BG: Formal logic in Mark 16:16

From: Bruce Terry (
Date: Wed Aug 23 1995 - 02:18:41 EDT

On Fri, 18 Aug 1995, Paul Dixon wrote:

>I personally have seen the conditional abused repeatedly. Mark
>16:16 (accept the reading for the sake of argument) says, "He who
>believes and is baptized shall be saved." Some, of course, have deduced
>from this that if a man believes but is not baptized, then he is not
>saved. Scripture, however, never says if a man is not baptized, then he
>is not saved. It does say, though, if he does not believe, then he is
>condemned already (Mk 16:16b).

I personally doubt that there were many cases in New Testament times of
unbaptized believers, nor were there intended to be. Baptism and faith are
also associated in Col. 2:12. 1 Peter 3:21 has the audacity to read "baptism
. . . now saves you," but I doubt if the writer is imagining baptism apart
from faith.

Of course, what Paul says above about formal logic is true. Strictly speaking,
this text (assuming its canonicity; notice I did not say its Markan authorship)
does not talk about the salvation status of one who believes but is not
baptized. But formal logic is a two-edged sword. "If not A, then B" does not
imply "if A, then not B." For example, "if one does not have gas in the car,
it will fail to start," does not imply, "if one has gas in the car, it will not
fail to start." Consequently, "the one who does not believe will be condemned"
does not under formal logic imply "the one who believes will not be condemned."

Personally, I doubt if we should be using formal logic to try to understand a
text. Texts are understood using a linguistic logic that is based on unstated
schemas among other things. One cannot assume that a speaker or writer is
saying everything that he or she believes on a subject in a given statement.

I rather imagine that this passage is assuming that the person who believes
will be baptized. It is only our modern deprecation of baptism that gives us
problems here, for we have often substituted the active "good works" appeal of
prayer for the passive (like salvation, you can't do it yourself) appeal of
baptism as the faith response to God's free offer of salvation in Jesus.

Bruce Terry E-MAIL:
Box 8426, ACU Station Phone: 915/674-3759
Abilene, Texas 79699 Fax: 915/674-3769

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