I have received several emails from young pastors who have bemoaned the recent direction of the Southern Baptist Convention in the new baptism and tongues policies of the International Mission Board. Many of them have been very perceptive in their emails by drawing attention to the fact that this is not the first time parameters of fellowship and potential service have been narrowed, and unless there is a concerted effort by many across the convention, it will certainly not be the last attempt by some who are seeking uniformity and conformity across our vary diverse convention.
It has been said that those who do not know history are destined to repeat other's mistakes.
For those unfamiliar with Baptist history, one might believe that we Baptists have always been an exclusive, non-ecuminical, isolated sect of evangelicals. On the contrary, Baptists historically have been a people of broad cooperation, ecuminical spirit, and a fierce desire to see people worship in freedom without coercion.
BAPTISTS HAVE HISTORICALLY WELCOMED FELLOWSHIP AND PARTICIPATION WITH OTHER EVANGELICALS
When Baptists began to blossom in numbers across England and eventually Europe in the 1600's and 1700's, persecution against those Baptists abounded. Baptists were forbidden from obtaining higher education at the state supported universities, and as a result, most Baptist pastors were self-taught.
That is not to say the Baptist pastors of this time period were not educated, because most were. They were, however, educated through book learning and not through official channels.
Thus, when the eminent Baptist scholar of the 1700's, Dr.John Gill, received his honorary doctorate for his work in the languages and ancient literature, he made the famous statement regarding his degree, "I neither thought it, sought it, or bought it."
Eventually evangelicals (Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, etc . . .) in both Europe and Great Britain began to accept Baptists, mostly because of the thoroughly biblical 1644 and 1689 Baptist London Confessions of Faith, and the way Baptists preached the gospel through men like John Bunyan, Benjamin Keach, John Gill, and other famous Baptists of the 17th and 18th Centuries.
Though there were disagreements over the mode of baptism among evangelicals in that day, cooperation in ministry and partnership in missions marked the late 1700's and early 1800's among all evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic. Southern Baptists in America formed their convention in 1845 and participated in this evangelical cooperation among their Southern evangelical friends, including Presbyterians and Congregationalists.
That is until the mid 1800's when Landmarkism began to arise within the Southern Baptist Convention.
There are plenty of websites on the internet that can give you a brief history of Landmarkism, but my point in this post is to simply give you the salient facts regarding Landmarkism to help you understand why it is essential it not be allowed to rise again within the SBC.
Some leaders of our convention in the 1850's were upset that some Southern Baptist Churches were allowing "Presbyterian" pastors to preach from the pulpit. In addition, these convention leaders were concerned that Southern Baptist Churches were receiving into membership people who had been baptized by preachers who were not "Southern Baptist." It was believed by these "Landmarkers," as they came to be called, that a person baptized at the hands of an "unbaptized" pastor (i.e. a preacher who was himself baptized as an infant), was not truly baptized, even though the baptism was by immersion and took place after that person had come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Landmarks sought to "purify" the pulpits and churches of the SBC.
Landmark Baptists believe that a "pure" church is a priority; and the only pure church is the "Baptist" church.
The tenets of Landmarkism are as follows:
Landmarkism believes that the original church was a baptist church (Mat 16:17-19), and that the only true churches are baptist or baptistic. Some of the corollaries to this are:
1. There is no universal church, only local churches.
2. Baptism by a church that is not baptist or baptistic is not valid, and those coming to a baptist church from another background need to be baptised, even if they had a "baptism" in some other church. This is often referred to as "alien" baptism, or "alien" immersion.
3. Communion is closed, that is, it is only to be celebrated by members of a local congregation, and visitors, whatever their faith, are not allowed to partake.
4. There is an apostolic succession of baptist churches, unbroken since the first church in Jerusalem, organized by Christ Himself. New churches must be "mothered" by a church in the chain, or they are not valid.
5. The "bride of Christ" consists only of members of proper baptist churches. Though others will be in heaven, they will not be part of the bride.
The Landmarks of the 1850's were eventually defeated by the majority of the Southern Baptist Convention and they left to form independent Baptist churches that supported missions through the local church.
When the new policies on baptism were approved by the trustees of the IMB, I was greatly troubled because I believed it was a reversion back to the 1850's and the re-emergence of Landmarkism within the SBC.
Only time will tell.
All I can say is that we better, as a convention, seek to be more open in our evangelical fellowship and understanding of the church of Jesus Christ or we will continue to lose hundreds of young pastors to the Bible church or community church movement that is far more ecumenical in approach than the current SBC.
Baptism identifies a person with Jesus Christ.
Nowhere in Scripture does it identify a Christian with a church.
Churches are responsible to examine a person's faith and baptism before they admit a person into fellowship within the church, but it is critical to understand the nature of biblical baptism --- by immersion after having come to faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of the qualifications of the administrator of the baptism.
Sola Scriptura should drive our every policy and procedure.
As of this writing not one person has been able to show me one Scripture upon which the new policy on baptism is based.
Are we really a convention of the Book?
In His Grace,