The bottom line: A quick and solid summary of the principles behind baptism with some deviation on methods.
What is Baptism? succeeds by conveying the paramount importance of baptism in the lives of believers as well as carefully explaining the meaning behind the sacrament. What the reader is left with is a solid appreciation of baptism, its cardinal significance, and an awareness of many of the controversies surrounding the practice.
However, the author takes a stand to clarify some of the confusion surrounding baptism with some debatable results.
What is Baptism? begins by first asking if baptism is required for salvation (it isn’t). This is not used to downplay the importance of the practice but rather to highlight is relevance as a sign that always points to something greater: a covenant and a new relationship with Christ. Sproul traces the origins of baptism with John the Baptizer, locates other covenantal signs throughout the Biblical text for comparison, and then expands on the meaning and mode of baptism. One point of contention I have is that in Chapter Four, “The Meaning of Baptism,” Sproul uses the Westminster Confession of Faith in order to define the sacrament. While creeds and confessions are certainly valuable, it becomes a matter of denominational and personal preference if a Biblical doctrine is primarily explained with a human supplement and not the source text.
Regardless, throughout What is Baptism? the author excels when he basically writes, “The Bible is unclear on this particular point, so here are the main competing arguments.” He tends not to excel where he makes a case (i.e. Chapter Six, “The Case for Infant Baptism”) for methods that essentially involves eagerly reading between the lines.
What is Baptism? belongs to a series called crucial questions. As with all the other volumes in the series that I have read, this text is helpful, quick and very easy to read. You will likely get through this book in one sitting and it proves to be a valuable to supplement your own Bible study, Christian education classes, and Sunday school lessons.