Thursday, October 05, 2006

Can We All Agree To Disagree and Remain Friends?

I appreciate Southern Seminary and have great respect for Dr. Al Mohler and his staff. I highly recommend the Seminary to anyone who asks me.

Dr. Russell D. Moore became Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in January 2004. I do not know Dr. Moore personally, but have corresponded with him by email on a couple of occasions.

Recently Dr. Moore spoke to students at Southern on the subject of "The Confessions of a Fundamissional Dean: Are Southern Baptists Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, or What?"

There are many very good things that Dr. Moore says in his lecture.

However, Dr. Moore seemed to lapsed into a particularly weak, unscholarly argument about thirty minutes into his lecture that needs challenged. Maintaining my respect for Southern Seminary and Dr. Moore, and voicing my unqualified and unconditional love for both, I would like to offer the following rebuttal of Dr. Moore's comments (bold print) during a five minute section of the hour long lecture (minutes 32-36).

After Dr. Moore commends bloggers who write helpful things he said, "You have some bloggers in the SBC who are just immature jerks. But the things they are blogging about are just the same kinds of things they would be saying as immature jerks in a seminary cafeteria just now the have a venue to say these sort of things. And then you have the blogofascists --- a group of people who are using blogs in order to spread gossip and division and in order to use these blogs as means to destroy. Those are very different things."

I am not sure to whom Dr. Moore is referring. I realize I am fairly new to the blogging world, but most of the blogs I have read concerning the SBC, even those with whom I disagree, do seem to have the best interest of the SBC at heart. I wish that Dr. Moore, as my wife suggested when she heard this comment, "Would not broadbrush bloggers and be very specific when he makes an accusation like this."

"But much of the concern comes from people who are looking at blogs, they don't understand what blogs are necessarily -- (being from) another generation -- but they are seeing fruit from these blogs that's horrifying --- it's horrifying. And so when you have for instance Bobby Welch, standing up and saying in a statement that is easily ridiculed by most people, "that if people would stop blogging and start soul winning you would see more people coming to faith in Christ" -- there's something there. Because when you go through and look at many of the people who are setting themselves up as the tutors of the SBC through their blogs, mostly using cynycism and ridicule in order to do this, and then you look at these churches and see "who are these people reaching" --- no one --- very few people. Maybe Bobby Welch is on to something there."

Again, to whom is Dr. Moore referring? Has he actually looked at the ACP (Annual Church Profile) reports of the churches of pastors who blog? I know he can't be referring to the church I pastor or the churches that are pastored by those I know who blog because these are some of the most evangelistic, community oriented churches in our convention. I wish Dr. Moore would be more precise with his information, or simply choose not to make inflammatory comments like this one.

You also see an abandonment of Baptist distinctives that I think comes from Southern Baptists becoming so enamored with American evangelical life. We're at the situation right now where if you make a statement that would be agreed with by almost every Baptist in the history of the church you will be called a Landmarker.

A strong statement Dr. Moore, but we'll give you the benefit of the doubt to allow you to prove your case.

If you say, "Baptism is only by immersion and anything else is not baptism at all" there are going to be people in the Southern Baptist Convention who will say, "Well you are a Landmarker."

This is an astounding statement.

Dr. Moore, I challenge you to show me one comment --- not several, not a few --- simply ONE comment from a Southern Baptist blog that calls someone who baptizes by immersion "Landmark."

I believe you have misrepresented the position of blogs that have questioned the advance of Landmarkism in the SBC.

I'm sure it is unintentional on your part, but I would urge you not to make statements within the context of a seminary lecture without verifiable support and evidence.

If you say, "It's not just the baptism --- it's not just an act of personal testimony --- it is the church that is actually speaking. The church --- what the church believes is important in the act of baptism, you are going to have people say, "You're a Landmarker."

Not so, Dr. Moore. Dr. John Gill, the Hebrew linquist and scholar deluxe of Baptists in the 18th Century,spoke very clearly about baptism identifying a person with Christ, not the church, and how its proper place was "outside" the church. Yes, baptism is to be a 'prerequisite' for church membership, but the "doctrine" of the church was not the emphasis in the New Testament at baptism; it was the doctrine in the heart of the believer. Gill's view was the orthodox, biblical and Baptistic view for well over a century.

If you say, "Baptism by immersion is a prerequisite to coming to the Lord's table" people will say, "You're a Landmarker." When in reality all Baptists would have agreed with that statement.

Two words Dr. Moore --- John Bunyan.

The word "all," as you use it above, would not encompass Bunyan and a multitude of Baptist pastors and churches throughout Christian history who have opened the Lord's table to Christians --- Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, and other believers ---- who are orthodox and evangelical, and members of the universal church of Jesus Christ, but not members of the LOCAL, visible Baptist church.

The rationale for this? Why would we forbid the bread and the wine to those who will be seated with us at the marriage supper of the Lamb?

Granted, other Baptist churches have CLOSED the communion table to local church members only, but this practice does not encompass ALL Baptist churches throughout history as you state.

(UPDATE: SBC missionary David Roger's gives an excellent comment below on Spurgeon's views of open communion and provides this link for support).

Not only all Baptists, all Catholics would have agreed with that statement. All Eastern Orthodox would agree with that statement. You would be very hardpressed to find any group of people throughout all of the history of the church who would say, "You can come to the Lord's Supper without being baptized." The question is, "Do we believe that baptism is the immersion of a believer upon profession of faith?" If we do, then when we say you must be baptized in order to come into the fellowship of the church, in order to come to the Lord's table, we're not being sectarian there, we're being small "c" catholic. We are agreeing with everything that has been believed in everyplace by Christians. We're simply saying, "This is what baptism is."

Nobody disagrees Dr. Moore. Baptism preceedes the Lord's Supper. The question is simply this: will we have communion and fellowship with people who belong to the universal church of Jesus Christ, who believe their baptism to be infant baptism, or baptism by pouring and sprinkling, and as a result, are NOT members of our local Southern Baptist churches (and rightly so), but are still members of the ekklesia (called out ones), or the universal church of Jesus Christ?

In other words, would you share communion with a Presbyterian believer? I would.

Again, it is the perogative of any local, autonomous Southern Baptist Church to close the Lord's table to members only, but to demand that ALL Southern Baptist churches practice closed communion goes beyond the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

The BFM 2000 uses only the word "church" to describe the participants of the Lord's Supper, and one's interpretation might be that this means the local, visible Baptist church, but others might see this word "church" as the universal body of Christ. The interpretation of "the church" is not always agreed upon by all Southern Baptists. Can you recognize that some Southern Baptists see the word "church" in Scripture, and the BFM 2000 to predominately mean the universal church of Jesus Christ (the redeemed, the elect, the ekklesia, etc . . .)?

"But we're losing that ability to talk about ecclesiology. There's a lot of talk about ecclesiology right now in the SBC, but there is very little talk about what is distinctively Baptist about the doctrine of the church. Very little talk about the meaning of baptism itself. Very little talk about the meaning of the Lord's Supper itself. I have great optism that in the future these kinds of things are going to be talked about and discussed and settled in Southern Baptist life."

No sir, we are not losing the ability to talk about ecclesiology.

Some are losing the ability to speak of ecclesiology in terms of logic and tradition.

Baptists are now ready to trust in the inspired, inerrant and sufficient Word of God, and when we discuss ecclesiology we will not depend upon the traditions of man, but will seek wisdom from the Word of God.

But let us never forget one thing:

Believer's baptism by immersion is part of our confession --- no Southern Baptist rejects it and remains Southern Baptist.

But the AUTHORITY of the baptizer is NOT an essential of the faith or a doctrine within the BFM 2000, and we should be able to disagree on this point and remain in fellowship. The definition of "the church," when it comes to the Lord's table can either be the local, visible fellowship of believers (closed communion) or the universal, redeemed ekklesia (open communion). The BFM 2000 does not define "the church" as local or universal, and we should be able to interpet it differently AND REMAIN IN FELLOWSHIP.

So, the discussion is beginning in earnest.

The question is this: Will disagreement be allowed?

These issues are settled in my church, and we have no problem cooperating in missions, evangelism and denominational work with those churches who see it differently.

How about you?

In His Grace,



Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...


I just read your post for Friday. This post troubles me greatly. The tone seems to be one of correction rather than discussion. It has the air of superiority instead of dialogue. The use of "love" and affirmation seem to be placed in the front to block any attempt to call it what it is and this is obvious with the tone and structure of the body of the post. The tone is strong in correction and then to top it off, you seem to fully endorse the idea that there is a "universal church"? Maybe this is where we need to discuss theology? A universal body - yes! A universal church - no way! I would love to see your biblical justification for a "universal church".

For the past week I have read and discovered that the pot is calling the kettle black on many occassions. You say that you seek to agree to disagree. I see your desire to do so as long as the "third tier" doctrines are left to be elavated in disagreement by you and others who agree with you - but accusations and arrogance flow when people disagree. When one makes an observation about some obvious points, a critique and intellectual bashing are forthcoming. Maybe you guys cannot see because there is a motive? Just a thought!

I do not judge you as bad or evil. I do not seek to destroy nor correct. I will only give my opinion - there appears to be a political motive and if my calls and emails are correct, the activities of you and others driving around and seeking to rally for San Antonio (actually on one blog of a person who admits to being with you doing the above)speak so much louder than what you write.

I know that you said you have had difficulty at times having your stories and sermons etc. interpretated and refuted - why then do you insist to do the same to others when no names etc were used? Your church history may differ from others and your desires may be different - why not discuss how they are different rather than correct? This in my opinion is the real issue and why there is division in the SBC. Can we discuss without correcting? Can we really disagree without being "point by point" corrected? I wonder?

CB Scott said...


I think we can agree to disagree and remain friends within reason.

There are some things you say in your post wherein I agree with you.

At the same time, I agree with Russ Moore in certain areas of ecclesiology.

It is the doctrine of ecclesiology that brings a difference of opinion between us more often than anything else. There are some Christian social issues also.

Nonetheless, I can call you a brother,a Baptist, and a friend.


Greg P said...

With all due respect for Dr. Moore (whom I greatly enjoy), it is having to worry about matters such as these that has driven me and other SBCers to non-SBC seminaries.

Paul said...

Mr. Guthrie,

I have also read the pot calling the kettle black recently as your comment. Can you not see that you do the exact thing in your comment that you are accusing Wade of in his post?


Our church's practice sounds very similar to yours in these matteres. What is interesting is that all of those matters were settled in our church long before I came to be their pastor. We are a Baptist church who received associational funding when the church was established. I guess there are some people out there who don't view these things as being something other than Baptist, and it isn't just you and me.

Paul said...

I guess I meant to say that it isn't just you, me, Bunyan and Gill.

Don said...

Another thought inspiring post. Thanks for your time and for your blog. I find it interesting that blogging has come under fire by some important people. Could it be that some do not like that the masses have information?

There is nothing wrong with discussing some of these topics with the masses. I have found that blogs have been a wonderful way to educate stateside churches on missions and the Southern Baptist Convention. I would argue that never in the history of our convention have so many lay people had such a great understanding of how our convention and the cooperative program works.

The criticism of how the time spent on a blog (for me about 30 minutes per week) could be better spent winning people to Christ. Well, the same could be said for watching college football, reading the latest Piper, Warren, or whatever other book, watching the news, or PLAYING GOLF. Why single out blogging as something that keeps someone from sharing their faith? There seem to be plenty of things to keep Christians today occupied.

Keep up the good work! said...

Tim Guthrie,

Thanks for your comment. I have reflected on your words and gone back and read my post again.

Maybe it's just because I know what is in my heart, but I sure didn't sense an air of superiority on my part. I do apologize to you and anyone else who reads my post that way. There is not one ounce of that feeling in my heart and I regret if it came across that way in my post.

By the way, by "universal" church I meant "those people from every tribe, every nation, every tongue, every family (and every denomination), who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ."

I don't know what you thought I meant, but the definition above is my definition for this post.

Again, I do express my unqualified love and support for Dr. Moore and Southern Seminary.

In His Grace,

wade said...


Amen my friend.

With you attitude and spirit we can attack hell with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I don't ask you to agree with me on ecclesiology, and appreciate the fact that you see I am basing my ecclesiology on my views of Scripture (as I know you believe you are too!) --- I just appreciate the fact that we can fellowship together, cooperate with each other, respect each other, and refrain from calling one another jerks or idiots.


In His Grace,


David Rogers said...


You say (quoting Dr. Moore first):

"If you say, 'Baptism by immersion is a prerequisite to coming to the Lord's table' people will say, 'You're a Landmarker.' When in reality all Baptists would have agreed with that statement."

Two words Dr. Moore --- John Bunyan.

I say:

Three words more --- Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

The entire article at this link is awesome. But on this particular subject, the following quote from p. 5, is very interesting:

"Spurgeon's view of the church encouraged his emphasis on evangelical unity. He held that there was only one church and it comprised all believers. The universal church was both visible and invisible. The invisible referred to the regenerating work of the Spirit hidden from human eyes. The visible church referred to the work of the Spirit as made visible by the profession and deportment of believers. Since the church comprised all believers, ecclesiological differences had little importance. There were many denominations, but only one church. (14)

Spurgeon based his commitment to open communion on this broad ecclesiology. It is perhaps the best known of Spurgeon's ecclesiological principles. He held that the only proper qualification for participating in the Lord's Supper was conversion. Hence he invited all who believed in Jesus to receive the bread and wine. Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans, whether immersed on a profession of faith or sprinkled as infants, were all welcome if only they were born again.

During Spurgeon's lifetime, few Baptist churches in America practiced open communion, but most in England did. Many practiced open membership as well--they admitted persons to membership based on their profession of faith alone, whether they had submitted to believer's baptism or not. Open communion Baptists in England claimed an impressive heritage. John Bunyan, the great Baptist preacher of Bedford, whose Pilgrim's Progress was and remains a devotional classic, practiced open communion and ably defended his practice. In the early nineteenth century, Robert Hall Jr., the brilliant and eloquent Baptist preacher whose writing brought him extensive fame, persuasively defended open communion views. Baptist Noel, the immensely popular Baptist preacher whose defection from the clergy of the Church of England brought considerable notoriety, promoted open communion from his prominent London pulpit. Spurgeon's church combined open communion with strict membership. The combination reflected well his commitment to evangelical unity and believer's baptism."

irreverend fox said...

Here I go again, we need an official, recognized, confession or creed. nobody knows what a baptist even is. I suggest again that we some how strengthen the disciminating authority of the BF&M2000. We need to make it work, I don't know how, but maybe Wade can suggest a make a resolution or something...that will make the BF&M2000 worth the paper it's written on. said...

David Rogers,

Well, there you go again.

Contributing substance to the dialogue.

Providing concrete anecdotal and Scriptural evidence for your position.

What are we going to do with you?


I say make you the next President of the IMB.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson said...

Irreverend Fox,

I respectfully disagree.

I think we all know who Baptists are.

People who love Christ and believe the Bible from cover to cover.


wade said...

Africa M,

I love your heart.

I also think you, more than anyone in the history of my blog, have identified my purpose for blogging.

Let me know when Tim Guthrie is ready to go and it would be an honor for me to travel to Africa with Tim to help you.

In His Grace,

wade said...

You may be right pbill.

However, I sure don't see ANY bloggers that would qualify as immature jerks who have challenged any growing Landmark emphasis in the SBC --- any.

In my opinion one of the ways to stifle debate is to take the lack of character of some who blog (as you wisely point out) and attach it to a discussion on doctrine --- leavig the possibility in the minds of the listeners that those who blog and disagree with the speaker are the jerks. Again, I trust that was not the goal of Dr. Moore, and I appreciate your comment.



irreverend fox said...


do baptists churches teach inerrancy? do baptists churches teach that the King James Version is THE preserved Word of God? do baptists churches teach once saved always saved? do baptist churches teach to abstain from alchol? do baptists churches preach against smoking? do baptist churches preach pro-life? do baptists chuches ordain women pastors? do baptists churches teach seeker sensitivity? do baptists churches protest outside dead soldiers funerals with "God hates you" signs? do baptist churches openly practice "speaking in tongues"?

I believe that the answer to each of these questions is: YES and NO. It depends on who you ask, therefore, the word "baptist" means nothing anymore, therefore (is it ok to have two therefore’s in one thought?) I firmly believe we need to more strongly define what a "southern baptist" is or else the tug of war will continue. I’m not suggesting a super small tent, not at all. Slap the apostles creed up there and call it the BF&M2010 for all I care, but whatever we have, it needs to be the ONLY standard used for doctrinal discrimination in our seminaries and agencies…that’s all I’m suggesting, nothing more.

But, don't worry Wade, I am not stepping down from my post as the president of your fan club.

dave woodbury said...


A few of the comments above further convince me that many who read and comment see what they want to see and are convinced of beforehand. That being said, I appreciate your post and the fact that you have respectfully held Dr. Moore accountable for some of his statements. I also appreciate what I see as the aim of your post, to defend the right of Southern Baptists like myself to hold varied, legitimate, biblical, historical positions on non-essential doctrines and still be able to participate and serve in the SBC. I, too, believe that most of those involved in the current SBC discussion do indeed desire what is best for our convention, even though we may disagree on the "what" and "how." said...



This public rebuttal is the appropriate response because of the public nature of the lecture.

Of course, if there were a private offense in my heart toward Dr. Moore over a private sin, which there is not, I would speak to him privately.

Thanks for the question. said...

Thanks Fox,

You throw some really heavy doctrines (inerrancy) in with some really irrelevant ones (smoking).

I think we need to be in agreement on the heavy ones and let people disagree on the third tier issues (smoking, tongues, etc . . . ).

The really, really big question is "What are the big issues?"

I am hoping to get people to see that we should demand conformity on ONLY the really, really big doctrines (the nature of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, the authority, inspiration and integrity of the ENTIRE Word of God, etc . . . ).

Writer said...

Tim Guthrie,

I must admit that I share your opinion about today's post. When Dr. Moore referred to, "people who are setting themselves up as the tutors of the SBC through their blogs" I have to admit that I thought of Wade.


This is not meant to be a personal attack on you. :) This is one man's opinion of how your post read. If you did not intend it that way, then I believe you. However, as I've related in past comments, you should know how you come across to some of us.

I'm certain that some of your readers will scold me for coming across in a negative way, but that is not my intent. My criticism is meant to be constructive, not destructive.

I share many of your theological views and count you as a brother in Christ. So please try to see my heart as one who cares about a brother and comments, rather than one who does not care about a brother and says nothing.

Respectfully yours,


Unknown said...

A few observations:

-"some" is not broadbrushing

-He is not saying those who blog have churches that are not evangelistic. He is saying go evangelize instead of blogging, I think directly alluding to those he mentioned in the previous point.

-He says, "If you say, "Baptism is only by immersion and anything else is not baptism at all" there are going to be people in the Southern Baptist Convention who will say, "Well you are a Landmarker."

You say, "This is an astounding statement. Dr. Moore, I challenge you to show me one comment --- not several, not a few --- simply ONE comment from a Southern Baptist blog that calls someone who baptizes by immersion 'Landmark'"

Either this is rhetoric or you missed his point completely- he clearly said "only".

you said, "but to demand that ALL Southern Baptist churches practice closed communion goes beyond the Baptist Faith and Message 2000."

Is this implied or stated anywhere in his statements, or just another point of rhetoric?

You say, "Some are losing the ability to speak of ecclesiology in terms of logic and tradition.
Baptists are now ready to trust in the inspired, inerrant and sufficient Word of God, and when we discuss ecclesiology we will not depend upon the traditions of man, but will seek wisdom from the Word of God."

Yet, you offer no scriptural support for your positions above, just invoking names of the past, logic and rationale without Scripture.

Wade, Dr. Moore is making valid points, that positions that were prominent in Baptist life for centuries are now being questioned as those with Landmarkist tendencies. He has in no way demanding all these points be held by all believers, just that the shift is the aggression against those statements that were once widely held Baptist distinctives. There was a time not too long ago, he is saying, when one could talk of these distinctives, and not be "questioned [about] the advance of Landmarkism in the SBC."

I have often hoped that Baptist and church historians would enter this discussion, because I think they have much to offer. I would seriously consider Dr. Moore's council before dismissing it defensively. If only Gregory Wills could provide some insight here.

Unknown said...

Another way this post is being perceived here.


I suggest you pick up and read Lumpkin's "Baptist Confessions of Faith." said...


Thank you for your kind comment and the spirit in which it was given.

I really appreciate your thoughts, and do also count you a brother.

In His Grace,


P.S. All I can say is I sure did not seek being anybody's spokesperson. said...


Thanks for your spirit and tenor of your comment.

I thank you for placing the comment on this blog publicly and believe it to be the best forum for the conversation, but am puzzled why say you believe it should be done privately and then do it publicly? At least I am consistent in saying the public debate is appropriate and practice what I believe.

Now to answer your question "Am I still a Southern Baptist?"


The priesthood of the believer has been discussed for decades (without the plural "believers"). I realize that many now are saying that the previous way of saying it (singular) was grammatically incorrect. I have publicly stated that I personally agree with the change, but I don't think we should exclude people who disagree --- that's my caveat. In other words, if you hold to the 63 BFM BECAUSE of the singular "believer" instead of "believers" you should still be considered Southern Baptist.

Robbie, if you are now saying that "closed communion" is the only way to be a Southern Baptist, and now you are saying that my church is NOT Southern Baptist, then you are excluding a six figure Cooperative Program giving church.

Is that what you are saying?

The BFM 2000 does NOT say that. You can INTERPRET it that way, but that's our problem. We are demanding that others conform to our specific interpretations of Scripture (or for that matter the BFM).

There are people who are part of the universal church of Jesus Christ (redeemed, elect, the Bride of Christ) who are NOT members of our church because they have not been immersed. Yet, they are welcome at the Lord's table with us.

We, like the Metropolitan Tabernacle, have a strict membership with open communion.

I don't think that excludes us from being a Southern Baptist Church and will resist any effort by anyone to say it does.

Again, thank you for your comment and the kind way in which you give it.

In His Grace,


Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

You say;
"The BFM 2000 uses only the word "church" to describe the participants of the Lord's Supper, and one's interpretation might be that this means the local, visible Baptist church, but others might see this word "church" as the universal body of Christ. The interpretation of "the church" is not always agreed upon by all Southern Baptists."

I think the name of the document describes for us what we believe about the church. It is the BAPTIST Faith and Message.

You also say,
"... but to demand that ALL Southern Baptist churches practice closed communion goes beyond the Baptist Faith and Message 2000."

Am I missing something? The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, when speaking about the ordinance of Baptism, reads; "Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and the Lord's Supper."

While you say the interpretation of the word "church" is up for debate, I repeat the title of the document you say such a statement goes beyond is The BAPTIST Faith and Message 2000. This confessional says who we are as BAPTIST.

Tim said...

All right everyone.

I am officially off for my Friday golf game.

Tonight my son is playing his homecoming football game.

I'll be back either later tonight or tomorrow morning.

This post will remain up through Sunday.

I believe it is one of the more important ones in the history of this blog and welcome all the discussion.

Let's keep it Christian and civil.

In His Grace,


Bryan Riley said...

These are the types of discussions that make "some" born again believers want to run away not only from the SBC but also from "organized" religion altogether. For those who are in disagreement with the idea of remaining friends while disagreeing, are you also finding it hard to believe that Wade or others who might agree with Wade are even Christians at all(or even go further with some areas of their beliefs and interpretations)? Please be honest. Does that thought enter your heart and mind at all? Does it ever make you wonder whether people feel somewhat concerned about even questioning such matters when by questioning we are made to feel like infidels? At least, that is how I feel sometimes when I read some of what is written.

GeneMBridges said...

You would be very hardpressed to find any group of people throughout all of the history of the church who would say, "You can come to the Lord's Supper without being baptized."

This is easily disproven. The Presbyterians practice open communion. They disallow those baptized at infants from the table if they have not made a credible profession of faith. The test for the table for them is twofold: (1) conversion/a credible profession of faith and (2) no unconfessed sin in the life of the believer. An unbaptized believer may certainly partake of the table. This is basic to the Presbyterian view of the Lord's Supper. You'd think a seminary professor would know this.

Likewise, the reason the Catholics and Orthodox would agree that unbaptized persons should not partake of the Table is not the same reason that Baptists do it. The reason they do it is because they have a doctrine of baptismal regeneration. So, again, their reasoning is not that a person must be baptized, but regenerate. They do not let unbaptized persons to the table, because those persons, according to their soteriology, which is based on their sacramentology, are unregenerate.

That's not the same as a Baptist saying that a regenerate person who is unbaptized cannot participate at the Lord's Table. That argument would come from the old catechumenate days of the AnteNicene church, however, even then, they associated baptism not with the sign of the covenant alone, but also the washing away of sins as such. Catechumenates were "half-believers." So, their reasoning is not a 1:1 match.

Modern Baptistery separates, we believe righly, baptism from the remission of sins. It is, for us, merely the sign of the covenant. We argue this from Scripture. Closed communion is a biblical example that gets conflated into a biblical teaching. Yes, no unbaptized person in Scripture partook of the Lord's Table. Yes, no unbaptized person did that in the early history of the church. But in both eras, baptism (a) followed conversion immediately or within a very short time; and (b) was associated with the remission of sins; neither of which are consistently practiced today. One of the reasons we separate them today, ironically, is the very reason that Presbyterians do not allow unconverted but infant baptized persons to partake of the Table. We affirm that God can take the ordinances and harden a person.

Consider at the moment that a great many sitting in our churches may well be unconverted. When you have churches that once had 1600 members being whittled down to 200, that tells you something about what was going on in that church at one time. When we have churches with 29,000 on the roll and only 7,000 show up, that tells you something about what's going on in the churches. I submit that we've rushed folks to the baptismal pool a tad too much in the past generation or so, so we have a problem with baptized unregenerates in the pew. Maybe separating baptism from conversion and baptism from the Lord's Table isn't such a bad idea. Give folks some "probation" time to show some fruit before doing either. Let's not forget that our own Baptist forefathers also believed that God uses the means of grace to harden as well as nourish the church, so that lies behind much of their desire to keep only paedobaptized persons from the Lord's Table. They viewed believers baptism as a guarantee that the person was a believer. Ergo, they could go to the Lord's Table. In theory, paedobaptism does not ensure that. However, we've since learned that believer's baptism is only a control; it too is not a guarantee. In that age, it was, because if you were (re)baptized you be persecuted. Anybody doing it was making a huge and striking commitment in public. That's good reason to accept their testimony of faith as highly credible. That's not so today. because Baptistery is at the root of much cultural religion, particularly here in the South.

That said, if a Presbyterian minister walks into my church, and I know he has a credible profession of faith, I'll tell you right now that he is welcome to the Lord's Table even if he is "unbaptized" by my standards. The Lord's Table is meant to show that God's Table is a banquet. Yes, it looks back to the cross -this is it's primary meaning, but it also looks back further to Passover, and it also looks forward to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. If we're going to be consistent with Scripture, we should reinstitute the agape meal with the Lord's Supper proper in order to demonstrate this reality. In so doing, how could one keep a Presbyterian brother or sister from the Table?

Bart Barber said...

I like David Rogers's three words better than Wade Burleson's two. Too often we neglect to mention that serious scholarly debate exists as to whether John Bunyan was a Baptist at all. Did he consent to having his children sprinkled as infants? In his own words he denied that he was a Baptist in his debate with William Kiffin.

I think we get a little star-struck by this famous name and clamor to make him something he may not have been just to pad the Baptist resume.

As for Spurgeon—there's no doubt that he was a Baptist.

Bart Barber said...

By the way, I agree with Dr. Moore that the label "Landmark" is often thrown about without a clear definition, sometimes toward people who clearly do not believe the central tenets of Landmarkism.

irreverend fox said...


then I think we are saying the same exact thing. I hope my use of the word "creed" is not being misunderstood. I'm simply saying that WE the people of the sbc need decide what is a big issue for us and what is not. Whatever we come up with ought to be recognized, across the board, as our non-negotiable and our seminaries and agencies should only be able to discriminate, doctrinally, on the basis of our recognized confession.

I purposely mixed big issues with small ones to make my point.

Am I still your favorite commenter?

Robert Hutchinson said...

for those struggling to find their identity as a baptist let me offer 10 distinctives recieved from W. Morgan Patterson @ NOBTS in 2000.

btw: it is not the individual distinctions that make one baptist it is the combination of them all. other christians believe in religous liberty but do not practice believers baptism by immersion.

so, for what its worth...

1) the essence of the Christian faith is spiritual, personal, and voluntary.

2) the Scriptures are uniquely inspired, authoritative and the source and guide for doctrine and practice.

3) salvation is provided by the grace of God and is available to everyone through repentence and faith.

4) the church is composed of committed believers.

5) all believers are priests with no intermediary other than Christ Himself.

6) the Scriptures command the observance of two ordinances: baptism and the Lord's Supper, which are understood to be basically symbolic in meaning and with believers only to recieve them.

7) baptism is properly performed by the biblical mode of immersion.

8) authority for the administration of the church is in the hands of the congregation.

9) religous freedom should be given to all to enable each person to respond to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

10). the separation of church and state best guarantees liberty of conscience for every citizen.

now, baptist congregations may vary slightly in their practice of these distinctives (open/closed communion; who baptized whom by immersion) but those preferences of practice should not hinder us from cooperating together.

however, when a subgroup in the convention is able to get their particular practice put in the bf&m (even though the confession is to have no authority over the conscience) it narrows the cooperative spirit and work. it narrows the tent.

we're all a little different, a little distinct but we agree to disagree because our heart is to spread the good news, to offer a cup of cold water, to clothe the naked and shelter the homeless.

it ain't the Southern Baptist 'Church' its the Southern Baptist 'Convention' (consiting of messengers (not churches) from slightly diverse baptist congregations.

cooperation in the midst of diversity...that's what makes the Southern Baptist Convention great!

Unknown said...


Thanks for injecting some more history into this. I would like to ask you some questions regarding open communion.

It is my (ever-growing yet limited) understanding that the Lord's Supper, like Baptism, is an ordinance that involves the corporate body of Christ in 1) testifying as a sign the union and communion with Christ; 2) testifying to the unity of the body; 3) and possibly involving the body's discernment as to who is fit for this ordinance. Insofar that #1 and #2 are true for both, don't the ordinances take on a more corporate nature than individual nature? That is, is it solely the believer's decision to partake of and bring about his baptism and participation in the Lord's Supper?

It seems that not only is the individual is called to account before his participation in 1 Cor 11:28-30; but also 1 Cor 5:11 (1-13 really), and 2 Thess 3:6 & 14-15 demand a congregational responsibility and action toward immorality and sin in their midst. I have heard it argued that this dictates that the congregation must be at least active in excluding sinful members from the Table, and dictates an accountability to the Christians in the local church. So, is paedobaptism sin? Or, to your point, is no-baptism (for reasons of disobedience, etc.) a sin? I think we would mostly agree that unbelievers taking part in the Lord's Supper is egregious.

SigPres said...

Since I grew up in a community where there was only one Southern Baptist church, and one other Baptist church of any kind (the two together wouldn't have totalled 100 people between them) and where more than half of the population was Mormon, I appreciate the fact that churches with the gospel of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, could come together and get along without worrying about second or third tier doctrines. My best friend in high school was the son of the Assembly of God pastor. Our "Youth For Christ" group in our high school consisted of the three high school kids from our church, two from the A of G, three or four from the ABC-USA church, and three or four from the Lutheran and Presbyterian churches. All of them were born again believers in Christ, and none of us would have been nearly as effective in our witness, or would have grown in our faith nearly as much as we did by working together. That small YFC chapter had a big impact in a school with 400 students, where 200 were Mormon.

Unknown said...


Good find! How do you come across these things that start a firestorm in the blog community? said...

SWBTS Underground,

As honest as I know how, I am not attempting to start any firestorm.

I'm just concered over what seems to me to be a concerted, diligent attempt to narrow the definition and parameters of what it means to be a "Southern Baptist."

I think the discussion is healthy.

And I promise --- I'm not going anywhere like others.

I'm Southern Baptist through and through and want to model what it means to cooperate with people who see things differently than I.

As you know, I don't care that others see it my way ---

But I do care when others demand I see it their way.

wade said...


I agree that church discipline is tied to the Lord's Supper.

We simply say before the bread and the wine are served, "If you are currently under discipline here at our church or at the church where you are a member, we ask you to refrain from partaking until the discipline is resolved."

Wade said...

Africa M and Gene Bridges,

Good words.

Unknown said...

Really, I was just asking where you picked up on this talk with a tone that, well, doesn't quite transfer via internet.

Unknown said...

That is kind of where I am going with this. The church body is called to discern and enforce these things, but asking the individual if he is under church discipline leaves no accountability by the local church and makes it his individual decision. It is a corporate responsibility. It seems that his dishonesty would leave your congregation culpable, no? said...


We serve a great big God who is quite capable of holding people accountable.

We would never physically or forcibly bar someone from the Table.

We leave it to one's personal conscience, but of course, we never backing away from speaking what we believe to be the truth to the individual.

In His Grace,


Wayne Smith said...

Wade and Others,

Why is it that Baptist people tend to not Trust the Holy Spirit doing His Work on the Hearts of all people and holding them Accountable???

In His Name

Bob Cleveland said...

A random thought stopped in today, about disagreements.

We disagree about things all the time, and it doesn't stop fellowship and respect and acceptance and civility. If we didn't all disagree about this or that, we'd all live in the same place, go to the same restaurants, drive the same kind of car, etc. But those thing don't generate the vitriol I see when we talk about landmarkism or unknown tongues, or what, exactly, it means that Jesus was "tempted".

Maybe it indicates how precious our faith is to us, compared to worldly things. Perhaps it is that we're less secure in our faith than we are in which burger we like best. Or maybe it is that the devil doesn't care about food and cars, but he does care if we all get along to well, and so he tries to stop that.

Let's wrap our head around that thought the next time we formulate a response to something yanks our chain. We might just know who's on the other end.

Bryan Riley said...

Bob Cleveland! Great comment! Up there with the stuff David and Alan put out!

Bryan Riley said...

Wayne, I think that for some people, when they don't trust others to make decisions and be the priest God called them to be it is because they wish to control them, somewhat like the Catholic church of old. I say this because I think I am guilty of a similar tactic, in my pride, when I try to conrol discussions, etc., or do damage control with those closest to me as a method of controlling them.

Anonymous said...


I listen to your messages on a regular basis. Your Biblical insight is incredible. I so appreciate the way you have your outlines available and are now using MP3's of your sermons. Rarely have I heard a such practical exhortations from true Biblical exposition.

You have a fan club here in Texas. I have seen people write so many ugly things about you, but you have maintained dignity and responded with grace. I realize that thousands of Southern Baptists are now looking to you as a leader of the SBC, and I do not believe you will disappoint.

For what it is worth, I know of two young preachers who were thinking about starting independent churches, but are now checking into starting SBC churches solely because they have followed your desire to keep the SBC Biblical in every area of faith and practice.

Contrary to Kim above, I feel I know why you publicly wrote a rebuttal to Dr. Moore. Unless somebody shows that not "all" Baptists througout history, or "every" Baptist believes what Dr. Moore is saying, then people will assume what is not true.

I also appreciate your spirit in response to Dr. Moore. You were respectful, kind and expressed your love to SBTS and Dr. Moore.

I for one learned a ton from reading this post. PLEASE keep up the good work for the kingdom said...


McArthur happens to be a man I respect. You make some good comments, but if you can refrain from calling him ignorant I would be happy for your to repost your comment. said...

Thanks Perry. I appreciate the kind words. said...


Blessings to you and your family. You give some very good thoughts. I really appreciate them.

In His Grace,


Unknown said...


Same song, different dance.

Long time no see.

Looks like you guys have the platform you have been seeking for a while.

C Reverend, C Rev said...


I think you are mistaken if you think I am their platform.

I may have misunderstood your comment and if so I apologize.


Tim Sweatman said...

I am a strong proponent of open communion. I simply do not see in the NT any support for the idea that local congregations are to be isolated enclaves separated from one another. When I look at the personal remarks at the end of most of the epistles it seems that the expectation was that that particular local church would treat other believers like part of the family. I have a hard time believing that the local churches in the NT would have excluded a visiting brother or sister from partaking of the Lord's Supper. To me it appears that the NT understanding was that there is one church that is manifested in many local churches. While each local church is autonomous in its internal matters (although in the NT era there seems to have been strong apostolic oversight), we should not treat our brothers and sisters from other local churches as outsiders.

I also cannot find any biblical support for the idea that the Lord's Supper (or baptism, for that matter) must be restricted to an "official church observance" or that it must have a "qualified" administrator. For the life of me, I can't understand why it would be improper for a home Bible study group to share the Lord's Supper among themselves.

LivingDust said...

Brother Wade,

You asked - "Can we all agree to disagree and remain friends?"

Yes, No, Maybe.

In the blogosphere we are known by our words. Some are associated with a photo or image that might be posted with their words, but our words are a real extension of who we are. Some posters in the blogosphere say things, on a consistent basis, that indicate that they are not "friendly" folk. They just seem to have an onery, cantankerous side to their personality. In fact, they don't really care if they aren't friendly. In their book, friendly is not a high priority and they are perfectly content with having just a few or no friends.

One of my elderly and wise Sunday School teachers, while teaching about marriage, says this - "You are commanded to love your wife, but you don't always have to like her." I believe we can roll this lesson into the blogosphere - I am commanded to love my brothers and sisters in Christ (even the cantankerous ones), but I don't necessarily have to like them or become their friend. In fact, I would contend in the blogosphere we are not really friends, because true friendship is a personal, intimate relationship.

During the time of the Greensboro SBC a blogging Pastor posted these words - "No election of officers in the Southern Baptist Convention will be able to address the systemic and profound theological ignorance of the average messenger to the annual meeting." As a Southern Baptist layperson I was hurt that a Southern Baptist Pastor would publically make this statement. It was a contemptuous and elitest statement. These words are a partial view of the this persons heart. I disagree with these words and seriously doubt if I could ever be a true friend of a person who would publically make a statement of this nature. Could I work with them for the cause of Christ - yes. Would I reach out to them in a time of need - yes. But be their friend - no.

Perhaps it would be better to ask bloggers to "agree to disagree and remain cordial and civil" but not necessarily be friends.

David Rogers said...

Bart Barber,

When you say: "I agree with Dr. Moore that the label 'Landmark' is often thrown about without a clear definition, sometimes toward people who clearly do not believe the central tenets of Landmarkism," I agree with you about the label 'Landmark' being thrown around a bit freely at times, but don't agree with you that this was all Dr. Moore was saying.

When you make broad, general statements, in the context of talking about bloggers, inferring the equivalent that lots of bloggers are basically calling anything that has two feet and walks a Landmarker, you had better be able to back up what you are saying with specific examples.

It is one thing to say certain ideas reflect a tendency toward Landmarkism. It is another thing to call someone a Landmarker. And, in my opinion, to fail to make this distinction, in the way Dr. Moore did in this address, is setting up a "straw man" and knocking him down, and a good example of the demogogery that is going on at various levels of SBC life lately.

Jack Maddox said...


You presume a lot for Dr. Moore! I see no where that Dr. Moore says they are not a true church. I do see him saying and rightfully so that they are in gross eccisiatical (word?) error, so much so that he would have a hard time sharing communion with them.

We may not agree with him but this is a Baptist distinctive.


Anonymous said...


When Someone talks about the Presbyterian Church they need to qualify which Presbyterian Church they are talking about. The ones with Women Pastors USA or the One that some Baptist are deflecting to, the PCA. Wiser Men in the SBC join hands with the Presbyterian Church PCA as Truly Brother and Sisters in Christ. Dr. Edmund P. Clowney, Dr. Tim Keller, Dr John Frame and many others have brought more Honor to God's Kingdom than some others that want us to be Politicians.

In His Name

Wayne Smith

Wayne Smith said...


What Presbyterian Church are you talking about?

Wayne Smith

Nathan Finn said...


You have indicated that there is more than one way to interpret the BF&M's claim that "Being a church ordinance, [baptism] is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper". I am not trying to be argumentative, but I am curious as to how anything other than a straightforward reading of this statement could be deemed appropriate. If a literal reading of this statement is only one valid interpretation of the statement, then what other hermeneutical principle would you suggest? And what of authorial intent? If you remember, Herschel Hobbs stated unequivocally in 1980 that when he wrote "truth without any mixture of error" in the 1963 BF&M, those words meant "inerrant." Do you really think that Article VI was was written in such a way as to leave this question open? To ask this a bit more pointedly, do you *really* believe that the BF&M is open to more than one interpretation on this issue, or do you simply believe the BF&M is too stringent this point?

Please note I am not asking why you don't believe in closed communion; I am asking how many hermeneutical strategies are appropriate when reading the BF&M. And though I appreciate the insights of other bloggers about this matter, this is a question for Wade.

NAF said...


Thank you for your very kind tone in asking your question,

The BFM states: "Being a church ordinance, [baptism] is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper".

No church --- Assembly of God, Presbyterian, Anglicans, Methodist, Baptists, etc . . . allows participation at the Lord's table without without baptism.

So do Southern Baptist Churches.

We require baptism by iimmersion to be a member of our Baptist Church --- but if a believer who is visiting from another church and believes himself to be baptized, and is not under church discipline, we invite him to the table --- even if his "baptism" is by pouring or sprinkling. He can't be a member of our local church, but he is a member of the universal church.

In other words, we believe that churches other than Baptist can be legitimate churches.

The word "church" then can be either universal (the body of Christ) or local.

Wes Kenney said...


I think your answer to Nathan discounts the fact that, earlier in the same paragraph, the BF&M defines baptism:

"Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

I think it is fair to argue that it is this baptism that is "prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper," and that an experience that doesn't fit with this definition does not qualify one for the Lord's table, even if the experience was called "baptism," and even if the person believes it to have been baptism.

While you are able to isolate the sentence you quoted and truthfully state that you are in agreement, I believe that that the point being made by Nathan above is that the practice you describe is inconsistent with the entirety of Article VII, and I don't see in your answer a refutation of that point.

Of course, it's been a long week, so I may be in need of your customary grace if my tiredness has caused me to miss something.

Thanks, as always, for furthering the conversation.

Wayne Hatcher said...

I never miss the weekday podcast of Dr. Mohler's show, and I really enjoy when Dr. Moore fills in. He is every bit as sharp as Dr. Mohler. So I was sad to see your post yesterday. I downloaded the whole audio last night, and my wife and I listened to it while on the road to OKC today. I was sad to hear the "blogging" comments on which you posted.
One thing that is not conveyed in your post, Wade, is the decided tone change in Dr. Moor's lecture when he begins to speak about bloggers. His volume increased and his tone became decidely edgy. I am not sure what that might convey, but I got the impression that the issue of bloggers was a bit of a tender spot for him. He does, as you mention, make brief comments praising bloggers, but then goes on to make numerous undocumented charges. Where he refers to Bobby Welch's comments, Dr. Moore must have been looking through the ACP data looking for specific bloggers/pastors, elsewise he wouldn't have said "Who are these people reaching?" This leads me to ask the catechism "What is the chief end of man?" Is it to have the best ACP numbers? Or is it: "The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever."? Is the number of baptisms annually the measure of a pastor's faithfulness in honoring and glorifying God? I think not. Dr. Moore, who holds to the doctrines of sovereign grace, surely realizes that it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates lost souls, (the wind blows where it wills) therefore numbers can never be a measure of a man's faithfulness in the ministry. I believe that Dr. Moore should publicly clarify or retract statements in this section. And Pastor Wade, since you brought it up, I think you should contact him concering the matter. I don't think he was refering to you, but he very well may have been aiming just to your left or your right, if you get my meaning. I have greatly respected Dr. Moore up to this point, and I think he should be given ample opportunity to clarify.
Dr. Moore used a "broad brush", to use your wife's phrase, in other parts of his lecture that you did not touch on, but none of it compared to the section you cited. We should expect more from our scholars when they speak from the scholars seat.

Wayne Hatcher

Pastor John said...

My first post.
I have a lot of respect for you, even though I sometimes disagree with you.
In fact, you are a big reason why I have recently decided to start blogging.
However, Wes asks a good question, if baptism is defined as:
"Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
Then how can we accept people who are "baptized" as infants to the Lord's Supper?
According to the above definition, these people are not baptized, regardless of what they believe.
To accept them for the Lord's Supper we must either change our understanding of baptism, or start allowing unbaptized people to receive the Lord's Supper.

Stephen Pruett said...

There are obviously different opinions with regard to the criteria for partaking in the Lord's Supper. This is not surprising since the criteria are not explicitly described in scripture. More than one valid inference is possible. Doesn't this illustrate just one more time that we need to agree to disagree on some issues.

Anyone who has read Wade's blog for any length of time knows that he believes in the inerrancy AND sufficiency of scripture. Can't Baptists agree that when we share this underlying belief, we can freely disagree on issues that are not critical to salvation and are not Baptist distinctives? If not, how can there be any assurance that anyone who holds a minority opinion on any belief will be able serve SBC agencies or boards? Please keep in mind that almost everyone holds a minority position on at least one secondary or tertiary matter. Those who support a more extensive and creedal B F & M will likely reap what they sow, when they find that their minority opinion on some matter is no longer permitted. Why are we apparently determined to do this to ourselves? What good will it accomplish? Please do not claim that it is justified on the basis of doctrinal integrity. These matters have nothing to do with doctrinal integrity. They simply represent examples of power being used to enforce an interpretation of scripture about which there is room for legitimate disagreement. No one has yet explained what will be gained from this. There are already rules that have effectively prevented abuses of the gift of tongues and have assured that missionaries have met the membership criteria of an SBC church (including valid baptism).

In contrast, it is clear that much will be and already has been lost. God-called and highly qualified missionaries have already been rejected. If the narrowing continues you, yes you, will probably find yourself in the minority at some point and lose your privelege to participate. Maybe then you will understand why some of us tried to raise an alarm. said...


This is not about baptism.

It is about sharing the Lord's Supper.

We accept the definition of baptism per the BFM. We strictly follow it our church.

However, when it comes to sharing the table with fellow evangelicals we do not believe the BFM forbids it.

You might, and that is fine.

We don't. And everybody better think long and hard before trying to exclude churches that practice communion the way we do.

By the way, I'm sure that is not your intention Wes.

:) said...

Pastor John,

Those who have faith in Christ but baptized by another mode other than immersion, are they:

(1). Saved?

(2). Members of the "church" of Christ?

(3). Brothers in Christ?

(4). Partakers of the Divine nature?

The issue is not about membership in the local Baptist church. The issue is "Can we share the elements with an evangelical baptized in a manner different than ours?

The BFM does not exclude this possiblity. said...

Mr. Hatcher,

Interesting insights. Thanks for commenting. said...


You are one sharp cookie.

Wes Kenney said...


I don't mean to be dense, but I fail to see how a statement that defines baptism (the immersion of a believer in water...) and then states in the same paragraph that this baptism is a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper can be read in such a way that allows someone sprinkled as an infant to take part.

Now having said that, I strongly agree with your reply to Colin where you stated that God is capable of holding people accountable. This is why, when we observe this ordinance, I carefully explain that it is only for those who have been saved by faith in Christ, and who have testified of that faith through baptism by immersion, and then leave it to the individual to determine whether or not they qualify ("Let a man examine himself").

But it seems crystal clear to me that the only room for interpretation under Article VII is whether only members of the local church should partake, or those who have been baptized as believers. I don't understand how any other interpretations can line up with the BF&M.

My purpose here isn't to suggest exclusion, but simply to understand this interpretation.

Thanks for the interaction. God bless you as you proclaim the Gospel tomorrow.

Pastor John said...

I have no problem acknowledging those outside of the Baptist faith as Christians. I have very close friends from Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist backgrounds who were “baptized” according to their tradition – and remain so even now even after many late night conversations over Krispy Cremes. They are without a doubt going to eat with us in Heaven.
They are saved.
But they are not baptized.

The very nature of baptism requires certain things, such as being administered to believers and done through immersion. If a person is dunked – even in a Southern Baptist church – before he believes, then that baptism is illegitimate – they have not been biblically baptized. Equally, if said person is sprinkled as opposed to immersed, that baptism is illegitimate – they are not biblically baptized.
To say otherwise is to distort the very nature of baptism.

We have established that unbaptized persons should not take the Lord’s Supper – I believe that you made that assertion yourself earlier.
For me to say that these people, who are by definition not baptized, should not take the Lord’s Supper is in no way suggesting that they are lost.

You told Wes that this conversation is about the Lord’s Supper and not Baptism. I would have to disagree. As the two ordinances of the church, the two are inseparable. We both agree that baptized Christians should be able to take the Lord’s Supper together – our point of disagreement is what constitutes a baptized Christian. You ask, “Can we share the elements with an evangelical baptized in a manner different than ours?” This is our point of disagreement – there is only one legitimate form of baptism – a baptism administered to believers through immersion.

I believe that you are familiar with Dr. Mohler’s use of theological triage. By all accounts baptism is a second tier doctrine – one that divides us into denominations while acknowledging that those who disagree are still Christians. Theologians & church leaders across the map agree – baptism matters too much to be seen as less.
Its funny, I am preaching on this very topic tomorrow.
Have a blessed Lord’s Day

Alan Cross said...

Wow. What a mess. Is anyone tired of all of this yet? I know I am.

What exactly is everyone fighting over anyway? I'm well aware of all the issues, but I'm starting to fail to see the point. Are we fighting for the SBC? Are we fighting for a wider tent? Are we fighting to keep people out? What does anyone hope to gain?

I've decided: I'm going to keep doing missions and cooperating with those who are moving forward and taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. I'm going to keep blogging in a positive way, and I'm going to keep sharing Christ with people. Dr. Moore couldn't be more wrong, but I DON'T REALLY CARE!!! This whole thing has become so irrelevant to me that I've lost any concern I once had.

I still hope the IMB reverses those policies, but with every statement and action by SBC leaders, I see things more clearly.

Thanks for what you're trying to do for young pastors and churches like mine, Wade. I'm sorry for how difficult it is. This whole thing makes me kind of ill, however, and it shows us exactly why we're in the shape we're in as a denomination, why 85% of our churches are plateued or declining, and why the vast majority of Southern Baptists are practicing Universalists. We couldn't be missing the point any more if we tried.

Bart Barber said...


I do not always achieve precision in writing, but I am always trying to do so. In this case, I stipulated my point of agreement with Dr. Moore, to which you have agreed. Great.


Nathan and Wes seem to have an ironclad point in my estimation. The wording of the BF&M is pretty clear. Whatever the theological implications, Bros. Finn and Kenney get high marks for reading comprehension in my book.

LivingDust said...

Alan Cross,

You wrote - "the vast majority of Southern Baptists are practicing Universalists."

I am curious as to your definition of Universalist. By this are inferring that a vast majority of Southern Baptist are of the belief that John 14:6 is not true and there is another name under heaven by which we can be saved?

Have I mis-interpreted your words?

Alan Cross said...

"Practicing Universalists," meaning that even though we BELIEVE that Jesus is the only way to heaven and unless you except Him you will spend an eternity in Hell, our practice is that we do not share Christ with ANYONE. It seems as though we just think everyone will make it one way or another. Or we don't care. Either way, our practice is exactly the same as the Universalist because neither shares the gospel with anyone. At least the Universalist has consistent faith and action. We claim to believe one thing, yet do something else.

And, I am not saying that we should be handing everyone a tract all the time. I'm just saying that we aren't quite as evangelistic as we claim to be, or the ratio of members to baptisms in SBC churches would not be 44:1.

So, our theology is fine, but our practice is the same as the Universalist. The idea is not original with me - I actually read it from someone else (on a blog, no less) and thought it was pretty accurate and challenging to me as well. Our actions should line up with our beliefs. said...


Are you saying that the BFM demands closed communion of every SBC church, and if a church chooses to not follow closed communion that they cannot affirm the BFM 2000 and are not Southern Baptist?

Wes Kenney said...


As I said before, I'm simply trying to understand the practice you have described in light of your affirmation of the BF&M. Let me quote a paragraph from my earlier comment, and then clarify it in a minor way. Perhaps I will be more clear about what I am saying.

But it seems crystal clear to me that the only room for interpretation under Article VII is whether only members of the local church should partake, or those who have been baptized as believers. I don't understand how any other interpretations can line up with the BF&M.

This is exactly how I meant it, but it would be more clear if I had inserted the word "all" before "those who have been baptized as believers."

It seems to me that if there is any room for interpretation in Article VII, it is in deciding between what has been traditionally called "closed" communion, wherein only members of that local church may partake, or "close" communion, in which all who have been baptized by immersion as believers may partake.

I just don't see how one can permit a person whose "baptism" experience was being sprinkled as an infant to partake of the Lord's Supper while affirming Article VII, which defines baptism and calls it a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper.

Like Bart, it is often true for me that the words I type don't make nearly as much sense as the words in my head, so I will take no offense to the pointing out of my errors here.

Bart Barber said...


I think the cogent point offered by Wes and Nathan has to do with the phraseology of the BF&M. Really, it matters very little what Wes or Nathan think ought to be the wording. They are merely pointing out the clear text of the document. For all we know, either Nathan or Wes might have made the wording more or less restrictive if they were writing this statement of faith. This isn't about their opinions, it is about the text of the BF&M.

And that text quite clearly stipulates believer's immersion as a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper. Agree with what the document says, disagree, refuse to comment—take your pick—but that's what the document says.

For Wes to say so is not the same as Wes saying that you can't be a Southern Baptist. At my last count there were numerous Southern Baptists who publicly disagree with the BF&M. Contrary to left-wing propaganda, the SBC does not kick out churches for differing with the BF&M.

So, I think what these guys are looking for is either a statement that you misspoke or an acknowledgment that you are not completely in agreement with the document. Or, just refuse to answer—there's no law on the books that says that you owe any answer to anyone. But I don't think that there is anything wrong with their question. It is not difficult to understand and it is well-founded. said...

Answer my question then Bart from your perspective.

Does the BFM 2000 allow for communion of all believers who will share in the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven, and does it specifically forbid sharing communion with believers who have baptized in another church by a mode different from immersion?

If your answer is the latter, then is a church who practices communion that is not closed a Southern Baptist church?

Yes or no answer is fine with me.


wade said...


I don't believe you have answered my specific question. I do appreciate your spirit, but I would like an answer if at all possible.



Bob Cleveland said...


I have been asking for some time where the Bible says that being baptized by immersion is "identifying with Christ". Or where it says that's a "testimony" to our faith.

Does the Bible say that?

Bryan Riley said...

Amen, Alan. And, I wish Bart or Nathan or someone would answer your question about what are we really fighting for? You mean it sincerely. Are we fighting to keep certain people out? What is the goal of, for example, close or closed communion? How is whatever goal that is consistent with the message of Christ? Or is it just consistent with one person's interpretation of the scripture. Does the use of the word immersion (baptizo) as it is used in the NT for the a description of the ordinance of baptism insist on literal, physical immersion; moreover, if it is all symbolic, as baptists so love to proclaim, how is such a literal belief upon which you would close your communion to certain Christians consistent??? Anyway.... What is the goal here???? said...


It doesn't.

I believe being baptized is the first time the convert preaches the gospel, and it is in picture form.

He lived in Christ when Christ lived, he died in Christ when Christ died, he was buried in Christ when Christ was buried, and he rose with Christ when Christ arose.

Others who pour or sprinkle at baptism see baptism as a picture of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

I, of course, believe baptism is by immersion, but it is Christ that takes a person to heaven.

Wes Kenney said...


In order to insure responsiveness, I've copied your question here, and will put my responses in bold:

Are you saying that the BFM demands closed communion of every SBC church, The BF&M demands nothing of anyone. It is simply a statement of faith and if a church chooses to not follow closed communion that they cannot affirm the BFM 2000 This is closer to what I am saying, although Hobbs wrote that what is described is "close" communion (for all Baptists) rather than "closed" (only for local church members) and are not Southern Baptist? Affirmation of a statement of faith does not determine whether a church is Southern Baptist. As I understand it, unless a church ordains open homosexuals, they can contribute to the Cooperative Program and be considered a cooperating Southern Baptist church.

As I said before, what I am saying is that I have trouble understanding how you can say you affirm the BF&M while endorsing a practice of the Lord's Supper that is clearly outside the text of the statement and the intent of its primary author.

All churches are free to practice the ordinances based on their convictions, and a practice differing with the BF&M does not exclude them from participation in the SBC. But if the practice differs from the BF&M, one should not assert that it does not differ.

If I've been unclear, please point out the fact. I've had a long day that, rather than preaching this morning, involved taking my wife to the emergency room with a scratch on her cornea inflicted by our sleeping toddler son. She's fine (or soon will be), but I'm a bit wrung out.

Thanks again for the gracious conversation.

Stephen Pruett said...

Bart, Wow, "left wing propaganda"? I seem to recall more than one case of regional SBC associations voting to exclude SBC churches because they had a woman pastor. Thus, I think exlusion of churches that do not toe the line is always a real possibility in the SBC. It does not seem like propaganda to me. Left-wing?!?!? I won't even go there. said...


Thanks for your gracious response.

I still stand by the fact that the BFM 2000 does not exclude sharing the Lord's Supper with baptized evangelicals from traditions that are not Baptist.

In His Grace,

Wade said...


You say, "Contrary to left-wing propaganda, the SBC does not kick out churches for differing with the BF&M."

IBart, if you can't be a missionary if you don't affirm the BFM 2000;

If you can't serve on a board, agency or committee without affirming the BFM 2000,

If you can't be an employee of an SBC agency without affirming the BFM 2000,

If you can't have a say on how the funds you give through the CP are used if you don't affirm the BFM 2000;

If you can't be a leader in the SBC and cooperate with others in moving forward in missions and evangelism without affirming the BFM 2000 ---

I hate to see what being kicked out of the SBC looks like in your mind.


Affirming the BFM 2000,

Wade Burleson

Bryan Riley said...

What does it mean to affirm?

Bart Barber said...


My answer is the latter: The text of the BF&M clearly defines baptism exclusively as believer's immersion and then, in the very next breath, articulates such as a prerequisite for participation in the Lord's Supper. This is the status of the text. If it is wrong, propose an amendment. But let us be diligent to avoid twisting the text. Creativity is an asset to many endeavors, but not to the parsing of documents.

But, as I asserted before, a church can be an open communion church and yet still be Southern Baptist, although they are then necessarily in disagreement with this particular article of the BF&M. So, my answer to your second question is "Yes."

Bryan, I'm not really "fighting" for anything here other than an honest reading of this document. Also, I think the implication that Nathan and Wes are somehow trying to drub out of the SBC anyone who practies open communion is absolutely baseless.

Stephen Pruett, technically, there is no such thing as "regional SBC associations" in the sense that you seem to imply. State conventions and local associations are autonomous entities and are free to include and exclude churches based upon their own criteria or upon mere whimsy if they so choose. Such expulsions had taken place in some local contexts over feminist-related issues long before the BF&M said anything about the topic, and the national convention cannot direct and is not responsible for the actions of other Baptist bodies. As Wes has accurately indicated, SBC exclusions in recent memory have had to do with homosexuality.

Bart Barber said...


Being kicked out of the SBC looks like this: Your church is no longer receives the one and only universal privilege of member churches, the ability to seat messengers at the annual meeting. So long as the convention does not refuse to seat your messengers, your church does indeed have a "say on how the funds you give through the CP are used" and can in fact "cooperate with others in moving forward in missions and evangelism." Somehow the vast majority of churches in the convention manage to do this just fine without ever in a hundred years having a pastor on the IMB.


If the people you send to be missionary candidates must automatically be hired with no questions asked about what they believe.

If every participating church is automatically entitled to have someone serving on a board, agency or committee.

If every participating church should expect that whatever candidates pass muster with them are automatically qualified to serve in the employ of convention entities.

If the SBC must embrace as a leader anyone who is a member of a participating church and who aspires to such leadership.

Then we are in terrible trouble as a convention.

Someone must be selective in choosing leaders, employees, missionaries, trustees, and committee memebrs—not may....must. Personally, I think that the messengers to the convention's annual meeting, a fairly apportioned group from which virtually nobody is being excluded, are the appropriate group to exercise this selectivity.

Theology seems to me a better criteria than a lot of the other ones employed (how big someone's church is, who someone's daddy or great-granddaddy was, etc.). I affirm the right of the messengers to use theology as a factor in choosing their own leadership. Certainly, in light of where we were as a convention as recently as 36 years ago, such selectivity is a crucial part of our stewardship of the convention.

If the messengers are wrong to think they they have the right to stipulate theological guidelines for the employees whom they pay, then what's your alternative?

Bart Barber said...


Sorry, I forgot to explain "left-wing." Please notice that I did not employ the term "liberal." There is some debate over particularly how far left one must go to achieve the status of "liberal." But certainly we must agree that the SBC has left and right wings, however far left or right those wings reach and wherever we think the center of the SBC sits on the grand continuum of things.

This kind of propaganda does not come from the right wing. said...


You make a good point.

That's why messengers elected Frank Page.




Bart Barber said...


For congregational votes in the NT, check out 2 Corinthians 2:6, and in connection with the same vote, 1 Corinthians 5:4. That one is indisputable when you take the two passages together. The church acted congregationally in this regard in direct compliance with the commandment of Christ, who explicitly entrusted such business not to elders but to the congregation (Matthew 18: 17).

I think that congregational votes are also in view on those occasions where the Bible explicitly states that the whole church affirmed agreement with something. Thus, in Acts 6 it is the congregation of the disciples that selected what I believe were the original deacons. In Acts 15:22, how did the folks in Jerusalem determine that the solution seemed good to the whole church? The only way I could accurately make such a claim is if I had taken a vote, but that's me.

People have shown a tremendous propensity to find in Acts 15 whatever they are looking for. Maybe that's what I'm doing. But I think that Acts 15 demonstrates apostolic authority, pastoral (elders) authority, and congregational authority. The right kind of church government acknowledges all three, and I think that only congregationalism has the potential for acknowledging all three in a good balance.

Bart Barber said...


An awful lot of people who voted for Frank Page might disagree with you as to the basis of his election. Several seem to have voted in defense of the Cooperative Program.

You've stated pretty clearly that you want to spend some time on some non-controversial posts. I respect that and will not prolong this dialogue further. I would not have jumped in to begin with but for the unfair implication that Nathan and Wes were trying to drive you out of the SBC.

May you enjoy a little peace and quiet on your blog for a while.

In Christ,
Bart said...

Thanks Bart for the kind words. I really do appreciate your spirit.

A couple of points. I was in no way implying Wes or Nathan were wishing I be "driven from the SBC." Rather, I was showing that a dogmatic interpretation of the BFM, and then a demand that others affirm that specific interpretation or not serve, is the direction we are headed, and soon, every person will be scratching their heads about what can, and cannot, be believed according to the BFM --- AND NOT THE BIBLE.

We had better wake up to see that we Baptists have always been people of the book, and the greatest theological debates baptists have ever had (and won) are with people who put their creeds above the Bible.

How ironic that we seem to be moving in the same direction as our opponents of centuries past?

I believe the Bible. I respect what you believe the Bible says, but I will see it for myself before I agree, and if what you say the Bible says does not line up with what the Bible actually says, then I will take the Bible over your opinion.



Alan Cross said...

It is ironic to me that the BF&M2000 is ascribed to when it is useful and is ignored when it is not (i.e., the IMB policies that go BEYOND the BF&M, yet many do not have a problem with that). This is all about personalities and following our leaders, in my opinion.

There is a certain fundamentalist school of thought that is adhered to whether it is logical or not. The party line is what is being advocated here, not the BF&M2000. If that were the case, the same people who are now arguing would have been upholding the BF&M2000 as the basis for our cooperation earlier when the IMB went BEYOND it. Now that it can be used effectively in a debate about communion, they are suddenly advocating the integrity of the BF&M2000. This type of flip-flopping makes me think that the whole document is useless.

Is the BF&M2000 our confession of faith or not?

In theological matters, is it sufficient to be our guide in matters of cooperation?

Are SBC agencies free to ADD to the BF&M and come up with another basis for cooperation on theolgical matters?

Are they free to TAKE AWAY from the BF&M and come up with another basis for cooperation on theological matters?

If it is o.k. to ADD theological policies to our SBC missions agencies that go BEYOND the BF&M2000, then why in the world are you now PARSING the BF&M to exclude participation based on interpretation of that document? You can't have it both ways. Either the BF&M means something as a guide for cooperation or it does not.

This is becoming absurd, but I am sure that I will be told that I am wrong and just didn't understand what was said.

Wes Kenney said...


I don't know if you are addressing my argument here or not, but to be clear, it isn't my intent to be "PARSING the BF&M to exclude participation." I'm simply pointing out what I see as an inconsistency between affirming a practice of open communion while at the same time claiming agreement with the BF&M.

I've tried to clarify and expand on this in a post on my blog today.

Stephen Pruett said...

I reject the notion that by disfavoring further exclusion from SBC service, I am in the left wing of the SBC. If conservatives favor tradition and Baptist tradition emphasizes the priesthood of every believer and the autonomy of the local church, I would suggest that I am in the right wing as a conservative and those favoring expanding exclusion are in the left wing as revolutionary Baptists who are turning a confession of faith into a creed which does take precedence over conscience (regardless of the preamble) and even using interpretations beyond the confession of faith to exclude Baptists from service.

Having said all that, please understand, I do not want to label you or anyone else. Nor do I appreciate having my opinion on exclusion labeled left-wing. I just returned from visiting 8 of the 225 persons who have made professions of faith in our church in the last 4 weeks to encourage them to follow through with Baptism and church membership. Would that make me left-wing or right-wing? My point is the important stuff is seldom included in the labels, so labels are just a distraction and a way to identify "my side" and "their side".

I also disagree with your characterization of the idea that churches may be excluded at some point as propaganda. Missionaries have been excluded and seminary Professors have been exluded on the basis of the B F & M 2000. Now missionaries have been excluded on the basis of more restrictive rules that are not present in the B F & M. It may seem like propaganda to you, but to me it seems like objective evidence for a trend toward an exclusionary attitude and actions. Now that this has started, how long can it be until the proponents of exclusion expand the exlusions to cover Trustees and Staff of SBC agencies? The bizarre situation of an agency led by a person who would be excluded as a missionary seems like something excluders would want to address quickly. There would be a little more inertia to overcome in applying exclusions to churches, because Baptists have traditionally believed in the autonomy of the local church. However, this has been subverted to some degree already by the refusal of the IMB to accept the determination by local churches that missionary candidates have been validly baptized. Thus, it would not surprise me at all to find the idea of exluding churches gradually creeping into discussions, then resolutions, then rules. Hopefully, I am wrong, but I think there is enough objective evidence to indicate it is not propaganda but extrapolation.

JFC said...

About whether the BFM requires closed communion ...

Nobody seems to be talking about what the BFM is trying to do when it defines baptism. Is it saying that immersion of believers is the only baptism that exists, or is it saying that it is the only proper baptism that exists, and therefore the only one practiced by baptist churches? The same question can be raised regarding the definition of the church: A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers. Is that saying that anything else is not a church at all, or not a proper church? I think most baptists believe that anything else is not a proper church (i.e. it has defects), but I have a hard time believing that most baptists believe that these defects are of such magnitude that no non-baptist body is a church. As the London Confession, 1689 stated: The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. There is, then, a distinction between being a church, yet having error, and (on the other hand) being no church at all.

Those who claim that the definition of baptism would then require closed communion, if applying the same interpretive grid to the definition of church, would have to say that a non-baptist church is no church at all (making it a synagogue of Satan). I expect that Wade doesn't think this is the intent of the BFM. Rather, a non-baptist church can still be a church, even if it has defects. Similarly, a non-baptist baptism may be defective, but still be enough of a baptism to get the person into the Meal. (Otherwise, to be consistent, we ought to decry them eating even in their own churches ... uh, synagogues of Satan.)

Finally, lest anyone misunderstand, I don't hold to the BFM positions on either baptism, or the church (so I'm no longer in the baptist tent.) But I still love my brothers in the SBC.

foxofbama said...

I remember Russ Moore came down to speak to Alabama Baptist Conservatives about 98 or so and roundly condemned my friend Vicki Covington who was a visiting prof at Samford U.
Moore is one more piece of work. I think your excerpts just add to the growing conclusion on Southern in the Mohler/ Moore era: "God is not in this place."
that comes from Barry hankins great work Uneasy in Babylon and is the sentiment of two card carrying conservatives with a conscience Carey newman and David Gushee, the latter the poff at Union in Jackson and frequent contributor to Christianity Today.
Go to the Index and look up Newman and Gushee's shortlived experience under Mohler's "Covenant" 94 or so.
Kuo's book on the charade in the Rove, Delay, Abramoff sham Richard Land was a key player in ought to give you a clue what you fellows have been unwittingly for the most part complicitous in the last several years.
I know it hurts, but now may be the time for you as it was for Daniel Vestal as he took a walk around the Pool in Nashville circling for about an hour with Cecil Sherman during the Peace Committee days as Cecil laid out for him what Adrian, Paige and Pressler had been up to.
Until that time a naive Vestal kept saying: "I can't believe it, I cannot believe it."
Gushee and Newman's testimony is they were at the mercy of SBC's own mano dura("iron fist"); what they named the Firm.
IMB is up against it now, and you two Wade and anybody who dares dissent from the Dominionist influenced powers that run the SBC.
Stephen Fox
Collinsville, Alabama