Presbyterians and baptists bicker like junior high school girls...
Sitting in presbytery ordination exams, many times I've heard the question, "What is the proper mode of baptism?" The required answer, of course, is "sprinkling," and that's what most every candidate says. Then the candidate is asked this follow-up question: "Will you baptize by immersion if asked to do so?" Well-schooled candidates respond with this shibboleth, "Well, I suppose an unusual situation could arise in which I would be willing to do so, but sprinkling is the proper mode and I would only deviate from that mode for an extraordinary reason." Some overzealous men, though, win brownie points by responding, "No and never! Live presbyterian or die!"
Presbyterians and baptists bickering with each other like teenage girls--that's what this presbytery ritual is all about. Assuming raising Covenant children is not the only form of evangelism presbyterians are doing in our day, we can expect adult baptisms in our work and in most of those cases it's our practice to immerse...Why?
Two reasons. First, it goes a long way towards protecting the peace and unity of Christ's Bride. Baptists are quite unreasonably opposed to sprinkling and pouring, so any adult I baptize by sprinkling who moves into an area where the only Biblical church is baptist will not be allowed to the Lord's Table unless he is rebaptized. Why should I jeopardize the future Table fellowship of believers in this way? When we're dealing with the weaker conscience of fellow believers, isn't it charitable to conform to their conscience when the conformity does not violate any Biblical principle?
And what Biblical principle is violated by baptizing new believers as Deacon Philip baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch? Here's what Calvin says about that baptism by immersion:
They went down into the water. Here we see the rite used among the men of old time in baptism; for they put all the body into the water. Now (normally today) the minister doth only sprinkle the body or the head. But we ought not to stand so much about such a small difference of a ceremony, that we should therefore divide the Church, or trouble the same with brawls. We ought rather to fight even an hundred times to death for the ceremony itself of baptism, inasmuch as it was delivered us by Christ that that we should suffer the same to be taken from us. But forasmuch as we have as well a testimony of our washing, as of newness of life, in the figure of water; forasmuch as Christ representeth unto us his blood in the water as in a glass, that we may fet our cleanness thence; forasmuch as he teacheth that we are fashioned again by his Spirit, that being dead to sin, we may live to righteousness; it is certain that we want nothing which maketh to the substance of baptism. Wherefore the Church did grant liberty to herself, since the beginning, to change the rites somewhat, excepting this substance. For some dipped them thrice, some but once. Wherefore there is no case why we should be so straitlaced in matters which are of no such weight; so that external pomp do no whit pollute the simple institution of Christ. (Calvin on Acts 8:38)
We should not be so "straighlaced" as to insist upon sprinkling, Calvin says; why get into "brawls" over mode of baptism when it's "such a small difference of a ceremony." (And by the way, that word 'ceremony' there should put Presbyterians leaning in the sacramentalist direction a little bit on edge.)
Second, the Westminster Standards agree that sprinkling is not necessary. Here's the statement:
Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.
But you say it's "dipping" that the Standards declare not necessary? Right--that's the word used here, but the text of the Confession would mean the same if the word 'sprinkling' were substituted for the word 'dipping.' The point the Confession is making here is that there is not one single mode of baptism that is proper. At the time the debate wasn't over the legitimacy of baptism by immersion, so the Westminster divines didn't address that question. The debate was over the legitimacy of pouring and sprinkling and that's what they addressed.
But today, there are overzealous presbyterians who are having hissy fits over the baptists denying the legitimacy of baptisms by sprinkling and pouring, and they're responding giving tit for tat.
Enough already. If baptists refuse Table fellowship to those baptized by sprinkling or pouring, let's immerse those coming to faith as adults. Why use the sacrament of baptism to prolong bickering that sounds like junior high school girls on the playground?