Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The IMB's New Baptism Policy

I simply cannot get enough discussion regarding baptism. Hopefully, I will be able to return to my discussion on Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and John Calvin, but not immediately. Not that many care except for Etrangere and I.

I do want to wade in on the baptism controversy started by the new IMB policy. As I understand it, one of the qualifications to be an IMB missionary now is that your baptism had to be administered by a church that believed in "Eternal Security." I believe that this policy is fundamentally wrong, and I am ashamed that this part of the policy passed. It is, in my opinion, way worse than the no speaking in a "private prayer language" policy. Here is what I understand it takes to have a proper baptism:

1. The candidate must be regenerate (a believer).
2. The baptism must be by immersion.
3. The baptism must be done in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

In baptism, we are identifying with Christ Jesus, not a doctrinal position. In the early Church, when a person believed, he got baptized. Did the Ethiopian eunuch understand Eternal Security? Did the church he got baptized in belive that? Wait, he wasn't in a church. He was at a river with Phillip. If the Ethiopian wanted to be an IMB missionary, would he have to call Phillip on the phone to make certain that he believed in Eternal Security.

I was quite fortunate not to be baptized in the Church of Christ. They believe in baptismal regeneration. Why did I almost get baptized in that church? Let me tell you.

1. I got saved and I knew that Jesus said we should be baptized. I wanted to do what Jesus said.

2. My old "Baptist" Church was "doing" baptism for another month. I did not want to wait. I was gushing with excitement.

3. I had a close friend who was Church of Christ. He told me that his preacher would baptize me this very day at this very moment if I called him and asked him to. I said, "Well...let me call my grandmother's church." That church was SBC, thank God or else I would have to be baptized again I suppose.

This brings up some interesting questions for me. According to my construction above, I would have met the requirements for baptism if I had let the Church of Christ minister baptize me. I did not believe that baptism would save me. I believed that I was already saved. Would it have mattered if the minister believed that I was being saved through baptism? Would he be baptizing me into his church and his doctrine or would I be being baptized into Christ?

I thought that we had already gone over this issue with the Donatists. Could someone remind me what we decided in that controversy about baptism?

15 comments:

brother terry said...

You're exactly right.

The IMB is being foolish with this.

This is a very slippery slope.

If you continue out this line of thinking, everyone will have to have signed Statements of Belief from their Baptizer.

I hope they were baptized in moving water with the proper ph too!

Maybe we should just go ahead and have everyone re-baptized and get it over with.

After all, we don't want any heretics running around!

John Gaines said...

The random blog feature happened to open your post and I'm glad it did, for this gives me an opportunity to respond and correct a common misconception regarding the teaching of the church of Christ concerning baptism. I have been a preacher in the church of Christ for over 30 years and I have never heard anyone teach that salvation is earned in baptism. Baptism is an act of submission to the revealed will of God by which one enters into Christ and receives the gift of remission of sins (Romans 6:3-4; Acts 2:38).

You are correct, according to my understanding of the Bible's teaching about baptism, that the preacher's beliefs would not have affected whether or not your were saved. If you had been baptized thinking your sins had already been taken away, then you would not have been baptized for the purpose of washing away your sins (cf. Acts 22:16). Scripture undeniably links baptism and salvation -- Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, and 1 Peter 3:21 for starters. However, the power is NOT in the water; it is in the blood of Christ! Some understanding of what is being accomplished by that act of submissive obedience is necessary.

I do wonder, given your definition of the characteristics of biblical baptism, why would you think you would have needed to be baptized again if you had been baptized by that church of Christ preacher? It would have been belivers' baptism by immersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Try to think this through from the other side....You have the final say in appointing missionaries to many countries. Do you want them to represent other denomination's teaching, or SB's teachings(which hopefully are identical to Bible).
If a candidate was baptized thinking that this act helped save him, was it a true reflection of grace through faith alone, or erroneous? Many who teach salvation can be lost would include baptism as an important part of the process. If a person believed that were the case when baptized, and has since learned that this is incorrect Biblically, is it a BIG deal to get re-baptized?....only if PRIDE is an issue. Think of it...if you are going to a country that God has called you to, and an organization is going to pay your salary and health care, and they want to make sure that their appointees are on firm grounding theologically, is it really a big deal to get dunked again?
to a certain extent, it seems to be a pragmatic concern such that the IMB can make sure that all of its appointees are on the same page...May save some problems in the long run...just my thoughts.

Sojourner said...

John,

Welcome! I am glad that you stopped by as well. However, I must say up front that I strenously deny that water baptism is necessary for the washing away of sins, and I do not believe that Scripture supports this erroneous teaching. It is more than I can do in this comment section to refute baptismal regenration, but if you are interested, I could post on why I do not believe that water baptism is not necessary for salvation. In short, it is because I believe that one is saved by Christ alone through faith alone. Not Christ + Faith + Baptism or anything else. Thought I would doubt a persons salvation if they refused water baptism.

Your last question is exactly the question that I am posing to my baptistic friends. While I believe that the teaching of the Church of Christ is wrong concerning baptism, and I believe heretically so if my understanding is correct, I wonder if it would still be invalid if the candidate did not adhere to the CoC's position.

Sojourner said...

Anonymous,

We must have posted similtaneously. Let me respond. Yes, I believe that it is important that the missionary candidate line up with the SBC theologically. That is not really the point. The point is regarding baptism itself, and yes, re-baptism is a big deal far beyond pride. This strikes at the heart of what baptism means.

Baptism does not symbolize that we agree with a certain denomination's theological statements. It is a grace picture that represents the fact that a person has been joined with Christ through faith, and that he has died, been buried and raised with Christ. It further symbolizes that his union with Christ has washed away his sins.

Someone can believe all of these things and still be dead wrong about eternal security when they are baptized. That is, unless you want to argue that believing one can lose their salvation is a damning error. Is that what we want to argue?

It would concern me if the missionary candidate still held this position, but I do not think that this is any more relevant to the validity of baptism than if they understood Total Depravity and Unconditional Election.

What did the first disciples on Pentecost understand about baptism? I would offer that they did not understand much. All they knew was that Peter told them to be baptized after hearing and believing the message. Why should we require more?

The Sinner said...

Actually, the old hard-line Church of Christ does not believe in baptismal regeneration. Why? Because they are essentially Pelagian. When the Bible speaks of regeneration, to them, it is simply talking about baptism - the immersion in water is the new birth and does not alter a person internally.

I know this doesn't have anything to do with what you're talking about, but I thought I would add my two cents worth.

P.S. I do believe that this controversy in the IMB has a lot to do with the character of fundamentalism. Unfortunately, many fundamentalists like to play the pontiff and dictate every nuance of doctrine from on high.

brother terry said...

Suppose you had a guy who was a faithful member of your SBC church for 20 years, but he was originally Baptized in the COC.

Now suppose God calls him to the mission field, but he can't go because he doesn't have a "pedigreed" baptism.

Foolishness.

Even worse, the cure for a person who was baptized to wash away their sins would be to rebaptize them to nullify the original baptism.

Right?

Wes Kenney said...

I don't believe that God will have called him to the mission field if he is not convinced of the error he would have been taught before his C of C baptism, and if he doesn't understand that error, he should not be living on LMCO dollars. I think the pride referenced above would be the only thing preventing such a person from being baptized again.

It has been dogmatically stated that "Baptism does not symbolize that we agree with a certain denomination's theological statements."

While I understand that it is not explicit in scripture, I have always believed and taught that baptism, in addition to being an identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, was also identification with the local church. The 3000 baptized at Pentecost were baptized after they had "accepted his (Peter's) message," and then added to their number. And among the things to which they were devoted was "the apostles' teaching." Peter's message which they accepted, and the teaching to which they were devoted, were the teaching of that church. Admittedly, that church was the church at that time, but I think it to be defensible to say that baptism can reasonably be this kind of dual identification.

Attack at will....

brother terry said...

Which one's Will?

brother terry said...

Baptism is an identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. As the old saw goes, it's "An outward sign of an inward change."

I would disagree that it's an identification with a local church body. I think it's more an identification with the entire Body of Christ.

Coming up out of the water is emblematic of our resurrection. Will we be segregated into small groups after our resurrection?

No. We will all inhabit the New Earth and serve Christ corporately.

Since baptism is emblematic of our future resurrection we should act accordingly today.

At my church, our communion table is open to those of like faith and belief who have submitted to Beliver's Baptism.

I don't ask to see ID cards. that's between them and the Lord.

peace,

Wes Kenney said...

I don't ask for ID either, and those are the criteria I explain before we serve to all whose conscience allows them to partake after explanation has been given.

And I don't think there is anything eternal about the identification with the local church. If we said that, because there will not be local churches in eternity, we shouldn't have them now, that would be easily dismissed. Because we will not be in small groups after the resurrection doesn't mean there is no good reason for it now.

brother terry said...

If I trust a person to take communion, then I would trust that person to go into the mission field.

That's why it would seem so silly and unnecessary to have a person affirm that they were baptized in a church that "Affirmed Eternal Security."

If they subscribe to the Baptist Faith and Message and have been accepted as a member in good standing by their home church then I don't care if Alexander Campbell himself baptized them.

Wes Kenney said...

I trust 7-year-olds to take communion, but I don't think they would do well in Central Asia. It has been said that "extra-biblical" is not necessarily "un-biblical," and I think that is true.

Their home church can affirm until they are blue in the face, but the only requirement for calling your church Southern Baptist is sending a few dollars to the state convention every month. I've seen some decidedly un-biblical 'churches' who have "SBC" on their sign, so there need to be some standards, affirmations notwithstanding.

étrangère said...

"Hopefully, I will be able to return to my discussion on Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and John Calvin, but not immediately. Not that many care except for Etrangere and I."

Don't worry, I can wait. I've still got most of these to read and think through!

So in brief the IMB call is that the validity of baptism has to do with the beliefs of the one baptising? I know many Baptists are saying this, but what were they thinking?! Further back than the Donatists, do we learn nothing from 1 Cor 1?

Eric said...

Re: 1/25/06 post "The IMB's New Baptism Policy"

Sojourner wrote: "In baptism, we are identifying with Christ Jesus, not a doctrinal position."

What is the scriptural basis for the statement "we are identifying with Christ Jesus" in baptism? In asking this question I am taking for granted that we are identified with Christ in baptism, but I am wondering who does the identifying? Is it the person baptized? Is it the one baptizing? Or is it the One in whose name we are baptized? What is the Scriptural basis for believing that anyone other than God is the primary actor in baptism?