When I entered seminary back in 1989, I was challenged by teaching that has come to be described as neo-orthodoxy. This teaching was presented as being open minded to what others believe. It was presented as the “humility” approach to understanding scripture without forcing one’s belief on another. I struggled with much of the teaching, such as, Jesus did not really walk on water because it cannot be reproduced thus it is only an embellished story of his followers. Some have called this teaching liberal, others called it moderate, and others called it heretical. When I struggled with the teaching my late father told me to hold onto the teaching that was validated with scripture and historically accepted and use that as a filter to determine if the new teaching was useful. I took his advice and it has worked very well as I do theology today.
With that in mind, I was reading Dr. Nathan Finn in his latest post at Between The Times. Dr. Finn certainly has the credentials to present what he has presented concerning the issues of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. However, his approach to the issue is one that, I believe, is full of flaws. Why? He seems to completely ignore the historical evidence of baptism being a prerequisite to the Lord’s Table. To be fair, he does express the historical record, but his summary seems to one built on sinking sand at least, and an apparent call to change the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) at the most.
In order to show where Dr. Finn’s suggestions will lead us, I would like to take his same assumptions and apply them to the Conservative Resurgence. In other words, I will borrow his outline and even a few of his words and logic in order to see where we would be had the leaders of the Conservative Resurgence taken Dr. Finn’s approach.
When I began my theological education, I remember a former Systematic Theology professor making a statement that troubled me until I could work through it. He said; “It makes no difference how many angels can dance on the head of a pin as long as we can agree that angels can dance on the head of a pin”. It bothered me for two reasons. First, angels dancing on the head of a pin is not something with which we need to concern ourselves. Second, what does angels dancing on pin heads have to do with the Gospel?
Through the rest of that semester and into the second semester this statement troubled me. It was toward the end of the second semester that I was able to work through what he was saying. While angels dancing on pinheads is nothing of which we need to concern ourselves, there are theological issues that some may feel are unimportant but they are bedrock for establishing sound doctrine. The other area that troubled me helped me come to a clear understanding that we all are theologians. As a preacher of the Gospel, I can do nothing else but preach the Gospel. Once I set out on my task of developing a message to preach, I have become a theologian, as I study the ways of God.
With that in mind, I endeavor today, to present a clear understanding of why Baptist Identity is the same as the Baptist Faith and Message. We have seen in previous months the continual denigration of the term Baptist Identity. I would like to take this term and say, I am a Baptist and I identify with Baptist doctrine as outlined in the Baptist Faith and Message. I am not ashamed of this and I want the world to know that I am a Christian, that has by conviction followed the Scriptures that lead me to being a Baptist. I am not a cultural Baptist, I am a Baptist by conviction. So, why should I concern myself with angels dancing on the heads of a pin?
In this article by John Mann, he explores the idea of whether there can be a true church without the proper administration of the ordinances.
For the Anabaptist , the atrophied doctrine among Rome, Wittenberg, and Geneva was a biblical ecclesiology. Indeed, a proper ecclesiology was the essence of the Anabaptist movement. Foundational to proper ecclesiology is a proper understanding of the ordinances. It is no stretch to say that theologians since the Reformation have stated that a true church can only be recognized by a proper administration of the ordinances, or with a more Catholic nuance, the sacraments. That is to say it has generally been agreed that where there is no proper administration of at least the Supper and baptism, there is no true church.
To read the rest of this article, click here.
As promised, the full paper is here.
On my previous post concerning Article VII of the BF&M, an interesting question came to mind, “What percentage of SBC churches are practicing open communion?” Mind you, we don’t decide doctrine by statistical research, but ultimately a confession ought to represent the beliefs of those who adhere to the confession. In an effort to help Ed Stetzer and Lifeway Research, if they decide to take up this project, I offer different understandings of who should be allowed to fellowship at the Lord’s table. I do not regard these definitions as infallible and if Ed and the boys at Lifeway want to have a hearty laugh over this, I am glad to make their day.
Closed Communion - Only members in good standing within the church partaking of the supper may participate.
Strict Communion – Church members in good standing and transient believers who are members in good standing from churches of like “faith and order.” Like faith and order normally equates Baptist Churches.
Close Communion – Church members in good standing and believers in good standing at their church who have been baptized by immersion.
In these next two definitions, I have modified open communion from my previous post. As I have stated before, open communion is outside the bounds of the BF&M.
Partially Open Communion – Anyone is invited so long as they have been baptized according to the individual’s church tradition (immersion, sprinkling, or effusion).
Fully Open Communion – Baptism is not required as a prerequisite to participation in the Lord’s Supper. All that is required is a confession of trusting in Jesus’ death for their forgiveness of sins.
I don’t know if this will be of any help, but maybe this could be encouraging defining what we mean in our ongoing discussion concerning what Baptists believe.
On other blogs and some of the comments on Wes Kenney’s recent post, there seems to be some confusion concerning what Southern Baptists have adopted as our confession of beliefs regarding baptism and the Lord’s supper. Wes dealt with this subject of baptism and the Lord’s table two years ago. The post and comments are interesting needless to say. Recently, the term, “Landmark” and “neo-Landmark” has been thrown around by some. In this post, I will show how “closed,” “strict,” and “close” communionists fit well withing the framework of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M), but those that practice open communion, practice opposite of the beliefs stated in the confession of faith adopted by Southern Baptists.