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Baptists - Why Do You Do It?

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by rlvaughn, Jan 27, 2003.

  1. rufus

    rufus New Member

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    Rufus [​IMG] says because The Bible Teaches all of them in principle and practice.

    Rufus [​IMG]
     
  2. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Thanks for the thoughtful responses.

    A few posts back I posted what I think it means to receive "apostolic practice as normative." Perhaps I should also state was it does not mean (to us). We who hold this position do not believe we must follow the Jewish and Roman lifestyles of the first century. Just because Paul might have worn a toga & sandals and walked to church (in three feet of snow, 10 miles uphill coming & going ;) ) does not establish that practice for us. Evidently there are some groups that may follow some semblance of that kind of thinking - such as the Amish - but I confess that I am not sure on what principles they establish their lifestyle. But we consider that what the apostles taught & practiced and the churches received very well could be establishing a practice for us - whether anti-cultural, semi-cultural or cultural. In other words, the things they received into their way of ministry, gathering, governing, teaching, evangelizing, etc.. What I see is that we all come to this conclusion for some things, but diverge at some point and often end up at opposite ends of the spectrum on others. One could compare Old Regular, Primitive, and a few other Baptists with a modern metropolitan Southern Baptist church and probably find a fairly consistent following on the part of all concerning local autonomy and congregational government, yet find that these churches have almost no resemblance in practice. At what point do we diverge on our thinking and application of this principle?

    rufus, thanks for entering the discussion. I am intrigued by your answer. It would appear, and I would agree, that you are saying that in addition to the practice (apostolic example) that there must also be some principle involved. I don't want to speak for you, so I'll let you explain; but that was my thought when I read that. And I'm thinking this may be the point of divergence; that is, one looks at a practice and thinks, "there is no principle involved" and so it is not necessary to recreate or follow that practice today; another may look at the same thing and think they see a principle. If so, it would suggest we are each following our principles as we understand them. Surely this is part of the answer.
     
  3. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Clint, I think that you have brought up another practice that would show a divergence on this issue - that of laying on of hands. I do expect that most Baptists follow it to some degree, but you will be interested to know that the "laying-on-of-hands" issue was among some of the first controversies for early Baptists in America, and they were distinguished as "five-principle" and "six-principle" Baptists (laying-on-of-hands being the 6th principle, Heb. 6:1,2). It was not that the other did not lay on hands, but that they differed on its importance and significance. For one thing, they laid hands on new converts, as you mentioned. The Philadelphia Confession adds a section on the subject.

    As to the issue of whether the Ephesus elders were ordained "suddenly," I think there is substantial lapse of time from Paul's initial visit to Ephesus (Acts 18:19) until their mention in Acts 20 (although I would expect the most important thing was growth in grace, not growth in years or time). I need to refresh on this before saying more about how many years might be involved.
     
  4. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Jim, thanks for the clarification and also for raising the Sunday School example. This is an issue on which some Baptists separate in practice. By far, the majority have incorporated the system into their churches, but Primitive Baptists and other primitivists resist this "innovation." Your post, mine, and the one by rufus' may intersect on the idea of "principle and practice" (though we may not come to the same conclusions). I feel that you and rufus would hold that Sunday School is correct in principle, while I would question it. I think that it was a mistake for the churches to adopt the S. S. system. Combined with the lack of example of any kind of child training systems or child evangeliztion in the early church, I would take issue on certain principles: the nature of man, which would indicate that children are not just little believers in training; the nature of discerning God's word, which requires the indwelling Spirit; the great commission, which would indicate that the church is responsible to teach & train the evangelized; parental responsibility, which would indicate that the primary authorities in child education are the parents; the nature of the church's ministry, which is to mature the saints to do the work of ministry. I don't want to derail the discussion, but thought this would be an opportunity to shed light on how some of us would view adoption of a program such as Sunday School as more than just a social innovation or evolution. I'm sure most of you will not agree, but I hope this helps people understand why some of us are saying that we don't believe in Sunday Schools, and maybe in so doing speaks to the issue under consideration.
     
  5. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer Active Member
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    Hello again, Robert -

    I believe that you hit on one point that I was more or less dancing around:

    One could argue (though I have no desire to argue with you) that the elder system we see demonstrated in the New Testament was an adaption of the Judaistic system of "church" polity and necessary for the times and past situation in the emerging church. As times changed, so too did the polity of the church. The council of elders in the Gospels and the Epistles is described as a group of men who acted for the people as a whole. In fact the Jewish elders were quite instrumental in bringing about the crucifiction.

    It is not until Acts 14:23 that we see Paul and Barnabas appointing elders. All mention prior to this indicates an already established group. Further support that these groups were not clerical can be found in Acts 23:14 in that they are listed as a seperate office from the priests. 1Timothy 5:17 shows us that a person can hold two distinct offices, that of "preacher" and "elder." Aside from your citing of Acts 20:28, the only other "job description" I can find for an elder is in James 5:14, that they pray over and annoint the sick with oil.

    I will go a little further out on the limb here. I believe that within the church, just as within any social structure, leaders will naturally emerge. Even in churches that do not exercise a system of a plurality of elders have that core collection of individuals who rise and see to the proper workings of the church. This is just my own personal observation, but just as David was commissioned by God long before Samuel's annointing, so too does God place people where they need to be in His church to perform the necessary tasks.

    Paul and Barnabas were left with a task of appointing elders because the infantile church was prone to straying from true doctrine. Once the Apostolic age passed (I know that's a debatable point) and Christian doctrine and polity was established, the appointing of elders was not a necessity. "Elders" come to the front now when the need arises to correct doctrine but otherwise, the office is a redundancy within the church.

    As to the laying of hands, I would be very interested in exploring the divergence you spoke of between the "5 principle" and "6 principle" Baptists. The laying of hands, like the council of elders, is easily traced to the Old Testament as an inherited Judaistic practice. The earliest mention of such a practice is Genesis 48:13-20. Just as Christ used the practice for some of His healings to show from whom the power imparted, so to did the early (and modern) church use the laying of hands to represent authority and succession. I don't think many modern believers look at the laying of hands as deeply as they once did. I am SBC and I have only seen the practice used for ordaining deacons, pastors, and the occassional infant dedication.

    Finally, I would like to clarify a position you took on Sunday School:

    In my church, Sunday School is not just for children. The class I attend has two octogenarians as members, in fact, Margie and I are the youngest in the class. In that setting, we explore Scripture much in the same way that we are doing here, with close careful scrutiny. Jen (my 10-year old step-daughter) would have glazed eyes by the time we got to the second sentence and would not get anything out of the discourse. For an example, if one week we were exploring the subject of David's life, it would be appropriate for the adults to explore the nature of David's affair with Bathsheba but it would not do for the kids. They would learn about Goliath or the return of the Ark. I personally feel that this is appropriate. Sunday School allows for interaction and participation from each member. It is a study of Scriptures by the letter. The message preached in the worship service, on the other hand is a single narrative based on the Scriptures and expounded to an application to the present believer's life. The format does not allow for the same Q & A period that Sunday School does. I think that Sunday School is easily justified by such passages as Acts 17:10-11. Studying the Scriptures in a group to look for evidence and truth was cited as a "noble" practice and thus the Bereans are held as examples to us from the New Testament writings.

    I fear that my posts are not addressing the issue of "why" we diverge as much as they are merely defending the practices I know as "normative" for me. Maybe once you set the hook I can remain more on target. ;)

    To expound further, another historic variance in Baptist thought is certainly the missionary split of the 1830's over evangelism. Still another that was born of this divergence is the use of conventions. The justification for that is, of course, that it is an effective way to implement the Great Commission. However, if one interprets the Great Commission as an Apostolic charge from Christ rather than a charge to the entire body of believers, or that the Commission is given as a direct command to individual believers rather than a delegated responsibility, the point is moot.
     
  6. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Clint, if you are waiting for me to set the hook, I need to inform you that there is really no hook to set. I'm just exploring these differences. Let me clarify something else - Though I said that we "do not believe we must follow the Jewish and Roman lifestyles of the first century," we also do not automatically exclude the possibility that something that is cultural could have been established as part of the extended church life as well (for example, feetwashing, head coverings, etc.). Now I will address a little about the elders in this post, and try to come back to the S. S. & laying-on-of-hands later. Maybe an historical topic on l-o-o-h would be interesting for the History forum? It is my belief that the N. T. uses the terms "elder," "bishop," and "pastor" to refer to different functions of the same office in the church. The following passages show what is evidently an interchangeable use of the terms:

    I guess you could say that there is a sense in which I would not care whether the "elder system" was adapted from Judaism or was a brand new practice, since I believe that the apostles established this function/office in the church. IMO, to separate the elders/bishops/pastors into three different offices would be an interpretational error. Some related words to study are presbytery, overseers, them that rule, and shepherd.


    I think that your interpretation concerning Jewish practice (elders not clerics) appears to be correct. I do not think it has to follow that the elders in the church were established on the same principle. Something I think our modern practice misses is that the early church elders served as a team and did not all have the same giftedness. I think that would explain why ALL the elders were worthy of double honor, but some were recognized as laboring in the word & doctrine.

    In my understanding, rather than a redundancy, the elders have the main function of preparing the church to minister.
     
  7. tyndale1946

    tyndale1946 Well-Known Member
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    Brother Robert could it be that the division that divides the different groups is that some stay on the practice as is... What Primitive Baptist call the Old Paths... While others add or subtract from that practice?... There are also many factions of Primitive Baptist as there are other Baptist and they have added or subtracted as they have seen fit with the works of men... There are New School and Old School Primitive Baptist as Brother Robert will attest to... This is the way I understand it and maybe Brother Robert would like to add to what I've said. The Lord didn't cause the division as he is not the author of confusion but men have all through church history... IMHO!... Brother Glen [​IMG]
     
  8. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Glen, I think you are correct that the difference is that some stay with the way things were, while some add and subtract. I understand that each do a certain way because it is their conviction. But I am also curious to know why it is done, and why it is a conviction.
    Clint, concerning Sunday Schools, let me say that my objection to Sunday Schools is directed toward the whole thing as a system as it is generally conceived in most Baptist churches - training from cradle to the grave, age-graded classes, etc. - and not to the idea of corporate Bible study within the church body. In fact, I believe there should be more dialogue and less monologue than is the common practice in most churches. Check out Acts 20:9 on this also. Many think that Paul preached an all-nighter, but the word is "dialegomai," which most likely means that they were discussing - dialoguing. Also I Cor. 12 doesn't seem to indicate that one man is the focus of the meeting either. But I am adamant on my belief of the nature of the church, which does not include the unsaved children of church members. For them to receive the overflow in quite natural, but to gear church services toward them reaches outside the intent and purpose of the church, which is a gathering of believers. I freely confess that I don't have all the answers of what to do with the children during the meeting, that is, if it is a corporate Bible study meeting. But to pull out church members to teach the children removes those members from the ministry of edification they are supposed to receive from the gathering. I would also add that I was raised among churches that had Sunday Schools, so my objection is a "learned" one, rather than and "inbred" one. That doesn't mean I'm right, but it gives you all some idea of my perspective. Well, that was a lot more than I intended to say, and probably is getting off the subject - will leave the laying-on-of-hands for another time.
     
  9. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer Active Member
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    Hi Robert, just a few quick points as the hour is late:

    It appears that most theologians agree with you on this point and I must concede. But you go on to say:
    With this I agree and the other synonymns (or near synonyms) that you supplied do indeed represent different functions. This leads me into my next point.

    As you are well aware as a long time member of this board, the issue of Sunday School does indeed raise hackles on both sides of the issue. Luckily, you and I are immune to this. ;)

    This sounds almost like a Quaker type service where different members will rise and speak as the Spirit leads them.

    Just for the record, this does not describe our Sunday School program at all. Sunday School meets at 10:00 followed by the worship service at 11:00. So-called "children's church" removes the youngsters from a service and this is a practice I, personally, do not condone. It is my conviction that families should sit together during that hour (okay, hour and a half usually). I have searched for Scriptural backing of families sitting together for worship but have come up with nothing.

    During that worship service, the one elder that we do all recognize has his opportunity to teach, one of the Spiritual gifts cited in 1Corinthians 12. Unless I'm off the mark, this is also what is meant by the reference of "feeding the flock." The New and Old Testament are fraught with examples of sermonizing: Acts 2:14-40 and Acts 3:11-26 for a couple of quick examples.

    Paul did take an opportunity to single out the children in Ephesians 6:1 and he certainly recognized the difference in their mental capacities as noted in 1Corinthians 13:11. Even our Lord who was raised in a Judaistic system was prone to the levels of Scriptural training dictated by Jewish Law and custom. This is certainly a large factor in his ministry not beginning until he was thirty (Luke 3:23). Consider also that in John 21:15-19 the charge to Peter of feeding "lambs" and "sheep" are seperate commands.

    Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that Sunday School is Scriptural. It is ascriptural as opposed to antiscriptural. For me it serves a specific function. As a child it is where I learned Bible drills and developed a base for real Bible study.

    Another way to look at it is that Sunday School is no more against the grain of Scripture than this message board.

    Good night, sir. [​IMG]

    [ February 02, 2003, 02:00 PM: Message edited by: Clint Kritzer ]
     
  10. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Dear Clint, thanks for the thought-provoking observations. Here are some of my thoughts.
    Don't concede on account of the theologians. Most of them are like sheep - they follow one another and they all go astray! :eek: (But we are right on this one ;) )
    I think this could be included in the type of service that I perceive in the New Testament, but a narrative/lecture type of teaching would not be excluded. One of the main problems with the current majority style of Baptist service is that it focuses on one man, magnifies his authority, and deflects his immediate accountability before the congregation. By that last part, I mean that the preacher gets up, preaches a sermon, and generally closes the service with no opportunity for the church to dialogue, to ask questions, to ask for clarifications, and/or require further confirmation that the doctrine/theology that has been preached is sound.
    I, as you would expect, am opposed to "children's church" as well. If the children are not believers, then they can't have "church;" and if they are part of the church, they should be in the church meeting. A good article on this is Children's Church or Believer's Church? by Rodney Gray. It was originally published circa 1997/98 in Kindred Minds. They have a web site - www.kindredminds.org - but I couldn't find the article there. I searched for it on the internet without success. You could probably e-mail Kindred Minds for a copy. In the article, Gray states the problem, makes some observations, and suggests some alternatives.

    As I stated above, I do not think New Testament or apostolic practice excludes the sermon/lecture. What I do think is that it does not appear to be the main style of teaching used in the gathering of believers. A large portion of what we would identify as sermons in the book of Acts (2:14ff; 3:12ff; 4:5ff; 5:17ff; 7:2ff; 10:34ff; 14:6ff; 17:22ff; etc., etc.) are found in the ministry of the apostles and evangelists fulfilling the evangelization part of the Great Commission, rather than in the church meeting. To consider "feeding the flock" of Acts 20:28 to mean sermonizing is, in my opinion, reading our practice back into the New Testament. An interesting thought is found in Paul directing those who are not forsaking the assembling together to exhort one another (same word used concerning preaching in II Tim. 4:2; cf. Heb. 10:25).
    On those two terms I suppose we will have to agree to disagree. I do think it is against the scriptural principles I noted in another post. By using that term, though, I do not mean that I think Sunday School is the worst evil ever imposed on the church. I don't claim it has never done any good. I would look at S. S. much the same as this - just because Charles Spurgeon heard the word preached at a Primitive Methodist Church and believed, doesn't mean I would endorse the Methodist Church. I would say it is unscriptural. But I can still rejoice that he believed.
    I would tend to compare the Baptist Board more to the original Sunday School of Raikes in England - a believer taking a ministry to the community. I would object to the BB being installed as an organization within my local church, but rejoice in it as a ministry that one believer has taken out into the community (albeit an internet community).
     
  11. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Some final thoughts:

    To me it appears that all Baptists assume that apostolic practice is normal some times. Where we differ on is when and to what extent. I believe that normative apostolic practice transcends culture (the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious or social group.)

    Christian culture is created in Christ, and prescribed in the New Testament. Times change and cultures differ, but Christian culture emanates from Christ and exists independently from social times and cultures. Because of change, the ways that Christians and churches relate to cultures in different places and at different times may change according to those times and places. But the culture of gathered believers - the church - exists outside of and independently from world governments, cultures, & standards, is universal and permanent, and has neither command to change nor necessity to conform.

    Romans 12:2 - And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

    1 Corinthians 10:32 - Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:

    1 Corinthians 7:17 ...And so ordain I in all churches.
    1 Corinthians 14:33 ...as in all churches of the saints.

    1 Corinthians 9: 19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

    [ February 07, 2003, 01:06 PM: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
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