Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Look who wouldn't qualify under the new IMB guidelines

Herschael York has weighed in on the IMB controversy, decidedly defending the trustees' decision to require baptism in a Southern Baptist church or at least a church that practices only believers' baptism and also believes in eternal security.

York, teaches preaching at Southern Seminary and serves as pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church. He is the former pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, a church that for years published and distributed JM Carroll's The Trail of Blood, the historically dubious case for Landmarkism.

His are the first arguments that I have read in defense of the new guidelines, although he deals exclusively with the change in the baptism requirement. I appreciate reading something of substance in support of the trustees' actions.

York makes some wonderful comments about baptist beliefs on baptism--beliefs that, to my knowledge, are not in dispute in the IMB controversy. He defends baptism as a church ordinance and warns against some of the prevailing, abysmal views of what constitutes a local church. None of this, however, lends much support to his conclusion that the IMB policy represents both "the historic Baptist understanding" and "Scriptural teaching" regarding baptism. In the language of British jurisprudence, I find his claim "not proved."

What I find particularly strange are his assertions and implications that the reason this is even a controversy is because most pastors today are biblically and historically ignorant when it comes to baptism. For example, here are some of his comments (emphasis added):

"Since the policy clarified by the Board is neither innovative nor more restrictive than the Bible itself, Southern Baptists should find it completely unremarkable."

"In all candor, the controversy that has erupted over this policy is nothing less than stunning and probably reflects decades of neglect of Baptist ecclesiology.
Few pastors today have a historical or a biblical understanding of this ordinance, perhaps because Southern Baptist seminaries have not required ecclesiology and failed to teach it. This policy is one that would not have raised a question fifty years ago, and certainly not when the Southern Baptist Convention was founded."

"The greater worry is what underlies the strong objections to this policy. Are they raised because we now deny what Southern Baptists have always held? Do we now understand our founders to be provincial and not as enlightened as we? Or are the objections because we have fallen prey to the age and find it uncomfortable to set doctrinal parameters in general?"

The question still remains, why was the doctrine of eternal security elevated above all other doctrines and singled out as the one doctrine to which a church must hold in order to offer a valid baptism? Is the IMB suggesting that eternal security is more important than the Deity of Christ or the Trinity of God? If not, then why was it alone chosen as the doctrinal litmus test?

The new IMB guidelines says that if a man was baptized in a Freewill Baptist church then his baptism is invalid, or at least not valid enough to serve as a missionary with the IMB.

Here is something to think about and it comes straight out of our Baptist "historical understanding of this ordinance." Those who accept this newly invented benchmark must judge several of our Baptist forefathers as "unbaptized." Among these are the notable leaders Abraham Booth (1736-1806) and Benjamin Keach (c1640-1704).

Do Southern Baptists really want to be on record saying that the baptism of these great Baptist leaders was unbiblical? Are we willing to say that they would not be acceptable candidates for our mission board? And will anyone doubt the ecclesiological or biblical understanding of these two Baptist giants when it comes to the subject of baptism?


Ray Van Neste said...

Great points, Tom. I too thought York's response did not get to the real issue of concern. The info on Keach is very pertinent!

Steve said...

Very helpful Tom. I linked to it here.

Theo said...

Immersion indeed pictures eternal security. Notice what Spurgeon said about baptism representing a permanent burial of the old life:

“The next thought in baptism is burial. Death comes first, and burial follows. Now, what is burial, brethren? Burial is, first of all, the seal of death; it is the certificate of decease. ‘Is such a man dead?’ say you. Another answers, ‘Why, dear sir, he was buried a year ago.’ There have been instances of persons being buried alive, and I am afraid that the thing happens with sad frequency in baptism, but it is unnatural, and by no means the rule. I fear that many have been buried alive in baptism, and have therefore risen and walked out of the grave just as they were. But if burial is true, it is a certificate of death. If I am able to say in very truth, ‘I was buried with Christ thirty years ago,’ I must surely be dead. Certainly the world thought so, for not long after my burial with Jesus I began to preach his name, and by that time the world thought me very far gone, and said, ‘He stinketh.’. . . I may sin, but sin can never have dominion over me; I may be a transgressor and wander much from my God, but never can I go back to the old death again. When my Lord's grace got hold of me, and buried me, he wrought in my soul the conviction that henceforth and for ever I was to the world a dead man. I am right glad that I made no compromise, but came right out. I have drawn the sword, and thrown away the scabbard. Tell the world they need not try to fetch us back, for we are spoiled for them as much as if we were dead. All they could have would be our carcasses. Tell the world not to tempt us any longer, for our hearts are changed. Sin may charm the old man who hangs there upon the cross, and he may turn his leering eye that way, but he cannot follow up his glance, for he cannot get down from the cross: the Lord has taken care to use the mallet well, and he has fastened his hands and feet right firmly, so that the crucified flesh must still remain in the place of doom and death. Yet the true, the genuine life within us cannot die, for it is born of God; neither can it abide in the tombs, for its call is to purity and joy and liberty; and to that call it yields itself.”


Michael Spencer said...

Thank you Tom.

Ky Baptists know this "Trail" all too well, as dees SBTS. What are we doing back on it?

GeneMBridges said...

Tom, I already know how Professor York will respond to the citation of Keech and Booth. He will write them off as not being Southern Baptists. For York, the issue is what Southern Baptists believed, not what Baptists in general have believed.

Now, lots can be said on that alone.

For example, in the meta on his blog, York conflates what KY Baptists have always affirmed with what Southern Baptists have always affirmed.

First, John L. Waller disagreed with what York believes KY Baptists affirmed, and he and Graves openly disagreed in their respective newspapers.

Second, to base a policy on what Southern Baptists have allegedly always believes calls out images of Vatican 1 and the Council of Trent calling on "the unanimous consent of the Fathers."

Third, notice in a comment about Wade Burleson, he chastises him for appealing to John Gill for his blog post on baptism. He writes off Dr. Gill as a British Baptist, as if that's somehow unworthy of referral.

Why is that not good enough for Professor York? It was good enough for John L. Dagg:

Dr. Gill called infant baptism "a part and pillar of popery," and we may justly call the dogma of Dr. Griffin a part and pillar of infant baptism. If the true universal church is spiritual, comprising all the regenerate and no others; and if local churches are temporary associations of persons belonging to the universal church, no place is found in either for unregenerate infants. But when baptism is made the door of entrance, instead of regeneration, a way of entrance is opened for infants.

--So, in writing off an appeal to Gill, he rejects John L. Dagg! How ironic!

I'd add that Dagg's point in the above section is that regeneration, not baptism, is the entrance of a person into the church. Baptism is merely entrance into a local church. He goes on to insinuate that indexing baptism to the authority of ministers to preach the gospel freely to all is itself a form of a sarcedotal priesthood,through the further indexing of baptism to a particular administrator and the Landmarks are simply doing baptism by a different form but with some of the same purposes as Rome herself. In other words, they are guilty of the same general area, carried out in a different manner.

I'd also add that Dagg saves the best for last, for as I read him, I had to laugh a little. Remember, the Baptist successionists traced their lineage to John the Baptist. Here's what Dagg had to say about that:

John the Baptist, who preached by divine authority, at the beginning of the present dispensation, was unbaptized; and, after the dispensation had been established by the exaltation of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, Saul of Tarsus was called to preach the gospel while unbaptized. Cases now occur in which persons who undergo examination in order to ordination, refer their convictions of duty with reference to the ministry, to a period anterior to their baptism; and no ordaining presbytery would be justified in denying the possibility of a call by the Holy Spirit, while the subject of it was unbaptized. He who calls the unbaptized to repentance and faith, has the power and right to call them to the ministry also, if it is his pleasure. God has never bound himself in any manner to require none but baptized persons to preach his word; and we have no right to limit the Holy One of Israel. In our view, the bestowment of ministerial grace and qualifications by the Holy Spirit, indicates the divine will: if not as certainly as it would be indicated by a voice from heaven, yet we cannot resist the conviction which it brings to our minds. When God speaks from heaven, or otherwise clearly indicates his will, we know nothing but reverence and submission.

One wonders who baptized John the Baptist. Wouldn't any baptism he had have been by his Jewish parents via a mikvah? That's not exactly, "believer's baptism by immersion" in the NT sense, is it? His point is simple. There is no record of John's baptism. How then could the successionist deny the validity of credobaptism or gospel preaching authority to a paedobaptist minister and legitmately trace his history to John? The chain of credo-baptism was started by a man, assuming Carroll's thesis is correct, who was either unbaptized or received a Jewish mikvah for a baptism!

GeneMBridges said...


I agree. Baptism does picture eternal security...but the BFM does not say so, and we are told that indexing baptism to eternal security is a historic Southern Baptist belief. Eternal security, I would argue is validly the majority's position both now and in the past. However, indexing baptism to the affirmation of eternal security in our own churches or in receiving members from other churches, I would argue is NOT a historic Southern Baptist belief that is believed by the majority.

Those that affirm this assert that if we accept persons baptized by said churches, we are accepting members of churches that are not of like faith and order, since Article V of the BFM spells out our position on eternal security.

a. Not all churches in the SBC ascribe to the BFM in any fashion. Some use other confessions. Others have none. Others have crafted their own.

b. Not all SBC churches ascribe to eternal security.

The question at hand, specifically, is "Is belief in eternal security by the administrator of the ordinance, viz. the baptizing church itself, necessary for the baptism of a given individual for baptism to be valid?" For that matter does the baptismal candidate also have to affirm that doctrine in order to be baptized. It would seem strange to mandate the one but not the other affirm eternal security.

I answer "No." I agree with John L. Dagg. Regeneration, not baptism, is the entrance of the believer into the church, and conversion, not belief in a particular conceptual explanation of the phenomenology of salvation is in view. Baptism signifies entrance into local church membership, but the ordinance is not meant to reflect identification with the full range of doctrines in a church's covenant. Moreover, no board of Missions has the right to dictate to a local church with respect to the validity of the baptism of members whose baptism they themselves have recognized.

That is where the Landmarkist idea runs afoul of its own ecclesiology. They say that local church authority over the members of others does not extend beyond its own discipline, yet they implicitly exceed that belief if they wish to use a Missions Board in such a manner.

The logic required to sustain such a position is complex and ultimately would lead to hyper-Calvinism.

The logic of saying eternal security is the doctrine to which to look to determine if John Smith Missions Candidate needs to be rebaptized looks something like this:

If a person believes he can lose his salvation, it follows he is denies Sola Fide.

Hence, he believes in salvation by works.

Hence, he is unregenerate.

Hence any ecclesiastical body formed by such persons cannot, by definition, constitute a true church, since they are all unregenerate, since Baptist ecclesiology, at a minimum demands a regenerate membership.

Hence one or more of the following is true:

(a) when John Smith was first baptized, he affirmed this same doctrine and must therefore be re-baptized now if he affirms it (since he now affirms Sola Fide and is thus to be considered regenerate)


(b) baptism, to be valid, must be performed by a regenerate Christian, an elder in a local church to be specific, so his baptism was invalid, even if John Smith himself, at that time, affirmed Sola Fide and perseverance of the saints


(c) Even if the baptizing elder in the Arminian church had changed his doctrine and believed in eternal security when he baptized John Smith, his baptism is not valid for the same reason as (b) if he was baptized in an Arminian church, and thus, his eldership is invalid, since he was not validly baptized.

In addition to this...

Consider this:

What logically underwrites the doctrine of eternal security?

Well…a synergist who denies irresistible grace will say that man’s faith is a response to the Spirit’s “wooing” not His effacious work. This is an idea the rest of us have continually complained is illogical. Perseverance of the saints/ eternal security requires effacious grace, for it is because saving faith is the gift of God arising from effectual drawing that keeps our faith from dying and enables us to persevere to the end and bear fruit in sanctification until the end.

Likewise, a consistent Calvinist will say that particular atonement underwrites effacious grace, and, even if we allow for an Amyradian view of the atonement here, irresistble grace must be underwritten, at a minimum, by unconditional election, which must logically be underwritten by total depravity…and only in the sense in the Reformed confessions and theologies for these, not in the Norman Geisler, Dave Hunt, Adrian Rogers, Paige Patterson, etc. soteriology so prevalent in this Convention.

My point here is that I, as a Reformed person, could point out with a laundry list of theology and exegesis behind me that one cannot hold to eternal security and Sola Fide consistently without these other constructs, using the same logic that this individual has offered us, because, if the final decision lies with man and faith arises from man in a state of unregeneracy (by definition synergistic), then I have implicitly treated faith as a work, not as a gift of God underwritten by effacious grace.

So, I say I affirm Sola Fide, but I have to deny Sola Gracia to get there, for, on this view, the work of God is limited to the cross. Arminianism puts election and regeneration after conversion itself and thus outside the work of grace. Neither the work of the Father (election), nor the work of the Spirit (regeneration) are links in a golden chain which effect a state of grace. Election and regeneration fall outside the grace of God, for they do not create or contribute to a state of grace. On this view, the grace of God is limited to the work of Christ. And it is up to man in a state of nature to respond to the Gospel of Christ.

If grace itself does not underwrite my faith, then, according to the logic that says what is true conceputally is necessarily true practically, then I have believed falsely for I have made my faith a work of merit at the conceptual level. This is, in fact, the classic Reformed objection to synergism, because even though it claims that prevenient grace helps us, it is still up to us, so faith still arises within us. Moreover, election is made contingent on what we have done, and this is implicitly salvation by merit, since God bases His election on foreseen faith. So, even if I believe Sola Fide, on this view, I have treated faith as a work at least implicitly, even if I affirm eternal security.

So, in the end, the only consistent position to hold would be that Calvinists and only 5 point Calvinists are Christians on this basis, because we and only we affirm all the necessary logical points to effectively underwrite Sola Fide and Sola Gracia. This means Paige Patterson isn’t saved and Adrian Rogers is in hell.

Now, the truth is that what is true at the conceptual level is not true practically for Arminians. You don’t see them arguing that they saved themselves nor implying that is the case. I do find it inconsistent at the conceptual level not to do so, but that’s not what I’ve found to be in their minds, nor is it in their preaching. In fact, consistent classical Arminians say that prevenient grace (a concept NOT consistently articulated in the 4 point Arminianism/moderate Calvinism of this convention) underwrites saving faith by enabling the potential convert to appropriate it if he wants to do so. This is all in the Opinions of the Remonstrance, which no Arminian and no critic of Arminianism seems to ever remember to read these days.

Now, does that still make it a matter of self? Yes, it does, but they are careful to state that it is grace that brings them to that point, and that, apart from the gospel and prevenient grace, men cannot believe. They apostatize in the same manner, just in reverse. The individual above simply doesn’t understand how prevenient grace functions within Arminian soteriology; he seems to only grasp what modern Arminians have said, but Arminianism is, itself, widely varied in its approach to these matters. Unless presumptive perseverance, ala Finney’s views, are in mind, then the person is not a Pelagian. If not a Pelagian, and I would argue a real semi-Pelagian (man’s effort is placed before grace) they are within the realm of orthodoxy, as Arminianism puts grace before man’s effort and says it depends on that grace. Its just not effacious grace.

I would also add that the anti-Calvinists in this Convention, if they caught wind of it, would use the ideas of this group to fuel the fires in this Convention by pointing to legitmate hyper-Calvinism and imputing, very likely, this idea to the rest of this. They would be correct in calling this hyper-Calvinism! It MUST be made very clear by the Reformed folk in this Convention that we do NOT believe this notion.

Oh, and, Tom, I understand Professor York dislikes being identified with Landmarkism. As I replied to him on the Missional Baptist blog, he may say that, but his list of questions about what Baptists can or can't do or should or shouldn't do is a close paraphrase of J.R. Graves' 5 questions in the Cotten Grove Resolutions of 1851. To be blunt, he may deny the association, but Professor York speaks the language quite fluently in my opinion.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Get a Blog, Gene!:-)
Great stuff guys. The more I read of the arguments in favor of these policies, the more they look like Landmarkism. I enjoyed reading Wade Burleson's response to York in the comments of York's blog. He really seems to know his stuff.

joethorn.net said...

Thank you Tom. Great words. I have so far found the proponents of the policies are not really responding to the expressed concerns many of us have, but are often building and beating down straw men.

steve w said...

Well said Tom. You ask, "Do Southern Baptists really want to be on record saying that the baptism of these great Baptist leaders was unbiblical?"

My response is that if a majority of the IMB trustees have no problem creating a policy that bars the President of the IMB from serving as a missionary, I do not see why they would have any problem claiming some of our great Baptist forefathers were not biblically baptized.

Tony said...

Thanks Tom for the further insight into his issue. I struggle with a couple things the first being that while I may agree or disagree with the new guidelines for the IMB I do think the IMB has the right to have a more restrictive policy than churches themselves may hold to. This is not unlike churches having membership hold to a less restrictive view of a Statement of Faith than say the elders or other leaders. So for the IMB to be more restrictive would appear to be their prerogative even if I may agree or disagree with those restriction.

My greater concern is with the whole idea that where one stood at baptism or where they were baptized is what defines everything, or that is what it appears to be saying. Does one have to have a perfect understanding of theology to be baptized and if one does not do we have to be re-baptized as our theology develops. If a person is baptized with an incorrect view of “eternal security” due to being taught incorrectly does that negate baptism?

I agree with comments with regards to asking why “eternal security” was chosen as a litmus test over say the trinity or some other aspect of theology. I do think that ones understanding of “perseverance of the saints” is important, but is it the most important? I would say that there are probably non-southern Baptist churches that are more stringent on baptism than Southern Baptists. Southern Baptists seem to dunk someone at the drop of a prayer without ever knowing what that person truly believes or understands about their salvation. So is that person qualified for missionary work simply because they were baptized in the right place and by the right person over others.

Is not the important thing what a person believes when they are being reviewed for the IMB? There may be issues that would require “re-baptism” as I know that in my own life I realized that I was not truly saved when I was first baptized so saw a need to baptized again. It was not truly a re-baptism since the first time was truly on a public bath. There are those that may have been baptized “correctly” but now hold to some aberrant theology or have significantly changed there views so where does that put them?

So, I do not think having a more restrictive policy for those being sent out into the field is a bad thing it is how it is administered and what those restrictions are that truly matters. Any sending agency should have a right to make sure that those they send out who are representing Christ are doing so in a manner that that agency feel is correct. I pray that this is all worked out in a manner worthy of Christ and that in figuring this all out God is gloried in the final decision.

Scripture Searcher said...

All I desire to post today is my gratitude to God for the growing number of Berean-like SCRIPTURE SEARCHERS that (in my seventh decade) I am discovering across the Southern Baptist Convention.

Many I think have been around a long time but have been given by God new courage and fresh boldness in recent years to speak and write the truth in love.

Some have discovered and make excellent contributions on this stimulating blog originated by a beardless, balding
"brave heart" from Beaumont, Texas named Thomas.

Great gratitude to our sovereign Lord and many thanks to all - I pray the contributors will continue and that many others will join their ranks!

Persevere, brethen!!

Hershael W York said...

Tom, your argument about Keach et al reminds me of Alistair Begg's reason for no longer insisting on immersion, either. Could he really deny membership to Lloyd-Jones? The emotion of it was too much, so he relented on his church's former position. Piper's reasons are much the same.

For me the question is this: Did the church of the New Testament hold to believers' baptism by immersion? Did it hold to eternal security? Did it hold to salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone? If there is wiggle room in those doctrines, then there is wiggle room in baptism. But if that is what the church of the Lord Jesus looks like in the NT, then that is what it should look like today.

And the only reason I don't like being identified as a Landmarker is that usually connotes organic successionism which I have never accepted and it usually focuses on the Baptist name. I believe that baptism has a doctrinal component, that the administrator matters as well as the candidate and the purpose of that baptism.

And I stand by my statement that few pastors have ever been challenged to think through these issues because we don't really talk much ecclesiology in the seminaries. If nothing else, this discussion is very healthy because it makes us think about the importance of the ordinances.

Blessings on you, my brother.

Sojourner said...

Pastor York,

I appreciate you coming here and commenting on this issue. I am in agreement with you on the fact that we have not been taught ecclesiology or are not teaching ecclesiology in our churches or our seminaries.

I disagree with the 'eternal security' issue of the new baptismal policy of the IMB. I, for one, would appreciate very much to hear you explain what you mean when you say that the "administrator" matters in baptism. After that, I'd like to know what other doctrinal requirements (outside of the Trinity and immersion) you believe are essential for legitimate baptism. These, I believe, are the questions we need to have answered.

Tom said...


I find it strange that you would compare my appeal to Benjamin Keach and Abraham Booth to Begg's appeal to Lloyd-Jones. Begg is (I think) a baptistic pastor of a non-denominational church. Lloyd-Jones was a Welsh Methodist pastor of a church that was part of the Congregational Union and later the FIEC. I am a Baptist pastor of a Baptist church appealing Baptist forefathers (respected, studied and defenders of the Baptist faith, I might add) who pastored Baptist churches in previous generations. Both Keach and Booth were converted and baptized in Arminian churches and later came to different theological convictions. Yet to my knowledge no credible Baptist minister or church ever asserted that their baptism was not valid. The fact that the IMB trustees have taken a position that would declare otherwise puts them out of step with our Baptist heritage.

Your analogy is invalid and therefore the attempt to dismiss my argument as "emotional" is unconvincing. and My appeal was not emotional at all, but historical--the very ground that you attempted to assert belongs to you and the trustees of the IMB in the new baptism policy. When you claim to have all of Baptist history and heritage on your side in this debate you are inviting further historical analysis. Keach and Booth are two witnesses that contradict your assertion. If you are going to dismiss them then you must discredit them as being less than Baptist. If you, or any other of the trustees' defenders are willing to do that, I would like to see it.

I appreciate your comment that for you "the question is this: Did the church of the New Testament hold to believers' baptism by immersion? Did it hold to eternal security? Did it hold to salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone? If there is wiggle room in those doctrines, then there is wiggle room in baptism. But if that is what the church of the Lord Jesus looks like in the NT, then that is what it should look like today."

I would answer your questions, yes, yes, and yes. But that is not the issue. There are many other questions that could be asked and answered yes. For example: Did they believe in the Trinity of God? Did they believe in the deity of Christ? Did they believe in heaven? Hell? etc. etc. I know you would agree that they did. Then why not specifically link these doctrines--and all others that we can identify as inherent to our Baptist heritage--as necessary to validate baptism?

I even think that there is another set of questions that could be asked about the "church of the New Testament" in the same vein as your three:

Did they believe in unconditional election? Did they believe in and practice church discipline? Did they believe in plurality of elders?

My answers to these questions are yes, yes and yes. I assume that you would answer yes to at least 2 of them. If my assumption is corrrect, then are you willing to say that a local church that does not agree is not really a church? At least not a baptist church?

You and I are in full agreement when you say, "But if that is what the church of the Lord Jesus looks like in the NT, then that is what it should look like today." Amen. AMEN! Are you suggesting, then, that those churches that do not look like the "church of the Lord Jesus in the NT" in faith and practice should not be allowed to send missionaries through the IMB? If so, and if this were enforced, the ranks of candidates would shrink dramatically. We can discuss this further if you care to do so.

I don't pretend to know all or even much of the thinking of all those who oppose the IMB's new guidelines. From where I sit, however, I do not see any of those who are raising questions doing so out of any desire to reject our Baptist heritage or downplay biblical doctrines. I think--and I gather that there are at least a few others who agree--that the IMB's innovative baptism policy was simply a bad, ill-advised move that is biblically indefensible (apart from a Landmarkist hermeneutic) and historically problematic.

I also think that pastors are not alone in not having thought through these kinds of issues very much. It appears that denominational servants at every level of the SBC--including the trustees of the IMB--would fall into that category, as well.

Thanks for your comments. The dialogue is helpful. Press on in your good work!

Alex F said...

For what its worth... I'm enjoying this discussion. I think York is correct in saying that much good could come from this discussion if it causes us to search the Scriptures and think through ecclesiology.

GeneMBridges said...

I have responded at length to Dr. York and Dr. Caner here:


Dr. York, let's be crystal clear here.

a. Nobody argues that we should accept paedobaptised persons.

b. Nobody argues we should accept Campbellites.

c. Ergo those two pillars of your argument are simply red herrings. It would be helpful if you would actually deal with the issues your interlocuters have raised.

d. The issue here is not baptism for local church membership. Nobody disagrees with that.

e. The issue here is the indexing of baptism to the doctrine of eternal security.

Does the BFM make this connection?

Will you seriously argue that a majority of Southern Baptists affirm that the Assemblies of God and General Baptist churches (those who disaffirm eternal security) are not true churches?

If you cite history as if it is somehow universally on your side, please account for John L. Dagg. He said a man's call to ministry flows not from his baptism, but his membership in the universal church itself and that non-credo Baptist ministers should be esteemed and honored for their work just as any other, including those who leave us to join with PaedoBaptist communions.

You cite the history of KY Baptists as if it is universally on your side, yet it was John L. Waller, the editor of your own KY Baptist paper who argued for 2 full years with J.R. Graves over these issues in a war of editorials between their two newspapers.

Can you cite any Southern Baptist theologian who has indexed believe in eternal security by the baptizing church (not simply the believer himself) to a valid baptism?

For that matter how does a belief in eternal security guarnantee anything about what the believer himself believed when he was baptized? If our churches are baptizing unregenerates on a regular basis as it is, then how do you know what is in the heart of the candidate with respect to the doctrine of eternal security when baptized? One would think that one so concerned with water ceremonies as you would be equally concerned about that.

What about all the other doctrines that underwrite eternal security? Are they less essential than eternal security?

Are you saying that to deny eternal security is to deny Sola Fide? Is disaffirmation of it a damnable doctrine? That would rule out the salvation of the Arminian rejecting eternal security would it not?

If so, what is the logic behind this? What Baptist theologian has ever called an evangelical Arminian "unregenerate?"

These, Dr. York, are the questions to answer. It's not about receiving paedobaptized or Campellite baptism. I've not seen anybody objecting on that basis. The issue is the indexing of baptism to eternal security. When you can make an argument on those grounds, then please, let us know.

Stuart said...

I'm actually not enjoying the "discussion" as much as you. I find it incredibly frustrating that those arguing in favor of the new policies have yet to answer any of the actual questions/complaints that have been raised aobut the new policies.

Instead, they accuse others of having a low view of the local church, of not knowing ecclesiology, and of being "half-way covenant boys", etc. Helpful illustrations like the ones Tom offers are dismissed with by "analogies" that aren not even analagous. One state editor characterizes those who question the new policies as believing in "biblical inerrancy" but not "biblical sufficiency."

You'll all please forgive me if strawmen and ad hominem attacks dressed up in the language of "healthy discussion" doesn't leave me hopeful.

steve w said...

Stuart and all,
If the papers are allowing people to get away with building straw men, we MUST call them on it. Write letters, send emails, make phone calls. If you find a one-sided article, or an article that accepts unsubstantiated generalizations and ad hominem attacks, spread the word on the blogs so we can contact them. We cannot deal with it only on blogs -- we cannot we be silent to the writers and editors.

Nathan said...

As a great respecter of both Drs. Ascol and York, and as someone with a vested interest in contemporary SBC life, I appreciate that the issues are actually being debated. Too much of this controversy has centered around the whining of a few disenchanted bloggers with a chip on their shoulder, or the admonitions from SBC leaders to stick with the party line. Its nice to see some real debate, something that the popular blogs refuse to engage in (despite their strident claims to the controversy) and the SBC leadership is afraid of.

Theo said...

Gene, Article VII of the 2000 BF&M says the following:

"Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper."

How it is applicable to the new policy:

1. The 2000 BF&M indicates that baptism is a church ordinance and a public testimony. Thus, it is more than an individual exercise. There is a group aspect to it. The old policy looked at the candidate's view of the baptism and whether or not an SBC church accepted that view. So, a person could be immersed in a Church of Christ and accepted as a missionary by the IMB if that person said that he or she did not view it as regenerative and if an SBC church accepted him or her as a member with only the Church of Christ immersion. When a person is immersed in a Church of Christ setting, however, the public testimony (the group aspect) is flawed. The testimony, whether the person baptized agrees or not, is that immersion is a requirement for salvation.

2. The 2000 BF&M indicates that baptism pictures the believer's death to sin and burial of the old life. As Spurgeon's quote in my first post showed, the burial aspect is important. It is obviously not a temporary burial; rather, it is a permanent burial that represents eternal security. An immersion in a setting where the group authorizing the baptism does not believe in eternal security is flawed. The once-for-all-time burial symbolism is lost.

farmboy said...

Though I’ve been a self described Reformed Baptist for approximately five years, I’m relatively new to Southern Baptist life, having moved to Texas just this last May. From what I’ve read, all missionaries and individuals affiliated with the IMB are required to subscribe to the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM), and the BFM covers both eternal security and baptism. As I understand it, the BFM is the theological common ground for the churches that cooperate as part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Given this, isn’t the IMB unilaterally modifying this theological common ground? Is adding more specificity than what is contained in the BFM permissible? Liberal, moderate or conservative aren’t all churches (and individuals) who cooperate as part of the SBC duty and honor bound to abide by the BFM, adding nothing to and taking nothing from its content?
V. God's Purpose of Grace
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-8; 1 Samuel 8:4-7,19-22; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31ff.; Matthew 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Romans 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:10,19; Hebrews 11:39–12:2; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2.
VII. Baptism and the Lord's Supper
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.
The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.
Matthew 3:13-17; 26:26-30; 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; 14:22-26; Luke 3:21-22; 22:19-20; John 3:23; Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; 20:7; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:23-29; Colossians 2:12.

Jason Sampler said...


I hate to use your blog to call out a fellow commenter, but I really feal Nathan's most recent comments are both out of line and blatently untrue. I have commented on his blog, so I do not feel I am speaking publically regarding this issue before I speak privately. However, your readers need to know he is wrong in his comments.

First, he only stings mud by calling some bloggers (I assume I'm included in this) whiners with chips on our shoulders. That contributes exactly ZERO to this issue. Second, he is blatently false in his claim that you and Dr. York are the only two engaging the issues. I challenge Nathan to read my blog and then claim that I am not engaging the doctrinal, as well as historical, issues involved in this new policy.

I hope your readers realize how incorrect, at best, and ignorant, at worst, Nathan's comments are.

GeneMBridges said...

1. The 2000 BF&M indicates that baptism is a church ordinance and a public testimony. Thus, it is more than an individual exercise. There is a group aspect to it. The old policy looked at the candidate's view of the baptism and whether or not an SBC church accepted that view. So, a person could be immersed in a Church of Christ and accepted as a missionary by the IMB if that person said that he or she did not view it as regenerative and if an SBC church accepted him or her as a member with only the Church of Christ immersion. When a person is immersed in a Church of Christ setting, however, the public testimony (the group aspect) is flawed. The testimony, whether the person baptized agrees or not, is that immersion is a requirement for salvation.

A. Who is arguing for Campbellite baptism's validity? Nobody. Who is arguing for paedobaptism's validiity? Nobody. Your first point is a red herrring.
B. Let's just toy with this. If a person is baptized in said church because that is all that is available to him or he is ignorant himself I would say his baptism is quite valid if he comes to my church. Did he have faith in Christ alone and not baptismal regeneration when HE was baptised? If the answer is "yes," then that's a valid baptism for our church; ditto for a Free Will Baptist church. and I'm in a 1646 LBCF church! Why? Because, when he comes to us and tells us that he was baptized and this was the state of his heart and his understanding of his faith in Christ and that he didn't understand Campbellism or accept baptismal regeneration himself, he is, at that time testifying to me what was in his heart. THAT is the testimony of his baptism for entrance into MY church and MY community. Baptism is a public testimony of HIS faith and HIS conversion, not what the church itself believes. If there are 20 Campbellites visiting my church on a Sunday who think of baptismal regeneration when I baptize John Smith, will anybody seriously argue that John's baptism is invalid because, in the minds of the 20, they viewed it as a testimony that immersion is a requirement for salvation?

2. The 2000 BF&M indicates that baptism pictures the believer's death to sin and burial of the old life. As Spurgeon's quote in my first post showed, the burial aspect is important. It is obviously not a temporary burial; rather, it is a permanent burial that represents eternal security. An immersion in a setting where the group authorizing the baptism does not believe in eternal security is flawed. The once-for-all-time burial symbolism is lost.

I asked you in my article at Triablogue: What did Spurgeon say about Arminians? Did he reject their baptisms? The BFM has a doctrine of the universal church. Are those who reject eternal security part of the universal church?

4. The issue at stake here is twofold. Is eternal security a damnable doctrine? Must a believer believe in it when he is converted? When he is baptized? Where does the BFM say that Baptism in a Free Will Baptist church count as invalid? If disaffirmation of eternal security is not a damnable doctrine, why is baptism in a Free Will Baptist church invalid? On this John L. Dagg said that a credible profession of faith is what matters for the believer and the one administering his baptism is to make this the determinant as to the meaning of baptism.

5. You answer, "because of what baptism" symbolizes. Yes, it symbolizes that for the believer, but the only way to logically maintain that must be in the mind of administrator is to infer there is some sort of identification with the local church covenant that carries over into the believer. In NC, Campellites are few and far between. There are 3 small churches of them where I live and 1 larger one. That's it. The rest are either SBC, IFBx, RB, or Free Will Baptists. The concern we have about the policies is whether Free Will Baptists and Assemblies of God members must be rebaptized. We think not. I've given the logic for that in my articles elsewhere on this.

I'd add that the policy is not saying all the members of said churches are to be rebaptized, only those who are missionary candidates. This adds a third layer. From whence does one's call to ministry flow? The local church and baptism or regeneration? John L. Dagg answered "regeneration," not baptism. You need a supporting argument that the call to ministry flows from baptism.

6. If that's so, then many of us are baptized illegitmately today, for in the 19th century, many Baptists were baptized by paedobaptist Presbyterians and Free Will Baptists. John L. Waller put it this way:

If any link in the succession of baptism be broken, the most skillful spiritual smith under the whole heavens cannot mend the chain...An improper administrator twenty generations removed is fatal to the genuineness of the ordinance as such a one but one generation removed.

7. Dagg answered that good men will differ on this, and that no church was to impose its answer on another. He did say that if a person was refused admittance to one church but a second accepted him, this was perfectly valid. He said the original church could later require rebaptism if that same member wished to transfer there. However, nowhere is there any notion that churches are obligated to do this. Moreover, the issue at stake is a question asked by those who were questioning their baptisms. Dagg answers that if their conscience is offended, he would advise them to be rebaptized. So, for Dagg, this is a matter of conscience, not a matter of sectarian order. Moreover, since when did the IMB board get the authority to dictate baptismal policy to local churches? The board serves the churches. The churches do not serve them. The IMB board has no right to declare the credobaptism of any missions candidate invalid if a local church within the SBC is recommending them and that candidate can, as they must, affirm the doctrine of eternal security via their own affirmation of the BFM.

8. I'd add that if you wish to press the imagery of baptism to include the security of the believer, why not press all the other doctrines that underwrite eternal security into the ceremony? Why eternal security? Why not irrestistible grace? Unconditional election? Limited atonement? Eternal security is only the logical outcome if those doctrines are unwriting it's affirmation. Your argument works well...for hyper-Calvinism.

Theo said...

Gene, in discussing a hypothetical Church of Christ baptism you said,

“Baptism is a public testimony of HIS faith and HIS conversion, not what the church itself believes.”

If he made a public testimony in a Church of Christ that his baptism was not necessary for salvation, then his immersion would not be allowed to occur there. If he says nothing, then his Church of Christ immersion (intentionally or unintentionally on his part) presents an unbiblical testimony and is an unbiblical immersion.

I’m assuming that you agree with the 2000 BF&M. You didn’t deal with the part of Article VII of the 2000 BF&M that says that baptism is a church ordinance. It is more than an individual experience. There is a group aspect to it. A public testimony is given. Article VII cites Romans 6:3-5. When we observe the ordinance of baptism in SBC churches, we often hear verse 4 paraphrased: “Buried with Him in baptism unto death, raised to walk in newness of life.” I don't think the framers of the BF&M cited this passage by accident. Our one-time death, burial, and resurrection to eternal life are identified with Christ's one-time death, burial, and resurrection. The "one-timeness" of it points to eternal security. One time (and one time only) we receive eternal life. Church of Christ folks don't believe they have eternal life until after physical death. For them, baptism does not represent a one-time salvation event; rather, it represents one step of a long process in pursuit of the ultimate goal (eternal life). Notice what Alexander Campbell said about eternal life:

"To this ultimate and eternal salvation christians turn your eyes. It is nearer to you now than when you first believed and confessed the Lord. Imitate Paul who was willing to do any thing, suffer any thing, sacrifice every thing, that he might, 'by any means, attain to the resurrection of the dead.' This glorious resurrection is promised to all them who obey the great Captain of Salvation, and to none else: for he became the author of eternal salvation to all them, and to them only, who obey him--not only once, but to the end."

Alexander Campbell, "Confession Unto Salvation," The Millennial Harbinger, vol. 1, no. 1, Jan. 4, 1830 (Nashville: The Harbinger Book Club, 1950), pages 30-31.

Gene, you said,

“When he comes to us and tells us that he was baptized and this was the state of his heart and his understanding of his faith in Christ and that he didn't understand Campbellism or accept baptismal regeneration himself, he is, at that time testifying to me what was in his heart.”

The lack of understanding you mention strengthens the case for giving him a biblical immersion. Remember that Paul encountered twelve men in Ephesus who needed to be immersed again (Acts 19:1-7). They were “disciples” (v. 1) who had “believed” (v. 2). They had been immersed once, but their understanding was inadequate. They needed to receive immersion when they had adequate understanding. Thus, Paul immersed them a second time.

You stated,

“The BFM has a doctrine of the universal church.”

Article VI refers to both an autonomous local church and the church which includes the redeemed of all eras (the assembly in glory). The two do not exist at the same time. You should read B. H. Carroll’s “Ecclesia” for a wonderful exegetical study.
The word “ecclesia” always refers to an assembly (a local church, the assembly in heaven, or the assembly in terms of a general institution). There is no invisible, universal church.

GeneMBridges said...

I’m assuming that you agree with the 2000 BF&M.

No, I no longer fly the BFM 2000. I affirm the LCBF 1689 and the Philadelphia Confession. I am not bound to the BFM 2000. At the end of April, I will be in a non-SBC church.

1. The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

(Heb. 12:23; Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:10, 22, 23, 5:23, 27, 32)

You didn’t deal with the part of Article VII of the 2000 BF&M that says that baptism is a church ordinance....quotes Campbell.

a. And, one more time, John L. Dagg says that baptism questions of this nature are the realm of a local church. If my church has, as it already has, accepted this person, it is not for you dispute that, period.

b. It's really nice you can quote Campbell. How is this germaine to the issue? Who here is arguing for the validity of regenerative baptism?

What is most germaine to the issue is the authority of ministers to preach the gospel? Does it flow from their baptism or from local church membership? The answer Dagg gives is regeneration, not baptism, for Paul was called to ministry before he was baptized.

c. On the contrary, you're the one arguing for a sacramental view. Have you ever discussed the New Perspective? Lutheranism's sacramental view of assurance? I have, at length. By indexing eternal security to baptism for Christian service, you're settiing up a sarcedotal order. We know that a person believes these things by his baptism in a church that agrees to eternal security. Uh-huh. Think about that. Just as the Lutheran looks to his baptism or the Eucharist for his assurance or the New Perspectivist looks to his baptism, we’re being told that we should look to our baptism as testimony of what we believe…so our baptism, not Christ is implicitly the ground of assurance. This is New Perspectivism.

d. The construction that denies that Arminians repudiate Sola Fide is simply a lie. Arminians affirm the reality of apostasy for true believers. That is, a person must stop believing. In addition, they subscribe to the exact same definition of apostasy as Reformed Christians. I used RBC Howell’s definition:

Apostasy encompasses 3 evils: a repudiation of evangelical doctrine; a loss of spirituality of mind (interest in spiritual things, conviction of sin) and a radical or gradual moral decay. In backsliding one or two, but not all three are present. All Christians backslide, no believer apostatizes.

This is built primarily on the doctrine of irresistible grace. Since the Spirit of God gives rise to faith and repentance via regeneration that faith in Christ alone will not cease. It may wax and wan but not disappear.

The Arminian says it can disappear. However, he does not believe in salvation by works any more than the Calvinist does. What he believes is that a believer can apostatize, and that all 3 of the evils listed above must be present in order for that to occur. That’s a conceptual, not a practical issue. Arminians do not affirm justification by works, and both Calvinists and Arminians affirm that perseverance is necessary for final salvation. They simply explain it conceptually differently.

Moreover, as I replied and you failed to respond a second time eternal security is underwritten by the full range of a soteriological schema. I would say that we are seeing unconditional election in baptism, particular atonement, and irresistible grace. I'd say that the administrator could be seen as Christ doing this to you, so that you are totally unable. There is also a Noahic metaphor in this too, with the waters of the Flood symbolizing God's wrath surrounding us in death and then delivering us up into a new world and new life. There is a full orbed picture of the history of redemption in baptism. Shall we include dogmatic faith to all those articles as well. That too is being testified to in the water ceremony,sir. Simply put, your argument suffers from oversimplification. Why stop at picturing eternal security?

I would go so far to say that by tying affirmation of eternal security to the evidence of true salvation and the testimony of baptism, you are mirror-reading. The one using this logic is the one assuming right doctrine, not God, saves, so he’s the one who believes in salvation by works, because one must believe a particular theological tenet in order to be saved and the mind of the administrator and the church is focused in a particular manner is necessary. This is, by definition dogmatic faith. Saving faith has Christ as its object, not a soteriological construct. If the adminstrator is thinking about his fishing trip and 3/4 of his congregation watching is out to lunch in their minds during a baptism, does that also invalidate the baptism. The point here is simple. Baptism is about identification with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection. THERE IS NOTHING IN SBC HISTORY THAT MANDATES THE INDEXING OF ETERNAL SECURITY TO BAPTISM. if you do that, you are inferring disaffirmation is a damnable dogma and that the only baptisms that are valid are Reformed or, at a minimum dispensationalist baptisms. If you define the church as a local church of baptized persons, then FWB's and others are not true churches. If not true churches, then are their members regenerate or not? If a valid baptism is required, may we inquire where in Scripture we are told who baptized each and every one of the Apostles? John the Baptist? This is also about who can be a missionary? When was Paul called to ministry?

In addition, your argument is specious unless "eternal security" is defined in antinomian terms.

This overlooks the classic Reformation formula: Justified by faith, saved by grace (and those traditions, viz. Calvinism and Arminianism, having a doctrine of perseverance, so there is a sense in which we affirm we are “saved” by works, eg. God’s grace causes us to persevere in faith, sanctifies us, etc…thus the above statements are equivocating on justification and sanctification; and, unless you believe a person can apostatize from the faith completely and still be saved, you have a doctrine of perseverance as well as eternal security.); So the question here isn’t whether or not one must persevere, but what lies behind ones perseverance.

e. Why should I reply to you at all, given you have not addressed my questions to you?

f. I do not deny baptism is a church ordinance.

f. I do not deny it is a testimony.

g. I do deny, as did the Philadephia Association that those coming from Free Will Baptist churches must be rebaptized.

h. I do not deny that a believer must persevere to the end. He must do so. All of them will do so because God keeps them. I believe the FWB's err, but it is not a damanable error; their baptisms do identify with Christ, and, frankly, the ones in NC believe that a person cannot be saved and resaved, but that once he has apostatized that's it, so this is a one time "burial." They have a doctrine of perseverance. If one apostatizes he was never converted. They disagree.

i. I'd add that W.A. Criswell is on record saying that if an administrator turns out to have been unregenerate, a baptism performed by him is not invalid. I would think an administrator would have to be regenerate too, so if he turns out an apostate, are you seriously going to tell all those he baptized they should be rebaptized. How big a legalist are you?

g. Your entire argument from beginning to end is a level confusion of what the testimony means conceptually and abstractly and what is in the minds of the Free Will Baptist. These are two conceptually different things. If we press that logic into service, then we must follow it to its end. For, if that is so, we are giving a free pass to 4 point Arminians who have no conceptual grounds to affirm eternal security, so, conceptually, any testimony to baptism in, say, Bellvue Baptist Church in Memphis is a testimony to self-deception. They believe in eternal security without the underwriting structure to do, so they testify to Sola Fide, but not Sola Gracia, for a man can apostatize completely and still be saved and both regeneration and election are put outside a chain effected by grace. This is implicityly salvation by merit, so I ask again, "Why eternal security" and not the other underwriting doctrines? You keep avoiding the answer to this.

Article VI refers to both an autonomous local church and the church which includes the redeemed of all eras (the assembly in glory).

Actually, that's an interpretation of it. It very simply reads:

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

It does not refer to a specific time period. They are in ALL the ages, including the present age. They include those living now, and those dead and those yet to come. You're reading B.H. Carroll's "glory church" into the text of the 2000 BFM. I deny Carroll's and Landmarkism's doctrine that there is no universal church. I personally know some of the folks who wrote the new BFM. They specifically wrote it in such a way that those who affirm a universal church and the Landmarks could both appeal to it. The text is not, as you would suggest, set in stone for a "glory church." In fact, that line was not added until 1963, then expanded again in the newest version precisely to deny that the only church is the visible church and Carroll's "glory church." It is hard to see how this could be an affirmation of Carroll's "glory" church, when Hershel Hobbs, who affirmed the universal church, included it to affirm a universal church.

But while we're here, let us see what the folks at SBTS have to say about Article 6 and boards: Boards and conventions are not the church; they are merely means to accomplish
the church’s mission. So, they don't have the authority to dictate baptismal policy to a local church. You have to abandon this ecclesiology in order to invest authority in a board to tell a local church it must rebaptize an individual. If you're going to invoke the BFM, then let's deal with that piece. The board cannot dictate to any local church, and local church autonomy would infer no local church or board can extend its discipline beyond itself, so you're abandoning your ecclesiology in order to validate your support of the new policies.

As to reading Carroll. I've read his work and his exegesis. I'm not convinced, I believe it suffers from a heavy dose of classic semanatic anachronisms.

I affirm John L. Dagg's Manual of Church Order which includes Chapter III on the Universal church, so the argument you are trying to make is not substantiated by history and is disputed theologically. I'd also believe you'd find that a great many Southern Baptists disagree with you on your view of the local church, since the founding churches held the Philadelphia Confession.

See here: http://www.founders.org/library/dagg_vol2/ch3.html

The church universal has no external organization.

Organization has respect to action, and is an arrangement and adaptation of parts fitting them to act together to a common end. A society is said to be organized when its members are brought into such connection and relation, that they can act together as one body. A family is a society in which persons are connected with each other in the relations of husband and wife, parent and child. They act towards each other in these relations for the common good of the family, and each family stands as a distinct whole in the community. The tie of affection which unites the members of the family, is an internal bond of union; but superadded to this, there is an external organization which makes them one family, even though the internal tie of affection were severed. A nation is a society organized for the purpose of civil government, and the common good of the whole. The members may all love their laws, institutions, and governors; and patriotism, an internal bond of union, may make them one. But an external organization is superadded which would constitute them one nation, even if patriotism failed. A local church is an assembly of believers organized for the worship and service of God. Internal piety is a bond of union; but while piety and brotherly love would bind them equally to saints of other churches, they have an external organization which brings them into special relation to each other, and constitutes them one church.

Believers in Christ may be regarded as composing one family. God is their Father, and all they brethren; but the relationship is spiritual. Believers in Christ compose a nation, a holy nation, over which Christ is the king. They obey his laws, and strive to gain conquests in his cause, but they fight not with carnal weapons; and the bond of their union to each other and to their king is spiritual. The members of a local church may be known by the record of their names in the church book; but the church of the first born are written in heaven, and no record on earth determines their membership. It may be known by their fruits of righteousness, but these are the fruit of the Spirit which dwells and operates in each member, and by immersion in which they are formed into one body.

In the preceding section, the unity of the church universal was proved to be spiritual. Unity may exist in material bodies without organization. A pebble is one, though its parts are not organically united; but in living bodies the parts are organically united, and the organism is necessary to their vitality. The church is called the body of Christ: and the members operate on each other and co-operate with each other like the members of the human body; but the organism is spiritual. The qualification of every member to occupy his proper place and perform his proper duties, is ascribed to the Holy Spirit, who divides to every man severally as he will; and who operates in and through all. Christ is the head of this body, and every member is organically united to the head: but "he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit;" and, therefore, the organization is spiritual.

Theological writers have maintained the existence of what they call the Visible Church Catholic, consisting of all who profess the true religion. They regard this as distinct from the body of true saints, which they designate the Invisible Church. The propriety of this designation we have denied, on the ground that true religion is visible in its effects. But the question as to the propriety of the names used to designate these bodies, is altogether different from the question whether these bodies actually exist. We have maintained the existence of what theological writers have called the Invisible Church, consisting of all who are spiritually united to Christ. Is there another body consisting of all who profess the true religion?

The possibility of uniting all who profess the true religion in one mental conception, and of designating them by a collective name, cannot be disputed. In this way we conceive and speak of the vegetable kingdom, the animal kingdom, &c. If it were impossible to unite all who profess the true religion in one mental conception, the doctrine that a visible church Catholic exists would be an absurdity; but this no one will assert. The existence of such a body in our mental conception is one thing, and the existence of it in fact is another. All who profess the true religion do not form one body by mere juxtaposition, as a number of men gathered together form one assembly; but they are scattered abroad everywhere over the face of the earth. The simple fact that they are alike in professing the same religion is sufficient for the purpose of mental classification; but to constitute them really one body, some species of organization is necessary. Do they compose an organized body?

The Holy Scriptures contain no proof that the followers of Christ, after the dispersion of the church at Jerusalem, ever acted together as one externally organized society. Previous to their dispersion, they were of one heart and one soul, and they were one by juxtaposition as a congregated assembly, and they united as one body in the outward services of public worship, and in such church action as the election of deacons. After their dispersion, they continued to be of one heart and one soul; and they continued to act under the influence of one Spirit to one common end. Their spiritual union and their spiritual organization continued; but their external union and external organization ceased. They no longer constituted one assembly, and they never acted together as one society. They constituted separate local churches which acted independently in their distinct organizations, but never formally united in counsel or in action as one body.

The only fact in sacred history which at all favors the opinion that the churches acted in general council, is recorded in the 15th chapter of Acts. The church at Antioch sent messengers to the church at Jerusalem to consult on a point of duty. After consultation, the church at Jerusalem, with the apostles and elders, sent forth a decree which the disciples of Christ everywhere were required to observe. There is not the slightest intimation that delegates went from the other churches, which were now numerous, and scattered through different countries. The whole church met in the council: not the entire body of those in every place who professed the true religion, but the church at Jerusalem. To this church the messengers from Antioch were sent, and before this church they laid the question. When the decision was made, it was announced, not as the decision of the universal church assembled in general council by its delegates, but as the decision of the church at Jerusalem with the apostles and elders. The decision of this church would have been entitled to respect, as the oldest and best informed of all the churches, and especially in the present case, in which the disturbers of the church at Antioch had claimed the authority of established usage in this, the mother church. But the decree of the assembled body was sent forth with an authority above that of any single church or council of churches: "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us."(67) The inspired apostles were present in this consultation, and their decision went forth with divine authority: "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven."(68) No ecclesiastical council can justly claim this synod at Jerusalem as a precedent for its action, unless it can also claim to act by inspiration, and send forth its decrees with the authority of the Holy Ghost.

No ecclesiastical organization of modern times can, with any show of propriety, claim to be the Visible Church Catholic. No one of them includes all who profess the true religion. Some of them may claim to be The Church; but most of them have more modest pretensions, and claim to be only branches of the church. Each branch, however, has its own organization, and all the branches do not unite in one organized whole. Were there a combination of all the separate ecclesiastical organizations into one body, and were this body to act as an organized whole, it would possess no authority from the Holy Scriptures; but no such combination does in fact exist. The state of the Christian world falsifies the doctrine.

The bishop of Rome and his adherents, claim to be the Catholic or universal church. They are united by external organization, for the organization itself points out the head, the subordinate officers, and the members of the body. These hold their several positions, whatever may be their moral or spiritual qualifications. The organization is a strong one, as the history of its acts demonstrates; and this history, stained with blood, equally demonstrates that the body is not energized by the spirit of peace and love. This external organization needed an external head, and the bishop of the imperial city became the acknowledged vicar of Jesus Christ. Sitting in the temple of God, and showing himself that he is God, he claims a headship which belongs exclusively to the Lord Jesus Christ. This assumption of power is founded on the doctrine of the visible church Catholic. Destroy the foundation, and nothing remains for the superstructure to stand on. We have, therefore, good reason to regard the doctrine with suspicion, and to examine carefully its claims on our faith.

It will be instructive to notice how naturally the papal usurpation arose out of this doctrine. On the supposition that Christ instituted a universal church of external organization, the declarations and promises which have respect to his spiritual church. would naturally be applied to this external body. It would appear incredible that he should leave this body to degeneracy and corruption, after having promised to be with it always to the end of the world, and that the gates of hell should never prevail against it; and after having constituted and declared it the pillar and ground of the truth. If external organization connects the universal church with the church of apostolic times, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to set aside the pretensions of the Romanists. We may argue that they have lost the doctrine and the spirit of the apostles; but if the church is a body of external organization, the continuity of the organization must determine the true church. If its failure to preserve the truth and spirit of the primitive times has unchurched it; then these last attributes are the distinguishing characteristics of the true church, rather than external organization. Here, then, is the grand controversy between Christ and Antichrist. Jesus Christ has not two universal churches. He is not the head of two bodies, the husband of two wives. His true church is a spiritually organized body, and spiritually joined to him its only head. The body claiming to be the church on the ground of external organization is a substitute, and its head is a substitute for Christ. They first take the place of the true church and its true head, and afterwards oppose and persecute. They who see and deplore the mischief which the papal usurpation has wrought, should learn the secret of its power. The substitution of ecclesiastical organization for spiritual religion has wrought all the evil. Let the pernicious effects teach us to guard against the cause which produced them.

The doctrine of the visible church catholic, is much favored by the use of the epithet visible. Things are predicated of the true church which cannot be true of an invisible body. Saul persecuted the church, and this he could not have done if the church had been invisible. We fully admit the visibility of the church, but we distinguish between visibility and organization. Herod persecuted the infants of Bethlehem; but it does not follow that those babes composed an organized society. The rage of the persecuting Saul was directed against the saints, and not against their ecclesiastical organization. To have disbanded their external organization, would not have disarmed his rage. This they might have retained, if they had blasphemed the name of Jesus and renounced his doctrine. The truth and spirit of Christianity are hateful to the world; and without external organization, have been sufficiently visible to awaken the opposition and rage of persecutors.

An argument for an externally organized universal church, is derived from 1 Cor. xii. 28: "God hath set some in the church; first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." The universal church is here meant, and the offices enumerated imply that the body to which they belong is organized; but the organization is not external. The church which includes all who profess the true religion, contains bad members, and bad officers, as well as good ones. Even in the primitive times, there were, among those who professed the true religion, false apostles and false prophets; pastors who devoured the flock; teachers who brought in damnable heresies; and governments that lorded it over God's heritage, and loved to have the pre-eminence. Considering the church as an externally organized society, these men were as truly officers in it as the most self-denying of its ministers. In the Roman church, the pontiff holds the supreme place, whatever may be his moral character. The priests hold the sacraments, and dispense their mysterious benefits, however unclean may be their hands. If a similar organization existed in apostolic times, the false apostles and other ungodly officers were truly members of the church. Now, did God "set" such men in the church? Did he set them there "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ?" Such men were not the ministers of God, but ministers of Satan, transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness; and the church which excludes them from its boundaries must have those boundaries determined, not by external organization, but by genuine piety. With this view, the whole context of the passage agrees. The qualifications for the officers enumerated are mentioned in the first verses of the chapter, and attributed to the Holy Spirit, dividing, not according to the vote of the church, but according to his own will. The members are brought into the body by immersion in the Spirit; and the sympathy which pervades the body is spiritual. It is no objection to this view, that some of the offices enumerated have respect to local churches, which are confessedly bodies of external organization. The man who labors in the pastorship or government of a local church, if called of God to his office, is a member of the true universal church, and qualified for his office by the Spirit that pervades and animates that body, and is required to labor with reference to the good of the whole. The local church to which he belongs, if organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of real saints; and he labors to introduce no others into their fellowship. Ho officiates to them as members of Christ's body, and does not bound his aims by the local organization. So Paul taught the elders of :Ephesus to consider themselves laboring for the whole redeemed church: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."(69) So Peter taught the elders whom he addressed: "Feed the flock of God which is among you. ...Neither as being lords over God's heritage."(70) Every faithful pastor shares in the universal pastoral commission given to Peter: "Feed my sheep--feed my lambs." Though laboring for a part of the flock, he labors for the good of the whole. He who, in his official labors, limits his view to the local organization with which he is connected, and which is temporary in its duration, degrades his office; and so far yields to the antichristian spirit which substitutes external organization for spiritual religion, and a visible for an invisible head.

The opinion has been held, almost as a theological axiom, that baptism is the door into the church. It is not the door into the spiritual universal church; for men enter this by regeneration, and are, therefore, members of it before they are fit subjects for baptism. It is not the door into a local church; for, though it is a prerequisite to membership, men may be baptized, and remain unconnected with any local church. But those who hold that there is a visible church catholic, commonly maintain that it receives and includes all the baptized. They differ among themselves respecting the extent and boundaries of the church, because they differ as to what constitutes valid baptism. Since Baptists admit nothing to be valid baptism but immersion on profession of faith, those of them who hold the doctrine of a visible church catholic, make this church substantially identical with the Baptist denomination. This Baptist modification of the doctrine was its earliest form. While immersion was the universal practice of the churches, and infant baptism had not yet prevailed; before sprinkling was substituted for baptism, and babes for believers; the notion obtained, that the kingdom is the visible church catholic, and that men are born into it by water. In this notion, Pedobaptism and Popery originated.

Much mischief to the cause of truth has resulted from a misinterpretation of the words of Christ just referred to: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."(71) Not a word is said in this text about baptism and not a word in the whole discourse, of which this verse is a part, leads to the supposition that baptism was intended. But it is not necessary for our present purpose to enter into a discussion of this question. If we admit that the phrase "born of water" intends baptism, it is clear that this alone does not introduce into the kingdom; for it is also an indispensable condition, that a man be born of the Spirit. We have, therefore, the boundaries of the church so narrowed, that it includes none but those who have been both regenerated and baptized.

Persons who have been both regenerated and baptized, are the baptized part of the true universal church; but they do not of themselves constitute a church. They are not the generic church of Mr. Courtney. Each local church is liable to contain false professors; and, therefore, the genus of local churches does not consist of regenerated persons exclusively. They are not the visible church catholic of theologians. This body consists of all who profess the true religion; and, therefore, includes false professors as well as true Christians. Besides, these regenerated and baptized persons do not, in the sense of theological writers, compose a visible church. Their regeneration is a spiritual qualification, and is not determined by outward ceremony or external organization. This baptized part of the true spiritual church is as invisible, in the technical sense of the term, as the entire body called the invisible church. No man can say with infallible certainty of any one, though baptized, that he is born of the Spirit. These regenerated and baptized persons do not compose the universal church of the Holy Scriptures; and the church that Christ loved and gave himself for, includes many who, like the penitent thief on the cross, never received baptism. They will form a part in the general ecclesia of the heavenly city; and God will be glorified in them by Jesus Christ, throughout all ages, world without end. This universal church is not limited to the baptized; and in no proper sense does the baptized part of it constitute an ecclesia. The true universal church includes the whole company of those who are saved by Christ; and their spiritual organization is not dependent on outward ceremony.

GeneMBridges said...

Oh, and you have been asked now three times:

What did Spurgeon say about Arminians? Did he reject their baptisms? You pegged your reply to this thread and the testimony baptism gives to Spurgeon's quote, so this question should be answered.

Please do not complain about nonresponsiveness of others when you consistently avoid answering these questions.

Theo said...

Gene, as someone else said, you need your own blog site. I enjoyed reading your last post, but it took a long time. Because you disagree with the 2000 BF&M and will soon join a non-SBC church, I now understand why you disagree with me on so many points. Best wishes in your new church. You said,

"What did Spurgeon say about Arminians? Did he reject their baptisms? You pegged your reply to this thread and the testimony baptism gives to Spurgeon's quote, so this question should be answered."

I disagree. My entire argument was not based on Spurgeon's quote alone. I was simply making the point that Spurgeon saw baptism as representing eternal security. I am under no obligation to read through all his works to answer your two questions.

I found it interesting that you did not deny that baptism is a local church ordinance, and yet you do not see the need to biblicly immerse people who want to join your church who have experienced only a Church of Christ baptism. Most Southern Baptists would disagree with you about accepting Church of Christ baptisms.

I also found it interesting that you admitted that there is no universal assembly at the present time, but you say that an invisible, universal church exists at the present time. My friend, the word "ecclesia" always refers to an "assembly" in the New Testament: a local assembly, the assembly in glory, or the assembly in terms of a general institution (as in Matthew 16:18). Similarly, Paul spoke of the pastor in terms of a general institution in 1 Timothy 3:1. There is no invisible, universal pastor/bishop/overseer/elder.

Paul said...

"There is no invisible, universal pastor/bishop/overseer/elder."

Theo, actually there is. His name is Jesus, our High Priest (unless you can actually see him, in which case you may have a point).

Theo said...

He's not invisible. We're just not in the right place to see Him.

Theo said...

Some interesting quotes from Dagg about the importance of the administrator of baptism:

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

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

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

Ibid., page 285.