Thursday, February 26, 2009

Baptist Identity, Great Commission Resurgence and How We Read the Bible

Much has been written recently about "Baptist Identity (BI)" and a "Great Commission Resurgence (GCR)" As I previously noted, broadly speaking, those terms have emerged as representing two competing visions for the future of the SBC. However, it would be inaccurate to suggest those designations mean that the BI crowd does not care about the great commission or that the GCR crowd is indifferent to Baptist identity. The difference between the two lies at the point of emphasis and centrality. Perhaps we might say, the difference emerges from the way that one reads the Bible.

When Dr. Danny Akin called for a "Great Commission Resurgence" at the Building Bridges Conference co-sponsored by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (of which he is President) and Founders Ministries (and hosted by LifeWay) in November 2007, his words resonated not only with those present but with Southern Baptists across the convention who listened to the audio of his talk and heard about this call. Dr. Akin is widely known and respected as an outspoken proponent of expository preaching with a passionate commitment to getting the Gospel to the nations. Anyone who would question his devotion to either simply cannot be taken seriously.

The vision that Dr. Akin and those who stand with him are casting for the future of the Southern Baptist Convention is one that arises out of a deep devotion to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. That devotion is what makes the Gospel central in the articulation of a Great Commission Resurgence (GCR).

Baptist distinctives are not ignored or forgotten by the vision that Dr. Akin has cast. They simply (and rightly) grow out of a primary devotion to Gospel. That is, after all, how Baptists developed in modern history. It was out of commitment to the Gospel that our 17th century forebears were led to form separate churches.

As I listen to and read what some BI guys are saying I come away with the impression that there is a lurking fear among them that a GCR-inspired future will lead Southern Baptists down an ecumenical path toward indistinct evangelicalism.

One of the clearest examples of the differences between the vision of the GCR and that of many identified with the Baptist Identity movement can be found in considering the issue that Al Mohler dubbed "theological triage."

Dr. Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, an institution dedicated to training ministers for Baptist ministry, wisely recognizes "theological seriousness and maturity demand that we consider doctrinal issues in terms of their relative importance. God's truth is to be defended at every point and in every detail, but responsible Christians must determine which issues deserve first-rank attention in a time of theological crisis."

Mohler includes the Trinity, person of Christ and justification by faith as examples of "first-order truths" while the meaning and mode of baptism would be a "second-order" issue and eschatology a "third-order" concern.

What Christ-loving student of God's Word who is even mildly aware of the history of the church would not agree that belief in the deity of Christ is vitally more important than belief in believers' baptism? It is hard for me to conceive that any right thinking Baptist would disagree with this. As Dr. Mohler puts it, this is a matter of "theological maturity."

Contrast this way of reading the Bible, however, with that of one of the contemporary champions of the Baptist Identity movement. Dr. Malcolm Yarnell is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Southwestern Theological Seminary. In an October 30, 2008 chapel message at Southwestern, Yarnell rejects of the kind of theological triage that Dr. Mohler says is necessary to theological maturity. He asserts,
You cannot perform theological triage on the lordship of Jesus Christ without severing His will into pieces and picking and choosing what you want to do. You will find out what he says and you will do it all because you know your life is totally dependent on Him.
Dr. Yarnell reads the Bible in such a way that there can be no allowance for theological triage. For him, making a distinction between first-order, second-order and third-order teachings of the Bible is a denial of the lordship of Christ. He says,
New Testament Christianity has no secondary doctrines when it comes to the lordship of Jesus Christ. That's why I say Baptism is not secondary nor is it tertiary. It is essential.
In Dr. Yarnell's vision of Christianity, baptism is just as essential as the deity of Christ or salvation by grace through faith. Nothing can be secondary if a person is truly committed to the lordship of Christ. He clarifies his meaning with the following words:
Now, does that mean that baptism saves you? No! But if you are saved then you will obey and you will be baptized according to Christian baptism not according to something of your own invention.
Note the distinction he makes. While believers' baptism does not save, "if you saved then you will be baptized according to Christian baptism." Do you see what he is asserting? If a person has not been baptized as a believer then that person is not saved, or at best, that person has no reason to hope that he or she is saved. Yarnell gives no room to the prospect that a brother or sister may be sincerely mistaken in their views of baptism and thus may fall short of complying with what is required, not out of rebellion or wilfull disobedience, but out of error.

That kind of narrow-mindedness strikes me as more than simple theological immaturity. It strikes me as dangerous to biblical Christianity. It makes no allowances for spiritual growth nor for the kind of apostolic charity that Paul displays in Philippians when he write, "Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you" (v. 15).

As a convinced Baptist I can fellowship with brethren who are right on the Gospel but wrong on baptism. While I wouldn't try to start a church with them, I can learn from them, respect them and rejoice in the grace of God in their lives while disagreeing with their understanding of the meaning and mode of baptism. I don't see how Christian love can do less.

There is a significant difference between the vision of those who believe that Baptist distinctives are just as important as Christian essentials and the vision of those who believe that Baptist distinctives are important precisely because they grow out of Christian essentials.

For the sake of the spiritual health and maturity of our convention of churches, pray that the latter vision prevails.

38 comments:

J.D. Rector said...

Tom:
Amen, amen and amen!!

I have this fear that some within our denomination would take us down a more rigid road such as "landmarkism".

I laugh when I think of the time that I joined the Campus Crusade for Christ chapter at Auburn University in the late 70's. I will never forget my sweet grandmother, a bona-fide, hard-core, SBC'er, who truly was a devout believer, but she asked... "Are they cousins of the Church of Christ?" Churckle... I assured her that they were as orthodox as we SBC'ers were even though some were not fully immersed in their baptism.

Shazzam... it never crossed my mind that these brothers and sisters in Christ of mine were somehow incomplete because their mode of baptism was sprinkling or pouring.

Thank you for this excellent post brother!

J.D. Rector

Luke said...

Tom,
"if you [are]sic saved then you will be baptized according to Christian baptism." Do you see what he is asserting? If a person has not been baptized as a believer then that person is not saved, or at best, that person has no reason to hope that he or she is saved.


With the quote you used, unless you are privy to more than you listed, I fail to be able to see the connection that you assert is so obvious. I am not able with your reference to make the jump that you have done. Wouldn't it be better to ask Dr. Yarnell if that is his conclusion?

Luke

Tom said...

J.D.,

I understand the ethos out of which your grandmother spoke. When I was a senior in college my roommate did his best to get me to read a book that had impacted him deeply. When I saw that it was not "Convention Press," I wouldn't even open it! A couple of years later, I was chagrined to realize how long I had delayed reading Packer's Knowing God!

Luke,

Listen to the sermon. The quote I give comes near the end and Dr. Yarnell is being very forceful in making this point. Even without knowing the force and tone of his comment, however, simple logic explains his meaning. It goes like this:

If A is true, then B will be true.

Give that, it necessarily follows that if B is not true, then A is also not true. No more information is needed to discern the meaning of his words, assuming (as I do) that Dr. Yarnell meant what he said.

Luke said...

Tom,
After listening, well actually, it is still playing as I type, I see why I disagree with you. Dr. Yarnell's assertion is that "if you are saved, you will obey..." That obedience is fleshed out in baptism but the heart of the point is that you will obey. Certainly this point cannot be lost upon you. I even looked through the book of Acts, cursorily, and it would seem that baptism swiftly followed the salvation of the people.

I think the more pertinent question would be, If a person who claims salvation will not follow in Christian baptism, why not? For the Biblical witness is that baptism follows salvation.

Jesus said if you love me, you will keep my commandments. Understanding the Scripture, I too would have a hard time accepting the testimony that someone is saved who would reject Christian baptism.

I still cannot make the leap that you assert is so obvious. I doubt we'll see eye to eye. But my hope is that the conversation this opens will lead to a better understanding of the Word of God.

Luke

Tom said...

Luke:

I guess the question is this: how complete does obedience have to be? Obviously, no evangelical (outside perfectionists) would argue that it has to be spotless. Can we not allow the same charity to our paedobaptist brothers on the question of obedience to baptism that we allow to our brothers with whom we differ on the Sabbath, pacifism and eating meat? Here is my point: none of us--not even the righteous of all Baptists--has a fully sanctified mind. Therefore, if someone who has manifest spirituality and devotion to Christ is convinced that sprinkling babies is Christian baptism, I refuse to write them out of the kingdom.

I grieve over the lack of unity on baptism between Christian brothers. Yet, I realize that this lack of unity does not exist because of any blatant unwillingness to obey Christ, but because sin has affected all of our minds and our understandings are not perfect. I can say that without backing up one iota from my Baptist convictions.

Regarding your "more pertinent question," it could be applied to anything the Bible teaches. If a person who claims salvation will not keep the Sabbath Day holy, why not? It is one of the 10 Commandments? That, like baptism, is a question of understanding, but it could equally be applied to the will.

For example, if a person who claims salvation will not keep from lying, why not? For the biblical witness is that all liars will have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.

This principle also applies to our affections, but I will spare you further examples.

When you say that you "have a hard time accepting the testimony that someone is saved who would reject Christian baptism" does that mean that you have a hard time believing that Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Edwards, Whitefield, D. James Kennedy and RC Sproul are Christians?

I hope that is not what you mean, but I that is what I understand your words to say.

Brent Hobbs said...

"That kind of narrow-mindedness strikes me as more than simple theological immaturity. It strikes me as dangerous to biblical Christianity. "

Exactly right. And if people like Luke cannot see the connection you've made, its because they don't want to. Tom has no reason to ask Dr. Yarnell if that is the conclusion he intended. Its there for anyone to read.

When he says, "you will be baptized according to Christian baptism not according to something of your own invention." He clearly means believer's immersion baptism.

Luke, you've been spending too much time learning the pedantic argument style of the Baptist Identity spokesmen. What he said is clear. Tom has no need to have a personal conversation with him before writing this post.

downshoredrift said...

Tom,

If you were to ask Dr. Yarnell if he was saying what you are saying that he is saying, then he would likely disagree with you and tell you that is not what he meant. I know, because I have been in this discussion with him. However, you are right. The words that he uses are clear and simple logic leads one to the position that you have articulated here. Either, Dr. Yarnell does believe what you are saying or the communication of his actual position needs some fleshing out so that we will better understand what he is trying to say.

This very quickly turns into the language games of postmodern relativism, if we are not careful. The clear meaning of the statement is not what is meant at all because of other meanings or interpretations that were not presented. It makes it hard to judge anything, really. I do believe, however, that the speaker should interpret what he is saying. When Dr. Yarnell does this, he gives a different meaning than what is logically understood.

Alan Cross

Luke said...

Tom,

IF any of the men you mentioned were to say, "I know I should be baptized following my salvation but will not be baptized", then I stand by my assertion.

As far as writing any out of the kingdom, that is neither my desire nor within my authority. I trust that will be best done by the Only One who knows the heart.

Brent,

I'll take your words under advisement but I'll continue my conversation with Tom as long as Tom is willing to allow me to engage him.

Tom said...

Alan:

Thanks for shedding more light on this. I am glad to know that you have discussed this with Dr. Yarnell and that you are convinced he does not really believe what he actually said in this chapel message. As one who preaches and teaches several times a week I know how easy it is to put things awkwardly and less clearly than I would have liked. Perhaps that is the case here. I hope so.

Because I know that Dr. Yarnell is not a postmodernist and that words are the stock and trade of his vocation, I took his words to be simply and plainly spoken.

Blessings,
ta

Tom said...

Luke:

"IF any of the men you mentioned were to say, "I know I should be baptized following my salvation but will not be baptized", then I stand by my assertion."

I agree with this statement completely, but this is different from what you previously wrote and from what Yarnell said. The point is, none of the men I mentioned would say that. They would all say that they believe they have been properly baptized because they do not agree with my take on what the Bible teaches about baptism. Obviously, I think they are wrong and they think I am wrong, but it would be unloving of me to conclude that their unwillingness to submit to believers' baptism is due to rebellion against the lordship of Christ.

downshoredrift said...

Tom,

Yes, this is confusing. I also live my life by my words and I know that it is easy to misspeak. But, clarity should be the goal of our communication and it appears that clarity has been sacrificed here. I agree wholeheartedly with your perspective on baptism that you shared with Luke and I know that Dr. Yarnell does not. However, I do not think that he is saying that the wrongly baptized are unsaved.

He does say that those who do not believe in eternal security do not have assurance of salvation and on the basis of their faulty confession, he would not admit them to the Lord's Table. So, maybe that is where he is coming from here and we still end up at the position that you have articulated in your original post. A clear discussion on this would be helpful for sure, because right now, things are quite muddied.

Darby Livingston said...

Tom, I'm with you on this issue. But a thought just occurred to me, even as I agree with you in this statement:

"Obviously, I think they are wrong and they think I am wrong, but it would be unloving of me to conclude that their unwillingness to submit to believers' baptism is due to rebellion against the lordship of Christ."

We are sinful as well as ignorant. That said, couldn't the statement also be read this way?

"Obviously, I think they are wrong and they think I am wrong, but it would be unloving of me to conclude that their unwillingness to [accept only male eldership] is due to rebellion against the lordship of Christ."

This is exactly what some who are for women pastors would say - it's just a matter of difference in interpretation, not the slippery slope to liberalism. What makes someone's misinterpretation regarding baptism any more justifiable than someone's misinterpretation regarding women pastors? Yet we are much quicker to accept a paedo in a chapel service than a woman preacher.

Is this what Dr. Yarnell could mean by no tertiary doctrines when it comes to the lordship of Christ? Is he just trying to be consistent? I think the implications of what he said are very clear. I'm just trying to figure out why he said it.

Tom said...

Darby:

You make a very good point. I would, however, our ignorance of biblical teaching to sin and its affects on the mind. Thus, I could charitably make the same kind of claim for some who advocate for women elders, although I (and most other evangelicals in history) see this as clearly forbidden in Scripture. I would not be able to start a church with either group, however.

You may be right in wondering if Dr. Yarnell's assertions are born out of an attempt at consistency. Everyone has boundaries beyond which they cannot go in determining what constitutes genuine Christianity. When it comes to matters of gospel priorities (deity of Christ, atonement, justification), my boundaries are much more narrow than in matters of ecclesiological priorities (baptism, church order, etc.) though my convictions are no less secure in the latter than in the former.

Darby Livingston said...

Tom,

I agree with you regarding male eldership, btw. I could have put any other issue in there instead. When it comes to baptism, I am always tempered by Paul's arguments in 1 Corinthians - glad he only baptized a few because he was sent to preach the gospel rather than baptize. This clearly puts a secondary status on baptism. I wonder how Dr. Yarnell deals with that text.

Bart Barber said...

Tom,

Generally, I'm annoyed when someone puts a cut-and-paste comment into my blog. If you don't have time to write an original comment for this discussion, then don't waste all of our time making us read it.

Thus, I'm obviously violating the Golden Rule here. ;-)

But a conversation ongoing with Timmy over at my place seems to be right along these same lines. Since we're talking about "theological triage" I thought I'd paste some of my thoughts about it:

I acknowledge the value of "theological triage" in (a) as an imperfect metaphor, (b) to be used in an external sense, (c) regarding the relative severity of the effects of disobedience in any particular area of what Christ has commanded.

The metaphor is humanly devised and therefore imperfect. The strength of the metaphor, I think, is that "triage" as a medical procedure is employed only in a crisis situation when one cannot possibly treat everything. The desire of the medical staff, however, is to treat every injury and remedy every illness.

Should one, however, take triage to mean some strange state of denial in which one dismisses certain legitimate injuries as non-injurious and unworthy of available treatment, then we've moved from triage to something far less reasonable.

It is plainly obvious that everyone on the Baptist Identity side is not only willing to do something akin to "theological triage" but is constantly engaged in the actual practice. Here's the proof: They all regard Mormons as heretics and Presbyterians as genuine Christians in unrepentant sin and error. You may disagree with the classifications, but you cannot say that they are the same thing, nor can you deny that we make the distinction.

Your statement, then, that BI people have rejected theological triage is therefore an empty one.

You can easily demonstrate that some folks in the Baptist movement have objected to the way that some people have tried to APPLY a concept of theological triage. For example, Wade Burleson's and Morris Chapman's (see his speech in San Antonio) application of the concept has been to deny the appropriateness of separating over "secondary" or tier-two doctrines. This is not Mohler's schema, and he explicitly said so in San Antonio. So, for those who use "theological triage" to eliminate tier two and have only the first and third tiers, yes, the Baptist movement rejects that approach.

Also, because the concept of "theological triage" is human and not divine in origin, somebody needs to counter-balance the idea of triage by reminding us that Jesus expects us to obey all of His commandments.

To employ another imperfect analogy, consider the task of parenting. I expect my children to obey everything that I command them to do. If, by practicing "triage," they should be referring to a process by which they will determine when to obey me and when not to bother, then it is disobedience even to embark upon such an enterprise.

However, this does not mean that I regard all of my commands as equally important. "Clean up your room" and "Don't play in the street" are two commands with vastly different levels of importance to me. Part of their maturing as human beings, and therefore part of my goal as their parent, is for them to learn that the consequences of playing in the street can be far more severe than the consequences of failing to keep their room clean.

And in this second sense, we can see that there is no "internal" validity to playing "triage" but there is some "external" validity to it. Internally, my children are to do no triage at all—they are to do what I tell them to do…everything that I tell them to do. Externally, if my son sees his sister playing in the street and I'm not around, he has permission to grab her, push her, pull her by her hair, hit her, kick her, punch her, do almost anything to get her out of the street when a car is coming. If, on the other hand, he punches her in the face for her failure to pick up her toys, then he's going to be in trouble. On the other hand, he has my blessing to tell Sarah that she's sinning by refusing to clean up her room and to do whatever he might to persuade her (rather than force her) to be obedient.

I think that this analogy applies quite well to explain my attitude toward "theological triage."

Tom said...

Bart:

I have not kept up with the dialogue over at your blog, but will make a point to do so. It sounds like you are engaging some important issues. I appreciate your view on this and find myself, not surprisingly, in agreement with you. What you have written strikes me as considerably different from what Malcolm said. I hope that your view prevails among those in the Baptist Identity movement (I am not even sure if that is a proper designation, btw; I use it for lack of a better one).

Though the idea of theological triage is indeed a human analogy, I think that it gets at something that is necessary for, as Mohler put it, "theological seriousness and maturity." Jesus did refer to the "weightier matters of the law," pointing us in this direction.

Let me take up your analogy to parenting, because I think it does clarify. Suppose you tell your children to clean their rooms before you return and your son picks up all his toys from the floor of his room but does not vacuum the carpet or dust the shelves because he is convinced that this is all that your command requires. Your daughter, however, is convinced that you mean by your command that both vacuuming and dusting are to be done. Is she therefore justified in saying to her brother, "If you love dad you will vacuum and dust" or can she legitimately charge him with denying your parental authority because of his actions (or inactions)?

I would argue that such accusations are not warranted, even though she may be exactly correct in understanding your meaning. This is where Malcolm and I part ways, I think, when he says, "if you are saved then you will obey and you will be baptized according to Christian [ie. believers'] baptism." I would not pin the salvation of a sincerely convinced, evangelical peadobaptist to their submission to believers' baptism, even though I am convinced that this is what the biblical command means.

If I am misreading or misconstruing anything here, any help you can give to clear my thinking would be appreciated.

PS. You can cut and paste comments as substantive as that one anytime here!

Ben said...

Tom Ascol wrote:
"Mohler includes the Trinity, person of Christ and justification by faith as examples of "first-order truths" while the meaning and mode of baptism would be a "second-order" issue and eschatology a "third-order" concern."

Here's the problem: Baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, and the doctrine of apostasy are all radically opposed to the doctrine of jusification by faith alone. Those who teach these false doctrines as well as justification by faith are speaking out of both sides of their mouths.

Also I thought J.D.'s comment was very telling. He said that those who reject baptism by immersion are just "as orthodox as we SBC'ers." Oh, well. So much for believer's immersion being an important doctrine of the faith.

Bart Barber said...

Tom,

I know for a fact that Malcolm Yarnell does not believe that all of those who have refused believer's baptism are lost. Since I think it very unlikely that he will come over here to say so, I am more than happy to say it for him.

I do believe that receiving believer's baptism is the Christian thing to do, but one of the accursed realities of this fallen world is that Christians do not always do the Christian thing.

Regarding your extension of my parenting analogy: I think that you've found a compelling analogy because (a) such a situation is quite plausible in my practice of parenting, and (b) it seems to fit very well with what I take to be the point of view that you are trying to advance. In such a real-life situation with my real children, I reply that my son would receive a great deal of grace (albeit, only on the first occasion that something like this happened).

My only objection is that I don't think this analogy applies well to our discussion about baptism. I think perhaps it applies better to the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century debate over the laying-on-of-hands after baptism. Why? Because (to be a bit picky here) that debate (like your analogy) involved a number of things that it is indeed my habit to command, and the question is simply how much I meant to command to be done at this time.

The sprinkling of infants, however, is a practice with a clear history of development outside of New Testament practice.

A better analogy would be if I came home to discover that my son had determined to clean his room by filling up buckets of water in the tub and dumping them out on the carpet and furniture. The water in the tub is indeed used for cleaning, and he might very well have intended to try to eliminate some dirt by his actions, but mark my words, no matter how sincere he may be, he's getting in trouble when I get home.

Why? Because he's never seen me do anything like that nor command anyone else to do anything like that. He's invented something of his own to replace something that I might regularly instruct him to do.

Perhaps you will not agree with my analogy, but by it perhaps you will come to understand more clearly my sentiments and perspective.

Tom said...

Bart:

I am glad to hear that you "know for a fact that Malcolm Yarnell does not believe that all of those who have refused believer's baptism are lost." I guess that means we can chalk up his public words in the chapel address to misspeaking. As I have already suggested, I have misspoken many times and well understand how that can happen.

You and I agree about the meaning and mode of baptism and we both agree that the Bible teaches baptism for believers alone. We also agree (along with Malcolm, as you have informed us) that being wrong on baptism does not necessarily keep one out of the kingdom of God.

Given that, would you question a paedobaptist's salvation on the basis that he isn't obeying Jesus Christ in the matter of baptism?

onepilgrimsprogress said...

After listening to Dr. Yarnell's message twice, I find that it is a powerful message on the Lordship of Christ as well as a powerful warning against looking to some purported golden age in church history and unwittingly seeking to conform to that. So many have done the latter and unfortunately I have been guilty of this in the past as well.

When taken out of context, a few of the passages can come off as troubling when viewed in isolation. However, it seems to me that the key moment in putting Dr. Yarnell's comments into context is his emphasis at about the 34 minute mark of KNOWINGLY going against what Jesus commands.

I also find it ironic that Dr. Yarnell is essentially being accused of asserting that you cannot be a disciple unless you're a Baptist, yet he makes favorable references non-Baptists several times in the message.

Recently in Southern Baptist blogdom, we've seen many posts about division and a growing divide. When we are unwilling or unable to hear our brothers in the best possible light, the division necessarily widens.

With regard to theological triage, I find Dr. Barber's illustrations to be helpful, and I would be surprised if Dr. Mohler would disagree significantly.

Bart Barber said...

Would I question a paedobaptist's salvation simply because he is a paedobaptist? No. I thought I had already answered that, at least by implication.

I would, however, have no problem telling a paedobaptist that a Christian should follow Christ in believer's baptism. In so doing, I am being hortatory rather than descriptive. I think that Malcolm was doing just the same.

Tom said...

Thanks, Bart. Once again, I hope that your views on this matter prevail among those in the BI camp.

Joshua Owen said...

In a crisis, at what level of triage would we place monergism? For some, one's position on God's sovereign grace is a higher order doctrine, with many more implications for Christian living, than, say, believer's baptism by immersion.

volfan007 said...

Going to SBC Today and reading "A Call to Christian Maturity" by Dr. Malcolm Yarnell and Robin Foster may also help in this discussion.

David

Scott said...

Tom,

I have been following the blogs of Peter Lumpkins, Founders,and BI Folks. I see alot of misunderstanding of each other and accusations toward both sides. Can we not just stop and call a large mtg somewhere and sit down as brothers face to face ???

Pastor Johnny Hunt forgave me when I went way overboard on him. We met face to face and communicate almost weekly. We have had two dinners together and the love that he has shown me has blown me away. Yes, we may disagree on some things theologically but Pastor Johnny loves Christ and has taught me more things lately about being a strong Christian and Pastor than anyone of late.There is no reason why Dr. Patterson, Malcolm, You, Dr. Akin, and whoever can't sit down together. Shame on the one or ones who feel they can't sit down and talk and pray through these things. This includes Wade Burleson as well. I understand that Wade has tried to meet with Dr. Patterson and he was not allowed to. This is wrong !!! I'm thankful that Johnny Hunt have me the chance to ask for his forgiveness !!!! Johnny has taught me more about being a Christian and Pastor lately than anyone. What is interesting is that we disagree on some things theologically but I love this man and brother !!! Does anyone else believe that these men need to sit down face to face and talk ????

Paul said...

Bart,

To follow your very fine analogy I would add that many paedobaptists, in fact, do believe they have seen God do something and command something similar in the past - circumcision. They'll often cite a passage like Colossians 2:11-12 as a New Testament example of the correspondence between the two.

While I don't find that argument convincing, I don't think that they believe they have poured water all over the furniture. I believe they think that they have cleaned the room in a similar fashion as they once saw Grandpa clean the room, but where Grandpa may have used a broom on a wooden floor they feel quite comfortable using a vacuum cleaner on a carpeted floor.

GeneMBridges said...

"if you [are]sic saved then you will be baptized according to Christian baptism." Do you see what he is asserting? If a person has not been baptized as a believer then that person is not saved, or at best, that person has no reason to hope that he or she is saved.

The irony here is that, taken to it's logical end, this sort of statement leads to "looking to your baptism" not Christ for your assurance. That's the same error as the Federal Vision among the Presbyterians. Yet, Dr. Yarnell is often critical of Presbyterians.

His general error of not distinguishing between orders of doctrines and reasons for error is also a Lutheran error from several centuries ago. Taken to its logical end, as in Catholic theology, it leads to making saving faith into dogmatic faith, as if the two are the same.

That in turn leads directly to ecclesiolatry.

Here's the problem: Baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, and the doctrine of apostasy are all radically opposed to the doctrine of jusification by faith alone. Those who teach these false doctrines as well as justification by faith are speaking out of both sides of their mouths.

A classic example of talking past our theological opponents. We Baptists are often notorious for this. There is no cookie cutter doctrine of "infant baptism" to take just one example. Baptismal regeneration as construed by Lutherans and Catholics are not the same. "The doctrine of apostasy" can be construed in more than one manner. Scott rightly noted that there's a lot of misunderstanding going on, and I'd add not just between Baptists but between Baptists and non-Baptists.

When taken out of context, a few of the passages can come off as troubling when viewed in isolation. However, it seems to me that the key moment in putting Dr. Yarnell's comments into context is his emphasis at about the 34 minute mark of KNOWINGLY going against what Jesus commands.

And here's another example of the above problem.

1. Lutherans and Presbyterians, to take two examples, would not disagree over the necessity of baptism. They would disagree over its meaning and mode.

2. Dr. Yarnell (ironically making the Lutheran error I cited above) doesn't distinguish between reasons a person might be "knowingly" doing this.

jonabaptist said...

WOW, Just WOW -

Yarnell said:

"Now, does that mean that baptism saves you? No! But if you are saved then you will obey and you will be baptized according to Christian baptism not according to something of your own invention."

This man is a danger to the SBC and should not be teaching in any SBC seminary. He calls this Baptist Identity? This statement comes straight from the Christian Church's playbook. He's a Campbellite in Baptist garb!

Now this is a secondary issue, so if he wants to hold this shallow view of Baptism that's fine. But he should at least find a like minded church - like a Disciple of Christ church.

Bart Barber said...

Tom,

If there is any contest between my views and anyone else's in the "Baptist Identity camp" then I am unaware of it. As far as I know, the views that I have articulated are those held by everyone mentioned in this thread as being a part of that group.

onepilgrimsprogress said...

Gene,

I agree that importing ecclesiology into soteriology can be very problematic. I have known Presbyterians who have argued that no true Christian can be an Arminian or (much more rare) a Baptist for that matter, since the Holy Spirit would lead a true believer to apply the covenant sign to his children and not commit what the WCF calls "a great sin" in neglecting that ordinance.

I'm not convinced that Dr. Yarnell's views as expressed in this message rise to the level of the FV and similar heresies. There were certainly some strong statements in the message, but he seemed to me to be emphasizing that we shouldn't view differences on ecclesiology as a matter of indifference, and that if we really believe that the Bible clearly speaks on these issues, we should seek to be in conformity to all that the Bible teaches and that we should point the Lutheran, the Methodist and the Presbyterian to the truth on the issue of baptism, etc.

Perhaps the most noteworthy part of his message from my perspective was his reference early on to the "fictitious invisible church," assuming I'm remembering correctly.

But it seems that these two categories of systematic theology (soteriology and ecclesiology) can't be completely severed either. As a former Presbyterian (OPC) I do believe that even their non regenerative arguments (based on covenant theology) for paedobaptism undermine sola fide in subtle ways. (That's not to say of course that Presbyterians reject sola fide or that there aren't things that many Baptists do that tend to undermine it as well.)

This can be seen when you question many Presbyterians on what advantage their baptized child has over the Baptist non-baptized child.

Chris Poe

Morris Brooks said...

Tom,

I posted some thoughts on my blog concerning the SBC in July 2007, right after the San Antonio convention. They speak to your last two posts. If you wouldn't mind reading it I would appreciate your thoughts. The link is http://morris-pressingon.blogspot.com

Go to the SBC label.

Thanks,

Morris

Tom said...

Bart:

If words still have definable meanings and we can assume that educated people whose vocation requires clear communication actually mean what they say, then the view that you have carefully articulated here is indeed different from at least one spokesman in the BI camp.

Again, I appreciate the care with which you have expressed your views and hope that they will prevail in the BI camp.

Gabaptist said...

This is a really good blog entry. Have you noticed the affiliations of Fundamentalists (SBC and non-SBC) have hindered the maturing of their orthodoxy in the 20th Century? By associating with only those who agreed with their view of evangelism or eschatology, they have grown to accept the more Arminian views of Pentecostalism (i.e., connecting salvation to human works, or denying God's definite intention to save whom He will). From this perspective, their associations start at the third level and not at the first.

GeneMBridges said...

There were certainly some strong statements in the message, but he seemed to me to be emphasizing that we shouldn't view differences on ecclesiology as a matter of indifference, and that if we really believe that the Bible clearly speaks on these issues, we should seek to be in conformity to all that the Bible teaches and that we should point the Lutheran, the Methodist and the Presbyterian to the truth on the issue of baptism, etc.

The problem here is that nobody on my side of the aisle is arguing that ecclesiology is a "matter of indifference." Rather, the argument is that ecclesiological disputes are not matters over which to separate with respect to the promulgation of the Gospel qua Gospel.

So, if that's what Dr. Yarnell was articulating that's yet another misrepresentation he's made of his theological opponents in the long list of misrepresentational statements he keeps racking up.

The issue will get us back to who has the one true most holy pure and apostolic church...ecclesiolatry. Baptism if defined solely as a "church ordinance" when coupled with the statement cited by Tom and myself does in fact logically lead to ecclesiolatry and directly to Romanist theology...here's how, step by step

1. Baptism is necessary for salvation, broadly defined.

2. Baptism must be performed by a right administrative entity, eg. local church...one that fits a specific model in order to be "valid." (And if you or anybody else doesn't think that's what many of the BI folks believe, I point you to the baptism issue at the IMB not just 3 years ago, which haunts the SBC to the present day).

4. If you don't have this baptism, then your baptism is invalid.

5. If baptism is necessary for salvation, broadly defined, and your baptism is invalid, you have reason to doubt your salvation.

6. It is therefore evident that only one true church can administer baptism. If you should question your salvation based on your baptismal status then you are looking not to Christ for your salvation, broadly defined, but your baptism.

Now, tell me how that latter argument isn't exactly the error of the Federal Visionists encapsulated simply? Don't they teach that very thing? Does that not therefore undermine justification by faith alone? And if justification by faith alone is undermined, and baptism is indexed to a "true church" (denominational or local), then isn't that Romanist as well?

You see, when Yarnell speaks of a "fictious invisible church" he's openly advocating Landmark doctrine, and that gets to administrative baptism and the search for the one true baptism from the one true church - ecclesiolatry; Romanism is Baptist roes.

Wayne Smith said...

Gene Bridges,

You said the One True Church.

David Rogers and I had a Post on the One True Church on these Blogs.

http://loveeachstone.blogspot.com/search?q=one+true+church

http://wesmith.wordpress.com/2008/06/17/the-true-church/

Wayne

JunkerJorge said...

I left the Word of Faith Movement and went straight to the saftey of the Baptist Church....only to find out that it is a church with no identity. At least in the heretical wof we were on the same page

Todd Pruitt said...

Tom,
Thanks so much for your continued willingness to comment on this issus. It is something that must be exposed to the light of day. The inevitability of Landmarkism from some quarters of the B.I. movement will be the death of the SBC.

Gene,

You are spot on.

The six step progression you identify is very close to the conclusion I reach concerning the things Yarnell has been saying.

It is Landmarkism. And just because Dr. Yarnell or his defenders say it is not, does not make it so. What he is actually saying can properly be understood as Landmarkism and ecclesiolatry.

If this is where Southwestern is going then they may as well start consulting with realtors now because they will need much less space in the future.

william said...

Hello all. I need help. I currently attend a reformed baptist church that does not accept membership of paedobaptists, though they do accept them as believers.

I am struggling to find any biblical restrictions at all for church membership (excluding unrepentent sin and false gospel).

Are there other restrictions anyone is aware of scripturally? If so, could you reference me to them? Thank you, I really am struggling at the moment.