You are 100% correct about this baptism issue. It has impacted us directly here in Manila, Philippines. I'll explain:
Last year, one of our students came to know Christ as a result of our campus
evangelism (for those who are not familiar with us, we do campus-based evangelism and discipleship). This student joined one of our campus cell groups, and they eventually studied our lesson on baptism. We teach baptism as a step of obedience to Christ, not as a way to join a church or denomination. This student gladly agreed to be baptized.
We usually do our baptisms at the swimming pool here at my apartment building. We do a simple “ceremony”: we give the students some final instructions, pray for them, then precede with baptism by immersion. Afterwards we give the students a Bible. Normally whoever leads the student to Christ is the one to do the baptism. It is also normal for the student’s friends or cell group members to be present.
This student wanted to attend a Baptist church where one of her friends attends. We encouraged this because we want her to be connected to a Christian church (she would also be welcome at our worship service). Here's the problem: the Baptist church she attends initially wanted to re-baptize her.
Their argument was that she was not baptized under the "authority" of any church. I explained to the student that the Great Commission (among other Scriptures) was our authority for doing the baptism. I also wrote a letter and baptism certificate to the church, explaining that she had been scripturally baptized (although I still don’t understand why the student’s testimony alone was not enough). The church has since backed down a little, but it still remains to be seen if they will fully accept her as a member without another baptism.
Some may argue that she should just get baptized again. Well, this is short-sighted. What happens when she wants to share her testimony to other students? What happens if she wants to teach them about baptism? Won't students be confused when she tells them she was baptized three times (infant baptism and two believer's baptisms)? Will she teach baptism as a step of obedience to Christ or as a “Baptist membership” requirement? Such issues could seriously hinder the work of God on our campuses.
I recently had a long talk with this student. It turns out that this particular church is an independent Baptist church with some legalistic practices (KJV only; etc). We discussed several issues and hopefully I’ve helped her to distinguish biblical principles from legalistic practices.
Where did this church inherit such Landmark theology and legalistic tendencies? Most likely from American missionaries! Is this the kind of thing that Southern Baptists also want to propagate to other countries? Recent IMB policies are pointing us in that direction.
I live in a country where people are bogged down by man-made religious traditions. I find it painfully ironic that I now have to deal with this same issue from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Well said Kevin. Go give him a visit at Kevsworld
In His Grace,