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What is baptism, and why do we do it? What does it mean? Is there a right time or a right way to do it?

What is your opinion about Vicarious Baptism?

Postby Heretic » Mon Nov 13, 2023 11:00 am

It is mentioned in 1. Corinthians 15:29 and got me quite confused, because I've never heard of it before. Paulus clearly seems do belief that people can be baptized for the dead, what is your take on that?

Re: What is your opinion about Vicarious Baptism?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Nov 13, 2023 11:09 am

It's not at all clear that "Paulus clearly seems do belief (sic) that people can be baptized for the dead." As Manfred Brauch writes, "The idea of baptism for the dead occurs nowhere else in the New Testament and is completely absent from writings of the apostolic fathers. Practices with some affinity to it show up in some 2nd-3rd-c. heretical groups." D.A. Carson adds, "When something like this is mentioned only once, it cannot be given the same weight of importance as the central themes of Scripture. More important, when something is mentioned only once, there is more likelihood of misinterpreting it, whereas matters repeatedly discussed are clarified by their repetition in various contexts."

There are at least 11 possibilities for what Paul is talking about here. (Marvin Vincent says there are over 30 different explanations given for this expression.)

    1. Water baptism was a declaration of their identification with believers who had died. (Spiros Zodhiates)
    2. Those who are now being baptized are also dying and will join those who have died (Zodhiates)
    3. It is speaking of the custom of vicarious baptism (Charles Hodge; D.A. Carson; Robert Hughes; Leon Morris, N.T. Wright), though there is no evidence of this in Scripture or among the earliest apostolic fathers.
    4. It is speaking of martyrdom. (Mk. 10.38; Lk. 12.50)
    5. Ordinary Christian baptism that took place in the cemetery. (Grosheide)
    6. Christians were baptized to “replace” Christians who had died, so church membership would not be depleted. (Olshausen)
    7. When unbelievers, bereaved of their loved ones, turned to Christ in their loneliness, moved by the hope of a blessed reunion, their expectation would not prove to have been a fond delusion. Their baptism, due first of all to strong human affection, was a touching evidence of their faith in the future life which was inseparable from the resurrection. (Charles Erdman)
    8. Baptism of those on their death beds. (Epiphanius)
    9. Belief in baptism as a symbol of death, and the resurrection from the dead (Chrysostom)
    10. Superstitious baptism for those who had died as “outsiders” to the church. (Craig)
    11. Believers were rebaptized for the benefit of believers who had died unbaptized. (Meyer)

A.T. Robertson writes, "The Greek expositors took this to be about the dead, since baptism is a burial and a resurrection (Rom. 6.2-6). Tertullian tells of some heretics who took it to mean baptized in the place of dead people (unsaved) in order to save them. Some take it to be baptism over the dead. Others take it to mean that Paul and others were in peril of death as shown by baptism (see v. 30)."

Vincent concludes, "It is best to admit frankly that we lack the facts for a decisive interpretation. None of the explanations proposed are free from objections."

My opinion? Vicarious baptism is worthless. Baptism is not a sacrament; we can't obligate God to treat us in a certain way because we perform some ritual. Nor can we force God to treat someone else in a certain way because we perform that ritual. That's not the way Heaven, Hell, salvation, or reward and punishment work, according to the Bible. Each person will be judged as an individual; each is accountable for their own lives; God will reward or punish each person according to standards of fairness, justice, and righteousness, not according to a ritual we performed that forces His hand.
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