If a medical condition hinders baptism

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by rlvaughn, May 28, 2016.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    In the new Would you receive sprinkling thread Craigbythesea said that "baptism by immersion is highly inappropriate for some ill or elderly recipients." That made me think of this.

    In a blog post titled What If He Can’t Be Baptized? Nathan Finn addresses the question, "What should we do if someone comes to faith in Christ and desires to be baptized and join our church, but she cannot be baptized due to some sort of medical condition?"

    In this post Brother Finn notes four variations he has heard suggested by Baptists. Respondents in the comments section suggest two other possibilities, bringing the total to six, as follows.
    "some Baptists argue that the individual should not be baptized and should not become a member of the church or receive the Lord’s Supper."
    1. "some Baptists argue that you should immerse the person anyway"
    2. "some Baptists argue that you should 'baptize' the person by sprinkling or pouring."
    3. "some Baptists argue that you should not baptize the individual at all, but should allow her to become an unbaptized church member"
    4. Shadow baptism (a waterless type that mimics the actions of immersion)
    5. Proxy baptism (allowing another to be baptized for them)
    What is the biblical approach if someone is literally incapable of being immersed?
     
  2. Rob_BW

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    I'm going with sponge bath.
     
  3. rlvaughn

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    Hi, Rob. In light of the things practiced regarding baptism in some Baptist churches, I'm not sure whether you are being serious or facetious. Would you clarify? Thanks!
     
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  4. annsni

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    We have a local VA hospital that has an amazing pool with a lift and everything. It could take even a fully paralyzed person and get them into the water. In the VERY rare case that someone couldn't get dunked, I'd say a desire to be baptized would be enough and if they requested it, water could be poured on their head.
     
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  5. Rob_BW

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    I thought I was being innovative?

    But it seemed like a good compromise. The entire body is cleansed, and the person performing the modified baptism gets a dose of humility similar to foot-washing.
     
  6. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Thanks, Rob, for explaining. Sounds like you are emphasizing the "all over" comparison to immersion while providing a non-immersion option?
     
  7. rlvaughn

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    Fixing the list that I somehow messed up in the OP.

    1. "some Baptists argue that the individual should not be baptized and should not become a member of the church or receive the Lord’s Supper."
    2. "some Baptists argue that you should immerse the person anyway"
    3. "some Baptists argue that you should 'baptize' the person by sprinkling or pouring."
    4. "some Baptists argue that you should not baptize the individual at all, but should allow her to become an unbaptized church member"
    5. Shadow baptism (a waterless type that mimics the actions of immersion)
    6. Proxy baptism (allowing another to be baptized for them)
     
  8. Jeremy Seth

    Jeremy Seth
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    This sounds very similar to the abortion debate as it pertains to exceptions for life-threatening pregnancy. My own reading on the topic has led me to believe there is no such instance where an abortion would save the life of the mother, if that were even a worthwhile decision.
    I'm skeptical of such an instance of disability where someone can't be immersed.

    Because I believe baptism is only full immersion, and I believe it is biblically consistent to require baptism for membership, my answer would be "immerse them anyway".

    I appreciate your specificity in saying,
    and conclude that the two questions to be asking are:
    1. Are non-immersion baptisms obedient to scripture?
    2. Ought baptism be required for membership?
     
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  9. SovereignGrace

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    True story...

    A patient at the hospital where I work was wanting to be baptized, but he was at the end of life with end-stage COPD. He could not hold his breath long enough to get his head under water. He was in the ICU, and at that time, another preacher was an ICU nurse. I asked him if he would help me to help this guy by taking him to a shower and 'baptize' him using the shower. I also asked the patient if that would suffice him. He truly had a desire to have someone help him, so I did the best I could. We wheeled him into the shower, got the water good and warm, and 'baptized' him in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. He seemed truly happy afterwards. A few days later, he went to be with the Lord.
     
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  10. JonC

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    The difficulty, IMHO, for a Baptist is not whether or not such are sincere and saved. The question is whether or not we call what is done "baptism". In my opinion, if we reject such people (in this case, it would not be applicable, but in general) from assembling as a member of a local church, then that approaches legalism.

    My view is that we cannot accept this as baptism and still insist that baptism is only by immersion. But we can acknowledge baptism for what Baptists believe to be and accept the substitute for the act of obedience and faith that it is (and taken the person into the local church). I think that we have to be consistent but not legalistic in what the local church believes.
     
  11. agedman

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    Too often the Legalism gets in the way of practicality.

    Legalism has nothing to do with symbolism.

    Baptism is symbolic, not to be something that is required or a right of passage that places it into the legalistic realm.
     
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  12. JonC

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    I agree. But it is still important, I believe, that if a church recognizes Baptism only as full immersion that it not alter it's convictions to accommodate circumstances. If it is full immersion then it is full immersion and the one sprinkled or showered is not baptized. But it also opens the way to discuss baptism as symbolic instead of salvific (without downgrading doctrine). If the church doesn't specify full immersion, then it isn't so much an issue.
     
  13. SovereignGrace

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    This patient had end-stage COPD and ppl knew his days were short before dying. He wanted to have something done that would answer a good conscience before God. Due to his poor lung health, no one would help him. We did the best with what situation was before us.
     
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  14. JonC

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    Oh, don't get me wrong. It think that you did the right thing and I am sure that the patient was blessed through that affirmation. That is what we do, we strengthen one another. I would think that the encounter was a blessing to you as well (being used by God to comfort one of His children).
     
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  15. Rob_BW

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    I think that for the few cases where it is an issue, alternatives to immersion should be considered equal to immersion. The key is to keep the use alternatives restricted to situations that truly require them.

    It's easy to "what if?" something to death. But in reality (or at least what I've seen of it), this just isn't that common of a problem. And sadly, as Bro SG's example informs us, these situations won't often result in later speculation as pertains to church membership or any other issue.

    Now, suppose you are on a manned mission to Saturn, in zero Gs for years, with water conservation of deadly importance. The odds of all crew members making it back alive are 50/50. One of your fellow crew members converts to Christianity during the voyage, and wishes to be baptized. What do you do?
    :)
     
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  16. JonC

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    Ever seen what Bear Grylls does when he runs out of water...ConfusedConfused
     
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  17. Deacon

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    This happened more than 25 years ago,

    A good friend and his wife had a son, second of three children.
    It was discovered that he had a brain tumor when he was about six.
    As the years progressed it became obvious that he would die.
    He accepted that he would die; he was a believer and desired to be baptized in his last days.
    While it was quite difficult, he was baptized by immersion.
    It was a grand event and a great witness in the community.
    He went into his final coma two days later, dying at home about two weeks later.

    Rob
     
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  18. rlvaughn

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    Interesting that some might associate requiring the mode one feels Jesus requires would be legalism, but substituting a different requirement would not be? Why not just not require baptism at all if the person literally cannot be immersed? The thief on the cross could not be baptized, and no one threw water on him.

    I think the times that a person really cannot be immersed are rare, but recognize there are few. A death-bed situation would be one. Why require baptism? The new believer would be incapable of either it or the church membership, Lord's table, continuing in the apostle's doctrine and other things that would normally follow and we wouldn't require those for someone incapable of such. If there is significance in the symbol of baptism by immersion, then substitutes are not significant in that manner. Then, it seems that some other kind of importance is being attached to baptism to insist it be performed in another way than Jesus commanded. Why substitute?
     
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  19. JonC

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    The thief on the cross could not have experienced Christian baptism even if he were not on the cross. Other than that, I do see your point. I dont , however, know that other forms are not just as legitimate.
     
  20. Rob_BW

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    The thief on the cross also never had to worry about having his mode of baptism being considered a bar to membership in a local church.
     

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