"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

J.L. Dagg and Christian Baptism

A Southern Baptist with an eye toward history has written an excellent article reporting on early Southern Baptist fathers attempts to resist a growing influence of Landmarkism. Gene Bridges has posted an entry on his blog entitled Southern Baptists and Baptism where he eloquently refutes the Landmark positions of two modern Baptists.

In Gene's blog he quotes J.L. Dagg, President of Mercer University in the 19th century and the greatest theologian the Southern Baptist Convention has ever produced. Dr. Dagg wrote a classic work entitled "Manuel of Church Order" where he discusses many practical issues Southern Baptist pastors will face in their respective ministries.

J.L. Dagg points out that pastors will meet some people who wish to join a Southern Baptist church, but they have been Scripturally baptized by "Pedobaptist ministers" ( i.e. Methodist pastors, Presbyterian pastors, Episcopal pastors, etc . . .) Dagg asks the question "is rebaptism necessary according to the Holy Scriptures?"

Dagg answers:

It is clear from the Scriptures, that, in ordinary cases, baptism was designed to be administered but once; and the pastor, as a servant of Christ, is bound to decide, in the fear of God, whether the case before him justifies a repetition of the rite.

It has sometimes happened, that ministers have differed in their views; and a candidate, whom one minister has refused to rebaptize, has been rebaptized by another. In such cases, no breach of fellowship between the ministers occurs; nor ought it to be allowed.

In like manner, a difference of opinion may exist between churches; and one church may admit without rebaptism, when another church would require it. This difference should not disturb the kind intercourse between the churches. But if the individual who has been received without rebaptism, should seek to remove his membership to the church that deems rebaptism necessary, the latter church has authority, as an independent body, to reject him.

A local church is to make the evaluation.

Oh how we need strong theologians like Dagg today to be statesmen in our convention. Southern Baptist pastors for a century and a half have disagreed over the validity of baptisms at the hands of non-baptistic pastors, but Dr. Dagg rightly points out that it ought not cause anyone to separate from fellowship or cooperation, or what he calls, "kind intercourse" within the convention.

How right he is.

We ought not keep people off the mission field who have been Scripturally baptized in different denominations, have been accepted by Southern Baptist churches as members, and are in every way qualified to serve as a missionary. Just because a Landmark pastor will not receive that missionary candidate into fellowhship in his church, should not mean that missionary candidate is disqualified from representing the Southern Baptist convention.

In His Grace,


Wade

31 comments:

kevin said...

I believe this is a very important issue.

Here in Manila I normally baptize people in a swimming pool, not in a church building. I explain to students that the place of baptism is not important--the important thing is following the Scriptures through this act of obedience.

Some students are baptized and their "church" is a cell group that meets on campus or in someone's apartment. Would such a baptism be accepted under these new requirements? It isn't clear to me.


Landmarkism is NOT the direction we need to go.

Blessings,
Kevin
www.kevsworld.cc

darren said...

When this whole issue came up back in November, I certainly disagreed with the new policies and then what happened to you (Wade) was to say the least, very disheartening.

But the longer this matter drags on and the more I do my own personal study and read notes such as these from Dr. Dagg on baptism, the more solidified I am on my position and resolved that not only should an apology be issed to you (Wade) but for the sake of harmony and conservative cooperation within this great denomination, these policies must be rescinded.
My prayer and hope is that this matter will in the long run be a great educational tool for thousands of baptists and make us stronger to focus on the main thing and the essentials of the faith, rather than taking sides over the non-essentials.

Thanks for all you are doing Wade, taking a difficult stand, continued great research, and so much more I am sure

Former M said...

Autonomy of the local church has been placed in a position subservient to the national SBC power brokers. My church does not require affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message. The Convention authorities do. Is this not the same issue as baptism acceptable in some churches and now deemed inappropriate by IMB trustees? The convention did not vote to require all agency workers to ratify the BF&M2000. Agency heads and trustees took that upon themselves.
What's the difference? Local church autonomy was in jeopardy from the beginning of "conservative ressurgence." That was the whole point!

Anonymous said...

Wade,

A question of clarification: According to the new policy - What happens to a person that is baptized by a Southern Baptist Pastor and then later the baptizing Pastor realizes he is not saved? Is this a valid baptism? Would this disqualify the person who was baptized by the "lost pastor" from the mission field? I think i would rather be baptized by a "saved methodist" than a "lost baptist"...

Florence said...

It is encouraging to read all of the comments on your blog. I have been fearful that our seminaries have become "Bible Schools," where students are taught to follow the "party line" instead of places where real theological thinking and learning are taking place. It's good to know that there are some real thinkers out there, especially among the younger, up-and-coming generation. May God bless each of you on your journey toward Grace and Truth and toward cooperation with all who seek to win the multitudes to the Savior.
BTW, Wade, thank you for your good book. I plan to put it in our church library.
Florence in KY

Wade Burleson said...

Former M,

I think there is a small difference. The convention did vote to affirm the BF&M 2000. No such approval of cessationism and proper credentials of the baptizer.

Betty, I feel your pain, but I'm trying to keep comments on the current issue.

Kevin, baptisms by students in "cell groups" would not be recognized. My church would recognize them, but not the IMB under the new policy.

Anonymous said...

Wade:

In discussing "Baptist" sources on the baptism issue, it's also helpful to keep in mind the work of George Beasley-Murray, a British baptist who taught for a time at Southern Seminary.

Beasley-Murray wrote *Baptism in the New Testament*, which is arguably one of the finest treatments of this subject from an evangelical perspective.

While arguing vigorously for believer's baptism, Beasley-Murray ultimately challenges Baptists to be open to receiving into membership those, who in good conscience, believe their infant baptism to be legitimate.

steve w said...

Darren,

You said, "the more I do my own study..." I think if you, and anyone else, finds good quotes from our Baptist forefathers, you should feed them into the discussion on these blogs. Certainly when commenting on someone else's blog, we have to be concise. But I think Wade, or Marty Duren, or Steve McCoy, or others would gladly welcome these enlightening words from our forefathers.
- Steve Walker

art rogers said...

I agree, Wade. I guess that makes me brilliant, agreeing with JL Dagg...

I have been arguing much the same point on another blog. The best affirmation that someone can receive is that of their local church. If they are received by their local church and if their local church endorses them as qualified to be missionaries, who is anyone else to decry that?

Joe IMB Missionary said...

I find it ironic that the trustees are tightening the filter on these two issues. It is quite possible that as soon as the new candidates are sifted through this process that they could find themselves in another country working with Baptists who speak in tongues, or with a church planting movement (not even using the name "Baptist") but baptizing converts in all kinds of interesting ways by house church / cell group pastor/leaders.

But maybe this IS the purpose, to straighten out the theo/praxis of the rest of the Baptist world. Does leaving the BWA have anything to do with this?

Wade Burleson said...

Don't think so Joe

GeneMBridges said...

A question of clarification: According to the new policy - What happens to a person that is baptized by a Southern Baptist Pastor and then later the baptizing Pastor realizes he is not saved? Is this a valid baptism? Would this disqualify the person who was baptized by the "lost pastor" from the mission field? I think i would rather be baptized by a "saved methodist" than a "lost baptist"...


A. Dagg would, judging from his words, Anonymous, advise you to be rebaptized.

B. On the other hand, W.A. Criswell said that the very issue to which you speak would NOT invalidate your baptism.

C. Ergo, follow your conscience per Romans 14 and I Cor. 8. We're back to Dagg.

I would add that there is a move afoot now by those who have disputed my thesis to further deny there is such a thing as the universal church! It never ceases to amaze me.

They appeal to the usual characters: Carroll's work exegeting "Ecclesia." So, it seems they'd rather listen to Carroll (himself one who affirmed Baptist successionism) than Dagg. So, the ancient battlelines are being redrawn.

I'd add they're trying to drag Spurgeon into the fray too. They say that since Spurgeon affirmed in one of his sermons that baptism symbolizes eternal security, if a church disaffirms this doctrine, the symbolism in the testimony offered is imperfect, ergo the candidate should be rebaptized. This argumentation becomes moe absurd each day!

The Lord's Supper pictures the return of Christ too (We are to do it "until He comes again), so we testify not only to the cross but to the Second Coming when we partake of it. Does this then invalidate the ordinance at the Table if we don't discuss the 2nd Coming? For that matter, if we press that into service, why not press premil, postmil, amil, etc. into service, since if you believe in the return you should, by this logic believe one of those? How far will these folks go I wonder?

If this continues, I fear Southern Baptists will become convinced they and only they have it right.

Tom Ascol has two posts on this up now too. It seems the Philadelpia Association, one of our parent associations, accepted the baptisms of persons coming from Free Will Baptist churches, and that Ben Keach was baptized in a General Baptist church and his baptism was accepted without reservation.

As to the employment of Spurgeon by these folks, I have an email out to the folks at Metropolitan Tabernacle detailing this discussion with them and asking them what Dr. Spurgeon would, to their knowledge have done. Would he have required rebaptism for such persons or not? Inquiring minds want to know.

Ben Stratton said...

Bro. Burleson,

Yet isn't it interesting that Dagg clearly rejected pedo-baptist immersions. I wonder how many Baptists that are opposed to these new IMB guidelines would agree with Dagg that Presbyterian and Methodist immersions ought to be rejected? Those who quote Dagg need to tell the whole truth.

Kevin Bussey said...

Wade,

Thanks for keeping us informed. We do need more visionaries like Dagg!

Wade Burleson said...

Ben,

I have no idea what you are talking about. Dagg is arguing the opposite of what you say.

Ben Stratton said...

Bro. Burleson,

In reading Dagg's section on "rebaptism" it seems to me that his personal opinion is that immersions by pedobaptist ministers should be repeated. He mentions that Pedobaptist ministers only immerse relecutantly and they do not in general baptize as an emblem of Christ's burial and resurrection. In his own words "But that two (administrator and candidate) may walk together in this act of obedience it is necessary that they should be agreed." Perhaps I am missing something he wrote else, but from this section it seems his personal opinion was that Presbyterian and Methodist immersions should be rejected. Dagg lived at a time, much like our own, when this was an power-keg issue, and he wrote as a moderate voice, but still it seems to me this was his personal view. How do you interpret this section in Dagg's book?

I realize Dagg wrote against the Landmark tenant of no-pulpit affiliation, but this was a separate issue from baptism.

GeneMBridges said...

Ben,

Reread Dagg,

As I noted in my own article, Dagg says stands for credo-baptism.

He also says:

A believer who has, at some time, received sprinkling for baptism, is not freed from the obligation to be immersed, in obedience to Christ's command. In this case the immersion cannot, with propriety, be called rebaptism. But if an individual should be immersed in infancy, according to the usage of the Greek Church, this fact would not release him from the obligation to be re-immersed, on his becoming a believer in Christ. On the cases which have been mentioned, no doubt or diversity of practice exists among those who adhere strictly to the precepts of Christ.

Nobody here is arguing that those coming to us who have only been baptized as infants should be rebaptized or that those sprinkled should not be immersed. We do say, as Dagg did, that the latter, not the former, cannot rightly be called "rebaptism." As to the quotes, I believe I quoted the very part that says:

A responsibility is brought on the administrator, to whom the candidate may apply for rebaptism. It is clear from the Scriptures, that, in ordinary cases, baptism was designed to be administered but once; and the administrator, as a servant of Christ, is bound to decide, in the fear of God, whether the case
before him justifies a repetition of the rite. Besides the two parties that have been named, and that have the immediate responsibility in the case, the church to which an individual of doubtful baptism may apply for membership, has the responsibility of judging whether his baptism has fulfilled the divine
command. If baptism is a prerequisite to membership, the church is not at liberty to throw the entire responsibility of the question on the candidate or the administrator.

It has sometimes happened, that ministers have differed in their views; and a candidate, whom one minister has refused to rebaptize, has been rebaptized by another. In such cases, no breach of fellowship between the ministers occurs; nor ought it to be allowed. In like manner, a difference of opinion may exist between churches; and one church may admit without rebaptism, when another church would require it. This difference should not disturb the kind intercourse between the churches. But if the individual who has been received without rebaptism, should seek to remove his membership to the church that deems rebaptism necessary, the latter church has authority, as an independent body, to
reject him.



When you ask this:

Yet isn't it interesting that Dagg clearly rejected pedo-baptist immersions. I wonder how many Baptists that are opposed to these new IMB guidelines would agree with Dagg that Presbyterian and Methodist immersions ought to be rejected?

Dagg says:

a. Those only baptized as infants MUST be rebaptized.

b. He says the individual baptized is the one who can rightly question his baptism.

So, when an administrator mistakes the design of baptism, and overlooks its chief symbolical signification, every enlightened and conscientious candidate, who understands the nature and design of the ceremony, may well doubt the propriety of uniting with such a minister in a service about which they are so little agreed.

--He draws this from an illustration using the Lord's Supper. Notice, here, however, who gets to make this decision...not the churches, not a pastor, but the candidate. If the candidate is dissatisfied, then he can present himself for rebaptism. We are not told to hunt down these folks and to tell them to be rebaptized or to create policies that tell other churches to rebaptize them.

c. As to churches, he says that good men differ and that one church may freely accept such an immersion.

D. Another church may feel differently and require reimmersion.

E. Thus it is STRICTLY a LOCAL CHURCH issue.

A responsibility is brought on the administrator, to whom the candidate may apply for rebaptism. It is clear from the Scriptures, that, in ordinary cases, baptism was designed to be administered but once; and the administrator, as a servant of Christ, is bound to decide, in the fear of God, whether the case
before him justifies a repetition of the rite. Besides the two parties that have been named, and that have the immediate responsibility in the case, the church to which an individual of doubtful baptism may apply for membership, has the responsibility of judging whether his baptism has fulfilled the divine
command. If baptism is a prerequisite to membership, the church is not at liberty to throw the entire responsibility of the question on the candidate or the administrator.


It has sometimes happened, that ministers have differed in their views; and a candidate, whom one minister has refused to rebaptize, has been rebaptized by another. In such cases, no breach of fellowship between the ministers occurs; nor ought it to be allowed. In like manner, a difference of opinion may exist between churches; and one church may admit without rebaptism, when another church would require it. This difference should not disturb the kind intercourse between the churches. But if the individual who has been received without rebaptism, should seek to remove his membership to the church that deems rebaptism necessary, the latter church has authority, as an independent body, to
reject him.

Though some difference of opinion on these questions does exist, and ought to be tolerated, yet every one should strive to learn his duty respecting them, by a diligent study of the Holy Scriptures. The directions of the inspired word are clear, so long as men keep in the prescribed way; but when they have wandered from it, no surprise should be felt if the method of return is not so clearly pointed out. Hence it arises that men who interpret the express precepts of Christ alike, may, in applying them to perplexing cases, differ in their judgment. In what follows I shall give my views, with deference to those whose
investigations have led them to a different conclusion.


F. NOWHERE, does Dagg say that the baptism MUST be rejected and that he would automatically reject such a baptism if he learned of a person in a congregation in such a position. He would, it appears counsel the person with questions about their baptism to be rebaptized to assuage their doubts. If the person was satisfied with their baptism, it doesn't appear (since the onus is the candidate for that) Dagg would rebaptize them or counsel them to do so. This is a matter for personal counsel between that individual and the elders of his local church alone, if an only if that person believes himself dissatisfied with his previous experience.

G. For baptism, he says: ONLY A CREDIBLE PROFESSION OF FAITH IN CHRIST is necessary. The administrator has no power to search the heart. That profession and that ALONE is what the believer being baptized is to provide, and that, and that alone, is what the administrator must ascertain.

Anonymous said...

Wade, these guys are way over my head on legal baptisms. So I will ask them a question in my situation
I was baptized in a S.B. church at age 10. Lost as a goose. The Holy Spirit bothered me so much I told my mother I wanted to be saved. After prayer, a piece came into my heart that is still there. But I doubted my salvation because I did not hoop and holler like my father did when he was saved.
At age 21, (never missed church) I went down front and told the pastor I wanted to feel saved, but not to pronounce me saved until I said so. I kept asking God to call me by the Holy Spirit as He had when I was 10, but He never did.
A year later, Bob Jones had everyone standing and then said to sit down if they knew they were going to heaven if they died right then. That left me standing like a lame duck. During the invitation, he pointed his finger at me and said, “Young man, come here!” Off I went…not from the Holy Spirit, but from orders.
I went back to my local S. B. church and was baptized with the reasoning I had tried everything to get saved and couldn’t so I must be saved. A year later, the book “So Great Salvation” had a chapter why some doubted their salvation because they were looking for a ‘feeling’ and didn’t get one. I had heard it all before but that day it sunk in and I received joy in my heart that is still there.
So what do you think? Would my baptism be accepted as an applicant for a missionary?
I haven’t walked on the Sea of Galilee, but I’ve crawled on the bottom. Even swam alone four miles across it through the stupidity of judging distance as the age of 65. It did give me time to catch up on praying.
I came close to leaving this world three times last year, and at the age of 74 (next month) I’m not qualified to be an applicant plus I wouldn’t sign the last BFM if someone broke my arm.
I’ve never talked to anyone about this and I’m really serious if I should be baptized the third time.
Rex Ray

Ben Stratton said...

Bro. Bridges,

I'm not sure if you read my second post on this subject. I still think Dagg was personally in favor of "rebaptizing" those believers who had Presbyterian and Methodist immersions. I understand he says Baptist churches should not break fellowship with each other over this. Also remember Dagg says the local church "must exercise judgment" on this issue. The candidate's satisfaction is not the final issue. Notice the last sentence in his chapter on "rebaptism" - There is "no proof that God will be displeased, if one who has failed to come up to the full measure of his duty, should seek another opportunity to obey the divine command with scrupulous exactness." Dagg is not talking about someone getting baptized again if they have been baptized as a baby or only sprinkled. He is talking about a Christian who was immersed by a Presbyterian or Methodist being baptized again.

Michael said...

Thanks for the Dagg quote. I couldn't agree more...

The Bishop said...

I'm wondering where we find Scriptural pedo-baptism...

Wade Burleson said...

We don't.

I refer you to Reisinger's articles on the ekklesia in my post today.

Baptist Theologue said...

Some interesting quotes from Dagg:

"Admission to membership belongs to churches; but admission to baptism belongs properly to the ministry. A single minister has the right to receive to baptism, on his own responsibility; as is clear from the baptism of the eunoch by Philip, when alone. But when a minister is officiating as pastor of a church, it is expedient that they should unite their counsels in judging of a candidate's qualifications; but the pastor ought to remember, that the responsibility of receiving to baptism is properly his. The superior knowledge which he is supposed to possess, and his office as the shepherd of the flock, and the priority of baptism to church membership, all combine to render it necessary that he first and chiefly should meet this responsibility, and act upon it in fear of the Lord."

J. L. Dagg, "A Treatise on Church Order" (Harrisonberg, VA: Gano Books, 1982), page 269. (originally published in 1858 by The Southern Baptist Publication Society)

"From the investigations in the preceding part of this work, we have learned that a candidate has no right to baptize himself, or select his own administrator, without regard to his being duly qualified according to the divine will. The proper administrators are persons called of God to the ministerial office, and introduced into it according to the order established by the apostles. To such persons the candidate was bound to apply; and, if he received the ordinance from any other, it was as if he had selected the administrator at his own will, or had immersed himself. . . . Because when church order has been destroyed, something unusual may be done to restore it, we are not, on this account, justified in neglecting the regular order when it does exist. Every church is bound to respect this order, and a candidate who has failed to respect it in a former baptism, may, with a good conscience, proceed anew to obey the Lord's command, in exact conformity to the divine requirement. . . . By a wise provision the social tendency of Christianity is shown at the very beginning of the Christian profession. The candidate cannot obey alone, but he must seek an administrator to unite with him in the act of obedience, and by this arrangement Christian fellowship begins with Christian profession. But that two may walk together in this act of obedience, it is necessary that they should be agreed. If the administrator and candidate differ widely in their views respecting the nature and design of the ordinance, they cannot have fellowship with each other in the service."

Ibid., page 285.

Mark said...

The BIshop asked "I'm wondering where we find Scriptural pedo-baptism..." The answer of course is we don't.. but we do see plenty of references to infants being included in the body of the religous community (through circumcision)/the church... (Luke ix. 47, 48, Mark x. 14) and baptism of whole households...(the family of Lydia, Acts xvi. 15; the family of the jailer, Acts xvi. 33; and that of Stephanas, 1 Cor. i. 16.)...

So I ask the question... where do we find re-baptism in scripture? It seems to me that even the early Church saw only one chance of re-baptism - that of "red-baptism" i.e. martyrdom.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Mark, Acts 19 is generally considered a case of rebaptism. If the first baptism is void, though, it is not really rebaptism.

Ben Stratton wrote, "I wonder how many Baptists that are opposed to these new IMB guidelines would agree with Dagg..."

Those who know me know that one of my great loves is Baptist history, particularly early American Baptists. Baptist history proves what we have believed and have practiced, but not what we should believe and should practice. I think there is validity in showing what is a part of our history, and good reason to question something new that is not part of it.

But I think folks on both sides of this IMB discussion have erred historically. In relation to what Ben writes above, I would note that if one uses the double barrels of J. L. Dagg and the Philadelphia Baptist Association to shoot at the foe of Landmarkism, one may find that the gun will backfire and shoot his own position as well. For example, do you believe any Christian can baptize? Dagg and Philadelphia BA will both probably take a shot at that!

Please keep up all the good historical quotes though. This is some good historical education that many people think they would not enjoy -- probably even think it dry -- in another context.

Mark said...

R. L. I don't see how that Acts 19 is a case of re-baptism in this sense... firstly they were baptised into the name, and into community of John... then in the name, and then the community of Jesus.

Of course Terullian and the Catholic authorities accepted re-baptism when "converting" from a declared heresy... I would hope that no-one here would be using that term in regard to the other denominations mentioned!?

The danger (for me) in this type of discussion (i.e. what is the required form of baptism - not this particualr blog discussion) is that it strays pretty quickly into legalism... i.e. the belief bit is not enough, one has to go through the correct rituals in the proper way... perhaps thats why I'm not a Baptist!

Mark said...

P.S.

I guess I am in line with the anonymous comments above i.e...

While arguing vigorously for believer's baptism, Beasley-Murray ultimately challenges Baptists to be open to receiving into membership those, who in good conscience, believe their infant baptism to be legitimate.

Terry said...

To me, baptisms are a picture of becoming a child of God. It represents Christs death, burial and resurection. It does not represent becoming a Baptist or Methodist or whatever.

Course, that's just me.

Anonymous said...

Wade, I love the attitude on baptism by ‘that’s just me.’
On Feburary 9, I asked if my
baptism would be accepted as a missionary applicant. Does anyone know the answer or
should the question be ‘does anyone care?’
Rex Ray

R. L. Vaughn said...

Mark, one funny thing about discussing "re"baptism is that nobody usually thinks a "re"baptism is a "re"baptism because he doesn't think the first occurence is a baptism.

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