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

A Caution Against Quick Judgements Regarding Henderson Hills

I have been asked by several people to give my thoughts regarding the direction Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma is moving in asking for a bylaw change that would, in effect, not require believer's baptism in order for a Christian to be a member of their church.

I am not ready to weigh in with my personal assessment on this issue because of several factors that I believe are very important and worthy of some serious consideration by us all.

(1). I have read a few blogs and commentators who have weighed in heavily against Henderson Hills and have not even taken the time to read what Henderson Hills has posted on their own web site. Some have even written retractions of what they previously said after reading Henderson Hills own documents. I am not unfamiliar with accusations from people who have never read what I have written, and I would highly encourage anyone and everyone to become informed by reading the source documents before weighing in.

(2). The leaders of Henderson Hills Baptist Church have studied this issue for at least two years, and in their own documents they say their desire is to be completely Biblical in all they do, something that we as a Convention should commend rather than condemn.

(3). John Bunyan, one of the leading Baptists of the 17th Century, led his church to take a similar position, so the argument from Baptist history cuts both ways.

(4). Since each Southern Baptist Church is autonomous, and since my church (and the vast majority of all Southern Baptist Churches) require believer's baptism prior to church membership, all a pastor would have to do if someone desired to transfer membership from Henderson Hills to his church is request a testimony of faith and believer's baptism, something that every person who seeks to join our church must do, regardless of the church from whence he came. If the person has not been baptized as a believer then it is the perogative of our church, and every other Southern Baptist Church, to refrain from granting membership until that happens.

(5). I have read that someone will seek for the Baptist General Convention of Okahoma and the Capital Association to try to "disfellowship" from Henderson Hills if this new bylaw passes. All I can say regarding this proposed attempt is this: Spurgeon was disfellowshipped from the Baptist Union for refusing to compromise on what he believed the Scriptures to teach. Spurgeon taught Biblical truths that were considered "heretical" by the liberals of his day. Marty Duren has well said that there is as much danger in the liberal denying the sacred text as there is in the fundamentalist ignoring the sacred text. Spurgeon said at the time "A future generation will vindicate our church." Before such drastic action is taken against Henderson Hills, we better know the BIBLICAL basis for why such a thing is required. If we as a state convention and association cannot support our position for disfellowshipping from Scripture, a future generation may look at us as we now look at the 19th Century Baptist Union of England.

(6). Why are we not as concerned with our modern mega-church Southern Baptist practice of baptizing anyone, and I mean anyone, who "walks an aisle" without taking seriously our responsibility to disciple that person? Which is worse, a Southern Baptist church with 10,000 baptized members but only 3,000 attending and participating in the ministries of the church because possibly several hundred, if not thousand, are on the rolls who have been baptized but not genuinely regenerated, or a church like Henderson Hills grappling with what the Scriptures actually teach about "church membership" and not wanting to denigrate the meaning and symbolism of baptism by confusing it with an "initiation" rite into the church?

(7). No trustee of the International Mission Board has ever advocated that a missionary be appointed who has not been baptized as a believer. My friend and fellow trustee, Rick Thompson, has written several excellent posts on this matter.

So, I guess I will simply continue to read, continue to listen, and continue to be respectful to my fellow Southern Baptists at Henderson Hills who are grappling with an issue within their local, autonomous church. It is a sad day when we start disfellowshipping from people who are evangelical, working to be Biblical in everything they do, and wish to continue to cooperate with us.

We have way too many enemies who are not of us to turn on someone who is.

In His Grace,


Wade

UPDATE: Senior Pastor Dennis Newkirk of Henderson Hills has commented about 12 comments down. His comment, again, exhibits grace, wisdom and a desire to be Biblical in all things.

62 comments:

Charlie said...

Wade
Henderson Hills is my type of church!!! More power to them. I have never agreed with baptism and church membership tied together. I led a friend to Christ. He was from Australia. My church would not baptise him unless he became a member. He wanted to be baptised very much. As a priest granted by GOD, I baptised him into the body of Christ. This was 1973. He is still active in his walk at his church in Australia and his walk with Christ. MY church laughed and said he was baptised into the membership of my pool. JESUS spoke to my heart and said" was I baptised into the membership of the Jordan? Was the eunuch baptised into the membership of the pool?" That settled it for me. It is being baptised into the Body of Christ that really counts.
Have a good meeting in Richmond.

Blessings

Charlie of Gainesville

Bryan Riley said...

First, thank you, Wade, for bringing this up for comment. This is something (baptism) I have asked for a discussion of previously, and I am very interested in seeing the apologies presented on all sides of this argument. I will wait to weigh in, but agree that the most important thing is that people come with a solid scriptural basis for their viewpoints.

Ewinwe said...

I'm rather fascinated by all this. I've been learning more about the mosaic style of worship (readings/blogs/personal contact) and have read on the mosaic.org site that to be a "member" of the community, all you have to do is show up! Now if that does not describe the majority of Southern Baptist churches, I do not know what does. Many of the SB churches I have visited in the States have members on the rolls that do nothing more than just "show up" (and sometimes only a couple times a year, guess when those times are?). By virtue of the fact that someone shows up regularly on a Sunday morning here in Europe, they are effectively part of the community of faith at the local FeG., but they are not a "member" of anything. To be a member, they need to make more of a commitment; get involved with small groups, volunteer their time in the community, work at events or offer their services. Maybe Henderson Hills is not off on a tangent, but back on track with something here ...
For more info on how mosaic handles membership, read their faqs. I'd really be curious as to what others are thinking on this ...

Bob Cleveland said...

Wade:

Speaking of a "conservative resurgence!" How conservative is it to make noises about inerrancy, but not insist that all the church does conforms to scripture, and does not add to it?

Along comes a church that seeks to justify its membership requirements biblically, and here comes the vilification!

The book of Revelation has some harsh words for those who add to, or take away from, its words. Why would adding requirements to other scripture be less objectionable to God?

One of the fundamental beliefs in the SBC is the autonomy of the local church. Man, oh man, folks sure don't like it when local churches start acting like they really believe it..

Ben Stratton said...

Wade,

Your argument from Baptist history is very weak. The 17th century English Particular Baptists did not consider Bunyan a "Baptist". I have heard the reformed Baptist historian Jim Renihan say more than more that we should not consider Bunyan a Baptist.

The biblical facts are these:

1. Every baptism in the New Testament was believer's immersion.

2. Every church member in the New Testament had been baptized. Can anyone show one single exception to this?

This is the bottom line.

Alethes (Truthful) Baptist said...

Wade,

Thank your for the tone of this post. You are correct to state that many are coming to conclusions without first understanding Henderson Hill's position. That is a shame.

Second, I agree that we should be careful to disfellowship with a church without careful and fruitful conversation. However, Baptist history shows that the 17th, 18th, and 19th century Baptist associations were quite prone to disfellowshipping churches when they fell outside the bounds of the association's beliefs.

Those things being said, I am by no means convinced that Henderson Hills is moving in the right direction. I respect their desire to grapple with the NT concept of church. I am not questioning their autonomy. They are a Baptist Church (whether they will continue to be a SBC church is another matter, but they are still Baptist, for now).

I had a conversation just last night with a staff member from HHBC. We discussed this issue for about 10 minutes and, on the whole, i was not satisfied with the answers given to my questions. I fear there will be a dichotomy between those who have been baptized and those who haven't. There will, essentially, be two classes of members, those who qualify for leadership positions (because they have been baptized) and those who do not qualify for leadership positions (because they have not been baptized).

I, for one, am not disparaging their desire to be biblical. However, I do care greatly about the consequences of their actions. Thanks for allowing us to posit our thoughts.

P.S. With great respect to Bob Cleveland, I hope he knows many (of the informed) who are respectfully disagreeing with HHBC understand quite well the concept of autonomy. In addition, I'm not convinced anyone is 'adding' or 'subtracting' from the rest of the Bible when they discuss the role of baptism as a requirement for church membership. No one (to my knowledge) says "The Bible says, 'You have to be baptized before you can be a member of a church.'" Instead, the argument is that, based on Scriptural teachings, principles, and inferences, baptism seems to be the logical requirement for membership in a local church. We may disagree on whether that systematic teaching is Biblical, but I think it unfair to accuse people of 'adding' to Scripture at this juncture.

Charis humin,
Alethes (Truthful) Baptist

tim rogers said...

Brother Wade,

I too will hold judgement regarding Henderson Hills. However, I have two questions that I believe beg to be answered.

First, what are "membership responsibilities" if baptism is not at the forefront?

Second, the Elders state: "Just because a person has not yet become convinced of the need or recognized the Holy Spirit's conviction to be baptized doesn't mean that person should be further hindered in his/her Christian growth through being denied church membership" If Baptism is the first step of obedience in the Christian life, how can you hinder a person's Christian growth by denying church membership?

The Elders also stated; "Christians should not be told they have to "be baptized to join the church" because that creates the wrong motive to develop for the reason to make the decision to be baptized." If we are teaching the Bible it is clearly taught that Baptism is not the reason to join a church. Joining the local Body is something based on God's leading, not on my desire to place myself in the best possible situation to further my social status. If God is convicting me to join a Baptist church then the teaching in that Baptist church should be a clear Biblical teaching of Baptism resulting from salvation, not a teaching that it is a initiation rite that must be practiced.

Tim

craig from Georgia said...

I'm astounded. I've been a member of a very conservative SBC church for 23 years and we've never required baptism for church membership. As a matter of fact I know of no SBC churches in this area that practices baptism except as a testimony following a person being saved. Must be an Oklahoma thing.

John Fariss said...

Thanks Wade for your input on this issue. I agree completely with you, and it affirms some of the comments I have made on other blogs. Some might suggest that what happens in OK affects only those in OK, not in the Deep South, much less here on the East Coast--but it does. It determines much about the character and health of Southern Baptist life. I suggest that much of what we (and you, as a trustee of the IMB) are struggling with is the cummulative effect of unhealthy ways of dealing with dissent, disagreement, and conflict that happened 20-30 years ago. I pray that all those on the "front lines" of dealing with HHBC's decision will keep that, and your comments, in mind before they initiate actions that not only will we suffer from, but the next generation of Baptists as well.

And Charlie of Gainsville: well said!

ewinwe: boy, that's scarey! Have we have "invented" a form of "churchianity" that we think is Biblical Christianity, and now can't tell the difference? Talk about seeing through cultural lenses. Maybe we'd better focus on that for a while, and how we got to where we are.

Bob: you're right. Don't we often confuse "orthopraxy" for "orthodoxy"? Makes me wish I was back in Alabama and could sit down and have fellowship with you.

Wade Burleson said...

I appreciate every person's spirit in response so far, particularly from those of you who are in disagreement with H.H.

Ben, I have a question for you. Was the thief on the cross a member of the church of Jesus Christ? I know you will say that he would have been baptized if he had the opportunity, but that is not my question. My question is, "Is he a member of the church of Jesus Christ?"

Wade Burleson said...

alethes,

I agree for the most part with your view of Baptist history on the subject of Bunyan. However, I can show you many 18th and 19th Century Baptist leaders who ARE ADAMANT Bunyan, and his church, were Baptist in belief.

Dennis Newkirk said...

Wade,

Thank you for offering grace and clarification. As I have said many times in the past month, we are still 100% for the baptism of every believer, by the church, by immersion, subsequent to salvation, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Sprit, to identify publicly with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Our struggle is in the practical outcome of making baptism a prerequisite for membership. When we tell a person, "To be a member of our church, you've got to be baptized" what we are saying, no matter how we try to dress it up, is that baptism is an initiation rite into the church. If we aren't saying it, I believe that is what they are often thinking. The problem is, I cannot find a single biblical reference to that motivation. The biblical motivation that I find for baptism is that a believer wants to obey Christ by publicly identifying with Him in the way He prescribed. Some ue Acts 2:41 as proof for baptism being a prerequisite but many theologians certainly disagree with that interpretation of the verse.

Why would we want someone to be a member of HHBC who refused to be baptized? Let me say flatly that we would not. However, we are not talking about the sin of refusing to obey the Lord. We are talking about those who are physically unable to be baptized due to a medical condition and those who are mistaken, but sincerely believe that sprinkling is baptism.

Our thought is that we may preserve the biblical motivation for baptism, and are more likely to influence the unbaptized to follow the Lord, by embracing and accepting them. It is not our desire to ignore what the Bible says. To the contrary, we are trying to do exactly what it says, to our best understanding of it.

I do not know if the church will approve this. As I have told them, we might be wrong and we depend on the church to help us seek the Lord. However, our motives are not to liberalize or accomodate the culture; our motiveation is to be as true to the Bible as we can be. It isn’t that we want to be “unBaptist” we are looking only toward being thoroughly biblical. If we are wrong in this, I pray it will not pass the church. If it doesn’t pass, our Elder Council will lovingly embrace the church’s decision and keep on searching the truths of the Word and loving the church.

I do sincerely apologize to all of our fellow Baptists whom we have offended in this process. Also, Wade, please forgive this long entry.

Prayerfully,
Dennis

Anonymous said...

I think we need to learn to draw a line between the "Body of Christ," the "early denominational rules," and the "not for profit religious organization called church and denomination.

In early Baptist years there was much persecution for being "dunked" which was considered heresy by others. Many died for this. At that time being "dunked" came to mean a "like minded believer". It was many years later that it became a "church membership thing." Some churches had requirements for 1-3 years after the public profession of faith before one could be baptized or a church member.

I believe it was when we had to deal with the IRS that so many things changed.

Now, once again, we must ask, are we required to be "dunked" for membership (thief on cross) or are we required to be "dunked" for acceptence as a "like minded believer" or are we to be dunked for "the "not for profit religious organization?.


I was raised in a Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma that was very strict. Not one person from any denomination (including all 16 million SBC people) would have been allowed to be a member or take communion with us without being re-baptized.

It is still that way. Does that mean that all SBC or all other believers are wrong?

David L. Miller said...

The Southern Baptist Convention is a voluntary association of likeminded churches that agree to cooperate for fellowship and missions. Each church has the freedom to follow its understanding of the will of God and the meaning of scripture.

However, it does not follow that we have to accept every autonomous decision made by every autonomous church.

If I was in the Henderson Hills association, I would tell their pastor that I support his right to lead his congregation, and I wish them well.

However, if they decide not to require baptism for membership in the church, they have probably also made a decision to no longer be a Southern Baptist Church. that doesn't make them evil or apostate, but it does make a separation.

Church membership is extra-biblical. It is a method we have devised through the years to fulfill the biblical values of accountability, discipline and ministry.

I believe that was the fundamental mistake of the liberal/moderate faction in the 80's. They said that because the local church was autonomous, we had to accept anything anyone believed, proclaimed or enacted. They were wrong. We cannot interfere with the local church, but we do have to maintain standards of polity and practice.

What is the Southern BAPTIST Convention if it is not an association of churches that are likeminded about Baptism?

Henderson Hills can do as they choose and still be a fine church of Jesus Christ. However, they cannot make that decision without repercussions in terms of their cooperation with the SBC.

Lee said...

I remember a lot of long, late night discussions at seminary over the things that Baptists do that aren't supported by scripture. As a Baptist, whether I agree with what Henderson Hills is doing or not, I need to step back, respect their autonomy, and, as brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for them as they very sincerely seek the guidance of the Lord from the right place.

BTW, would this Dennis Newkirk be the same guy who was youth pastor at FSBC Phoenix, and then the founding pastor of what is now West Greenway Baptist Church?

David L. Miller said...

OPENING A CAN OF WORMS...

I have a question that will rankle and roil. I do not know much about Henderson Hills or its doctrinal stands, so I don't know if this applies here.

However, the growing movement in the SBC is reformed theology. The heroes of reformed theology are (with the exception of Mohler and Piper and a few others) pedobaptists.

I wonder if reformed Baptists will be tempted to be a little softer on Baptism because of the influence of Sproul and others in the pantheon of reformed heroes.

For the record, I am a Calvinist, but do not call myself reformed because I do not accept the whole "system" of reformed doctrine (amillenialism, pedobaptism, covenant theology, etc)

Just wondering...

steve w said...

Ewinwe made a comment about Mosaic's membership practice. What most SBC churches call members, they call voluntary staff (which is the following section in the faq to which Ewinwe linked). In response to Ewinwe's comment, John Fariss says, "that's scarey." I think what Mosaic is doing is because of the way most American Christians view church membership. And I suspect "voluntary staff" is closer to the mindset of the average church member in the NT.

Many SBC churches don't even require members to show up, and the Resolutions Committee believes evangelistic prospects should be church members. And apparently, quite a number of SBCers agree.

Now I read what Craig from Georgia said. I don't know if he is accurate. (I'm not questioning your honesty Craig, just the accuracy of your observation/perception/research?)

I think an over-emphasis on numbers, and reporting numbers, has distorted our ecclesiology (and perhaps soteriology) in the SBC. And I do not think HHBC's decision is being driven by an idolatrous view of numbers.

Jeff Noble said...

I appreciate any church and leadership team that earnestly seeks to be obedient to scripture and the Spirit in these days of mindless conformity to traditional and denominational interpretation.

The only things I think can be affirmed from the New Testament regarding water baptism are these:
1. It's clear that the apostles required it and that new Christians saw the need for it. (The Ethiopian eunuch asked what prevented him from being baptised.)
2. It is not required to go to heaven. (Thief on the cross and circumstantial evidence from hundreds of thousands of martyrs, underground churches, and last minute conversions)

Please add more as you see them.

In addition, I really think that the issue is not so much one of baptism as it is an issue of the biblical basis for church membership, period. What is "Church Membership?" In Acts 2.41, when "those who accepted [Peter's] message were baptised," it says that "about 3000 were added to their number that day."

It wasn't referring to church membership but kingdom inclusion. After all, this audience consisted of people "from every nation under heaven... Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs..." These folks were all there for the Passover. They went home sometime later. They did not join Jerusalem "Baptist Church." They had entered the kingdom.

I think we have abused and confused many with the concept of the local church. It has almost become an idolatrous construct. It and autonomy have been elevated above unity. I too would urge grace and love in all dealings with HH or other churches sincerely seeking to be guided and led by scripture and the Spirit.

Christopher Redman said...

I also would be interested to know if HHBC has been influenced in this decision based on Piper's elders considering this same issue in regards to membership at BBC.

Is the pastor and/or elders calvinists? (I am)However, I think it is an unfortunate course for SBC churches to minimize baptism, especially if they are calvinists. It only adds fuel to the fire of those criticizing calvinists in the SBC.

God Bless,
CR

Bob Cleveland said...

Alethes:

OK .. I'm not sure anyone's adding anything, either. I'm not all that sure about much (except I know where I'm going when I assume room temperature). Perhaps it's just making necessary, for local body membership, things that the Bible does not say are necessary to be part of the "Body of Christ".

If anyone feels I accused them of adding or subtracting to or from scripture, I apologize.

Let me make my position clear. It's up to the local church. Our church requires Baptism by immersion (anywhere is fine as long as it wasn't stated as salvific) and I support that 100%. I would be against exceptions to that where the reason was just to allow someone who believed differently to become a member.

I don't see the bible as mandating baptism to join a local body. If I can make a case for it being necessary, I think I can make one for it being necessary for salvation, too. Needless to say, I ain't gonna go there.

Anyway if HHBC sees this change as one of conformity to scripture, and their desire to carry out their commission in accordance with it, God bless them. Only they know that, of course.

Interestingly, I haven't heard a lot about the BF&M in this case. It states clearly that baptism by immersion is a prerequisite to church membership. If HHBC makes the change, it seems they'd have to withdraw from the SBC, as they clearly be violating that. If that's their convictions, so be it.

Bryan Riley said...

A couple of questions for thought and more comment: If baptism is but a symbol, why does it matter how it is done? And when the word says baptized into Christ or into or in the name of Christ, what is it really saying? Is it talking about immersing onself in water or in Christ, the Word, the faith? Wade already stole the thief on the cross question, which is a baptist's favorite question of a Church of Christ believer who insists that baptism is a requirement of salvation. Typically, the Church of Christ believer will answer the question with the fact that that is an exception granted by Christ and then the Church of Christ believer will typically point to Acts 2:38...

Jason Bengs said...

I think it is interesting that one of the arguments being used is that every church member in the new testament was baptized. While that may be true, the were not baptized into the Damascus road church or anything along those lines but were baptized into the body of Christ. I think the main issue here is not if someone must be baptized to enter the church but if they should be rebaptized even though they may have already been baptized after salvation.
I think many of us are forgeting that baptism is not means to salvation, but an outward sign of the change within. I feel that if a person has been scripturally baptized (immersed after salvation) then to join another church, no matter the denomination, they should not be baptized again if they choose not to.
My words only.....take them accordingly.

Tom Bryant said...

I appreciate the openness that the Henderson Hills has approached this subject. I am thankful for them thinking through this process and not just trying to blindly follow. But I do have some questions.

Will HH require baptism by immersion for its' leaders? If so, isn't this just postponing that decision to be baptized by immersion to a later time?

Pastor Newkirk wrote: "We are talking about those who are physically unable to be baptized due to a medical condition and those who are mistaken, but sincerely believe that sprinkling is baptism."

I have no issue about those who are physically unable to be baptized... but my question is what else would the church accept in a person's beliefs because they are mistaken? I am not trying to be a smart*** about the question. I know that they have strong belief about who Jesus is and how a person is saved, so I'm not trying to set up anything.

As a church, we have separated salvation and baptism from church membership. We teach that people ought to be baptized out of obedience to the command of Christ. We deal with church membership as people go through that process.

Bryan Riley said...

Also, being raised traditional Southern Baptist and not having conducted a personal study or having been taught about infant baptism, I am unsure of its basis. I have been told that its analogue is circumcision. Can anyone comment on this? or provide a link to a good discussion of it?

Paul said...

Wade, your last sentence may have been one of the most profound, IMO.

Maiden said...

We allow people to be members of our churches that disagree over other more important doctrines like election and God's sovereignty. I am not sure I see the significance in giving membership to someone who believes sprinkling is the proper form of baptism, if that person is not allowed to teach his position. Baptist history is replete with examples of local Baptist churches doing the same. Check out Piper's defense of the issue.

Denise said...

Ya know 26 years ago I married a Southern Baptist. I was raised and fully immersed in the Wesleyan Church in Enid. We moved to Dallas and started attending a Baptist church. The pastor informed me at that time that I would have to be rebaptised to "be a member and sing in the choir!" I will never forget how taken aback I was and I said to him how much this bothered me as when I was saved and Baptised the first time it had a real meaning to me..i felt this time was for show and wrong. I did it but frankly begrudgeoningly. I still haven't figured out if being dunked in their water was supposed to make me sing better or what :) :)

Alethes (Truthful) Baptist said...

Wade,

I think you confused me with Ben Stratton. I did not make any comments about John Bunyan. You are correct in your assessment that many of his contemporaries, as well as later Baptists, argued that he was a Baptist. However, for the sake of fairness, just as many have argued that he was not a Baptist. I think, however, that the difference between Bunyan and HHBC is far different. The context for Bunyan was the Anglican Church, whereby he was pulling people into his Baptist church. For HHBC, their context is not predominately those baptized as infants who have been reared in a pedobaptistic environment. I know this is not your argument with regards to the relationship between Bunyan and HHBC, but I thought I might mention it for those who may not be as familiar with 17th Century English Baptists.

Bob,

Thanks for the candor of your post. I am grateful for your attitude. I wasn’t necessarily accusing you of accusing others, but I’m glad you clarified your thoughts. On another note, I think you are absolutely correct about HHBC and BFM2000. If they acted with integrity, one would expect them to pull themselves from the convention. However, no one expects any SBC church to be wholly consistent with the BFM2000. How many churches in our convention do you think practice closed communion? I would suspect it’s less than 25%. In fact, about 5 years ago at the SBC someone stood up and asked that the article on the Lord’s Supper be changed because many pastors on the BFM2000 didn’t practice closed communion at their own churches.

Charis humin,
Alethes (Truthful) Baptist

GeneMBridges said...

1. Every baptism in the New Testament was believer's immersion.

2. Every church member in the New Testament had been baptized. Can anyone show one single exception to this?

This is true, but this is insufficient for a few reasons.

First: What's missing here is the modern definition of "church membership." Our definition today is much broader and includes much more, like voting rights, business transactions, committees, etc.

Second: I would argue that all those churches had a plurality of elders, elders restricted to males, and deacons did not rule. I'd also argue for both male deacons and female deaconesses. If Henderson Hills is to be disfellowshipped over baptism, should those not conforming to NT polity be disfellowshipped? What is the hierarchy by which one should go?

Third: The early church even in the NT period separated baptism and catechisis, with the former preceding the latter after the rise of false teachers and teaching was a problem. We know this, because second and third century histories tell us this. Catechumens were still considered members of the churches while unbaptized, but they could not take of the Lord's Supper. Likewise Tertullian tells us that they dipped three times, not once. In addition, the Didache allows for effusion and other methods if necessary (the point being they sacrificed mode but not meaning at times) so if you wish to follow the pattern of the early church, then you have to include all the information.

Fourth: Apropos the conditions of 3, I'd argue the objection raised is not only incomplete but confounds example and command. Nobody is arguing against believers baptism, rather they are arguing that it ought not be indexed to membership in the local church per se. This is a bigger problem for those like you, Mr. Stratton, who as a Landmarker are committed to all churches in the NT being local and denying the invisible/universal v. visible/local distinctions of the early Baptists you invoke when you speak of Bunyan. So, if you wish to argue from history, then why do you deny the theology of your forefathers?

Fifth: All that said, I actually agree with the argument you are making in principle, and I'd argue that it is unwise not to index church membership to baptism, but, failing that, I'd suggest Henderson Hills may wish to consider going the route of the PCA churches. If you disagree with paedobaptism but are a Reformed Baptist, they allow folks to join as associate members. One cannot become a teacher,teaching elder, ruling elder, or deacon, but one can function as a member and vote.

Sixth, that said, I'd point out that for the physically unable, pouring was practiced by our Baptist forefathers from time to time, so effusion as such is not always impermissible.

Seventh, we've forgotten something important. In Baptist theology, we draw from BOTH Testaments, not just the NT. Our early Baptists were very plain about this, as they were all Covenant theologians. The idea of a body uniting in a covenant with each other and God in a local church is derived not from the NT as such, but from the OT and the binding nature of the Law as a national covenant, not just a spiritual covenant.

The church, in early Baptist theology, from which we get our idea of church membership, is visible expression of the New Covenant. One need not be baptized to be in the New Covenant itself (that would be, for all intents, Galatianism); but baptism certainly is the outward sign. It's true all of them were baptized, but it probably not true that they were all members under our concept. Rather, in the NT, they identified being in the New Covenant (saved) with being in the church (local as well as universal) and baptized accordingly. One could be baptized in Jerusalem but then immediately move to Antioch or Achaia. However, that was when baptism and conversion were often side by side. Again, this changed, probably because the reality of false teachers and apostates made folks think they should postpone baptism in lieu of catechisis and to keep possible apostates from the Lord's Table, so they separated conversion and baptism; yet those persons were still members of the churches close to the way we define it, but, of course, could not teach or be deacons, etc. or take the Lord's Supper. Our practice is somewhat different today.

Today, one must be baptized to be a member of a local church in Baptist theology. Baptism is merely the sign of the New Covenant. This is the portion from the NT, and this is what our fathers also recognized. Ergo, our forefathers indexed the outward sign (baptism) to the outward manifestation of the New Covenant, the local church, but not because of the NT on baptism, but because of another idea that had to do with the continuity of the covenants. They got their idea of local church membership per se, however from the OT: the idea of a local body of believers "in covenant" with each other, the sign of which is believer's baptism. So, if we are to argue from Baptist history and practice, we need to understand where we're getting the idea of church membership as we define it today...a great deal of it is from the OT idea of the covenant as a constitution for the nation and citizenship in the visible nation, not merely the spiritual dimension of the Covenant of Grace in its two administrations, but it is a point, in their theology, of continuity between the 2 administrations. The membership is restricted to believers, the sign is baptism, but the formal membership as such is based on the OT model of assenting to a binding social contract, a covenant. Covenants have a sign, in this case baptism. Ergo, the local church is a body of baptized believers in covenant with each other, with Christ as head (a Christocracy), a body of elders and deacons as officers, practicing discipline, observing the ordinances, and teaching sound doctrine. (Granted some definitions are less elaborate, some more, but that's the gist). So, when you get right down to it, strictly speaking where you come down on church membership and baptism is, in early Baptist theology, a function in large part on the way you treat continuity between the 2 administrations of the Covenant of Grace in terms of the visible church. Presby's unite around paedobaptism and the church covenant; we unite around baptism and the church covenant. So, we reject the one but we both accept the other, and we accept the other, at least in the beginning we did, for the same reason. These days, Baptists have drifted from the theology of the covenants, so I think this situation is partly an expression of that, not consciously, but because Baptists mostly left their covenant theology in the 19th century and 20th century.

I wonder if reformed Baptists will be tempted to be a little softer on Baptism because of the influence of Sproul and others in the pantheon of reformed heroes.

No, and since Dr. Piper's church has been discussed by others, please let me present some clarification here, since folks routinely don't know exactly how that was going to work @ BBC. You can read the short version on his website, but you really need to find the long 80 page documentation and read it carefully, as the short version doesn't discuss it well. That is found here: http://desiringgod.org/media/pdf/
baptism_and_membership.pdf

To begin with Bethehem Baptist itself had even more caveats to that position than Henderson Hills. You had to actually give a clear, biblical and well informed statement of faith if you disagreed with believer's baptism, and you had to do it before the elders. In addition, it only applied to adults, not children. All children would have to submit to baptism by immersion, including those of those members accepted without having to be baptized as believers. They also had to agree not to contradict the teaching of believer's baptism. They also had to submit to biblical teaching on believer's baptism. They could not become an elder or deacon or hold any teaching office or position, like a Sunday School teacher. If they wished to hold any office, serve the elements, teach, etc., they had to hold to and teach in accordance with the elders' confession (there is one confession for members and a more restrictive version for elders there) and be baptized. In short, they were going to be treated like Reformed Baptists are in PCA churches, as what the PCA calls "associate members." Of course BBC voted down that measure and it is now dead anyway.

b. Believer's baptism is still a big issue between RB's and Presbyterians. We still debate this with them. One of the problems in the Reformed seminaries is that only one has an actual Reformed Baptist studies program in it. Many of us would like to press RTS and others to add such programs; but we refuse to sacrifice baptism to do it.

c. Actually, for RB's the big heroes aren't paedobaptists, rather its the litany of Reformed Baptists of the past. We appeal to paedo's and even back to Cocceius and Voetius and others for other information related to Covenant Theology or apologetics at times, but not baptism. The modern period has more paedo Reformed theologians admittedly, but that's because there are very few writing theologians in RB circles presently, though that is changing.

One Salient Oversight said...

Some thoughts from a baby-baptizin' Presbyterian:

In one sense both the decision by Henderson Hills and Piper's church to question the very basis of membership (and its links to baptism) is consistent with a denomination in which individual churches are interacting with those outside the denomination. The SBC is obviously rather monolithic in its structure and some things that evangelicals have embraced outside the SBC are now beginning to influence those inside the SBC. In my opinion, this is a good thing.

On the other hand, these decisions strike at the very heart of what it means to be a Baptist. Believer's baptism is one of the most distinctive and visible practices of the historic Baptist movement.

Lastly, I think it is also important to recognise that there are far more important things to fight over. The SBC should rightly be concerned about churches who question Baptism, but should they also not question the misuse of scripture and the embracing of worldly management philosophies in the way that churches are run? Should they not be concerned about churches who report misleading statistics or officials who exhibit ungodly behaviour?

Uh oh. This is Wade Burlson's blog innit? Perhaps I should just stop typing and hit "publish" before I get him into trouble again...

Bryan Riley said...

I am somewhat saddened that there seems to be a lack of thoughtful analysis in the comments here. Is it because this is such an ingrained perspective among us Southern Baptists? The HHBC link and their biblical analysis was good. But I'm still not convinced that anyone has thought through the logic of baptism as a symbol of our submission to Christ versus baptism as a requirement to salvation. It strikes me that if there is a particular method that is "correct" we have promoted it to something more than just symbol. I fully agree that the Greek word means immersed, but "immersed" itself can be symbolic or figurative, can't it?

Jason Bengs may be on to something in his post. But I seriously am not sure that I have come to any conclusion.

Terry Hamblin said...

The question of baptism and church membership has been a constant matter of debate in Baptist churches in England for the past quarter of a century. Our church left the Baptist Union over the conservative/liberal dichotomy many years ago and became an independent Baptist church. It allowed us to associate with many evangelical churches of different denominational character, paedo-baptists among them. The possiblity of unbaptised people wanting to join our church has often been raised, usually by spouses of members. Occasionally they have been allowed to join if they have a prebyterian understanding of baptism; ie that it is part of the covenantal tradition, a modern equivalent of circumcision, that includes every family member under the protection of the covenant. Personally, I have always regarded this as a get-out-of-jail-free card to be used as an excuse. Does it mean that women can't be members as women weren't circumcised?

Latterly, I have come to think of church membership as the unbiblical arrangement. The only purpose of church membership is to put oneself voluntarily under the disciplne of the church elders. There is no point in doing so unless you see eye to eye with them about every doctrinal particular.

If you do that then being baptised is simply a matter of obedience. But I would not want to be under the discipline of elders who disagreed with me about alcohol or a particular version of the second coming or how many members' meetings we should have each year, or who should be allowed to take communion with us, or what form church discipline should take, or the inerrancy of scripture or whether we should sit down or stand up to sing hymns, or whether women have to wear hats in services, or whether women are allowed to pray in open worship.

And what should an eldership do about the non-church member who is a regular attender who is a flagrant digrace?

A far better idea is the church community - all who are in touch with the church are subject to its succour and teaching. You can't discipline people into the kingdom of heaven, you must disciple them. I know the words have the same root, but in modern English, they have a very different meaning.

SBCerforthegospel said...

I appreciate that Henderson Hills is looking at what does the Bible teach exactly. For too long I believe that not just the SBC but other churches have practiced above and beyond scripture. It's time I believe for us to look in the Bible and just see how many things we have been practicing today are scriptural and how many are just tradition for whatever reason.

As far as baptism goes, just as God works on the heart for salvation, I believe we do not have to force people to get baptized as God will work on the heart concerning baptism as well.

I think what Henderson Hills is asking and it is a good question is are the people getting baptized in obedience to Christ or just for church membership?

Ben Stratton said...

Wade,

No, the thief on the cross was not a member of any earthly local assembly. Of course he was a member of the assembly in heaven, but that is another subject. Again every church member in the New Testament had been baptized by immersion as a believer. Can anyone show an exception to this? There is absolutely no biblical president to allow a non-immersed believer to be a church member.

As to Bunyan, I think B.H. Carroll has some wise words here:
“Look to the melancholy history of John Bunyan’s church. He stood out with Robert Hall as one of the champions of open communion. He believed, preached and praised it. How did it affect his church? After his death, pedo-baptists claimed that they had the right to vote as well as to commune. As none could considstenly deny it, they exercised that right, and for a hundred years put pedo-baptists preachers in old John Bunyan’s pulpit and pastorate. From 1688 to 1788, no Baptist preacher was pastor. And when the last of these pastors was converted to the Baptist faith, he was retained only on the condition that he would not preach on baptism.” B.H. Carroll, from "Christ and His Church", pages 163-164

It is also interesting to note that Bunyan had his children baptized as infants. I repeat: He was not a Baptist.

James said...

Wade

This is my first post here; all though I have been reading your blog for months.

While I am not a member at HHBC, I have lots of friends that are.

There is an interesting white paper from the Center of Theological Research at SWBTS that is an interesting read on what is distinctively Baptist. My inclusion of the link is not an endorsement of the article in its entirety, but a good reminder of who we are.

http://www.baptisttheology.org/documents/TheHeartofaBaptist_000.pdf

As a side note, my prayers are with you and may God contiue to grant you the perserverance and strength to stand fast.

Jay R. said...

See, I told you a month and half ago this was coming. Some thoughts:

Nearly every human being with a taste for mischief explores what Paul says in Romans 5. If sin’s forgiveness magnifies grace, why not just sin? Paul’s answer might surprise some of us.

The answer to this mischievous exploration is baptism. Yes, that’s right. Romans 6:1-4 sets it out: “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?” “Never!,” Paul says. Why? Because we’ve been baptized.

Once again: Law increases sin; sin is “hyper-increased” by grace. Therefore, the more sin the more grace. That is mischievous moral logic. Why? Because of baptism.

Baptism, according to Paul, is dying in Jesus’ death and rising in Jesus’ resurrection. Baptism is our incorporation into Jesus, it is participation in Jesus’ own recapitulation.

Baptism ushers a person into Christ. Baptism is a picture of both death and resurrection. So, the power for a life “beyond sin” is the elimination of death by dying with Christ and the acquisition of life by rising with Christ.

Now, don't confuse me for one arguing for baptismal regeneration, or for someone else saying that baptism is some great sanctifier. But I would say that the reason baptism seems to be an initiation right is likely because it is an initiation right.

craig from Georgia said...

I posted a comment yesterday evening that apparantly didn't take. I apologized for my first post because I misunderstood the situation. I've known of churches that required baptism to become a member of their church even if you have already been baptized which I would disagree with. I guess the question is would you allow a person to join your church if they had never been baptized. I may be mistaken, but the Bible really doesn't seem to address church membership, but the way churches have come to be structured it seems like a needed thing. First of all would you allow a person to join your church who wasn't saved (realizing for the most part you're taking them at their word that they have been saved). If they are saved then why wouldn't they want to be baptized providing they understand baptism doesn't in any way save or add to their salvation. I'm not one of those who thinks you've got to get a person into the baptistry as soon as possible after their getting saved, but you would think eventually it's something they would want to do as a public testimony of their identification with Christ and to follow the pattern of Scripture.

Dennis Newkirk said...

Wade,

You are certainly getting some great posts here. I find it very helpful to see how my brothers and sisters think and what their opinions are on this subject.

It does seem to me that several people are not completely clear in their misunderstanding of what we are doing. Perhaps reading our website's baptism documents would clear some of that up.

Again, we are not talking about receiving members who refuse to be baptized. We would not accept anyone who refused to obey the Lord in any way, let alone this major issue of baptism. We are talking about receiving members who mistakenly believe that sprinkling is baptism, so we can lovingly embrace their request for membership and retain the possibility of influencing them to be baptized. And we are also talking about receiving those people who physically cannot be baptized.

It would be very helpful to me if those who firmly feel that baptism is an initiatory rite of church membership could explain why. Saying, "This is a Baptist distinctive," or "The Bible clearly says" is interesting but I would like to understand where the Bible clearly says that this Baptist distinctive is a requirement for church membership.

Is it possible that we are caught in a “Catch-22” situation? One the one side it is obvious that the Lord commanded baptism (Matt 28), and we have many examples of new believers being almost immediately baptized in the book of Acts (Acts 2, 8, 9). On the other hand, I cannot find where baptism is ever used as an initiation into church membership or we are taught that this is how the Lord wants us to use baptism. I am genuinely concerned that telling people that they have to be baptized to join the church distorts the biblical motivation for baptism. Please do not misunderstand, I’m not trying to reduce this to the ridiculous or be argumentative. There is no sarcasm intended. We just simply cannot seem to come up with biblical evidence for this, with the possible exception of Acts 2:38-41, which our research says is significantly debatable to prove baptism initiates into local church membership or that today’s concept of membership is even mentioned here.

So, how is this situation resolved? I’m not sure. However, we decided to ask the church to spend two months praying about it, studying it biblically, and debating the subject. Then we want them to tell us how they want to handle it. The Elder Council is more than happy to embrace the understanding of the church. Maybe we should just ignored this issue. However, I am troubled by ignoring things in Scripture that I do not understand and by telling the church that something is biblical if I’m not certain that it is.

Requesting prayer from the Body of Christ,
Dennis

James said...

Sorry, the last hyperlink did not work so I will try it again. If it doesn't work then the title of the white paper is the Heart of a Baptist at baptist theology.org

www.baptisttheology.org/documents/TheHeartofaBaptist_000.pdf

Roger Simpson said...

This whole situation regarding various modes of baptism is so nuanced that for many people walking down the aisle they can't get a handle on it.

I offer myself as an example:

I have been baptized three (count 'em three) times.
1. By sprinkling as a baby -- Roman Catholic
2. By immersion -- age 14 -- Christian church
3. By immersion -- age 18 -- Southern Baptist church

I guess it is the case that for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) they consider that Baptism is necessary for (or part of) salvation. So for Southern Baptists the previous baptisms were not acceptable.

This idea is OK theologically. I now agree that baptism is not necessary for salvation either. And I agree that sprinkling was certainly not the model John the Baptist was using in the Jordan river. However, at the age of 18 I really never knew why I had to be baptized again. My conclusion was that baptism was required whenever you joined any church. And I guess my default assumption was the the church was the local church -- such as First Southern Baptist Church in Downey vs. Hollydale Christian Chruch.

I didn't know that there were "acceptable" and "non-acceptable" "reasons" of baptism even if they were both immersion.

My question is this regarding my Disciples of Christ baptism. Since I had no clue whether this baptism was or was not "necessary" for salvation (i.e was the Baptism being administered as part of the salvation package or only ancillary to it) -- why should the Southern Baptist church have considered it null and void? I was just a kid totally ignorant of whatever some Disciples of Christ doctrine book said. Is the bogus theology of baptism held by the Disciples of Christ "imputed" to me?

Looking back on this it seems that we Baptists are slightly "over the top" on this issue: we agree that it is not necessary for salvation but we still require it (a particular mode) for church membership. Hey, just because you have trusted in Jesus and are on your way to heaven doesn't just mean that you can be a "member" of an SBC church.

All of this stuff happened many years ago. I am now 63 and for me this is not a big deal. I guess we should not stur up the pot by calling for any change to the BF&M about churches admitting those for membership of "like faith and order". However, this whole argument is probably lost on 90% of people who become new members in any given local church.

My guess is that the biggest problem with "members" of any SBC church is that some are not really Christians -- regardless of what type of baptism they did or did not have.

Roger Simpson Oklahoma City OK

Anonymous said...

I joined a SBC club in Tennessee. They required I get dunked. It was as much of a baptism as I get going for a swim. The baptism should be based on the relation between a man/woman and God, not some preacher and his (small h) ruls. To stand between Jesus and a sinner is a dangerous thing. As for babies, some of the kids I see getting wet are little if any better. The others babtis babies we make sure they are totlers.

Paul Burleson said...

Wade

It's interesting to me that some people read their Bibles with a water witch in mind. You know how oldtimers would hold that forked stick in hand and, supposedly, upon it twitching downward there was water.

Some, when reading the word "baptism" automatically say "there's water, there's water".
Ever notice that?

DAD

Rob Westbrook said...

Can someone point to some online (or print) resources that explore church membership from a Biblical perspective, perhaps treating the subject systematically?

Jay R. said...

Oh, and know that I don't think it matters if a church does or does not require baptism for membership.

To join my church all you have to do is ask to be in the directory. We're pretty hardcore!

So to prevent baptism from being an initiation rite into a local church is fine with me. But the thing is when looking at the NT it certainly IS treated as an intiation right into something, so we musn't pretend otherwise.

How's that for some double speak/

Bryan Riley said...

Another question: In Matthew 26, as one example, we see the Lord's supper, something that I have always been taught is one of two sacraments that Southern Baptists maintain. The other, of course, is believer's baptism. In that passage (and in Mark 14) we see such things as a cup, filled with the fruit of the vine, and bread, which was broken by Christ. I've rarely ever participated in a Lord's supper done in this fashion. In SBC churches, I've had broken saltines, homemade communion bread, little unleavened wafers that i think you could order from the convention, pieces of bread, etc. As far as the fruit of the vine I have almost always had those little cups you can put in the holes beside the hymnals half-filled with grape juice. Why is it different to adjust the method of baptism, even assuming that everytime baptism is mentioned in the NT that it meant a dunking in water (an assumption i think that is not clearly deduced from the words of the scripture), when we clearly have adjusted the method of the Lord's Supper? They both are symbols and both aren't requirements for salvation. Why the debate over baptism??

Roger Simpson said...

I went to the Henderson Hills link and read the excellent "white paper" there regarding baptism and its relationship to church membership. I see that the bottom line in the Henderson Hills proposal is to remove the term
"scriptural baptism" from the bylaws as a requirement for membership.

Maybe what constitutes "scriptural baptism" is moot in the Henderson Hills model. However, I don't think this is the case because sooner or later the issue of baptism might come up -- independent of membership. Assuming the by-law change is adopted, I wonder how Henderson Hills would treat one or more previous baptisms: (a) sprinkling/pouring/immersion,
(b) baptism is tantamount to salvation, baptism is part of salvation, baptism is associated with salvation, baptism is not associated with salvation, and (c)
infant baptism?

Specifically, in my case if I walked the aisle at Henderson Hills (assuming the new bylaw change went into effect) I guess they would welcome me as a member. I don't know how my previous infant sprinkling, and immersion baptism into Disciples of Christ would be viewed. As traditionally defined by most SBC churches, I guess the sum total of both my previous baptisms would not pass the test of "believer's baptism". [Even if both sides stipulated that I was a believer and I was baptized]

I admit I don't know how to come down on any of this. I think some of the baptist rules are a little arbitrary regarding the definition of "scriptural baptism" (especially if the "non scriptural" aspect is more properly associated with the 'denomination' performing the baptism and not the one being baptized).

Regarding the linkage between baptism and membership I have read Ray Sanders op-ed in this weeks' Baptist Messenger and also the Henderson Hills white paper. I just can't sort this out.

benarie said...

I am curious to know if Henderson Hills requires a new member's orientation for someone to become a member? If so I don't remember that being a requirement to become a part of the universal church.

sembrador said...

Wade, thanks for allowing comments on this topic.

One of the Evangelistic Bible stories that I share comes from Genesis 4. This is a story about two brothers who offered sacrifice because it came time to do so. One offered a blood sacrifice. This had been the established pattern. The other offered a sacrifice of fruit. The blood sacrifice was accepted, the fruit was rejected. I don't think I have to tell the rest of the story here. My point is that this has nothing to do with church membership, or for that matter, how a person was baptized. If the pastor of that church reads this, I would just tell him to please reconsider! He is making a terrible mistake. God takes His symbols seriously. He expects us to follow His word, not our own ego, desires or interest.

Maybe, if the church has a large ministry for the elderly, handicap or sick they could grant them a non-transferrable honorary membership.

The issue here is not so much church membership as it is giving a stamp of approval to an altered, God-given symbol. The picture presented in Baptism is of death. Through sprinkling, where is the burial??

The scriptures makes no clear connection between church membership and baptism. But the church has a responsibility to remove sin from her fellowship. If it does not please God, we should not give approval nor accept it as if it did. There are very few tools that the scriptures give us to show mercy to a believer who is living in rebellion. One such tool is to bar that person from the fellowship of our church. In today's world, we have to be creative how we apply the scriptures, but tough love is never easy.

I would say to the brother who was baptized again, and begrudged it, please be careful and don't allow your ego to keep you from enjoying a symbol of death. You, sir need to know that God takes his covenant seriously. and if you do well, you will be accepted, if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. It's desire is for you, but you should rule over it.

Just my 2 cents worth

Charlie said...

Wade
I guess I saw a different lite. I contend that a person can be baptised with out becoming a member of that local assembly. A member of the Body of Christ for sure. If they should desire membership then by all means show evidence of immersion baptism.
The Body of Christ is the membership we all express in baptism. Very interesting blogs. I believe Dennis is right on. What does GOD say versus man's traditions

Charlie of Gainesville

sembrador said...

Pastor Wade,

Thanks for posting this entry. With all due respect sir, I would like to use your post to address the pastor of Henderson Hills.

Dear sir, I appreciate your desires to grow your church membership. However, I would urge you to reconsider your proposal. Baptism is not connected with the church role in the Bible. We are not baptized into church membership. We are Baptized into the body of Christ.

When a brother is walking in sin, we are commanded to sepearte ourselves from that brother showing him God's mercy, and giving him an opportunity to repent.

You may ask what this has to do with baptism. I'm glad that you asked, In Genesis 4, there's a story about two brothers who offered sacrifices. One was accepted, the other was rejected. The brother with the rejected sacrifice had problems, and created problems for everyone alive then.

God takes seriously His symbols. When we show a stamp of approval on a symbol that has been altered, we are doing a disservice to everyone.

I would sugguest to anyone who was rebaptized correctly, begrudgengly, that that brother needs to repent from a bad attitude and be thankful for a church that has held him to the correct symbol.

What woman would want to marry a man who refused to wear a wedding ring on the wrong finger? I suppose, if there was a reason maybe, but what reason is good enough? You mentioned age or physical disability. OK, Maybe your church has a ministry to the elderly, or disabled. I would sugguest that you make them honorary members.

In His service,
Donnie

Rev Darrell said...

I have some thoughts. I am so conservative I squeek when I walk. I am a seminary grad and an inerrantist. My wife is a former FMB Missionary. We strongly believe in the CP.

As I have read every post here, my thoughts run to the decline in our denomination and especially in the number of teens that leave church when old enough. Some estimates are 80-90% of teens leave after high school.

With all that is on this one post, I can see why.

I truly understand the reason we baptize to membership as I learned it in my Baptist History studies and i have stood at the graves of some of those who died for our religious freedoms and/or baptism.

I see on this one post that we allow folks to hold many different views on different subjects. We have some who are calvinists, some who are not. Some who believe in predestination and some who don't.
We have some calvinist who teach that new borns that die go to hell and also teach that Christ did not die for all people after Calvary. . Some teach that alter calls are not Biblical so we should not do them.

ALSO, MANY CALVINIST DO NOT BELIEVE THESE THINGS,

Yet, we still fellowship with ALL OF them. That means that every time a dollar is put into a CP offering that we support those who believe newborns go to hell, weather we agree with it or not. SOME OF THEM ARE MISSIONARIES AND SOME TEACH AT OUT SEMINARIES.

This summer at Super Summer, some of the camp leaders were encourging youth ministers to stand up to their pastors IN SUPPORT OF THESE BELIEFS even at the cost of being fired. They were teaching that most pastors are wrong and that alter calls were wrong and that newborns that die are condemned.

A few local churches have already decided not to go to super summer next year

For Heavens sake: If folks are willing to put money in the CP that supports someone who believes newborns go to hell, then why all the fuss here on baptism?

I love the CP and support it whole heartily. I do this because it is a great thing doing great things.

If I were a teenager on my own personal spiritual journey I would think thing this whole bunch of baptist were people who are just fighting for power and control and all that matters to them is the rules of man and not the Word of God. Then, I to, would leave.

It seems we have now evolved to a point that we are no longer talking about inerrancy of Gods Holy Word. What seems to matter now is the interpretations and applications of a few people in the convention.

It seems that some think their every intrepretation and application is inerrant, no matter what the Word actually says.

No man and no group of believers will ever have an inerrant interpretation of Gods Word.

To think they are inerrant in their opinions is arrogance.

It truly is amazing how much Holy Scripture that is ignored by some and if not ignored, then some convulated way of interpreting verses that don't suit them is used to explained awaythos pesky scriptures.

LETS KEEP THE MAIN THE, THE MAIN THING!

BECAUSE OF CALVARY
Darrell

Royce Ogle said...

I don't recall where in scripture we find our ground for church membership, period.

As for baptism, it is a command to those of us who take seriously the great commission. And, It sure sounded like a command when Peter spoke to those who had just heard the first gospel message after Pentecost.

That being said, I'll bet everyone who has commented on this post knows at least one person who has been baptised more than once. Why?

Finally, using water baptism as a litmus test for allowing folks to become members of your church does not even guarantee they are saved does it?

Perhaps Henderson Hills is saying something we need to listen to. I appreciate the temperment and sincerity they appear to have regarding this controversial subject.

I don't know that I would want to fellowship with anyone who wanted to caust a stir over this subject.

Those who are seperatists and proud of it do little for the kingdom.

Southern Baptists of all people on the planet should not be getting on a local churches case for examining and comparing their practice to the word of God.

Travis Scott said...

As a newcomer to the SBC scene, and one who is getting ready to begin "church shopping" in a new town (I'm starting graduate school in the fall) I have some questions, mainly out of my own ignorance, with this issue. I was raised in the Free Will Baptist denomination, and, although I have been attending a Southern Baptist Church for the last year and a half, I have yet to join one.

To summarize, under some in the Convention's view, would I have to be "rebaptized" to join a church? To serve as an IMB missionary? While I am slightly Calvinistic myself (2-3 out of 5 points) I was baptized via immersion in a fundamentalistic Baptist Church, albeit one that is Arminian in theology....was that Baptism and profession of faith not sufficient in the eyes of some churches? Of the IMB?

Travis Scott,
Richmond, KY

Deutscher said...

Posting for Donnie:
(who wrote)

"What woman would want to marry a man who refused to wear a wedding ring on the wrong finger? I suppose, if there was a reason maybe, but what reason is good enough?"

How about being German? (or European)

therein lies the problem; that what is good for the Amerikaner must be good for the rest of the world? just because a native of your country wears his ring on his left hand, does not mean that if the ring is on the right hand the marriage is not valid?

If a person believes that their immersion, albeit into another denomination, was the outward respresentation of their spiritual death and rebirth into the body of Christ, then what prevents them from being a member of a Baptist church? Were there supposed to be specific witnesses to this event? was the 15yr old baptised in the Rhein River by his evangelical church body NOT really baptised, becaues they were not 'Baptist'?

I'm not sure we can answer these questions, and I am not even sure that there is not something 'lost in the translation'. I would call it divine providence that I read your post as I sit here in Germany with my ring on the "wrong" hand.

I wear it on my right, as I am "dextrous" in my life with regards to my spouse. do you wear your ring on your left because you have "sinister" intentions?

craig from Georgia said...

"Paul Burleson said...
Wade

It's interesting to me that some people read their Bibles with a water witch in mind. You know how oldtimers would hold that forked stick in hand and, supposedly, upon it twitching downward there was water.

Some, when reading the word "baptism" automatically say "there's water, there's water".
Ever notice that?"

...........................

Church of Christ folks are the most notorious for seeing water everywhere. OF course they believe water baptism is necessary for salvation which is why they border on being classified as a cult.

Figuring out whether a passage is referring to water baptism, spirit baptism, or identication with someone or something (i.e. 1 Corinthians 10:2)can easily be determined by looking at the context.

Water baptism is the NT pattern for persons who have already been saved.

Again, two questions. If you're going to have church membership, would you allow a person to join who is not saved? If they are saved and have never followed in believer's baptism, then why would they not want to be baptized? This is not a Baptist issue. but a Bible issue.

Anonymous said...

If I understand the Henderson Hills situation correctly, there are two reasons why they wish to grant church membership to unbaptized individuals.

1) The Bible does not list baptism as a requirement for church membership.

2) The spiritual growth of unbaptized individuals could be stunted if they are not allowed to join the church.

Regarding #1, are we now reverting to Primitive Baptist theology and all that it represents? The idea that we should only do what is explicitly endorsed in the Bible has been prominent in American Baptist thought, as pastors in previous generations railed against "man-made" innovations like hymns and mission work and conventions. But Southern Baptists (along with almost all Christians) now understand that we can and should do many things that are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture (including having a Southern Baptist Convention!), as long as those goals are consistent with Scripture.

If Henderson Hills wanted to argue that believers' baptism is unimportant or inconsistent with Scripture, then it would make perfect sense to eliminate it as a criterion for church membership. But they explicitly deny these claims, instead affirming baptism as an important sacrament. And as previously noted it simply doesn't follow that church membership standards (or anything else for that matter) should be limited to what is explicitly mentioned in the Bible.

Regarding #2, supposing one accepts the self-esteem of believers as an important goal in and of itself, are the logical conclusions not more sweeping than Henderson Hills proposes? Barring nonbelievers from the Lord's Supper has probably driven a few of them away from the church. Requiring a public profession of faith has probably driven a few people away from the church. Strong preaching that denounces the sins of a particular nonbeliever might drive him away from the church. Should we then eliminate each of these things for the sake of maximizing attendance on any particular Sunday, hoping against all hope that some of the retained people might eventually come to Christ?

Good arguments can be made that people can hold capital-c Church membership without being baptized -- that's the Southern Baptist position, among many others. But small-c church membership involves applying human judgment as to what is most consistent with Scriptural principles. There may be sound reasons for granting small-c membership to people who profess faith yet refuse to be baptized (and there are many nondenominational Bible churches who do exactly this), but I do not think the arguments cited by Henderson Hills are among them.

Anonymous said...

I read today's edition of the Baptist Messenger. Shameful! This isn't fair to Henderson Hills. Even if you don't fully support their view, which I don't, this is totally wrong for Anthony Jordan to do something like this. We need a statesman leading the convention!

jbuchanan said...

Artice VI of the Baptist Faith and Message states that "A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congreagtion of baptized believers..." It goes on to state in Article VII that "Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, Son and the Hly Spirit...it is a prerequisite of church membership and to the Lord's Supper."

Now if this is not scirptural then someone should suggest at the next SBC that we change it. I believe that it is biblical and that churches that do not pracitce this are not NT churches. Wade, you have argued that part of your opposition to the IMB guidelines is that they went beyond the BF&M. If we are to be consistent with our confession of faith then this church would have to be disfellowshiped.

Now undertand I believe this church has every right to determine what they believe and how they will operate. But if they are not in agreement with our statement of faith then they should not be part of the SBC.

Anonymous said...

Concerning the last post about the Baptist Faith and Message.
Are we confusing the BF&M with the scripture?
There is only one Word.
I don't take issue with anyone referring to scripture as a reference, but to refer to historical practices and BF & M I just don't understand.
Perhaps I just like to keep it simple
Interesting post.
I was eager to be baptized and thank God that he placed me in the body where he chose.
He chose. I didn't, they didn't.

Will said...

There is certainly nothing wrong with a church struggling over doing the biblically right thing, regardless of whether or not it offends our "traditional" sensibilities. Therein lies the greatest problem with this whole issue as it relates to the rest of the denomination. We have become a denomination that has placed the traditions of men over the commands of God.
Take for example the recent vote at the convention on alcohol and drinking. Yes, there are all sorts of valid reasons not to drink, not the least of which is that it could seriously affect our witness or cause a weaker brother to be offended. However, you cannot make a valid case against drinking based on scripture. The Bible condemns drunkenness, not drinking. We all know of plenty of examples in scrpture in which God's people consumed alchol. Yet here we are as a denomination ignoring the Bible and insisting that it is the "biblical" thing to do to abstain entirely.
So are we once again doing the same thing with regard to HHBC? Are they the only ones willing to honestly grapple with this issue biblically? Are the rest of us so stuck in our traditions that we're not even willing to read what the Bible says about it before issuing our condemnation?
Personally, I don't want someone who is unwilling to commit to Christ via obedience through baptism to be a voting member of my church. That person is certainly welcome to continue attending and growing, however. Nevertheless, HHBC is correct in their assessment that you cannot demand baptism based on the scripture. But then again, there is also no evidence requiring any type of formal joining with the church to be found in scripture. That is a modern invention.
Bottom line--don't condemn it until you've examined the Bible first. Don't let our traditions dictate our theology.

Anonymous said...

I have read the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger for this week (July 17) and was struck by all the promotion of baptism articles. It seemed to me that the writers were all saying Christians should be baptised. From what I have read so far about the Henderson Hills Baptist Church stance on baptism, they are saying exactly the same thing, that all Christians should be baptised.
I also noticed something else in the articles in the Messenger. Several of them were saying that New Testament baptism is only valid if performed by a Baptist church. It appeared that the intent of the articles in the Baptist Messenger was to say baptisms must be of the right mode (immersion), the right meaning (symbolic of faith, not baptismal regeneration) and a right administrator ( a southern baptist church)? If the emphasis on the right administrator leads Baptists to say your baptism may have been by immersion and may have been for the right meaning but if you are are of any other denomination, independent church, or group in this world that is not SBC then how are Baptists different from the stance of say, the Church of Christ,who maintains that nobody else is right if they don't see baptism the way they do?
Are we (SBC) the only true church in the world? Do we trace our line all the way back to John the Baptist and Peter and Paul? Do we think that when our New Testament translations have Paul saying "you all" to his readers it means they were obviously Southern Baptists?
Hey, it's just a thought.

Pleae correct me if I missed something in the Baptist Messsenger articles, but did anyone address what churches should do with people who present themselves for local church membership who have been baptised by immersion and for the right reason, but not in a baptist church?
And what do you do with this issue in your church?

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