From the early days of the Restoration Movement, Churches of Christ and Christian Churches distinguished themselves from their near neighbors on the American frontier with a noticeably robust ecclesiology, reflected in, among other things, the theology and practice of baptism. Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott’s “high” view of baptism stood out in the context of the Second Great Awakening, wherein salvation often came to be connected to a subjective experience of the Holy Spirit that was externally manifest in ways other than baptism.
For evangelists like Charles Finney, someone could respond by approaching the “anxious seat.” All of this took place apart from water baptism. Campbell’s association of believers’ baptism with salvation was denigrated by most evangelicals as “baptismal regeneration” and seen as a regression to salvation by works. In the eyes of many evangelicals today, baptism “for the remission of sins” is still regarded as a false teaching that undermines justification by grace through faith.