Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.
Lets be practical. Getting stuck in a mud puddle sucks. Even more so if you are stuck due to lost traction on one side or the other of a forklift. Lets face it, a wheel in a puddle is trouble waiting to happen. However, how much water does it take to cause trouble? Not very much. I have gotten a forklift stuck in a puddle that has only an inch of water, though it was also spread out across a wide area.
If a forklift is in a puddle that is an inch deep, is it in water? Yes, it is most certainly in water. Not enough to cause any damage to the vehicle, but enough that it could become stuck if the tires are slick and/or the grade of the asphalt is not exactly level. This is a common occurrence where I work.
Oddly, while most would certainly identify a forklift stuck in a puddle, regardless of how wide the puddle is, as being in water, they do not identify such for a person, especially if it is being used for baptism. Why? Likely because many modern churches have created a vast western mindset doctrine that states that one must be fully immersed to be baptized. It matters little that the Bible says absolutely nothing about this part of the doctrine. The Bible does say to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38), and that the promise is also for our children (Acts 2:39). However, at no point does it give any specific quantity of water with which to be baptized. Indeed, even the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan does not state that Jesus was fully immersed. It states he went into the water, was baptized, and came up out of the water. In fact, the Jordan is quite shallow in most places, such that full immersion is impossible in those areas. The deeper areas (which are few) are also dangerous rapids, so it is also impossible for a full immersion baptism in those areas.
A forklift or person in an inch of water is still in water. So too is a forklift or a person on the sea floor under a pier. Does not matter the tradition, being in water is being in water, does not matter how deep. Another issue ignored by the tradition of full immersion is that the area of the world in which the Bible was written, which is primarily a desert. Yes, it has its areas that are nice and green, but is it still mostly desert. Thus, water becomes so essential that it is unlikely that people during the era in which Christ Jesus walked the earth would have used water in such a manner as it would seem wasteful unto them.
I would not immediate classify a person in a puddle as being baptized. Nor do I consider a bathtub a necessity for a baptism. What then is a baptism? I have heard it said that a baptism takes a dry sinner and makes them a wet sinner. However, that sinner remains a sinner. It is only by faith do we become born above. No amount of water can change that. Jesus never said how much water was needed to baptize, nor do we know how much water was available when his disciples baptized people in his presence (Jesus never actually baptized anyone). He did, however, tell his disciples to baptize and teach in his name.
Perhaps it is left as a mystery. We can not truly know. All we have is a church tradition that was held fast until the middle ages, prior to the reformation. However, it matters little if one is in a pool, a tub, or a mere puddle, one is certainly in water. So too, if a forklift is stuck in a puddle, it is stuck in water, regardless of how little it may seem. So too, in baptism, if we are baptized with water, even if poured over us, we are baptized in water, regardless of the amount. It is still water.
In the end, regardless, just as a baptized person must still be brought up out of the water, so too do we need to get that forklift out of the water. Staying in the water doesn’t do anyone any good, especially the one who is baptized. You must come out if you are to work in the kingdom, just like the forklift doesn’t do any good if it is stuck in the water, regardless of how deep. It is not about how deep the water is. It is that there is water and you must come out to do the work you were meant for.
Incidentally, this is what a baptismal fount from the second century looks like. Full immersion would be impossible with this. This is important as the second century was the closest to the Apostolic Age, and thus would know precisely what was taught regarding baptism. Knowing history does make a difference.