Jesus-only baptism

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Jesus-only baptism (a.k.a. Oneness Pentecostalism) is Christian baptism in which the words "I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ" are recited, rather than the more traditional "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (compare Matthew 28:19).

It is practiced by the United Pentecostal Church, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, followers of William Branham, about half of the snake handling churches, and some other fringy sects. They believe the doctrine of the Trinity is a heresy invented by the Catholic Church, and deem recitation of the trinitarian formula during baptism incorrect. However, not all non-trinitarian groups subscribe to Jesus-only baptism. The Bible verse often cited for baptizing in the name of Jesus only is Acts 2:38 ("repent, all of you, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit").

References to Acts 2:38 in tracts and on bumper stickers are usually dog whistles indicating the person believes this theology. Acts 2:38 pretty much holds the same significance in Jesus-only circles that John 3:16 does to evangelicals.

It is interesting to note that when Jesus told his disciples to baptize he told them to do so "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". How, then, is Jesus-only baptism the only correct formula? Their reasoning goes something like this: Jesus didn't say to baptize in the "names" (plural), he said to baptize in the "name" (singular) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, while Acts 2:38 says to baptize in the name of Jesus. They both have to be correct. Therefore, they fit the puzzle pieces together thusly: the name of the Father is Jesus, the name of the Son is Jesus, and the name of the Holy Spirit is Jesus.

This doctrine is an apparent confusion taking "in the name of" to mean a literal given name, as opposed to legal agency (coming or performing an act "in the name of" or in the stead of somebody else). It is also another example of how belief in Biblical literalism and inerrancy tend to lead off in all sorts of weird directions. Because after all, it really matters what specific hocus-pocus words somebody recites over you while they are dipping you underwater.