The worship of elements of God’s creation—humans, animals, trees, water, etc.—is the religion of all who reject God.
One of the most popular ways such idolatry has subtly infiltrated the church is through the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which says that water baptism saves.
In teaching that water baptism saves, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is a form of worshiping the creation and not the Creator.
Whoever or whatever we look to as our source of salvation is our God or god. There is no neutrality, no middle-ground–our God or god will either be the Creator or the creation (Romans 1:18-25).
If we look to Christ alone as our Lord and Savior, we acknowledge Him as God. If we look to water (used in water baptism) for salvation, we deny Christ as Lord and Savior, and worship created things (water, ourselves, etc.).
Isaiah 44:19 reads,
“No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, ‘Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’”
Neither should we make water an abomination, and fall down and worship it by trusting in it for salvation.
To attempt to mix looking to Christ and looking to water for salvation is to be no better off than those who look solely to water baptism for salvation. For polytheism (in this case looking to Christ and water for salvation) no more saves than looking solely to water for salvation.
When one does not look to Christ alone for salvation, one doesn’t look to Christ at all, but one or more false gods. The Bible considers any doctrine of salvation beyond “hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:1-6; 1:6-9) a different gospel. (For more on why baptismal regeneration is a denial of saving faith, see “The Danger in Believing Water Baptism Saves.”)
Given then that the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is idolatry, we should not be surprised to find that it has pagan roots. Below are some excerpts from the writings Rev. Alexander Hislop and Abram Herbert Lewis on this very topic.
I. Rev. Alexander Hislop (19th century critic of Roman Catholicism), in The Two Babylons; or, the Papal Worship proved to be the worship of Nimrod and his wife, writes,
“Now, this doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration is essentially Babylonian. Some may perhaps stumble at the idea of regeneration at all having been known in the Pagan world; but if they only go to India, they will find, at this day, the bigoted Hindoos, who have never opened their ears to Christian instruction, as familiar with the term and the idea as ourselves. The Brahmins make it their distinguishing boast, that they are ‘twice-born’ men, and that, as such, they are sure of eternal happiness.”
“Now, the same was the case in Babylon, and there the new birth was conferred by baptism. In the Chaldean mysteries, before any instruction could be received, it was required, first of all, that the person to be initiated submit to baptism in token of blind and implicit obedience.
We find different ancient authors bearing direct testimony both to the fact of this baptism and the intention of it. ‘In certain sacred rites of the heathen,’ says Tertullian, specially referring to the worship of Isis and Mithra, ‘the mode of initiation is by baptism.’ …
There was this grand inducement, however, to submit, that they who were thus baptized were, as Tertullian assures us, promised, as the consequence, ‘REGENERATION, and the pardon of all their perjuries.’”
“Our own pagan ancestors, the worshippers of Odin, are known to have practiced baptismal rites, which, taken in connection with their avowed object in practising them, show that, originally, at least, they must have believed that the natural guilt and corruption of their new-born children could be washed away by sprinkling them with water, or by plunging them, as soon as born, into lakes or rivers.
Yea, on the other side of the Atlantic, in Mexico, the same doctrine of baptismal regeneration was found in full vigour among the natives, when Cortez and his warriors landed on their shores.”
Rev. Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons; or, the Papal Worship proved to be the worship of Nimrod and his wife (Edinburgh: James Wood, 1862, Digitized Oct. 25, 2006), 190-192.
II. Abram Herbert Lewis (19th century writer), in Paganism Surviving in Christianity, writes,
“Various forms of baptism, and the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, were common characteristics of pagan religion before the birth of Christ.
“The pagan water-worship cult is secondary only to sun-worship, in age and extent. Its native home was in the East, but it appears in all periods and on both hemispheres. It had two phases: water as an object of worship, and as a means of inspiration; and water used in religious ceremonies to produce spiritual purity. These phases often mingle with each other.
“This reverence for water, and faith in its cleansing efficacy, arose from the idea that it was permeated by the divine essence, from which it had supernatural power to enlighten and purify the soul without regard to the spiritual state of the candidate.
This doctrine of baptismal regeneration was transferred to Christianity before the close of the second century, and through it the Church was filled rapidly with baptized but unconverted pagans.”
Abram Herbert Lewis, Paganism Surviving in Christianity (NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1892), 72, 73. (Disclaimer: We do not endorse Abram Herbert Lewis’ Seventh-Day Baptist views, namely, his rejection of Sunday as the Christian Sabbath. Biblically, Sunday, not Saturday, is the Christian Sabbath.)