“The Methodist Church And The Bible” – R. Ervin Driskill

R. Ervin Driskill

This article is in answer to a bulletin, which came into my hands and was written by a Mr. Robert E. Goodrich Sr., of Dallas, Texas. On the front page of the bulletin are the following statements: (1) “The doctrines of the Methodist Church are founded on the Bible and the Bible alone” and (2) “All religious beliefs must square with the Bible, otherwise they are wrong.” May I say that it is refreshing to find a Methodist bold enough to defend his doctrines (even in tract form). I wonder if Mr. Goodrich would agree to defend them, either in a written debate or an oral one? May I have your answer, Mr. Goodrich, at your earliest convenience?

Your second statement above, is most certainly true and if it can be shown and doctrines of the Methodist Church do not square with the Bible, then the Methodist Church is wrong. Now to the task. Is the title, Methodist Church a “doctrine founded on the Bible and the Bible alone?” If so, where does it square? It certainly is not found in the Bible. The Methodist Church was begun in 1729, in England, by John and Charles Wesley and a few other Oxford students. According to the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia. Vol. 7, p. 354, the “doctrines of the Methodist Church” are based on “Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament” and four volumes of his “sermons.” If Methodists, Mr. Goodrich, have such profound respect for the Bible, why do they subscribe to the Discipline of 25 articles containing the doctrines of Wesley? I do not think you are conscious of it, but you do not believe the Bible; and your acceptance of the Methodist Discipline shows your lack of faith in the all sufficiency of the Bible.

Page 2 of the bulletin says, “Our church polity is scriptural.” How could the Methodist Church be Our Church and be Scriptural too? The “Lord’s Church Polity” is “Scriptural” but then, the Lord’s Church could not be Our Church. It is this unscriptural concept of the Bible church that causes denominational folk to speak of the “Lord’s Church” as “Our Church.” Does Our Church square with the Bible? You say, “We have Bishops.” Yes, and so does the Greek and Roman Catholic Church. Is their church polity scriptural just because they have bishops? Do Catholic Bishops “square with the Bible?” The references (1 Tim. 3:1-2; Titus 1:7) set forth the qualifications of bishops and Philp. 1:1 shows there were a plurality of bishops in the Philippian church. Acts 14:23 shows elders (plural) and so it was in every church.

Mr. Goodrich, you further say, “we have Elders, Deacons, Deaconesses and Stewards as office bearers in the Church.” Here again the doctrines of the Methodist Church are not founded on the Bible, for you make a distinction where there is none in the Bible. Acts 20:17 Paul called the elders to him and in Acts 20:28 he calls these elders, bishops, (ASV) and overseers in the KSV. So, the elders (presbyters) were bishops (overseers) and not two distinct “office bearers in the church.” Further, there is no basis on which one may prove there were Deaconesses as “office bearers” in the early church. The words deacon, servant and minister all come from the same Greek word, but that does not suggest each time the word is used it has reference to an “office bearer.” Why did Paul not mention deaconesses in an “official sense” when he wrote the “bishops and deacons” in the church at Philippi? Answer: There were none. So, the doctrine of the Methodist Church again fails to “square with the Bible.” The reference to “Stewards as an office bearer in the church” (Luke 12:42) is called servant in (Lk. 12:43). The parallel passage (Matt. 24:45) does not call him a steward at all. The reference in 1 Cor. 4:2 is certainly no reference to an “office bearer.” The passage has reference to the apostles as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. A steward is one entrusted with something not his own; and in this case it was the Gospel entrusted to the apostles. Verse 3 shows Paul was not concerned whether the Corinthians judged him to be a “faithful steward” or that he (in his own judgment) was faithful, but that the Lord should count him faithful. No, the Methodist Church missed it again; this term Steward is not used as an “office bearer” in the church as used by our Methodist friends. Incidentally, Mr. Goodrich, where do you read of the Presiding Elder in the Bible? The bulletin further says, “In sending out our preachers we follow the Biblical way.” I wonder what church passed upon Paul, Peter, John etc. (and sent them out) before they could preach? Can you “square Methodist practice with the Bible” on this point?

Mr. Goodrich, you say, “Our doctrines are scriptural.” Each time this word is used in the plural, in the New Testament, it refers to “doctrines of demons or devils” or “doctrines of men” (1 Tim. 4:1; Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:7; Col. 2:22; Heb. 3:9). This is significant; Christ has one doctrine (1 Tim. 6:1; Titus 2:10; 2 John 9) while men have many doctrines.

You also say, “Infants belong to the Kingdom, therefore they have a right to the Sacraments of the Kingdom. Read Joel 2:16.” Those that “sucked the breast” Mr. Goodrich, were a part of that old kingdom, by virtue of a fleshly birth, but it takes a birth of water and the Spirit (John 3:5) to enter the Kingdom of Christ. Your passage was misused. You intimate by the use of Luke 18:15; Mark 10:13-14 (followed by the statement “Whole family baptisms” and preceded by the statement, “Infants belong to the Kingdom”) that these babes were inducted into the kingdom by Jesus through baptism (sprinkling or pouring). They certainly were not brought to him for that purpose, but for Jesus to “bless them” and so he did. Your efforts to force this passage to harmonize with “Methodist doctrines” is deceitfully handling the word of God (2 Cor. 4:2; 2 Pet. 3:16). Neither Acts 16:15; 1 Cor. 1:16; Acts 16:33 nor any other passage of the Bible speaks of the “Gospel as being a message for the whole family” nor of infant baptism. The Gospel is for those capable of being taught and of believing (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15-16) and infants (those that suck the breast) can do neither. It seems therefore that Methodist doctrines do not “square with the Bible” at all. Since baptism puts one into the kingdom (John 3:5; Gal. 3:27) and Jesus says of little children “of such is the kingdom of Heaven” then the baptizing of babies would serve no purpose. These children were humble, trustful and unafraid and “to such” (those that are humble and trustful) “belongeth the kingdom of God.” That this is the thing under consideration is seen in Luke 18:17 where Jesus says those who “shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child (in humility and with trust) shall in no wise enter therein.”

The bulletin says, “We believe in and practice open communion.” Under this heading we have this, “It is the Lord’s Supper, and not a Church Supper” (true RED) and “… we Methodists invite all Christians to the Communion Table.” If it isn’t a “Church Supper” (Methodist Church) but “the Lord’s Supper” what right does the Methodist Church have inviting someone to eat at another’s table (the Lord’s)? Then you say, “The Bible says let every one examine himself” (1 Cor. 11:28). No, it says, let “a man examine (prove) himself and so let him eat the bread…” It is significant that those who commune are to examine themselves and no infant can do that. But you may say, “We do not give the Lord’s Supper to infants.” But why not? The Supper is in the kingdom (Luke 22:29-30) and if “infants belong to the Kingdom” why do they not “have a right to the Sacrament of the Kingdom?”

The following is a clear-cut example of how those who seek to uphold error contradict themselves. You say, “It is not for the preacher or the congregation to say who may come to the Lord’s Table” and then you turn around and say, “So, we Methodists practice the broadminded Christian principle of inviting all Christians to the Lord’s Supper.” Mr. Goodrich you are altogether right concerning your views under the heading of “Dangers of Sin after Conversion.”

Perhaps the gem (?) of reasoning is in your discussion of the “Form of Bible Baptism.” You say, “We practice the Bible Form of Baptism—Affusion.” Then you say that affusion is sprinkling or pouring. You are saying that Methodists do not immerse! But would you refuse to immerse a man if he requested it? I know many Methodists who do immerse. But if Bible baptism is “sprinkling or pouring” (affusion) and many Methodists do immerse (when it is requested) they are not baptizing at all!

When you use John 7:38; Isa. 12:3; 44:3 to prove “water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit” you have proved nothing about “water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism.” Your comparison in these verses is between water and spirit; and baptism is not under consideration at all. To what length will one go to sustain error??? Then you jump to Acts 10:47; 11:15-16 where actually two baptisms occurred (Holy Spirit and water baptisms) and conclude that because water is sometimes used as a symbol of spirit that “water baptism” (in this instance) is a symbol of “Holy Spirit baptism.” The text does not say so; it is a figment of your fertile imagination. You then conclude that since “water baptism is a symbol of Holy Spirit baptism” the symbol should be like that which it symbolizes. But this conclusion is based on assumption. Then in an effort to make “water baptism” affusion, you cite us to the following: Joel 2:28; Isa. 44:3; Acts 2:18; 10:45; 11:15; Titus 3:5-6 (of God pouring out his Spirit, in which people were baptized.) When I was small my mother would pour water on me and I was bathed in water. But I was put in the tub and she poured forth water on me and then the bathing followed.

Likewise, God “poured forth his Spirit upon those baptized” but the baptism followed the pouring. The pouring and the bathing were not simultaneous; neither was the pouring and the baptism. The word baptizo means to “immerse, to dip, to plunge, to submerge.” When one is submerged or immersed, or baptized he is overwhelmed. Those baptized, submerged, or immersed in the Holy Spirit were overwhelmed in God’s Spirit.

Mr. Goodrich you say that you find Sprinkling mentioned 60 times and you have “searched in vain to find immerse one single time.” If you do not know the literal meaning of baptizo is immerse you need to broaden your education somewhat. If you were aware of this fact, you would know that every time you read the word “baptize” (which is the anglicized form of the Greek baptizo) you are reading immerse. If the translators had given us the literal meaning of the word (immerse), it could never have been called “sprinkle or pour” (affusion). Sprinkling and pouring come from two entirely different words, and I imagine you already know that. Mr. Goodrich, you are hereby challenged to produce one verse where Baptism is ever referred to as sprinkling or pouring, or where water only was ever poured or sprinkled on anyone for any purpose.

You further state that “Not every time does the word sprinkle refer to baptism.” Well, I guess not; not one time to say nothing of every time. But you say, “it (sprinkling) is prevailingly used of ceremonial cleansing or purifying. In other words, sprinkling is used purely as a symbolical act to signify the cleansing or purifying of the object sprinkled.” Yes, but would you say they were cleansed before the sprinkling? You claim baptism is not necessary to cleansing; one is cleansed, saved, “justified by faith only” according to Article 9 of the Methodist Discipline. Then you say, “Since purifying is always by sprinkling, water baptism, the same as purifying, should be by sprinkling, symbolizing cleansing by the Holy Spirit.” That, Mr. Goodrich, is to say water “immersion” should be by sprinkling. That is not even common sense. Why not recognize the difference in the original words—sprinkle (to scatter about in drops) and baptize (to immerse)? There is a difference. When will men cease to “pervert the right ways of the Lord?”

You have labored to show that Holy Spirit baptism was pouring and that water baptism is a symbol of Holy Spirit baptism. This being true, the symbol (water baptism) must be like that which it symbolizes (Holy Spirit baptism); hence, water baptism is pouring and not immersion.

Second you have labored to show that sprinkling was used as a symbolic act of cleansing or purifying of the object sprinkled and that purifying is used to mean baptism in the New Testament, and since purifying is always by sprinkling, water baptism, the same as purifying, should be by sprinkling. First water baptism must be by pouring and second it must be by sprinkling. Which is it, Mr. Goodrich?? If it must be by sprinkling it could not be by pouring and if it must be by pouring it couldn’t be by sprinkling. No man can be consistent and uphold error; not even you, Mr. Goodrich.

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