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Alexander Campbell and Baptism

Article: "'God's Sensible Pledge': The Witness of the Spirit in the Early Baptismal Theology of Alexander Campbell."

Alexander Campbell developed a baptismal theology which responded to the “mourner’s bench” theology of the Second Great Awakening. In contrast to seeking a “saving experience” through prayer, Campbell proclaimed baptism as God’s objective offer of assurance to the believer. Instead of seeking assurance in an individualist subjective experience, Campbell argued that God offered assurance in a “sensible” (empirical) pledge through which one entered the community of faith. Baptism, then, became the communal and empirical seal of assurance for the believers based upon the promises of God. Campbell called believers to the waters of baptism instead of to the mourner’s bench. This became an identifying mark of the historical tradition known as the “Churches of Christ.”

First appeared in Stone-Campbell Journal 1.1 (April 1998).

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