Thanks for joining us today as we continue to examine and respond to Catholic apologist, Karlo Broussard’s book, “Meeting the Protestant Response” (2022). This week, Broussard concludes his first of three chapters defending baptismal regeneration, using John 3:3-5 as his proof-text.
3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. – John 3:3-5
Protestant Response #25: “The water that Jesus speaks of refers to the word of God.”
Writes Broussard, “Proponents of this interpretation, like (evangelical apologist) Todd Baker, use 1 Peter 1:23 for support: ‘You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.’ Notice how Peter associates the second birth with the ‘word of God.’ Baker also attempts to support this claim with Ephesians 5:25-26, where Paul speaks of Christ cleansing the church ‘by the washing of water with the word.’ He then couples this with John 15:3, where Jesus says, ‘You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.’ When you take into consideration that the second birth elsewhere in Scripture is associated with the word of God, and that the word of God is that which washes us clean, then it seems plausible for a Protestant to conclude that the water in the born again discourse refers to the word of God and not the waters of baptism.”
Broussard’s full response is as follows: “The problem with this argument is that the conclusion, ‘the water in the born again discourse doesn’t refer to baptism’ does not follow from the premise, ‘we are born anew by the word of God.’ To be born again by the word of God is not mutually exclusive of being born anew through the waters of baptism. It’s possible that one can be born again by both. For example, the ‘word of God’ that Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1:23 is the ‘good news preached’ – the oral preaching that Paul calls the ‘word of God’ in 1 Thessalonians 2:13. It’s unreasonable to think Peter would think our second birth is made actual by the apostolic preaching alone and not the waters of baptism, since he was the one who commands those listening on the day of Pentecost to ‘repent and be baptized’ in order that they may receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). This was in response to the people requesting to be saved after hearing the word of God proclaimed to them. So being born anew can come by both the word of God and baptism because it’s the hearing of the preaching of ‘the good news’ that leads people to baptism. Therefore, Peter is not excluding baptism when he speaks of being born anew through ‘the living and abiding word of God.’ In fact, later in the same epistle (3:21), he directly says, ‘baptism now saves you.’ For Peter, it’s not either ‘the good news’ or baptism; it’s both-and.”
Evangelicals do disagree on the interpretation of “born of water” in John 3:5. Some interpret the phrase to mean the physical birth as was discussed last week, while others understand the phrase to refer to the cleansing of the Word of God as Todd Baker proposes in this week’s “Protestant Response.” Evangelicals do reject the claim that “born of water” refers to baptismal regeneration.
Baptism is mentioned along with salvation in several New Testament verses and passages such as Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38-41, Acts 8:12-13, Acts 8:34-38, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:3-4, and 1 Peter 3:21. Catholics and other baptismal regenerationists interpret these verses and passages to mean that baptism imparts salvation or is a requirement for salvation. But Scripture interprets Scripture and we know the overriding message of the New Testament is that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. The key is belief/trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. Verses/passages such as the popular John 3:16 teach unequivocally that salvation is through faith in Christ alone:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Below is a link to 101 Bible verses that teach salvation is not by sacramentalism or other works:
101 Bible Verses That Teach Salvation is NOT by Works
All of the Bible verses and passages that Catholics present as their proof-texts for baptismal regeneration can be explained in the larger context of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone as we’ll see in the weeks ahead.
Baptism is surely an important ordinance given by the Lord by which a newly born-again believer publicly identifies with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, but the physical waters of baptism do not impart spiritual life.* Catholicism takes its baptismal regeneration doctrine to its bitter conclusion by baptizing infants who obviously do not have the cognitive ability to trust in Christ. Eighty-percent of those baptized in the Catholic church are infants. As we mentioned last week, while the RCC insists that baptism is essential to salvation, it incongruously allows that non-Catholic religionists – Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews, etc, and even atheists – may also merit Heaven by following their religion or conscience. Undiscerning evangelicals who embrace Roman Catholicism as a Christian denomination are yoking with rank heresy.
We will delve further into this baptismal regeneration heresy in the four installments that follow. Broussard refers to 1 Peter 3:21 above and that verse will be examined in “Protestant responses,” 28 & 29.
*Baptismal regeneration is a prime example of RC-ism’s foundational Nature-Grace Interdependence theological construct, which was discussed in the Reformanda Initiative’s podcast #3 (see here).
Next week: Protestant response #26: “Baptism is not the cause of salvation but rather follows it.”