Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Current Issue of Baptism

Arguing theology often feels like having to re-invent the wheel.  The reality of the matter is that no one out there is really coming up with “new theology.”  Most often, it is the simple rehashing of old heresies or the needed re-emphasis of neglected doctrine.  It is frustrating as a theologically minded pastor to see these things crop up again and again.  It’s like playing that game where the little weasels pop up and you smack them with the little mallet.

One thing that is popping up its ugly head in Baptist circles these days is the issue of baptism.  Of all the issues that could pop up in Baptist life, one would think that Baptists would know where they stand on this issue.  Apparently, we do not.

At Bethlehem Baptist Church, where John Piper is the pastor, they have decided to allow paedo-baptists (infant baptizers) into the local Church membership.  They cannot hold the office of elder, as I understand, nor can they occupy a teaching position.  However, they can become regular members of the Church on every other level.  While I sympathize with the spirit in which this is done, I am dismayed that it has come to pass.  I believe that Bethlehem Baptist is wrong about this.  I believe that it is a capitulation to the spirit of the age masked as charity towards fellow Christians.

Now, those are fighting words and I know it.  Let me make a few things clear from the outset:  First, I love John Piper.  I pre-ordered his newest book, and I have read through Let the Nations Be Glad and The Pleasures of God more than once.  Indeed, I have read almost everything the man has written.  Intellectually, I cannot loosen the man’s sandal strap.  As for zeal, he consistently shames me.  So I take the stand against him with great sadness in this issue.

Currently, I am struggling with where to begin in my refutation of this nasty thing that they are proposing to do.  I am further struggling with whether or not to post my thoughts here on this blog or on ThirstySoul.  I am leaning towards ThirstySoul because this website was not created to be a deep theological site.  Rather, I created it so that my fellow members at FBC Plaquemine could get to know their pastor better, and so that I might make new friends across the internet, and possibly share my devotion to Jesus Christ and His Excellency with those who are not Christians.  Finally, I hoped that it would be an encouragement to my brothers and sisters across this nation and others to hear my testimony, to read some of my thoughts on Scripture, and to get to know another brother in general.  It was not designed for “in house” debate.

For now, my thoughts one the matter will simply have to remain provocative and without much content.  However, it does do two things:  One, it lets you know that I am absolutely against what Bethlehem Baptist is doing.  Secondly, it will let me know what the level of interest is on this subject.  In the near future I pray God will bless me with the time and discipline to organize my objections and thoughts into a more clear refutation of what I see as folly for a well-respected and most beloved Church.


centuri0n said...

Brad --

I'm going to make a statement here and see what your reaction to that statement is:

There is a difference between allowing "paedobaptizers" into a church and allowing "those who were baptized as children" into the church.

I'm excited to see what you say about this.

centuri0n said...

BTW, JIBBS' genius does not go unrecognized. It goes undiscovered. There's a difference.

Sojourner said...


You are so right about that distinction in your second comment. I shall rectify it immediately.

As for your first comment, do you mean that the difference lies in those who advocate infant baptism and those who have only been baptized as infants? If someone were to teach infant baptism as an appropriate baptism, I would see that as an area of Church discipline.

What do you mean by "those who were baptized as children"? Are you using the word "children" interchangeably with "infant"? I would believe that their is a great difference between those two.

The Sinner said...

I believe the motive behind this is that infant baptism is a minor error. However, in my dealings with paedobaptists, it seems that far too many parents believe that by baptizing their children, they have placed their children into a special/covenant relationship with God. Consequently, their hope is in that covenant instead of diligently pointing their children to Christ and looking for spiritual fruit to indicate that they are born again. Also, the children themselves, when asked to make their calling and election sure, refer back to this act on the part of their parents, instead of looking to Christ alone. I love and have benefited from many paedoobaptists, but this practice is not some small error.

Besides, there is no clear example or precept for infant baptism in Scripture. What are we to follow, Scriputre or tradition?

Just Kurios said...

I'm confused. Are the "paedo-baptizers" in question adults now that had been baptized as children and are seeking membership in the local church or are they adults that believe the church should be baptizing infants?

Sojourner said...

Primarily the first case. That is, they are people seeking membership in a local Baptist Church who have not submitted to believer's Baptism, but have only been baptized as infants. (For the sake of discussion, I am purposefully sticking to the word "infant" over "child". I believe that a child can make a credible profession of faith and therefore receive credo-baptism.)

But the second would also apply. How can you have someone refuse believer's baptism because they believe that infant baptism is legitimate, and then have them remain silent on the issue? And if they did teach this, and we (as credo-baptists) believe this to be erroneous, how could we not bring this up as a matter of discipline?

Just Kurios said...

It seems to me the proper sequence is 1. Profession of faith in Christ, 2. Baptism. Without a profession of faith, baptism serves no purpose, you just get wet.

Side thought(because my brain goes off on these tangents), was the infant fully immersed?

Baptists don't typically accept for church membership those from denominations with differing teachings on baptism, including the method, ie. sprinkling vs immersion.

To a bystander this may seem trivial but without standards, rules, regulations, procedures, or whatever you want to term it, there would just be chaos.

You get to the point where nothing matters:
1. What does it matter how, when , why, or if you were baptized, you can be a deacon.
2. You were a Mormon, close enough, you can be a member too.
3. Muslim you say, how about teaching a Sunday School class?

A tad ridiculous but where does the line get drawn and how long before it gets moved even farther?

Anyway, I seem to have started to rant. Sojourner, I agree with you it does matter.

pilgrim said...

Where does the line get drawn?
By a credible profession of faith in Christ-neither a Mormon nor a Muslim can give that.
As for the first comment I am confused as to your meaning--Bethlehem would require holding to credo-baptism to be an officer.