Thursday, October 12, 2006

Birthdays, baptisms and firetrucks

In this Associated Baptist Press article, Beth Newman, Professor of Theology and Ethics at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, VA advocates the use of confetti-spewing firetruck baptistries for children.

Curiouser and curiouser....

HT: Bill Ascol


Rev. S. Michael Huffman said...

Dr. Ascol-

I was curious if you would point me in the direction of some good web based articles that I could study of the History of the Bapptits and Calvinism and how that Baptists roots are in Calvinism. Thanks and God Bless

Pastor Michael

Tom said...

Pastor Michael:

The best source that I know of is our own Founders website at It is loaded with journal articles, books, booklets and bibliographies. The best book on the subject is Tom Nettles' By His Grace and for His Glory. Founders Press plans to release a revised, expanded, 20th anniversary edition of this book late this year.

Brian Hamrick said...


I am by no means a BTSR apologist. But I sensed her tone was not so much to advocate a child's baptism so much as it was to say baptism is a celebration. That said, it was a poor illustration to even bring in the Floyd implementation of fire truck baptism.

Right now, I'm leaning toward good intention, poor choice of comparison. Perhaps she is a strong advocate of Floyd's baptistry- I don't know; I just never got the sense that was the thrust of her article.

BTW, I've gotten a message from Barry P. in N. Naples, and we are playing phone tag now.

softballguy44 said...

While I personally don't see the need to applaud when someone is batized, and certainly wouldn't want a firetruck themed baptistry, I don't see that it is a major issue.
Professor Newman's point is, I think, shouldn't we celebrate baptisms?
Now I realize from reading many of the comments here from time to time, that there are many who take issue with churches and their promotion of baptism numbers and, I think, the stressed need for baptism (please correct me if I incorrect).
If a child accepts Jesus Christ and a firetruck shaped baptistry that shoots confetti will help them feel more comfortable about baptism, I don't see the harm. I would hope, however, that care is taken to make sure it's a genuine decision and not one based on getting to go into the firetruck.
This is my first-ever blog comment, so take it easy on me, a newbie.

Scott said...


Fire engine Baptistries, Soul A Month Club(Bailey Smith), Johnny Hunt and FBCW giving away a Hummer, Beach Vacations, XBox, and Car giveaway, giving out cash at Youth event, and etc.... . I rest my case !

Byroniac said...

Hi softballguy44:

If a child accepts Jesus Christ and a firetruck shaped baptistry that shoots confetti will help them feel more comfortable about baptism, I don't see the harm. I would hope, however, that care is taken to make sure it's a genuine decision and not one based on getting to go into the firetruck.

I think the best way I can describe the problem with this type of thing is to make reference to the category people generally call "conflict of interest." That is, we are providing a confetti-spraying firetruck baptism experience which would be naturally appealing to a child, while simultaneously expecting that same child to not find this appealing and/or unduly influencing. It is an engineered theologically self-defeating mechanism. It is designed for spiritual failure. And I do not say that to intend offense or rudeness, but in simple honesty.

Much the same could be said for hand-clapping at baptisms. It's not a sin though, of course, and it is human nature to celebrate the good fortune or circumstances of those we love and care about. But sometimes the temptation can be to celebrate the person himself or herself, and not the event, and more importantly, the Person behind the event. I have probably been too harsh and critical on this issue in the past, but I think we should be more concerned with what honors Christ than what pleases us.

softballguy44 said...


I understand your point, that's why I mentioned that care needs to be taken in using it.
I think that there are times we are trying to make our worship too secular in order to woo people into our churches.
I think the intention behind the firetruck baptistry is good, but prone to being problematic.

Micah said...

"If a child accepts Jesus Christ and a firetruck shaped baptistry that shoots confetti will help them feel more comfortable about baptism, I don't see the harm."

I didn't realize Baptists were into baptizing those so young as to not understand what salvation was or their dire need for it so as to require a confetti shooting firetruck.

Bill Formella said...

Micah, You didn't? What planet you livin' on brother? :)

Gordan said...

Micah, Micah, Micah...

(insert exhasperated sigh here)

...where have you been hiding? :)

Not only that, but we're also into baptizing the wholly unconverted on the basis of a correctly filled-out invitation/response card. And then, we're into defending the presence of the patently unconverted on the rolls of our supposedly regenerate congregation.

21st Century, man, gotta get with the Baptize a Million program.

Gordan said...

Bill, you beat me to it. Aargh!

allofgrace said...

I think any method of evangelism or baptism which, even if not by intent, tends to manipulate the mind and emotions, is spiritually unhealthy. Paige Patterson has rightly said that Southern Baptists are the worst paedobaptizers there are. I have to agree. Baptisms in confetti spewing firetrucks doesn't help that dilemma, imho. Is it wrong to clap at baptisms?...perhaps not. However, shouldn't the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper be occasions of reverence and reflection for the candidates and communicants alike? Don't get me wrong...I'm not advocating a dourness about these things...just healthy biblical balance. Just a view from the pew.

DoGLover said...

Dr. Newman didn't really seem to advocate Floyd's approach. Toward the end of her article, she wrote, "Videos games, bubbles and fireworks – while no doubt entertaining for children – fail by comparison. Baptism is more than fun; it’s a serious celebration."

Still, it begs the question, "What's an appropriate way to celebrate baptism?"

Byroniac said...


I understand your point, that's why I mentioned that care needs to be taken in using it.

To me, that just begs the question: so why use it? What are we more concerned with, entertaining children, or honoring Christ? So why mix the two?

OK, I apologize for being hardheaded. But I'd want answers to my questions if I attended such a church, and quickly!

M and M said...

I think baptism is an act of obedience, and serves to give God the glory as we tell again what Christ has done for us (the Church) on the cross.


scripturesearcher said...

Many of us shed lots of tears - some of gladness and more of sadness - when we prayerfully ponder the future of the people called Southern Baptists.

B Nettles said...

Many of our SB churches, and all of our state associations, are looking for instant gratification and they get that by have baptisms "NOW."

The more children that a church can get to raise their hands, repeat a prayer, and go beneath the water, the better the numbers now. And though they probably are not consciously thinking this, the better the numbers later, for there will be the pulpit bodies (don't EVEN want to call them preachers for they savage the Word) who make a living giving hour-long sermons on how, if you were baptized as a child, you probably weren't saved but you are now so you better "get your baptism in order." And so, you get to count those people twice.

Should baptism be "comfortable?" I say, "No." Baptism IS a serious celebration, but it is more serious than celebretory. It is a strong statement of commitment to a path of devotion. Jesus began his ministry with baptism, I believe to state publicly that he was now beginning an intensive focus of discipling a few followers while heading toward the cross, instead of spending his days as a carpenter. We are baptized as believers to publicly state that the focus of our lives has been changed. It should give us great pause and should NOT be a comfortable thing. We are stating to the world that we are different. Ask a Muslim background believer if baptism is "comfortable." If he says "yes" he's probably in the USA and his family is all dead.

Okay, now, don't get too bothered by this: Here in the USA (because of our cultural Christianity), shouldn't we educate those making professions of belief in the serious statement that baptism makes rather than rushing them into the waters? Since the waters don't save, why not take some time and look for a little more understanding? I think that sometimes we expect the act of baptism will produce Godly living, so we better baptism 'em "quick."

Also, I'd like to have a better understanding of the pre-Christian history of baptismal practice, if anyone has a good, understandable source.

Danny said...

I almost wonder if the thing itself isn't as sad as the fact that it even OCCURRRED to some people to do it.

GUNNY said...

I don't want to sound overly critical, but doesn't the following seem a bit on the baptism regeneration side?

"Like my son’s celebration, baptism too is a birth day as we are buried with Christ “by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead…we too might walk in newness of life” (Roman 6:4). The early church even spoke of the baptismal waters as a womb, signaling birth, new creation and new life."

As Baptists, doesn't baptism sybolize something more than it effects something? For the Baptist, isn't baptism a sign of regeration, not cause thereof?

Hey, I don't even have a problem calling baptism a means of grace, but sanctifying, not justifying.

P.S. I'm much more on board with clapping after baptism than I am after someone sings a "special!"

GeneMBridges said...

Also, I'd like to have a better understanding of the pre-Christian history of baptismal practice, if anyone has a good, understandable source.

As a matter of fact, I can help with that: Baptism In the Early Church by Prof. Hendrick F. Stander and Prof. Johannes P. Louw, Carey Publications, published by Reformation Today Trust 2004.

DoGLover said...

By no means do I affirm a carnival atmosphere around baptism; but I'd like to know what some of you think ARE appropriate responses to someone's baptism.

irreverend fox said...

I wish I had a fire truck baptistry that shot out confetti when I was baptized twenty years ago. Baptist churches didn't have such things when I was a kid, I can remember how crazy it was when they painted a noah's ark theme in the basement sunday school was big and on the actual cinder bloock wall...that was WILD!

I was like 7 or 8 and all I had was that old preacher man in the tank with me. Even in that setting his hair never moved, like a perfect piece of plastic. Pastor Elmore. I remember him taking one of the boys into his office and whipping him for running after his sunday school teacher told him several times to stop. The boy's dad had left the boys mom, so pastor Elmore asked the boys mom and she agreed. That was 20-22 years ago.

Anyway, he met with me no less than three times, which got old, cause it seemed like he kept asking me the same questions, like over and over about when I asked Jesus to forgive me and what my understanding of baptism was...he asked my dad about a thousand questions seemed like he wasn't too sure and needed convinced or something.

Sheesh, a fire truck with confetti would have been very cool compared to all that!

irreverend fox said...


I think "amens" and clapping is fine. Depending on the church...a young gen x church would have different response that would be fine...such as whistling and woo-hooing that would be way out of place in a traditional setting.

The pentacostals get real happy and so do the various black evangelicals...that's all fine in it's context.

But in general, I believe at the very least you'd have to be pretty legalistic to condemn "amens" and/or clapping.

Travis Hilton said...


Speaking of Virginia Baptists, I have just posted on a satirical column on Calvinism that recently appeared in the Relgious Herald. I thought it may be worthy of your readers' time. The misinformation continues.


Hal Eaton said...

Since the orginal blog here is a rather accusatory remark, and is obviously a misinterpretation of Beth Newman's stance, perhaps ethics and decency require a response from Ascol . . . or is one already available?

Tom said...


Perhaps "advocates" is too strong a word. I certainly meant no mean accusation by it. I simply find it curious that a prof at a not-so-conservative seminary would defend the somewhat controversial practice of an extremely conservative church and pastor.

If this response does not suffice, let me know and I will make another attempt.

Travis Hilton said...


I hope I didn't come across here as merely attempting to promote my blog. I just thought the presentation of Calvinism in the colum I mentioned was amazingly (though not surprisingly) distorted. If someeone would just google the Religious Herald, they will find the article entitled "Pewbay Meets Calvin."


Travis Hilton said...

My spelling is really off today. Two corrections: "someone" and "Pewboy".

Please pardon the mistake.

Mike McIlwain said...

I'm not so sure that Beth Newman is advocating the "fire truck" baptism. After reading her article I interpreted her writing to say that it is okay to celebrate baptism, but we must not do so in a manner filled with artificial excitement.

I am saddened to see one of our "conservative" churches doing such a thing as using a fire truck baptistry.. It seems that our present group of conservatives are becomming as pragmatic as the group of leaders we removed in the 1980s and 1990s.

May God grant us a refomation of the glorious truths of our godly Baptist forefathers.

Larry said...

Perhaps for the child's first Lord's Supper celebration after having been baptized they could use Grape Fanta and some Twinkies. Bet that will make them "feel more comfortable" with the Lord's Supper too!

I mean why should only one sacrament of the church be cool?

kradzo said...

I think they are missing the obvious; if you are going to have a firetruck spewing confetti, why shouldn't the one doing the baptism be dressed up like a clown?

sarcasm off

Baptism is a joyous occasion, a time of obedience and witness. My concern is like that of others, if we have to dress it up like this, in essence adopting a Madison Avenue approach with advertising, something is wrong.


I think you and all the others here better check out this Irrevend Fox's Blog.

I sure you will enjoy his being able to Post a comment.

softballguy44 said...

Concerning Madison Avenue

Amicus said...

Tom, everyone seems to miss your observation of how "curiouser" it is that Springdale's fire engine is finding support from the far left of the Baptist universe.

Both of those worlds - that of "conservative resurgence" establishment and that of the CBF and ABP - seemingly poles apart culturally and theologically, draw on an easygoing confidence in the power of the human will and the creativity of the human mind, and both profoundly despise the doctrine of total depravity and the necessity of the forms of worship and evangelism being governed by the Word of God.

SelahV said...

It wasn't so long ago I recall hearing folks getting all worked up over puttin' baptistries in the house of God instead of takin' ol' Buzz out to the riverside in the middle of December. And oh my lands, the battles we fought in Wednesday night business meetings over indoor plumbing and getting rid of the outhouse behind the church. Wonder what folks would have said if we'd had bloggers and cyber-connections then. mercy oh Father. mercy. selahV