One of the interesting things about sitemeter is that one can see the Google search phrases and words that people use to find their way to my blog. One of the most common phrases and its variations is "can women baptize?"
So here we go again...
Can a Christian eat pork ribs or a ham sandwich? Not many of us who confess faith in Christ would have too hard a time answering that question. Yet, for first-century believers this was one of those "tough issues" that had to be worked through. Just ask Peter. In Acts 10 Peter tells the voice from heaven, By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean. Yet he is corrected, What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.
Can a Christian drink wine? Believers in Argentina would think, what a silly question! Of course you can. Jesus did. There is even a miracle in the Bible about Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding feast. Yet believers in other parts of the world would be highly suspect of anyone who professes Christ, and yet consume any kind of alcoholic beverage. They would be quick to show that Jesus' wine was not the same wine we have today.
Can a believer smoke and still be a true Christian? While certainly frowned upon as being a danger to one's health, most Stateside believers would not think that smoking would prevent you from being a Christ follower. Yet, here in Ecuador, anyone who smokes would be seen as a carnal/nominal Christian at best (that would go for C.H. Spurgeon's cigar smoking as well!)
Should believers watch soap operas? I don't think I missed a single day of watching "General Hospital" through four years of seminary at SWBTS. I was a true GH fan. Yet, when we arrived in Ecuador as missionaries, we quickly learned Christians DO NOT watch soap operas, or if they do, you certainly never let anyone know about it!
Can we eat meat offered to idols? Can we play worldly electric guitars and drums in church? Can believers play cards? Go to the movies? Go trick-or-treating? The list of questions is almost endless. And the list of Scriptural proof texts used for/against can be equally suspect.
When we first arrived in Ecuador as missionaries in 1987, THE MAIN ISSUE that had our churches divided, and believers fighting one another, was whether or not one could hand clap to the music of choruses sung in church. The "hand clappers" were called every nasty name under the sun, and those who stuck to ONLY HYMNS were referred to as iglesias refrigeradoras - refigerator churches. People could fire off Scriptures on the subject quicker than Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke drawing his six-shooter! I mean, this was serious stuff! Today in 2008 absolutely NOBODY thinks twice about hand-clapping in church, but back in the 70's and 80's it was a different matter.
So what changed? Why was it so wrong back then, and yet all right to do so today? Did all the Scriptures quoted change overnight? What happened? You tell me!
Many of these issues vary from region to region, from culture to culture. They are not theological issues, but traditions learned from those who helped shape our understanding of the Word of God. The way we were brought up to believe. We have this need to defend our positions on every matter by finding a Biblical text to back up our already made up minds.
So, can a woman baptize?
Before you say "no" and start looking for out-of-context proof texts, try turning the question around and asking it in a different way, what in the Word of God would prevent a sister from baptizing another person on their profession of faith?
I would venture the "can a woman baptize?" similar to some of the above questions. The answer depends more upon culture, tradition, and church background, than it does upon clear New Testament teaching. Therefore, the rightness/wrongness often depends upon the context where the question is being asked. For some situations it can certainly be OK. For others, it might not be OK.
I have written on this subject previously Can women baptize? and Who has the authority to baptize? and What was Jesus intent?.
I do not wish to rehash the arguments here, but suffice it to say, to date we have not found anything unscriptural about a sister baptizing another believer. If our sisters in Christ are under the authority of Jesus and his command to go...make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you... who are we to keep them from doing ALL that Christ commanded his disciples to do? Why limit our sisters to obedience to only three of the above four commands?
In our church planting ministry we simply do not make a big deal about WHO does the baptizing. What seems to matter most to the NT writers is in whose NAME people were baptized. For those who believe only males can baptize, fine. We respect that. For those churches and believers that we relate to who have never made it into an issue, and allow women to baptize, this is also fine. We respect that too. Where both a brother and a sister together baptize--that's OK too!
Where we try to keep our focus is in doing what Christ said to do, and not get all tangled up in the secondary issues that seem to always accompany the main commands of Christ.
As usual, I welcome your comments or observations. To be honest, this is a non-issue for us, but others seem to have strong feelings both for and against this matter. Thanks for any input you might like to share.