whom there were many if pamphlets against immersion be any guide, argued against it on several founds. Immersion was, its opponents said, unscriptural, unnecessary, unhealthy and immodest. Stories were told of people who allegedly sickened and died soon after immersion. Baptists countered with at least as many stories of people who, though immersed in rivers where the ice had to be broken, yet suffered no ill effects."

    — Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, pp. 47-48

    A bigger controversy, it seems, was that public baptisms were considered immodest, and Baptists were accused of encouraging nudity. The First London Confession deals forthrightly with the perceived problem: "The word baptizo signifies to dip or plunge (yet so as convenient garments be both upon the administrator and subject with all modesty)."
     
  10. Mark Osgatharp

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    Years ago I read an article in National Geographic about a man who took a dip in the creek every day - no matter how cold it was. The article showed pictures of him in the creek with snow and ice all around.

    At the time the interview was made the man was 100 years old and still going for his daily dip.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  11. Johnv

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    I'm sure we're all in agreement that immersion is the mode of preference, but I see no reason why another mode cannopt be used when a condition that would preclude immersion exists. After all, baptism is strictly a symbol. There's no reason why, pouring would be inappropriate in, say, a wheelchair bound individual.
     
  12. Bethelassoc

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    I also know of a woman that was wheelchair bound and of frail health and really couldn't leave her home, but she still wanted to be immersed..so the church used her bathtub.
     
  13. Singing Cop

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    I think most feel that immersion is the mode of preference because as far as most are concerned it is the act of obedience. I see no reason why any person with disabilites could not be immersed...maybe if they were in the Sahara or something, yes. What shortcommings would prevent a person from being immersed?
     
  14. standingfirminChrist

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    When I was pastoring, we did baptize one lady who was wheelchair bound. Two of us lifted her out of the wheelchair and baptized her (immersion).

    I do not hold to sprinkling (rhantizmos), but by immersion (baptizmos).

    The baptism was harder (it took to to hold the Sister) but it was done... and all rejoiced!
     
  15. rlvaughn

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    John, at the risk of derailing my own thread, I would like to address this briefly.

    From reading years ago, I have long had fixed in my mind that since baptism is a positive ordinance rather than a moral one, it should only be performed as intended by the Giver of it. For example, J. L. Reynolds wrote, "Baptism is a positive institution...The obligation to obedience, in either case (moral or positive, rlv), is the same; but the grounds upon which it rests are different. It is, moreover, the peculiarity of a moral precept, that it may be obeyed, when only the spirit of it is complied with. But in reference to a positive precept, no such distinction exists. Positive institutions derive their validity solely from the authority of the law-giver. They are obligatory, because he has made them so; and they are valid only in the form in which he has thought fit to appoint them." Or, as A. W. Pink writes, "The term 'positive law' is employed by theologians not as antithetical to 'negative,' but in contrast from those laws which are addressed to our moral nature: prayer is a 'moral' duty: baptism is a 'positive' ordinance."

    Church Polity or The Kingdom of Christ

    I have come to a conclusion which may not suit friends either to the right or to the left. But since baptism is a "positive ordinance", I had rather not perform it at all than perform it incorrectly. I am convinced that God will accept the will of the heart to perform that which a person is literally unable to perform.

    As to the history of deaths associated with baptism, I take it that the regular posters in this forum must not be acquainted with records of it happening beyond what has been mentioned. I confess that I am not.
     
  16. Karen

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    I would prefer not to give documentation, but I do think of a young boy I met who at the age of 6 or 7 was undergoing treatment for a rare form of cancer. He had some kind of tracheotomy with a pump. I am not sure if it was just to help him breath or also a portal for delivering medicine and chemotherapy. Anyway, he could only take sponge baths because of that.
    His parents on doctors' advice did everything to keep him from being in a tub, shower, swimming pool, or out in the rain.
    I did hear his mother express concern that he would not be able to be baptized. I have lost track of them.

    Karen
     
  17. rlvaughn

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    Thanks for the information, Karen. That's a little different situation from what I had in mind in the original post, but kind of goes along with what I just discussed with John. In this case it might not even be a good "argument" for pouring, as it sounds as if even that could be dangerous to the boy's life.

    This is kind of what I had in mind thinking the Lord can and will accept the desire of the heart as the performance of that which really cannot be performed. I know most of you don't believe in feet washing, but if you did... We would not expect a man with no hands and no feet to perform that which he could not.
     

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