Closet Paedobaptists In the SBC?

I have changed my mind today. Yes, beware. Nathan beat me to this himself, so this is pegged to his good words as an extension.

In my recent booklet on Landmarkism, I say that “church history” are the two most feared words in the Baptist vocabulary. I was wrong. “Regenerate church membership” is, it seems, the most feared set of words. After reading Tom Ascol’s report on his resolution on church membership and church discipline’s failure for consideration today, I am convinced that the majority of Southern Baptists are ecclesiological Paedobaptists. How ironic, since just yesterday one of the trustees of the IMB stated that the new (unbiblical) policies on baptism and tongues at the IMB were necessary because the missionaries needed a stronger Baptist identity.

Dr. French from the Resolutions Committtee’s excuse for rejecting the resolution from consideration was that we shouldn’t discharge those church members as they are some of our greatest prospects for evangelism. This comes, ironically, on the heels of a sermon by Dr. Edwin Young, who I know and under whom my grandfather was a deacon at Ardmore Baptist in Winston-Salem, NC when Dr. Young was a young pastor, in which Dr. Young pointed out that 6 out of every 8 (that’s 75 percent) of the young people in SBC churches fall away when they leave home. He also stated that there are church members in the SBC that not even the FBI could find. How then, pray tell, are these persons, “our best prospects for evangelism” if we can’t find them at all?

I do agree that these folks are very likely our best prospects for evangelism, but I have to ask, then, why are they members of your church? I believe, along with the Baptist Faith and Message, that we believe in a regenerate church membership. That is why I am a Baptist and not a Paedobaptist. Paedobaptists open the door to unregenerate church membership. In a Paedobaptist church, people that are on your membership roll and don’t show can be legitimately called evangelism prospects and church members. In a Baptist church, if you really believe that, then you are violating the cardinal principle of baptism: the baptism of believer’s only. Don’t dare call me a closet Presbyterian for being a Calvinist who believes in a church polity built on plural eldership while making comments like this:

Regarding Brother Tom’s resolution,

And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.” (Matthew 13:27-29)

This comes from Charles, from the Calvinist Flyswatter, who apparently didn’t bother to read the rest of the passage. The world is the field, not the church! If this represents the thinking of anti-Calvinist Baptists who call us Reformed Baptists closet Presbyterians, what does it really say about them? It seems the shoe is really on the other foot.

Now, baptism of believers only is not foolproof, though it is very evident that there are fools practicing it in the SBC at the moment. It is merely a control measure. Some churches baptize very early after a profession of faith. Some wait for evidences to show. There are tradeoffs for each practice. In the former, your are more likely to baptize a spurious convert. In the latter, you violate a NT example by which they baptized very early after conversion, from the evidence we have. Churches have, for almost 2000 years, and even in the past 450 odd “Baptist years” varied on the timing of baptism itself, even among us Baptists. Some people are bound to get through and into your church, but that’s why we have a Plan B called church discipline, and church discipline has one of two end results: (a) restoration or (b) excommunication.

So, pray tell, how is it that Dr. French can legitimately say that lapsed church members are some of our best prospects for evangelism? Were they not evangelized before they were baptized? If you are presuming them to be prospects of evangelism, then you must believe them to be unregenerate. If they are unregenerate, why are they members of your church? Who really needs a stronger sense of Baptist identity: the IMB missionaries or the 75 % of SBC messengers who voted not to consider Tom Ascol’s resolution.

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13 Comments on “Closet Paedobaptists In the SBC?”

  1. Bill Isley Says:

    Gene–

    Isn’t Charles’ view (which I am not supporting) a “Scofieldism” from the Scofield “Reference” Bible?

    Bill

  2. Gene Says:

    Good question. I don’t have a Scofield handy to check. Perhaps one of our readers does.

  3. Gordan Says:

    Don’t have a Scofield, but just dusted off my old Ryrie. He doesn’t have a pertinent comment, which leads me to guess that neither did Scofield. I get the impression Charles is not leaning heavily on anyone’s version of scholarship (even the Dispensational kind) except that Ross fellow.

  4. scripturesearcher Says:

    As posted elsewhere…..

    …..this is not the first time this clone called Charles has intentionally (?) misinterpreted the Word of God.

    But we can (and should) pray it will be his last!

  5. johnMark Says:

    Wasn’t “Charles” live blogging at the Convention? Did anyone meet him?

    Mark

    Ps. I also understand there was a resolution on alcohol which I read about here: http://www.timellsworth.com/?p=1041

  6. johnMark Says:

    Oops..sorry, I see your other post about alcohol now. =)

    Mark

  7. Gordan Says:

    johnMark,

    In my county we have a dry Sunday morning, in which no alcohol may be sold before noon. Traditionally, this has meant that the Baptists buy their beer on Saturday afternoon.

    Dr. Gary North once suggested that if we really want Baptists involved in the pro-life movement, then we should spread the rumor that abortion clinics give each patient a post-operative glass of wine.

    Cheers.

  8. Bill Isley Says:

    Gene–

    From my reading of the “old” Scofield notes, the field is “what represents the kingdom, not the world” (that is not an exact quote, but close). I don’t have a “revised” Scofield handy to tell you what it says.

    1917 edition:

    “Indeed, it characterizes Matthew from Chapter 13 to the end. The parable of the wheat and tares is not a description of the world, but of that which professes to be the kingdom. Mere unbelievers are never the children of the devil, but only religious unbelievers are so called ”

    from
    http://studylight.org/com/srn/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=013

    Bill

  9. RustyR Says:

    This is interesting, because I have a 7 year old son right now. He has asked to be baptized. I don’t think he fully understands the gospel, but wants to follow Christ and understands that baptism is part of that. I have been hesitant with him, whereas with his older sister and brother I was not. When should we baptize are children if they so desire, because it’s very hard to see fruit at that age?


  10. It’s the Halfway Covenant all over again. Astounding.

  11. Gordan Says:

    Rusty,

    For what it’s worth, I think if we waited to baptize even adult converts until they “fully understand the gospel” (as you say,) most Baptist churches would be about one tenth their current size, if that.

    I know you addressed Gene, but thought I’d throw that in. I think the biblical pattern is to baptize very soon after a profession of faith in Christ. Most of us have a lot of learning to do post-Baptism, which is what discipleship ought to be about.

  12. Gene Says:

    Children are “the” limiting case, because it is easier to see fruit with adults and we tend to assume, sometimes with little argument, that it is lasting fruit. I’d encourage you to read Edwards account of childhood conversion in his day and the biographical literature on childhood conversion from the diaries produced during the First Great Awakening on some insights.

    Remember, the gospel is about faith in Christ and repentance from sin. A child should show evidence of conversion just like an adult, but in a childlike way. Is s/he truly sorrowful for sin, or did s/he just want to ask Jesus in his/her heart? Does s/he want to know what God’s Word says? etc. The point is, you know your child, so you are the one is the best position to make that evaluation. We have a man in our church who is working through this himself. If you’d like to contact him Rusty, I’d be happy to put the two of you in contact. My email is genembridges@aol.com. Just email me.

    You’re right, baptism is to be, ideally fairly soon after conversion, but that’s just a NT example, and not all examples are commands. The early church began separating conversion and baptism because they realized that false converts were appearing with greater frequency. By separating the two, and allowing some time for catechisis they were able to sift their baptismal candidates and weed out spurious converts.

    Most churches do at least put baptismal candidates through an interview / examination process anyway. The only people I know who baptize right out of the gate these days are people like the Power Team group that baptize on the spot, many times to the objection of local churches in the area.

    In a local church, ,if the candidates come with somebody to vouch for them, this is always easier. If they are not known, they generally go through a longer process, where the congregation gets to know them and they are able to, if possible, go through membership orientation classes (for us this is about four to six weeks, depending on the number of new member candidates who we have), so we might do it once every two months to once a quarter. It’s not as if they’re waiting six months to a year (or 3 years like they were in the 2nd century), but there is a probationary period where we (and in the case of kids their families) watch them. That’s only healthy. I’d also add in “easy believism” churches, where you walk an aisle and pray a prayer for the umpteenth time and then get baptized this is an admittedly greater concern. In our churches, where we place more evidential weight on faith that truly transforms and are stricter about who we allow in the churches, this is less of a problem in view of the way we structure our churches and the way we underwrite our gospel presentations with heavy calls to repent and believe and manifest fruit in keeping with conversion. Also, in our churches, it is often a good idea, especially in small churches where you have less people presenting anyway, to wait until you have a small handful (3 or more) to baptize if possible so you can schedule the service but use the intervening time to teach on baptism to the church. We’re baptizing this weekend in our church, and that’s what we’ve done, in part because we wanted to teach on baptism in some detail and keep this in the mind of the people. I’m sure we’ll do this again when we baptize again for the same reason. Too many Baptist churches (as the comment by Mr.French I think illustrates) simply assume that the church understands baptism. Well, they clearly do not.

  13. RustyR Says:

    Thanks Gene, I just sent the email.


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