Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Baptism and the IMB

The trustees of the IMB have recently made a couple of decisions that have really hacked some people off. One of the decisions was that if any missionary applying for candidacy with the IMB who practices a "personal prayer language" need not apply. They will not be allowed to go on the field with the IMB. If you are spoiling for a fuss about that, you've come to the wrong place. I do not like that ruling; I think that it is unprecedented, and I do not think the board has the authority to make that decision. There you have it. I am not condoning tongues; I am uneasy about the ability to make this decision based on no national precedent. (I.E. No ruling by the SBC at large.)

But I am so ready to discuss baptism. Go and ask the Centurion if you don't believe me. I have basically been cruising around waiting for this sort of thing to pop up. But before I get to all that, let me post what the board said about baptism:

Regarding a candidate's baptism, trustees voted by a 2-1 margin to establish a guideline that specifies (1) believer's baptism by immersion; (2) baptism follows salvation; (3) baptism is symbolic, picturing the experience of the believer's death to sin and resurrection to a new life in Christ; (4) baptism does not regenerate; and (5) baptism is a church ordinance.

The guideline establishes that candidates must have been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church of another denomination that practices believer's baptism by immersion alone. Also, the baptism must not be viewed as sacramental or regenerative, and the church must embrace the doctrine of the security of the believer.

Over at The Joseph Kennedy Experiment you will find a post about this, and also this quote:

"This clearly overrides the autonomy of the local church, suggesting that a baptism accepted by a local church may or may not be accepted by the IMB and could result in a missionary candidate being returned to his or her church to be re-baptized. This is clearly on overstep of authority."

Really, Joseph? Does it clearly overstep the bounds of the IMB to make this baptistic statement? Let's check our Baptist Faith and Message 2000 on this, shall we?

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith...being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.

The problem is not with the section on baptism. The problem is that it seems that Joseph and others have no idea what the national convention is or how Southern Baptists cooperate. I'll begin by saying that the IMB should not accept anyone as a missionary candidate who does not adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message. Period. Southern Baptists are funding them. You don't like believer's baptism and refuse to submit to it? That's okay. Go and preach on someone else's nickel. May I also add that if you do not believe in a regenerate church membership and believer's baptism you may feel free to join the Presbyterian church and go with them. Godspeed. Au revior.

Here are a couple folks who are kicking this idea around here for further reference:
Missional Baptist


Gummby said...

I have seen exactly zero from the guys I read regularly about Bethlehem Baptist's new membership proposal. Is that something you want to talk about?

Jason E. Robertson said...

Brad, good post. I have found that those who oppose these policies are just reading into it whatever they want -- in order to make a fuss. I am glad to see that you are not condoning tongues. Also, I am glad to see some trustees with the backbone to take a stand against pagan practices. National precedent or not, it is Biblically sound and institutionally wise. But at least you are one for two.:)

Sojourner said...


You hit the nail on the head. I cannot believe that people aren't talking more about that issue. It strikes at the heart of what it means to be a baptist. I have tried to start the conversation here, and I have protested at Centuri0n's place.

joe kennedy said...

Thanks so much for the link, Brad. You can call me Joe.

Not even my parents call me Joseph.

Sojourner said...


Welcome. I hope that you found my critique fair. I would enjoy your input as well.

joe kennedy said...

Brad, I didn't really find your critique incredibly friendly. In fact, your comments seemed pretty condescending. I'm not from the hill country, but in the lower parts of Alabama, we go out of our way to treat others with respect. Perhaps you just weren't clear on your tone.

As for your fair critique... well, here's the thing. I don't necessarily disagree with the theology against tongues, although I've got plenty of friends and professors from NOBTS who have said if it's done within the Biblical guidelines, then they'll allow it. Call my professors liberal if you will, but they seem to know a lot more about this stuff than anybody I've met on the blogs. Still, if the IMB wants to put a ban on the tongues stuff, that's fine, but they should still take it before the SBC in June and let the messengers vote on it. This should be a mandate from the autonomous local churches, not from a few committees and subcommittees.

As for the baptism issue, I stand firm that anybody baptized, whether they understood fully the meaning of it at the time or not, if they have correct understanding of it and were immersed per the BFM, then they should be allowed as missionaries (assuming they adhere to the BFM and pass physical and psychological requirements).

Why is it we an tell our youth that they don't have to understand the theology to come to Christ and to share the gospel, but we baptize them and send them on their merry way? Should that baptism count? By all means NO, if we are to assume the IMB is correct in this matter. No, in fact, they shouldn't take the "first step in obedience to Christ" at ALL until they've been property educated for weeks about the theology behind baptism.

Should our standards for missionaries be higher than our standards for anybody else? If so, then I believe we do a severe disservice to our church members. There's more to this than you are seeing.

Should the missionaries understand the meaning of baptism? Yes. Should they be re-baptized because once they were immersed believing that grace was inferred through it? Should they be re-baptized because once upon a time they were immersed believing that they could lose their salvation?

No. I don't think so. It seems pretty legalistic to me. Maybe we'll just send them to seminary before they get baptized. Don't want to let them misunderstand anything.

ColinM said...


Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to baptize without a basic understanding of what it symbolizes. I would agree that most of the youth you send on there way may not know what the baptism signifies; they may not even know their need for a savior. It is not a lack of understanding that breeds this, but an unregenerate heart that is not changed by a recited prayer.

joe kennedy said...

ColinM, let me clarify with a personal story.

When I was at a church camp as a student back in 1999, the youth minister told me I should and could pray to receive Christ without necessarily understanding all of what was involved in that. Now, I wouldn't tell a kid that, because it's unfair to that kid. But that's what they're doing. I WANT people to be educated. But I also think that if you didn't know then, but do know now, there's no reason to be re-baptized, as long as the original was an immersion.

And we can disagree on that. I think it's ok if we disagree. As long as the ones who aren't re-baptized aren't looked down upon and harrassed by other believers. Then we'd be like the Judaizers who condemned new Gentile believers for not being circumsized.


Brad, I did what I condemned you for doing. I might have come across hostile in my comment, and I apologize for that- Fide-O has done a pretty good job demeaning me thus far. You're not Jason Robertson.

I think all around we have some things in common- probably more than you think. I don't remember if it was you, but I read on one of these blogs that someone had spent time in Siberia. If it was you, we might have common friends. I spent 2 weeks there in 2004 and have friends among the Buryats and also in Kamchatka.

ColinM said...

I agree we should do everything we can to avoid rebaptisms.