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Scriptural Baptism: A Dialog Between John Bapstead and Martin Childfont


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As a theological student in Finland, Dr. Saarnivaara became interested in the question of Scriptural baptism. Which baptism, he wondered, had the most authority: the one a person received in infancy, or the one received as an adult after a conscious conversion. Should he, as one who had been baptized in infancy, be baptized again, after his conversion, in order to be a Christian in the Biblical sense, or was the baptism he received as a child valid?

In seeking an answer, he studied the Bible and the copious literature on both sides of the question. Now, in this book, cast in dialog form, Dr. Saarnivaara offers the result of his study, examining the question exhaustively from both sides.

Some of the questions which are thoroughly discussed are:

  • Was infant baptism practiced in the time of Christ and the Apostles?
  • Did Christ want His Church to practice infant baptism, or baptism after conscious conversion?
  • Does the New Testament teach baptism as a means of grace, or as an act of obedience and confession of faith?
  • What does the Bible teach as the relationship between baptism and regeneration?
  • What was the practice and teaching of the post-Apostolic and the Ancient Church?
  • What was the original method of baptism: immersion or pouring (or sprinkling)?

In developing his theme, Dr. Saarnivaara has set forth the pros and cons of this age-old and still acute problem with admirable exactitude and lucidity. It is easy for the layperson to comprehend, but it is not superficial reading. From the thousands who regard religious problems like baptism worthy of thoughtful consideration and study, however, Dr. Saarnivaara's book should receive keen attention.

Uuras Saarnivaara (1908-1998) was born in Finland, and he received his theological education at the University of Helsinki. After ten years in the parish ministry, he traveled to the United States to teach in the theological seminary of the Suomi Synod (a Finnish-American Lutheran body) in the years 1939-1954. He returned to Finland, where he served several evangelical organizations within the Lutheran Church of Finland in a teaching and preaching capacity. In the 1960s he taught in several seminaries in the Minneapolis MN area, continuing part-time for another decade while working in Finland.

Early on, Saarnivaara engaged in Luther studies. The dissertation for his PhD at the University of Chicago (1945), published under the title Luther Discovers the Gospel, dealt with Luther's reformation crisis and the dating of it. It received international attention. For a ThD degree from the University of Helsinki (1948) he produced a dissertation on Luther's doctrine of justification, followed by a treatise on Luther's understanding of sanctification. The two latter volumes were written in Finnish.

Saarnivaara was a prolific author, writing on a variety of topics of concern to conservative Lutherans. Most of his books were published in Finland. His English language books are: Scriptural Baptism and Luther Discovers the Gospel (these two were published in one volume in the Concordia Heritage Series); Hath God Said: Who is Right--God or the Liberals?; Armageddon--Before and After; The History of the Laestadian or Apostolic Lutheran Movement in America; The Power of the Keys; The Way the Truth and the Life: The Christian truths of the way of salvation and new life set forth in quotations from the Bible, The Lutheran Confession and Martin Luther: Can the Bible be Trusted? Some of Saarnivaara's books have also been translated into several other languages.