Graham Says Baptism Doesn’t Matter
Probably when most people read this title, they immediately think of the Graham known around the world—Billy Graham. We could probably discuss Billy’s low view of baptism also, but we wish to comment on another person’s view of baptism. I refer to Anne Graham Lotz, the 61-year-old evangelist daughter of Billy Graham.
Anne Graham Lotz has become increasingly well-known in religious circles, particularly in some Evangelical Churches. It is reported that when Lotz began to travel around as a preacher, her father, raised some objection. Baptists have been among the few relatively conservative evangelical denominations that continue to oppose the public preaching by women. However, on further reflection, Billy came to accept his daughter’s violation of Baptist and Scriptural principles (cf. 1 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Corinthians 14:33-37), thinking that she could use this “gift” in a public way.
A new article just came out in Newsweek magazine (Sept. 21, 2009), entitled, “A Graham Slam.” The article stated that Anne has had some bad experiences in church which caused her to become what she calls “a believer in exile.” Her Southern Baptist husband finally helped her to find her way back into church.
The point of this Newsweek article, however, has to do with Anne’s view of baptism. As she promoted her new book, The Magnificent Obsession, Anne stated, “Religion is an impediment to knowing God.” She went on to say, “Procedures, rituals, creeds: how in the world can they help you connect with God? . . . If you’re sprinkled when you’re baptized or dunked when you’re baptized, it doesn’t matter as far as your salvation goes.”
Does a statement like this make you wonder what Bible Anne Graham Lotz has been reading? While we can agree that ceremonies and rituals, spawned by false religion masquerading as Christianity, cannot bring spiritual life—and surely hinder it—we must question the further statement by Lotz. When this female preacher says, “If you’re sprinkled when you’re baptized or dunked when you’re baptized, it doesn’t matter as far as your salvation goes,” we must ask some pertinent questions.
If Jesus said, “He who as believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16), who is Lotz to say that “it doesn’t matter as far as your salvation goes”? If Peter wrote, “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21), who is Lotz to question this truth? If the same apostle declared, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38), who is this woman evangelist to deny such an authoritative statement? If Ananias told the repentant persecutor Paul, “Get up and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16), who is Lotz to say that “it doesn’t matter as far as your salvation goes”?
Obviously, we don’t deny at all that any view of baptism as a “savior” in itself or any idea that baptism has some intrinsic power or value to remit sin is definitely false. The sacramental view of Catholicism, Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopal, and Lutheran that salvation is the effect of baptism, per se, apart from a trust and faith in Jesus Christ, is definitely false. Lotz would be correct if she is criticizing such a view. But if she is objecting to the teaching of Scripture on baptism, we must definitely object.
It is easy to denounce baptism, for generally baptism—for most people—is a merely human religious ceremony that bears little resemblance to the very meaningful and vital act of commitment practiced by the apostles of the Lord 2,000 years ago. But how can Lotz make light of something that Jesus commanded, Peter commanded, Paul commanded, and all other inspired men commanded in the first century likewise required? Further, when Lotz sees no distinction between sprinkling and immersion (“dunking” she calls it), again she errs. Maybe this is part of her upbringing, for sources say that she was influenced by her mother, a devout Presbyterian, while her father (Billy) was a devoted Baptist. Presbyterianism, as you may know, strongly defends sprinkling as baptism.
But what about Biblical baptism? Baptism required much water (John 3:23) and Jesus was baptized (immersed) in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13-16). The account of Philip’s baptism of the Ethiopian man is decisive: “They both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water. . .” (Acts 8:38-39). Baptism is a going into the water, then a baptism in the water (an immersion into water and an emergence from water), and then a coming out of the water. “Baptize” itself is from the Greek, baptizo, which means “immerse, dip, submerge, sink, and overwhelm.”
Probably Lotz is not alone when it comes to her baptismal views. Many professing Christians have little regard for the instructions of the Lord found in Scripture. With their preoccupation with healing, tongues, prosperity, rituals, ecumenicalism, psychology, help groups, entertainment, and church order, there really is little concern to know the will of God regarding such “mundane” subjects as baptism.
We hope that we’ll learn a lesson from Anne Graham Lotz and begin to take the Bible seriously. Let’s believe it, obey it, and teach it—for our own good, for the blessing of others, and especially for the glory of God!