Sunday, February 17

Can a woman baptize?

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.

12 comments:

Scott Jones said...

Bro. Guy--Hi there. I'm a Baptist preacher in NE Kansas, referred to your post by Bro. Micah Fries at Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church in St. Joseph, MO. I've got to say that your reasoning here is spot-on. Like you, I tire of Baptists confusing tradition with Scripture. All too often Baptists come to the Bible on a given issue with their minds already made up by a strongly held tradition. They then take a machete to the Bible, seizing on proof-texts in such a way as to do great damage to the contextual meaning of the passage. I wonder; would Jesus be able to charge some of us with the same crime as the Pharisees and teachers of the law: "Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition" (Matt. 15:6)? Makes one think.

Alyce Faulkner said...

Of course she can.
The great commission is genderless.

However I really came over to tell you that my son and daughter-in-law are coming to Ecuador on a mission trip in July. They are coming with 2nd Baptist in Jacksonville, in fact there may be 3 people in our church come. I'm not sure where, I'll find out all the details and let you know.
Wish I could go too!
Blessings today Guy,
Alyce

GuyMuse said...

Scott,

Thanks for stopping by. I agree with your thoughts, especially the last quote where you wonder if Jesus would charge us today with the same Thus you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition... We often accuse Catholics of elevating their traditions par with Scripture, but we evangelicals do the same thing all the time ourselves!

Alyce,

I love the way you put it about the GC being genderless! That is a good way of putting it.

To what city are your son and daughter-in-law coming in July? We live in Guayaquil, but Lord willing , will be in the States for a short furlough this summer. Let us know more of the details of their upcoming trip.

Rhea said...

Guy:

I like how you turn the question around to "is there anything in the Word of God that says (or indicates) that a woman CANNOT baptize?" I think that this is probably the best way to look at lots of issues (whether it's drinking, baptizing, or anything else). We're even told in the Bible that everything is permissible, but everything is not beneficial. Too often I think that we go into it already assuming that something is wrong, and then looking for Scripture to support our idea.

GuyMuse said...

Rhea,

Too often I think that we go into it already assuming that something is wrong, and then looking for Scripture to support our idea.

That is my very point. We make up our minds about something. Then go look up verses that support that position.

The part where we decide something is wrong comes more from our culture, background and religious tradition than it does from what the Scriptures actually teach.

Pascal & Amy Stowell said...

Hey Guy,
Really enjoyed this blog! When I think about clapping hands, that is so true. I mean, our churches do not want to sing hymns anymore, but they sing the same choruses every Sunday. To me, what is the difference. People are people all over the world and I think we don't like to admit that we like traditions or like to start new ones. Just my thoughts today. Really enjoy the blog, learned alot!

GuyMuse said...

Pascal and Amy,

We have found that most people do not know the difference between a tradition and a biblical teaching. Therefore we end up polarized around a lot of different issues that are really no more than 2nd and 3rd tier matters. It seems we can always find time to criticize anothers traditions and practices, but we cannot find time to do what Christ says.

BTW, Linda and I read every blog entry you guys make and enjoy learning about what God is doing there in Brazil.

Burkhalter Ministry said...

Guy,

How do we know that the Mt. 28 GC is for all believers at all times? Maybe I'm just over studying, but in Mt. 28 Jesus is talking to the 11 apostles...in Mk. 16, Jesus is talking to the 11 apostles where he says to "Go and preach to all...". Interestingly, in Luke when Jesus is talking to the 11 plus others, he tells them they will be his witnesses, not including a "go" command/participle.

We have always been taught that these commissions are for the church or for all believers at all times, but could they (meaning Mt. and Mk instances) be for the original apostles and for those with an apostolic gifting now, not necessarily everyone? Do we "force" people today to be apostles when that is not there gifting? Would the Church be more effective if we truly sent out the people with apostolic gifting as opposed to assuming this is a commission for all believers? Just thinking out loud...

Travis

GuyMuse said...

Travis,

First things first. Felicitaciones on the birth of Isaac! We've enjoyed looking at Beth's photos she's posted over the past few weeks.

Do we "force" people today to be apostles when that is not there gifting? Would the Church be more effective if we truly sent out the people with apostolic gifting as opposed to assuming this is a commission for all believers?

No, we do not force people to be apostles. What we tell everyone is that they are active participants in the Great Commission.

There is a role for apostle types. But unless all believers understand that they are called to "go make disciples" we will never do what Jesus said to do.

For too long have we understood that "go make disciples" is meant for only certain believers (pastors, evangelists, missionaries, apostle types, etc.)

In our own training we make it clear that the role of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is to "equip the saints for the work of service". It is the saints who are the ones to go out into the harvest fields. Our "apostolic" role is to equip them.

Part of the equipping is to help train/teach every believer how to make disciples, baptize, and teach those they baptize to put into practice that which Jesus commanded.

Next time you come down we can continue the dialog, but that is the way we understand it for now.

Burkhalter Ministry said...

Guy,

Thanks for the reply...where you are at is where I am at. I too believe all believers are laborers in the Kingdom, a Kingdom of priests, and ministers. I also agree with you on the Eph. 4:11 that they are to equip the saints to do ministry...you are a great example of fulfilling this Scripture.

Travis

GuyMuse said...

Travis,

And not only are they to equip the saints to do ministry, but those equipped become equippers as well. If we train you, we expect you to also become a trainer of all those in your own sphere of influence.

John said...

For my friend Travis

Phillip in Samaria wasn't an Apostle.

Ananias who baptized Saul/Paul is just called a disciple. Jesus didn't tell him to baptize Paul, but he did - and it appears that he just knew it was what was to be done.

My view is that the person who God has made responsible for discipling someone is the person who should baptize him/her. I see absolutely nothing in scripture that limits which believers can baptize.

I heard a missionary who worked in Mongolia for several years. For the first two years no men came to Christ - only women. There were times they couldn't get to the villages where there were new believers. Should the new believers not be baptized because tehre were no men believers to do it. I can't imagine that.

Let's not do something that Christ absolutely commanded, because we think there may be a possibility, (though never stated) that women might not be able to baptize.

In my theology, that doesn't wash.
:-)