Apologetics for the Masses #260

Bible Christian Society


Part 2 - Baptism by Immersion; the Campbellite Church of Christ, part 2.

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General Comments

Thanks to all of the folks who came out to St. Philip's in Huffman for my talk this past Monday night.  Great group of folks at that parish!  If you are interested in having me come to your parish to speak, just shoot me an email: admin@biblechristiansociety.com, and we can talk about it. 


Okay, last week I shared a "dialogue" that I had gotten into it with Mr. Pat Donahue, who is a preacher in the Campbellite Church of Christ.  I put quotes around the word "dialogue," because in a dialogue, when one side talks, the other side listens.  That is not happening in my "dialogue" with Mr. Donahue.  But, the educational value of this, is that this is exactly what happens many of the times when Catholics talk to non-Catholic Christians.  The other guy wants to preach, but he does not want to listen.  Anyway, this week I am going to give you part of Mr. Donahue's response to my last email to him - the main part that pertains to why I believe him to be dishonest and to be intentionally misrepresenting the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church.  The rest of it I might respond to at some point in the future, but only if he first proves that he will honestly think about, and ponder, what I have to say about my Church and its teachings and practices and that he has, indeed, misrepresented Catholic teaching and practice (whether intentionally or not).

My first response below, is all about Baptism by immersion, and the scriptural evidence that Baptism by immersion is not the only acceptable means of Baptism, as many of our Protestant brothers and sisters - such as the folks in the Campbellite Church of Christ - believe.  There is ample scriptural evidence to show that Baptism by pouring or sprinkling is perfectly acceptable.  The 2nd response below, is where I show, again, that Mr. Donahue is not all that interested in accurately presenting the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church.  (To see what he is responding to, check out issue #259 on the "Newsletter" page of our website: www.biblechristiansociety.com.


Pat Donahue

I think you misunderstood something I believe because of clumsy writing on my part.  When I said “so that should tell us about how a person should be baptized – by sprinkling or immersion,” I was not saying that sprinkling was scriptural, but that Rom 6:4 tells us which of the two options (sprinkling or immersion) was the scriptural option.  See what I mean?  And when I said “sprinkling would NOT be unscriptural,” that was a typo.  I should have left off the prefix “un.”  Sorry about that.  I have always opposed both sprinkling and pouring.  Immersion is a burial – it is the only scriptural mode.


John Martignoni

Very good.  Now that I have you clearly on record as only believing in baptism by immersion, let’s see what the Bible says about pouring and sprinkling in relation to Baptism.  First of all, let’s look at the Old Testament to see what it can teach us and how it can instruct us and train us in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16) and how it provides a shadow of the good things to come (Heb 10:1).  Ezekiel 36:25:27, “I will SPRINKLE clean water upon you and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses [sins]...And I will put My Spirit [Holy Spirit] within you.”  What does Baptism do?  Through Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit and have our sins forgiven - “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the Holy Spirit,” (Acts 2:38).  So, in the O.T., we are told of a future process by which clean water is SPRINKLED on people and those people are cleansed of their sins and they receive the Holy Spirit.  Now, in the N.T., we see that through the water of Baptism, we have our sins forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit.  So, the Bible is pretty clear that the “sprinkling” of water is an acceptable means, to God, of having your sins forgiven and receiving the Holy Spirit.  Pat, is there some process or means, other than Baptism, that you know of, by which clean water is sprinkled on people for the forgiveness of their sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit?  

Furthermore, Baptism is a sanctification - one is cleansed of their sins.  How did they sanctify things in the Old Testament?  We see an example in 2 Chronicles 30:15-17, “And they killed the Passover lamb [parallel to Jesus as the Passover Lamb]...And the priests and the Levites were put to shame so that they sanctified themselves...the priests sprinkled the blood which they received from the hand of the Levites.  For there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves.”  New Testament: Hebrews 9:13, “For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls...sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself...purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”  1 Peter 1:2, “...chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood.”  

Please tell me, Pat - how is it that the blood of Jesus Christ was sprinkled upon Peter?  And what do you call the process of sanctification through this sprinkling of Jesus’ blood?  Wouldn’t Baptism - by which one is sanctified - and particularly Baptism by sprinkling fit perfectly with this description by Peter?  My interpretation of Scripture says that it would, and I'm entitled to my interpretation of Scripture, am I not?

Now, let’s look at pouring.  First we see in Matthew 26:12, that pouring is associated with Jesus’ burial: “In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial.”  So, your claim that pouring can in no way be symbolic of Jesus’ death and burial is a false claim.  The pouring of ointment prepared Jesus for burial.  Secondly, let’s look at what happened on Pentecost.  In Acts 1:5, Jesus tells the Apostles to go to Jerusalem and wait to be baptized -  “baptizo” in the Greek - by the Holy Spirit.  According to you, "baptizo" absolutely, and without exception, has to mean “immersed.”  It cannot, according to the infallible Pat Donahue, mean anything other than “immersed.”  Yet, how does Scripture describe this baptism of the Holy Spirit?  Does it say that the disciples were “immersed” in the Spirit?  Does it say they were “dunked” in the Spirit?  No.  It says the Holy Spirit was “poured” out upon them and it uses the word “poured” three times (Acts 2:17, 18, 23)!  So, to describe the "baptizo" of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God used the word “poured”.  The disciples received the baptism of the Holy Spirit by having the Holy Spirit poured out upon them.  Didn’t Luke know any better?  Didn’t Luke know that “baptizo” can only mean “immersion”?  Why is he describing the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a "pouring" out of the Holy Spirit?  Didn’t God know that "baptizo" only means "immersion"?  Pat, was the Word of God wrong to describe it that way?

Also, if the direct words of Jesus Christ are not good enough for you, we see elsewhere that the Greek word “baptizo” is not always referring to immersion.  For example, Luke 11:38 states: “The Pharisee was astonished to see that He [Jesus] did not first wash [baptizo] before dinner.”  Was the Pharisee expecting Jesus to be totally immersed in water before eating dinner?  Nope.  We see from Mark 7:3-4, that the Pharisees had, as did all the Jews, a tradition of washing their hands before eating.  Mark 7:3-4, “For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash [nipto] their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they wash [baptizo] themselves.”  So, the Pharisees usually washed their hands before eating and, if they were particularly dirty, as they would be after coming from the market, they would “baptizo” themselves.  And what did this consist of?  Well, we see in Luke 7:44-46 that this included not just the washing of hands, but also the washing of feet and the anointing [by pouring] with oil.  Nowhere do we find mention of the Jews totally immersing themselves or their dinner guests in water before eating a meal.  In other words, we see that “baptizo” did not always mean “immersion,” it also meant simply “to wash.”  

In other words, Pat, your claim about Baptism by immersion being the only scriptural mode of Baptism rings hollow.  It is without merit.  And, it is in direct contrast to the words of Scripture.



We see, from the Bible, as well as from early Christian writing (which I mentioned in the last newsletter) - not to mention from the authority of the Church founded by Jesus Christ - that Baptism by pouring or sprinkling is just as valid a mode of Baptism as is immersion. In fact, we have specific mention of the words pouring and sprinkling, but no specific mention of the word immersion.  Will Mr. Donahue have any kind of coherent response?  Don't bet on it.  Even though we see very clearly from Acts 1 and 2 that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was done by the pouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, Mr. Donahue will undoubtedly still insist that because his Greek lexicon says "baptizo" means immersion, then the lexicon will trump Scripture because that Greek lexicon fits what he wants to believe, whereas the Scripture here in Acts 1 and 2 does not.  And you can use these verses with any who rejects the validity of Baptism by pouring.  Just keep in mind that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was done by pouring, as specifically stated in the Bible, whenever you talk to an immersion-only person.  Which means the Word of God associates Baptism with pouring.  The immersion-only folks have no answer for that.

And notice that I am constantly asking questions.  He will not be able to answer the question I asked about Ezekiel 36 and the process by which people have their sins washed away and receive the Holy Spirit through the sprinkling of clean water.  If that's not describing Baptism, then exactly what is it describing?  And, the question about Acts 1 and 2: Was God wrong to describe the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a "pouring" out of the Spirit?  Ask questions...and keep asking them until you get an answer, or until it is obvious that they have no answer.


Pat Donahue

Yes, I am “interested in a fair and honest representation of what you believe and why you believe it.”  But I do not just take everything you say without question, else I would be a Catholic, a follower of Martignoni.  What is your proof that the Council of Ravenna did not take place?  You didn’t offer any previously.  You saw where the guy at Catholic Answers said that it did occur, right?  The Catholic book “Our Faith And The Facts” not only implied it took place, but said that that council “changed the form from immersion to pouring.”

In my debate charts, I state that Catholics admit the changes I am describing.  The books “Adult Catechism, Our Faith and the Facts, New Interpretation of the Mass, Catholic Facts are all Catholic books” were all written by faithful Catholics, correct?  Whether or not you deem them “authoritative” is not relevant.  Those books establish that some Catholics admit the changes.  (Of course I never believed you admitted such)  And the primary point is that when we look at the Bible compared to the practice of Catholics today, we see changes have been made – which destroys the contention that the Church/Magisterium can be a reliable standard of authority.

Of course it is correct to quote Catholic books to show that Catholics agree there has been a change (I shouldn’t quote anti-Catholics on that, should I?), but that certainly does not make those books (like the Didache) authoritative.  I quote Catholic books to find out what Catholics say and I quote the Bible to find out what God says.  See the big difference?

Admittedly I haven’t read all of “Our Faith and the Facts.”  But what does it mean when it says “The church at one time practiced immersion. This was up to the thirteenth century. The Council of Ravenna, in 1311, changed the form from immersion to pouring.”?  Does it mean the church’s practiced “changed” or the church did not change?  If “changed,” then we have an admission by Catholics that the church changed.  And if the church changed, my point is then that it can’t serve as a reliable standard.  The main point is that God’s church only practiced immersion (Rom 6:4, etc.) and the Catholic Church cannot be that church since it is different than that.  Remember these two quotes?:


John Martignoni

Okay, Pat, this is where I will show that you are not at all interested in a fair and honest representation of what I believe and why I believe it.  I say that because even though I am going to offer you very clear, concise, and incontrovertible evidence that what you are saying is wrong, you will not admit that you are wrong.  And, even if you did admit that you are wrong, you will never send out anything to the folks on your email list that you are wrong.  Which is why I say your are dishonest and a hypocrite.  

First of all, you say that you will not take “everything I say without question.”  Yet, you apparently take everything that is said in those 4 books you cite - Adult Catechism, Our Faith and the Facts, New Interpretation of the Mass, and Catholic Facts - without asking a single question, don’t you?  Why?  Because you think they say something that supports what you want to make the Catholic Church out to be.  So, you find a book that has a line in it that you think supports your position - nevermind context - and you run with it without asking a single question and without comparing it to the official teaching of the Church.  Is that an honest thing to do?  Would a “faithful follower” of Christ do such a dishonest thing?

You want “proof that the Council of Ravenna did not take place.”  The problem is, Pat, you will not accept proof.  But, I will give it here for the sake of the folks who read my newsletter.  First of all, let’s be clear.  I am not saying that some Bishops - 6 or 7 or so - did not meet in Ravenna.  Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t.  What I am saying is that there was never an authoritative “council” in Ravenna that made any kind of official change in Church practice that the whole Church was bound by.  And, here is the proof: In the Church’s history, Pat, and this is well-documented and well understood by any honest Catholic and honest non-Catholic alike - there have been 21 Church Councils whose teachings are considered authoritative for the whole Church.  21. You can find all 21 listed here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04423f.htm.  Or, check out any other website on this and they will all say the same thing.  21 authoritative Church Councils.  Did you see the “Council of Ravenna” listed there, Pat?  I don’t think so.  And, 17 of those Councils are also listed in the Index of Citations in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which, as you know, is a compendium of the official teaching of the Catholic Church.  You won’t find the “Council of Ravenna” there, either.

Now, if you wish to add the “Council of Ravenna” to that list, because a Catholic wrote a book in the 1920's saying that there was such a thing as a “Council of Ravenna,” and you wish to ignore all the evidence that the Church does not recognize the teachings of any such “Council of Ravenna” as having any kind of authority over general Church teaching and practice, you are certainly free to do so.  And it will be ample proof for all that God has not taken away man’s ability to bear false witness.  

Furthermore, check out this article about Ravenna from the Catholic Encyclopedia, a source which you have quoted in the past as an authoritative “Catholic book”: http://newadvent.org/cathen/12662b.htm.  Notice anything about that very detailed article?  Not one mention of a “Council of Ravenna.”  It talks about all sorts of minutiae regarding Ravenna, but not a word about the all-important “Council of Ravenna.”  I find that strange.  Do you find that strange, Pat?

You stated: “Admittedly I haven’t read all of 'Our Faith and the Facts.'  But what does it mean when it says 'The church at one time practiced immersion?'”  Don’t you mean, Pat, that other than the one line from this book that you have yanked out of context, you have not read any of this book?!  And, what a novel concept you present here...actually asking a Catholic what something about their faith means.  But, what is funny, is you won’t accept what I have to say, just as you are not accepting what the book you are quoting from says.  

Here, again, as I gave it to you in my last email, is the full quote from that book, in its context: “The Church at one time practiced Baptism by immersion.  The Council of Ravenna, in 1311, changed the form from immersion to pouring.  It is well known, however, that the Church had good reason for doing this, that she had the power to legislate on the matter, and that immersion was not the only accepted form of Baptism up to the time of its change.  Three forms, pouring, sprinkling, and immersion were practiced previous to 1311, though immersion was the more usual.”

You are yanking the line about the Council of Ravenna changing the form from immersion to pouring out of context and presenting this as if there was a complete change in the form of Baptism.  You are presenting it as if the Church had always exclusively baptized using immersion and then, lo and behold, just out of the blue, the “Council of Ravenna” changed it so that the Church no longer baptized by immersion but now baptized exclusively by pouring.  That is how you present it, as if there was a complete and radical shift from past practices and a brand new practice was brought in during the 1300's.  Yet, the book you quote, in the very next sentences following the one you quote from, clearly and plainly states: “That immersion was NOT the only accepted form of Baptism up to the time of its change.  Three forms, pouring, sprinkling, and immersion were practiced previous to 1311, though immersion was the more usual.”  From the context, Pat - if you really want to know what is being said here - from the context, what this book is claiming is that the “Council of Ravenna” did not change the form of Baptism, as you are claiming, but that it changed which of the forms of Baptism that is most frequently used.  But, again, even if there was some meeting of Bishops - 6 or 7 of them - that did meet in Ravenna and did make such a change in which form of Baptism they were going to use most often, that change had no authority over the whole Church...none!  But, you won't accept that, will you, because it does not fit into the narrative you wish to push about the Catholic Church.  

In other words, Pat, if, for the sake of argument, I allow that what this book says is accurate,  nothing was “changed” in the way you are presenting it.  You are presenting things as if there was a wholesale change and an introduction of a new method of Baptism after 1311.  That is false.  The only “change” being talked about here, given the context, would have been in the frequency of the use of pouring vs. immersion.  This is further shown by the fact that the Catholic Church, to this day, still baptizes people by immersion - but you didn't know that, either, did you?  Why not?  Because you don't bother to check out the authoritative teachings of the Church.  The Catechism that I gave you at that one debate...you might want to open it up every now and then.  Check this out from Paragraph 1239: “Baptism is performed in the most expressive way by triple immersion in the baptismal water.  However, from ancient times it has also been able to be conferred by pouring the water three times over the candidate’s head.”  Which is exactly what the Didache, which was written towards the end of the 1st century, states.  That’s why I cited that "Catholic book," Pat, as evidence that Baptism was not done solely by immersion before 1311, as you were trying to make people believe.  But, for some reason, you are more than willing to accept the evidence of a “Catholic book” from the 1920's, but you refuse to accept the evidence of a “Catholic book” from the 1st century.  That is why I call you a hypocrite, Pat.  You accept as “proof” of a change in Catholic practice regarding the forms of Baptism, a line ripped from its context from a book written in 1920, but you do not accept the proof of no change regarding the forms of Baptism in Catholic practice from a book written around 70 A.D.  A book that was accurately quoted from.  

Before 1311, Catholics baptized by pouring, sprinkling, and immersion.  The Didache tells us that.  The book you quote from tells us that.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that.  Today, Catholics baptize by pouring, sprinkling, and immersion.  I know of Catholics who have been baptized by immersion.  Any Catholic has the right to choose to be baptized, or have their children baptized, by immersion.  I know of parishes that baptize primarily by immersion.  Will you now renounce your claim that there has been a change in Catholic practice regarding the methods of Baptism?  Will you let the people who you send your newsletter to hear that you were wrong in what you said about the Catholic Church...yes or no?  Are you a man of honor or not?

Regarding your point that you think you have found some Catholics who admit the Church has changed - big deal! This is yet another place where you are being deceitful.  I had a deacon in the Campbellite Church of Christ we debated at in Montgomery come up to me after the debate and say, “Son, our boy [referring to you] didn’t answer any of your questions, did he?”  To which I had to reply, “No, sir, he didn’t.”  So, will you agree that because a deacon in your own Church of Christ stated that you did not answer any of my questions during that debate, that you in fact did not answer any of my questions?  I mean, after all, Pat, one of your own deacons said you didn’t, so that must be an absolute, authoritative, indisputable, infallible fact, right?  That’s pretty much what you are doing with these Catholics from the 1920's that you are quoting.  You do realize, Pat, that you’re quoting books from the 1920's right?  Actually, I don’t think you do.  Otherwise, why would you ask me if they’re “faithful Catholics”?  How should I know if they were faithful Catholics?  They were probably dead before I was born!  The question is, Pat, do you know if they are faithful Catholics?  You don’t do you?  Yet, you quote them as if they are faithful Catholics (I’m not saying they’re not, but you don’t have a clue as to whether they are or not), and you quote them as if they are authoritative.  

Which is why it is indeed relevant as to whether or not the books you are quoting are authoritative documents of the Church, because you are quoting them as if they represent official Church teaching and practice.  Furthermore, and even more egregious, you are representing these sources as if your private, fallible, and out-of-context interpretation of what they are saying is official Church teaching and practice.  And that is very problematic.  You present your flawed interpretation of things from non-authoritative sources as if they were indeed the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church.  That is deceitful in oh so many way.  

Now, I understand why you do that, because in the Campbellite Church of Christ, everyone who picks up the Bible and reads it and decides for themselves what is true and what is false is as authoritative as anyone else in the Campbellite Church of Christ who does the same thing.  But, this is where my Church differs from yours, Pat.  There is authority in my church.  And it is not simply each and every person who can read.  And if you are going to talk about Church teaching and practice, you need to present it as the authoritative Church presents it, not as someone who wrote a "Catholic book" in the 1920's presents it.  Essentially, there is no authority in your church.  That's why Pat Donahue can appoint himself THE authority, the final arbiter of truth, the infallible interpreter of scriptural revelation, and God forbid if anyone doubt the truth of Pat Donahue’s private interpretations of Scripture.  You are an authority unto yourself, Pat.  I, on the other hand, have those who are the direct successors of the Apostles, who have received the laying on of hands that can be traced back to Peter himself, as the God-appointed, Holy Spirit-guided authority over me.  

I know not a single word of any of this will be sent out to the folks you regularly send your emails out to, Pat.  Which is why I know this stuff must be eating you up on the inside.  Your words are read by the folks who get my newsletter; the folks who get your newsletter will never read a single word of what I say to you. 



Pat Donahue has indeed appointed himself the infallible arbiter of all that is Christian and biblical.  Oh, he will deny that he is infallible - in theory - but he will act as if he is indeed infallible in practice.  And so will almost every non-Catholic Christian you talk to.  Pat Donahue will never admit that he could be wrong about something in regard to the Bible, and I doubt he will ever admit that he could be wrong about anything at all in regard to the Catholic Church.  Fallible in theory, infallible in practice.  And, when I point this out to him, he will essentially respond by claiming that he is a faithful Christian and I am not, or that I am not interpreting Scripture with Scripture, or some such thing, so his interpretation of course trumps mine.  As I have said many times, this is the ultimate question - the question of authority - that underlines every single dispute between Catholic and Protestant.  If you can plant a seed or two regarding authority, then you can use that in any discussion about Mary, the Sacraments, Purgatory, the Bible, etc.

What I did here was completely pull the rug out from under his argument.  He is arguing that the Catholic Church, according to "Catholic books," completely changed the mode of Baptism that it had always practiced - immersion - to a radically different mode of Baptism - pouring - in the 1300's.  He believes that the Catholic Church scrapped immersion for pouring, and I guarantee that he believes the Catholic Church does not today baptize, ever, by immersion.  Yet, even the book he was quoting, on the same page as the quote he cites, states that Baptism by pouring had been done since the beginning of the Church.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Baptism was done by pouring from the beginning, and it mentions that Baptism by immersion is still being done today.  In other words, there was no change in the mode of Baptism...none.  Now, there may have been a change in the frequency with which immersion is used vs. pouring, but that is not the argument he is making.  How do you think he will respond?  He will ignore what I've said, he will essentially repeat what he's already said, and continue to claim that the Catholic Church, at the "Council of Ravenna," changed the mode of Baptism from immersion to pouring.  The other thing is, which I didn't even get into because he would absolutely refuse to accept it, is that the mode of Baptism is not a doctrinal teaching.  It is a matter of Church discipline, not doctrine.  So, the Church of Jesus Christ, which has the power to bind and loose on earth, has the authority to make a change in the mode of Baptism if it wanted to - as the book which he quoted from even states.  But, of course, he ignored that very "minor" point. 

The lesson here is, don't waste your time with folks like this.  The only reason I did was because I could use this exchange as a "catechetical moment" for the readers of this newsletter.  I actually am going to have a couple more things from Mr. Donahue in the next newsletter, but it will simply be my response to a couple of other things he said - one is on how "easy" Scripture is to understand, and the other is his answer to my question about who wrote the Gospel of Mark and how do you know it is inspired.  I will not, however, be corresponding with him directly any more - unless, of course, he is able to make an honest and reasonable response to what I have already sent him.


I hope all of you have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.  Please keep all of those who have died in defense of our country in your prayers.  And please keep all of those who have served in our armed forces - past and present - in your prayers.


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Apologetics for the Masses