Baptism & Membership In the Local Church

17 08 2007
The conversation continues:
  1. Dever joins in.
  2. Abraham (Piper’s son) responds to Dever.
I might as well go all in too?

First, a bit of personal background. In August of 2005, just two days after arriving at Bethlehem for a one-year residency, I found myself in a five-hour long elders’ meeting at which the now widely-known, and hotly-controversial, position paper on baptism and church membership was voted upon (with only one dissenting vote) to go to the congregation for approval (Talk about arrival trial by fire!).

For the remaining year, I sat through scholarly (well moderated) debates on the subject, and only the Lord knows how many hallway and dinner conversations regarding the proposal. From beginning to end, even though I have many paedobaptist friends (who I consider to be the Lord’s children), I have not been in favor of the proposal.

Most of all, the fuel for my conviction is the unanimous testimony of the NT which clearly describes the (immersion) baptism of only believers.

Secondarily, two unanswered questions (which if answered, would really help me out, but admittedly, probably not change my mind) also contribute to my lack of support for the idea of admitting “unbaptized” persons into church membership.

So, my to all of my paedobaptist (and baptistic, in favor of accepting “unbaptized” persons into church membership) brothers and sisters, please consider these questions, and consider helping me understand the issue better.

  • Question 1: If you could not find a faithful Bible-preaching and infant-baptizing congregation in your city, would you join a baptistic church that (1) faithfully preaches the bible, (2) will lovingly, but unabashedly, seek to convince you to change your view on, and practice of, baptism, and (3) would experience a rift in the fellowship of that church because (though the church adopted the position by majority) there remains a certain percentage of the congregation that doesn’t comply with the church’s position to graft “biblically informed paedobaptists” into its membership?

The foundation of this question is whether or not a desire to love the congregation you are joining plays a part in your desire to be loved by that congregation as one of its members? Admission: I agree that because of a greater good, love does not always equal not hurting someone that you love.

  • Question 2: If my biblically-informed conscience tells me that paedobaptism is the Lord’s pleasure, then how can I (without violating my conscience) join a church where my own child (yet to be born) will not be baptized as an infant? Am I wrong for concluding that someone who comes to church membership under these auspices has a conscience that is not quite as bound in the first place if he or she is willing to join a believer’s-baptism-only congregation?

The foundation of this question is whether or not someone’s conscience can honestly be bound to a certain conviction from Scripture, but at the same time, not feel incumbent to practice that very conviction? Seems illogical to me, but would love to have a view from one of my paedo friends!

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One response

29 08 2007
Jeremy Whitten

I’m still trying to figure out why many (if not most) Southern Baptist Churches require potential members to be “ReBaptized” if their initial baptism was from another denomination. (even if it was baptism by submersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost and post conversion upon profession of faith in Jesus as Lord & Savior). I think candidates ought to be evaluated on a case by case circumstance. I don’t think its a black & white issue. (there are instances when baptisms are not legitimate and need to be corrected. My convictions are strengthened in Acts 18:24-28 when we see Apollos accepted and commended by the brethren even though his theology was a “little off” at the time of his initial baptism by John The Baptist. However,I can see the need for “ReBaptizing” under some circumstances as you wil find in Acts Chapter 19 when Paul “rebaptized” those who were disciples of John and were ignorant conscerning the Holy Ghost. Anyone with common convictions please share!

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