What Makes a Church Scriptural?

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by AVL1984, Aug 17, 2005.

  1. AVL1984

    AVL1984
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    I am facing several situations right now that involve what makes a church scriptural and which churches are scriptural churches/denominations.

    Please, tell me, are these denominations scriptural churches/denominations or not. Please use scripture if you can. I believe I know where I stand on it, but I've asked several ministers for guidance on the subject, consulted my doctrines books and the Bible and am still wanting more imput.

    Methodists/Weslyan? Why or why not?
    Evangelical Free? Why or why not?
    Lutheran? Why or why not?
    Mennonite? Why or why not?
    Church of Christ? Why or why not?
    Church of God? Why or why not?
    AOG/Pentecostal? Why or why not?
    Nazarene? Why or why not?
    Episcopal? Why or why not?
    Greek Orthodox? Why or why not?
    Independent Baptists?
    Baptists?
    Southern Baptists?

    I know it may take some time, but I do appreciate the imput.

    Thank you all in advance. And please, let's not turn this into an argument session. I'm more interested in serious responses/reasoning from God's word.

    Bro. T
     
  2. Karen

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    In general, as the Westminster Confession correctly states, where the Word of God is preached and the sacraments ie. ordinances are properly administered, there the church exists.
    (Of course, then, many Baptists would say that sprinkling babies is not only error but makes a paedobaptist church not a true church.)

    Every one of the groups you named is orthodox, that is, they believe in the doctrines expressed in the Nicene Creed, whether or not they actually say the Nicene Creed.
    Such as the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the resurrection of the dead.
    As Squire posted at the head of this individual forum, doctrines can be thought of as falling into 3 categories. Some such as the Deity of Christ are essential. Some such as whether a church has congregational government or elders are important doctrines, but true Christians can truly disagree on them.
    A scriptural church would lead people to God, with a correct view of salvation, what it takes for people to be reconciled to God.

    Karen
     
  3. Andy T.

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    I know this may not be what you are looking for, but below is my quick take on each of these. Quick disclaimer: There are certainly true Christians found in any of these denominations, some more than others. Also, even in structured denominations, like the Methodists, the individual churches can vary greatly in what they teach and how they live, so the below snippets are not meant to be stereotypes.

    Methodists/Weslyan? - No, because they believe you can lose your salvation. They also do not have a solid doctrine on baptism - believing in both infant baptism and believer's baptism.

    Evangelical Free? - Not very familiar with EF, but I would give a qualified yes. The main difference between EF and Baptists is church government (presby vs. congreg.), I believe.

    Lutheran? - No, because of infant baptism.

    Mennonite? - No, because they believe you can lose your salvation.

    Church of Christ? - No, because many of them teach that you must be baptised in order to be saved. Some of them also have a weak doctrine of original sin.

    Church of God? - No, loss of salvation belief.

    AOG/Pentecostal? - No, loss of salvation belief. Views on the Holy Spirit are also off.

    Nazarene? - No, loss of salvation belief, and similar view on baptism as Methodists/Wesleyans above. Views on the Holy Spirit also off - similar to Pentacostals without an emphasis on tongues.

    Episcopal? - No, infant baptism issue.

    Greek Orthodox? - No, infant baptism issue, and wrong view of salvation - they do not hold to justification by faith alone.

    Independent Baptists? - Generally yes, but it depends on the individual church.

    Baptists? - Ditto.

    Southern Baptists? - Ditto.

    Also note that some of the churches above have long abandoned inerrancy, which doesn't make them a Biblical church either. Even some Baptists have slipped on this.
     
  4. Andy T.

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    Please note that I did not use the WCF standard that Karen quoted above. The standard I used was whether it was a "Biblical" church or not - a much tougher standard. Like I said before, Christians can be in any of the above churches.

    I would also add that a Biblical church must practice Biblical church discipline, which is another standard that I think the WCF discusses (I know I've heard R.C. Sproul teach on it many times). There are some (dare I say many) Baptist churches that are weak on church discipline, which may put them into the unbiblical category.
     
  5. Dr. Bob

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    Andy has evaluated this simply and accurately from the Bible (not creed/confession) and I concur. There are a LOT more problems of each denomination . . and variation within each group for sure!
     
  6. AVL1984

    AVL1984
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    Thanks for you input everyone.

    You've all been most helpful. [​IMG]
     
  7. Johnv

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    I think this is less an issue of a church being "scriptural" or not. It's more an issue of scriptural implimentation and methodology. I think all these churches qualify as being scriptural to a minimal extent. They do not, however, all impliment scripture in the same manner. This is an area where you may simply have to visit these churches for yourself and decide which best fits your beliefs and requirements. No small task.
     
  8. Karen

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    Andy,
    You gave a useful personal summary. But as you say, there are variations.

    I would give a stronger than qualified yes to E. Free. I THINK that Dr. Bob would concur. I believe he has been an interim pastor in one.
    Yet, E Free churches simply do not make an emphasis on baptism. They tend to baptize believers by immersion, but they will accept any baptism mode, time, or way the prospective member considers ok. Or not at all. I have seen members accepted who were never baptized. For that matter, they do not emphasize membership at all. So quite often, it never even comes up.

    They would be somewhat close on this to the Wesleyans I have seen. There is a large Wesleyan presence in my town. They only baptize converts by profession of faith, by immersion. They only dedicate infants. Yet, they would accept members who were sprinkled as an infant and not require anything else. They actually emphasize membership a lot more than E. Free though.

    You promptly labeled Baptist groups as ok. There are two Freewill Baptist groups in my town. They are almost indistinguishable from the Wesleyans in your points of concern. Except that they would require immersion.
    Other than pacifism, the Freewill Baptists are indistinguishable from the local Mennonites. The local Mennonites do not dress or act like the Amish. I believe that Christians cannot lose their salvation. And that Freewill Baptist doctrine is wrong on this point. It's a very important point. But I am not sure that one doctrine cuts the Freewill Baptists off from being considered scriptural. They believe what they think is revealed in Scripture on the point.

    What about Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis? It is a Reformed Baptist church headed by John Piper. But there is the additional wrinkle that he does not believe that miraculous gifts ceased with the closing of the Canon.

    In my opinion, a church can be scriptural while still holding to some wrong things. I think the local Landmark Baptist church is a scriptural church. Yet in many areas such as, well, the issues that set it apart from the local SBC churches, it is wrong.
    Obviously I think my SBC church has more of it right than the aforementioned Landmark church, or I would be a member of it.

    I got a chuckle out of Dr. Bob's reference to the Bible, RATHER than creed or confession. My church likewise NEVER says and I am sure never will say the Nicene Creed. Yet it is a summary statement of what Christians believe is orthodoxy. (Yes, I know about the Orthodox and the filioque clause.) I affirm that the Bible and the Bible alone is inspired and inerrant.
    Yet we can come across like Christians through the ages have nothing to say to us. Although a modern book by a modern preacher might. (And yes, I do think PDL is a useful book.) The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is not in any way binding on my SBC church, yet it is a useful document.
    My pastor recently has preached a number of sermons on essential Christian doctrine. He never mentioned creeds or confessions either. Yet his list of essential doctrines was unsurprisingly similar to parts of the Nicene and parts of the B&M 2000.
    Yet there are SBC leaders who have not affirmed the B&M 2000, believing that it is in error on certain points, compared to the 1963 version.
    I am NOT going to say that those churches and leaders are unscriptural Baptist churches because they accept 1963 but don't accept 2000.

    Karen
     
  9. Andy T.

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    Karen,

    A lot of this comes down to which issues are important to us. Eternal Security is important to me, because it is generally a good barometer of one's sotierology, which is of upmost importance. I think baptism is a major issue. But one's view of the Bible is even more major than baptism (I have more affinity with Lutherans and Presbys who hold to inerrancy than I do with Baptists who don't). End times stuff is not so major to me. The thing you mentioned about Piper's church is not major to me. I would attend Piper's church in a heartbeat, if I lived in the area.

    I tend to agree with the sentiment that it is a continium - some churches being closer to biblical doctrine than others. For instance, if I were to rate the churches above, I would put the Greek Orthodox in last place with the Church of Christ (those holding to baptismal regeneration) just above them. E. Free it appears would be almost identical to Baptists, save their soft stance on baptism.
     
  10. AVL1984

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    The reason that I've asked is that the church I'm currently filling in the pulpit for split (it's my home church) over whether or not to accept statements of faith from other denominations. The boundaries that have been set by the people who left are these: if the person has clear testimony of salvation and has been baptized in their denomination AFTER salvation, by immersion, they will be accepted as members by statement. The side that stayed are saying it has to be "Baptist" baptism because the other churches are unscriptural in one or more area's of doctrine, not just methodology as Johnv suggested earlier.

    So, where do we go from here? Every Baptist church I've ever been a member of makes other denominations be baptized by immersion into the Baptist faith. Is this wrong? Right? Why?
     
  11. Dr. Bob

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    And each EFree church is autonomous and may establish their own position on baptism. When I worked at our local EFree church when they went through some great difficulties, we were total immersionists. I baptized in the river (didn't lose anyone) and no one who had not been baptized by immersion after salvation was allowed to join.

    The national EFree has NO position on most issues, and allow churches that are willing to unite under the 12-points of agreement then to differ on other issues. Eschatology. Women. Mission support. Church function.
     
  12. Karen

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    Tony,
    My SBC church takes it on a case by case basis.
    Generally, we would accept without rebaptism a person coming from a Bible Church, E. Free, Mennonite, Plymouth Brethren. That is to say, immersion with the same beliefs about it.
    We would not accept Church of Christ baptism. Although it is immersion, it means something entirely different to them.

    Karen
     
  13. Karen

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    I would clarify that to say no position on most issues that are contentious among modern Baptists. Such as Calvinism vs. Arminianism. Although individual churches will lean to one or the other. The E.Free church is quite orthodox.

    Eschatology - now what Dr. Bob mentions would be a radical departure from the way things used to be. I met several times one of the authors of the 12 points. As well as a number of old-time members. This was admittedly over 20 years ago. Then, they all assured me that you could take about any eschatological position and attend an E.Free church. But to be a member, you had to agree with point 12. And there was no wiggle room. Point 12 was upheld to be the classical dispensational pre-tribulation view of last things.

    Karen
     
  14. Dr. Bob

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    Karen, I worked with the church here for nearly 18 months, healing and helping them search and finally find a pastor. The EFree's statement on eschatology is -

    This leaves LOTS of wiggle room for each church and each pastor.

    Questionaires (quite detailed) were sent to possible candidates and the variety of opinions on this (and a number of areas) were evident. Out of 150 possibilities, only 14 men matched the church's position 90%.
     
  15. elijah_lives

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    "Generally, we would accept without rebaptism a person coming from a Bible Church, E. Free, Mennonite, Plymouth Brethren. That is to say, immersion with the same beliefs about it.
    We would not accept Church of Christ baptism. Although it is immersion, it means something entirely different to them."
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    I and my household were baptized by the Church of Christ. We left after doctrinal errors became evident, but their position that baptism is the point of salvation was not explained to us before the immersion. My state of mind was that baptism is a commandment from our Lord, and a public identification with the body of Christ. Question: Why then would this not be a valid baptism? It seems like a re-baptism would be a mockery of the ordnance.

    Tim
     
  16. imported_J.R. Graves

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    AVL1984,

    I am sorry to hear that your church split over the issue of alien immersion - that is immersions administered by a non-Baptist churches. I have found that many Southern Baptist churches throughout the south are struggling with this issue. However I strongly believed that Baptist churches need to remain faithful in rejecting the baptisms of unscriptural churches. As Andy T. as shown non-Baptists churches differ with us Baptists on the major doctrines of salvation or baptism. When we accept the baptisms preformed by these different denominations, we are putting our stamp of approval on these denominations and the doctrines they believe.

    I realize that some of you are going to say that is just a Landmark point of view, but I can easily demonstrate that the vast majority of our Southern Baptist founders and great leaders such as Boyce, Broadus, Manly Jr., Carroll, Grambell, McDaniel, Grey, Lee, Criswell, etc., etc., etc. believed alien immersion should be reacted.

    The reason most SBC churches begin to accept alien immersion is so they can allow non-Baptists to join and have more members, more numbers, and more money. I have had pastors tell me that their church is not growing because the non-Baptists have to be "rebaptized" to join. Let me say this is a falsehood. The reason your church is not growing has nothing to do with your practice of the ordinances. The SBC church I grew up in was very strong on rejecting alien immersions and led our local association in total baptisms for nine straight years.

    AVL1984 - I hold you will stay and help your church work through these problems. If you e-mail me I will snail mail you some materials on this subject that I believe will help you on this subject.
     
  17. TCassidy

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    In order for baptism to be scriptural, more is required than a mere "state of mind."

    1. There first needs to be a proper subject. Only a Born Again Believer is a proper subject for scriptural Baptism.

    2. Secondly there needs to be a proper mode. The New Testament teaches only full immersion as the scriptural mode of Baptism.

    3. Thirdly there needs to be a proper motive. An act of obedience, following the Lord's example, as a testimony of the efficacy of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ in the life of the candidate.

    4. Lastly there must be a proper administrator. The question is "who has the scriptural authority to baptize?" Baptism is a church ordinance. In order to scripturally baptize a church must be scriptural. It must be an organized assembly of baptized believers. The so-called "Church of Christ" is not, in my opinion, a scriptural church and therefore cannot administer the church ordinance of Baptism.
     
  18. TexasSky

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    I think it should be handled on an individual basis. Just as some Baptist churches don't come anywhere close to teaching what you assume all Baptist churches teach, there are a few churches of other denominations that are closer to Baptist than to the denominations they identify with in name.

    The important things have been mentioned in this thread:

    1) Are they born again Christians?
    2) Was their first baptism a symbol of that?
    3) Was it Baptism by immersion?
    4) Were they Baptized by a true body of believers?
     
  19. elijah_lives

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    "The so-called "Church of Christ" is not, in my opinion, a scriptural church and therefore cannot administer the church ordinance of Baptism."
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    While I left the Church of Christ over doctrinal errors, as I stated, the interesting thing was that the members of that congregation showed far more "fruits of the spirit" than any other church I've visited. I'm certainly not happy with the Baptist church I attend now, because they seem spiritually dead. The Baptist views are closest to the truth, as far as I can discern, but TexasSky makes a very valid point. I could not subject my family to a re-baptism (in my wife's case, it would be her third, since the first was a sprinkling), and none of them would be willing to do so.

    While I see the need for baptism, these differences are nearly enough to drive us away from ANY church, because the attitude seems often to be that only their particular congregation is scriptural. I know my household is saved, because the "fruits of the spirit" are obvious in them, so that's why I am concerned over this issue. In our minds, we were complying with the Lord's directives, and my wife, in particular, is put off by being told repeatedly that her baptisms were invalid.
     
  20. TexasSky

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    Elijah,

    In another thread, I asked how many here would be re-Baptized. The last I checked on that thread, every response was that they would not.
    I wouldn't. My first Baptism was a statement of faith to Christ. I don't owe men more than I owe God.
     

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