Baptism and Baptist Church Membership

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Dr. Bob, Oct 6, 2005.

  1. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob
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    A historic Baptist church in downtown Minneapolis is considering a MAJOR change in polity - that immersion will no longer be a requirement for membership.

    "Since we believe that the New Testament teaches and demonstrates that the mode of baptism is only the immersion of a believer in water, we therefore regard all other practices of baptism as misguided, defective, and illegitimate. Yet, while not taking these differences lightly, we would not elevate them to the level of what is essential. Thus, we will welcome into membership candidates who, after a time of study, discussion, and prayer, prescribed by the Elders, retain a conviction that it would be a violation of their conscience to be baptized by immersion as believers. This conviction of conscience must be based on a plausible, intelligible, Scripturally-based argument rather than on mere adherence to a tradition or family expectations. The elders will make all such judgments in presenting candidates for membership to the congregation. All candidates for membership, even when holding firmly to views different from the official position of the elders, must demonstrate a humble and teachable disposition with respect to the church leadership, as expressed in the Church Covenant."

    At the same time, the affirmation of faith for elders is unchanged:

    "We believe that baptism is an ordinance of the Lord by which those who have repented and come to faith express their union with Christ in His death and resurrection, by being immersed in water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is a sign of belonging to the new people of God, the true Israel, and an emblem of burial and cleansing, signifying death to the old life of unbelief, and purification from the pollution of sin."

    We've been chatting on the Book Forum and thought it best to move this discussion here.
     
  2. Dr. Bob

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    BTW, I am 100% opposed to a church doing this AND still calling itself "Baptist". "Baptist" has historic distinctives that are sorely violated by such a move.

    At the same time, believing in autonomy, it is up to the local church to make such a decision.
     
  3. whatever

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    Dr. Bob,

    First of all I want to apologize for hijacking the Book Forum thread. I really need to learn to shut up sometimes.

    Second, because I had not really given this much thought before I haven't decided whehter I think this is acceptable or not. I have a friend who considers himself a Reformed Baptist and yet is a member of a local Presbyterian church. It's the same situation in reverse, except they have not exactly told my friend that he could not be an elder. He does not know for certain whether that would be allowed or not. He is allowed to teach some of the children's classes and such. But just because Prebyterians do it does not mean that Baptists can or should do it.

    I would be interested to know why you disagree with their move, and which Baptist distinctives they are violating.

    Also, do you think they fact that they are elder-ruled plays into the appropriateness of their proposal? As I stated on the other forum I do not know much about how elder-ruled churches actually operate.
     
  4. Bible-boy

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    I don't want to speak for Dr. Bob... but I assume that his problem (as is mine) is with their move away from the Baptist distinctive of baptism by immersion only. It does not seem right for them to have an affirmation of faith that requires baptism by full immersion and then to turn around and say that they will
     
  5. hamricba

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    This could lead to some conflict in our own churches because this pastor is so prominent and well-known... I assume many will either follow his example or be so tempted.
     
  6. StefanM

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    I respect the right of the church to make its own decisions, but if it approves this change, it will be Baptist in name only.
     
  7. rjprince

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    Baptidsw means to immerse. It is correctly translated in the account of the rich man and Lazarus when the rich man says, "send Lazarus that he may dip his finger in water and cool my tongue."

    No immersion, no longer Baptist. We do not require Baptism for membership, but we do not accept alternate modes nor a "statement of conscience" that baptism by immersion is not the accepted mode.
     
  8. Gold Dragon

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    I've always found it interesting that Baptists so strongly insist of Baptism being completely symbolic but also get in a tizzy over the mode of baptism. If it is completely symbolic, why the focus over the mode?

    I find those two positions to be inconsistent.

    With that said, our church constitution does hold this inconsistent position.
     
  9. bapmom

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    Dragon,

    because its only symbolic if its done right.


    If you sprinkle what are you symbolizing? Not the death, burial and resurrection. You are symbolizing Jesus being rained on?


    But if you are immersed, you are symbolizing the death, burial, and resurrection, which is what baptism is supposed to be all about. No other mode gives an accurate picture.
     
  10. Gold Dragon

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    Pouring which is the more accurate description symbolizes the washing away or cleansing of sins.

    John the Baptist baptized people before Jesus died, was buried and resurrected. Were his baptisms predictive of the future or were they symbolic of repentence and the washing away of sin?

    Of course, I love the parallel imagery of full immersion that does symbolize the death burial and ressurrection of Christ. However, to say that this is the purpose of baptism is incorrect.
     
  11. StefanM

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    While I definitely hold to immersion, I think the symbolism only exists when a person who believes is baptized. If baptism does not effect regeneration, then infant baptism means little. There is no true symbolism without believer's baptism, and you can't have that with an infant. What is the proper mode for believers baptism? Immersion.
     
  12. StefanM

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    to GD:

    Act 19:3 And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John's baptism."
    Act 19:4 And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus."
    Act 19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (ESV)
     
  13. bapmom

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    Ro 6:4
    Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    Col 2:12
    Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.


    Dragon, While I'd agree that Jesus' death does indeed "wash our sins away", these verses I copied seem to indicate that we are symbolizing the DEATH, BURIAL, and RESURRECTION of Christ with our baptism.....not the washing away of the sins.
    I get real nervous when we start to equate "washing away of sins" with baptism. This is when misunderstandings occur and suddenly baptism BECOMES the act whereby the sins are washed away.
     
  14. Gold Dragon

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    Baptism is about symbolizing the washing away of sins that John's baptism was an image of. John's baptism also pointed to the person of Christ who would die, be buried and rise from the dead for the washing away of our sins, something that baptist immersion symbolically paints a wonderful image of. After Christ's death, burial and ressurection, baptism was a powerful image of indentification with Christ.

    Other traditions use pouring as being consistent with the washing away of sins as an alternative to immersion. It should also be noted that baptismal tanks are becoming more popular in Catholic and Orthodox churches because of the powerful imagery of full immersion that is growing in popularity as growth in those traditions are coming more from adult converts and less from children being born into them.
     
  15. Gold Dragon

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    The association of washing away or forgiveness of sins with baptism is biblical in origin.

    NASB - Acts 2:28 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    NASB - Acts 22:16 Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.
     
  16. bapmom

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    but it is still Jesus who washes the sins away, and not the water.

    It really doesn't speak to what is being symbolized by the actual act of baptism. Essentially this is why we immerse.
     
  17. Gold Dragon

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    Of course. Every Christian tradition would agree with that.

    Agreed.
     
  18. All about Grace

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    Mode of baptism is secondary to purpose for baptism, but mode is still important. I think Bethlehem will run into deeper problems b/c the primary focus is on "believers" baptism. Those who refused to be immersed probably stem from a tradition of infant baptism, which introduces a whole other set of problems.

    Piper is definitely walking a fine line between what is a Baptist distinctive and what is not. It will be amusing to see the Piper-calvinists flock to his side to defend a position they would have disparaged 3 years ago if a Rick Warren made the same decision (which he has not by the way).

    I still think an underlying motive to this decision comes from Bethlehem's minimal amount of baptisms each year in light of the size of their church. Most people who become a part of Bethlehem are simply transfers from other churches. Piper attracts many non-Baptist types, like Presbos, so I am sure there is an influx of Christians who want to be a part of Bethlehem but do not want to be baptized. That's just my speculation on the subject, but it also introduces another point -- should a church be growing primarily from transfers or conversions. My guess is that if most the people joining Bethlehem were through conversions then this would not be an issue.
     
  19. ScottEmerson

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    We talked about baptism last night, looking especially at the Jewish mikveh, which is the forerunner to our baptism. To become a Jewish proselyte, one had to completely immerse himself or herself in the ceremonial water. When he or she came up, he or she was officially considered a Jew.

    I'm quite convicted that anyone who has been sprinkled has never been baptized, and I am glad that we as a church require baptism for membership.
     
  20. USN2Pulpit

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    for = "eis"

    "because of" or "as a result of"
     

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