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January 08, 2006

Interesting Post on Baptism and Churches

I've been thinking a lot about the whole Bethlehem Baptist Church paedo/credobaptist controversy, especially now that the controversial measure has been withdrawn by the elders. I read the new position statement that's on the church's site, and was especially drawn to this paragraph:

“The elders realize that the issue cannot be dropped because the majority of the elders still favor the motion, including almost all the pastoral staff, and because that conviction puts most of the elders and staff in conflict with at lease [sic] one literal reading of the Bethlehem Affirmation of Faith. Our Affirmation of Faith defines the local church as follows: ‘We believe in the local church, consisting of a company of believers in Jesus Christ, baptized on a credible profession of faith, and associated for worship, work, and fellowship.’ In the most narrow reading, this definition would mean that a Gospel-preaching Presbyterian Church, for example, is not a church. Most of us do not believe that. So at least there are explicit clarifications that we believe we should make in the present Affirmation of Faith. In view of these things, we will be praying and thinking and discussing various ways to move forward together as a church.”
(emphasis added)

Interesting -- especially the part I emphasized. I have friends who are Presbyterian -- can I consider them members of Biblical churches? If not, what are they? Apostate?

I stumbles across the blog of Kevin Bauder today. He is the president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and has written a few pieces on the controversy at Bethlehem. He has an interesting perspective on this issue.

Suppose we offer a definition of a dog that includes the word “quadruped.” Now, imagine a dog that has had a leg severed. Does it still qualify as a dog? The answer has to be yes, but it is now a mutilated dog.

Of course, charity would preclude our using the word “mutilated” of a gospel-preaching pedobaptist church. What most Baptists would say is that the Bethlehem definition identifies a church “when fully organized.” On this (majority) understanding, a pedobaptist congregation may be a church, but is not a fully organized church.

It goes without saying that credobaptists and pedobaptists each think that the other is not fully obedient to the requirements of Scripture. If pedobaptists thought of infant baptism as an indifferent or minor matter, then they would simply go along with credobaptists. The reverse is also true. The reason that they maintain separate churches is because both think that baptism is too important a matter to finesse. For the most part, however, neither party is prepared to unchurch the other.

I like this perspective. I think it allows both sides to keep their own Biblical interpretation of Baptism while still cooperating with each other in many ways. I hope the elders at Bethlehem are listening.

Posted by Warren Kelly at January 8, 2006 02:51 PM | TrackBack
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