The person who uses the term is for lack of a cooler term a "speech-capable immersionist." I know, it's not as catchy as baby sprinkler. I would like to use the term "adult immersionist" but adulthood is generally not required by them (judging by the prayer at a NASCAR event being an adult isn't even a requirement to be one of their pastors). If you come up with a cooler sounding name please let me know.
The two pillars of Speech-Capable Immersionism are immersion and the ability of the one being baptized to verbally confess his faith or fill out a card. Churches and denominations are filled with people who disagree on all kinds of soteriological issues but find their unity in the belief that the baptismal candidate must be immersed and must be able to verbally confess his faith prior to doing so.
The Bapist Faith and Message used by the Southern Baptist Convention is typical of Baptist confessions of faith (whether they are Calvinist, Arminian, or somewhere in-between) in what it says about baptism:
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.According to this statement, baptism is an act of obedience (the Bible never says that) and that it symbolizes the believer's faith and is a testimony that the believer is making (the Bible doesn't say that either). It's also your ticket to the Lord's Supper. The Scriptures teach that baptism is "for the forgiveness of sins," "now saves us/you," and is the "washing of regeneration." The Scriptures teach that baptism is all about something that is done to us. The Baptist Faith and Message turns it all into something that we do as a testimony. The Scriptures say that through baptism we are actually united to Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection but the Baptist Faith and Message says that
It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead.
There is an important element within the statement of faith and in most statements of faith of this kind that I think often gets missed by Baptists:
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.So it's not that the baptismal formula is completely absent from Baptist baptism. The statement seems to suggest at least that baptism is "immersion" with the Word. At least I hope so. I was conversing with and a pastor of an Independent Baptist church and asked him what he believed these words meant. He told me that he didn't even use the words during the baptism. During the baptism he reads from Romans 6. He didn't believe that Matthew 28:19 contained a baptismal formula at all. He believe that "in the name of" simply meant "by the authority of." I checked the writings of the famous Baptist scholar A.T. Robertson and he makes this argument as well. More liberal Baptist scholars like G. R. Beasley-Murray, despite the lack of any manuscript evidence, argue that the text originally said "into the name of Jesus" but was changed over time to conform to liturgical developments.
Some point out that in the book of Acts, it says that people are baptized "in the name of Jesus." It seems more likely from the context that in Acts, "in the name of" means "by authority of." In one instance the Greek construction is even different from that found in Matthew. The baptismal formula isn't given but the narrative in Acts is saying that the Apostles were baptized according to the commission given to them in Matthew 28.
I watched some Baptist baptismal services on Youtube and in every instance the pastor would speak the baptismal formula from Matthew 28 but he did so prior to the immersion in water. His actions seemed to indicate that he believed that the passage in Matthew 28 merely gave him authority to baptize rather than actually being part of the baptism. This is a departure from historic baptismal practice where the person being baptized is immersed or has the water poured on them while the baptismal formula is said. The Roman Catholic church demands that the water be poured while the words are said in order for it to be considered a valid baptism. The intention of the Baptist does not seem to be to baptize the person into the name of the Triune God but rather to immerse someone as commanded by the Triune God.
In my opinion, Baptist baptism, although it usually uses the right words, seems to deny those words in both action and teaching in the much the same way that they use the words of institution in the Lord's Supper but deny those words. I would appreciate some feedback on this. Maybe I've missed something and am completely wrong. It really isn't my place to determine the validity of baptism. At the very least, the practice introduces doubt into the baptism and baptism was given to us as something objective that we can look to with certainty.
But regardless of whether or not we regard Baptist baptism as valid, I think that having this conversation with Baptists about the necessity of the Word in baptism would allow us to have more fruitful discussions. The Baptists tradition is so focused on the particular mode of baptism and who should or should not be baptized that I don't believe that most Baptists have even considered whether or not God's Word plays a role in the actual baptism. For Lutherans, baptism is not just plain water "but the Word of God in and with the water" that gives us what is promised in baptism. For Lutherans, baptism is the "washing of water with the Word" (Eph. 5:26). For Lutherans the focal point is always God's Word that says what it does. For the Baptist the focal point is obedience to a command to baptize in a way that they believe Scripture commands. It is a work. Baptists know that our works cannot save us. So it's important for the pastor to emphasize that it is God's Word that saves and forgives sins in baptism. Contrary to the accusations, Lutherans do not believe that babies are saved simply by throwing water on them.
A serious conversation needs to be had with Baptists about whether or not God's Word is necessary for there to be a baptism and what that means.