The EFM Feature

I’m amazed by the amount of bad reporting (and blogging) on religion related to this election. I’m particularly annoyed, having been baptized in a Southern Baptist church, even though I don’t go to one now, to see this from Ed Kilgore:

Well, you’d think anyone who’s been attending a Baptist Church for 15 years might have caught wind of the fact that the denomination, as its name suggests, believes rather adamantly that baptism is necessary for salvation, a reasonably important “spiritual need” by most measurements.

For the truth, check out the Baptist Faith & Message:

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

Got that, Mr. Kilgore? Baptism does not save. It is important, but it does not save. It’s a “testimony” to something God already did. It’s necessary for membership in a Southern Baptist church, not for salvation. There is a big difference!
Ah. I feel better.
UPDATE: At a reader’s suggestion, see here for context. Also, Mr. Kilgore sent us this response:

I may have erred by not making it clear that Baptists do not consider baptism sufficient for salvation (indeed, that was one of their major differences with the magisterial Protestants). They require faith, after which a believer’s baptism becomes a necessary passage before membership in Christ’s Church. Baptists actually differ on whether it is possible to achieve salvation without baptism, but certainly reject McCain’s apparent idea that it’s optional if you want to be a Baptist in any meaningful sense of the term.

I’m still not sure this is right–if Senator McCain’s church thinks he was already a believer and was already baptized, so what?–but EFM does not exist to parse out exactly how to defend his religious practices. My point is simply that there are a lot of misstatements and confusion in the popular press and the blogosphere on this subject–whether you’re talking about Baptists, Presbyterians, Mormons, or whoever. That suggests to me that hashing these things out in this arena isn’t quite the greatest idea, and certainly that you shouldn’t believe everything you read about other people’s faith.

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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