Is Baptism a Converting Ordinance?
In a letter to Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great 19th century Scottish Presbyterian Pastor and Theologian John “Rabbi” Duncan wrote, regarding the concept of baptismal regeneration, “Horrible as the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is, it would be still more so if combined with those scriptural principles which are usually called Calvinism.”
Over a hundred years after he penned that solemn warning, it seems that exactly that horror has taken hold in a portion of the Reformed community. For instance, Norman Shepherd in his book The Call of Grace, published by P&R (2002), had this to say:
“Baptism is the moment when we see the transition from death to life and a person is saved…This covenant sign and seal marks his conversion and his entrance into the church as the body of Christ. From the perspective of the covenant, he is united to Christ when he is baptized…Baptism marks the entrance into the kingdom of God and the beginning of life-long training as kingdom subjects. According to the Great Commission, conversion without baptism is an anomaly. A sinner is not really ‘converted’ until he is baptized… Christians are those who have been baptized. Unbelievers are those who have not been baptized”