My friend is talking to a Catholic girl about baptism. The Catholic says baptism saves—in the whole, baptismal regeneration, sacramentalism way. The Christian says baptism symbolizes salvation—in the whole, Jesus died, was buried, and rose for you, and the Spirit has united you to Christ, and baptism shows that way.
What’s the discrepancy? Why the difference? It’s the same difference that happens when an American and a Scotsman discuss football.
“My favorite John Madden quote is, ‘Whoever scores the most, wins the game.”
“I dunnae ken who John Madden is, but that’s a spot on quote.”
“My favorite player to watch was Randy Moss. He was a wide receiver.”
“Do you mean a winger?”
“No. A wide receiver. You know, the guy who catches the ball.”
“You can’t catch the ball. You have to use your feet, you dafty.”
“You have no clue what football is, do you? Players catch passes all the time.”
Both these guys are using the same word, “football”, but they’re talking about completely different things. That’s because they are basing their knowledge of what the game is and how to play it on two different rulebooks.
The Catholic and the Christian have two different rulebooks for understanding any matter of religion, including what baptism is and how to do it. The Christian’s rulebook for all knowledge is the Bible. In the Bible, God speaks. His Word is the final standard for all belief and practice. That is not the case for the Catholic. Officially, the Catholic’s rulebook is a composite, made up of both the Bible and the official teachings of the Catholic church. Functionally, tradition is the final rule and standard for all belief and practice.
This becomes clear when a Christian and a Catholic argue out a point. At the end of the day, the Christian has to demonstrate his claim with the Bible. So, the true Christian is going to show Biblical evidence supporting his position. And the merits of his case will be judged by other Christians based on how accurately he pointed to Scripture. The Catholic doesn’t have to do that. He just has to show that Catholic tradition holds this or that. If challenged with clear Biblical evidence that contradicts his claim, all the Catholic has to do is cite Catholic interpretation, which does not have to be legitimately rooted in the Bible at all.
Do you plan on arguing about truth with a Catholic? Start with an argument on epistemology. How do we know what we know? Where must we look? What is our final authority?
First, establish that we must bow to the testimony of Scripture. Second, show that the Catholic teaching on baptism is swept away by that testimony of Scripture.