Dr. Dan Nelson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Camarillo, CA
7. . . . that we are controlled by a Hierarchy
First, the Bible does not teach that we should have a hierarchy of religious officials over the church. Pastors lead the congregation as a spiritual leader while the deacons assist him. We have already asserted the independence and authority of the local church. We are a part of several groups: our denominational offices in our local association, state conventions, and then the national convention.4 These groups could not control us if they wanted. The local church calls the pastor, sets the types of ministry we will have, and the amount of money they will send to the denomination for their missions.
Baptists do not believe in human heads over churches. We were not started like the Methodists by Wesley, or Lutherans by Luther, or Reformed by Calvin. Instead, we can say there was not a time in the Post-Apostolic age when Baptists began.5 We believe our teachings are in line with what churches in Acts taught and what Christ commissioned them to do. Christ is our head. It is his church according to Matt. 16:18.
8. . . . that we are forced to believe in certain positions as a denomination
A denomination is a group of churches that voluntarily choose to work together and have similar beliefs. Our church is not bound to amendments passed at the Southern Baptist Convention. We are not given positions that we must take in order to be Southern Baptists.6 The debate over Calvinism is an example of this. There is enough latitude in our denomination to arrive at different interpretations on matters that do not impact salvation or the person and the work of Christ.
We do not subscribe to creeds or traditions as equal to Scripture. We have a common statement of faith that is a consensus of what fellow churches believe. When a church departs from these affirmations and ceases to identify with these teachings, the SBC acknowledges it.
Paul did not have the final authority to decide for the church in Corinth in the matter of the immoral man still serving in 1 Cor. 5:1-5. Instead, he urged them to act as a body to correct the error. They were responsible for their own church.
Dr. Dan Nelson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Camarillo, CA
The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch by people who saw their lives. They assumed they were like Jesus by how they lived. All of us have been confronted by people who think they know what Baptists believe and practice. If these practices have not been associated with Baptists, however, they are wrong assumptions.
Today people have formed wrong assumptions based on misinformation and wrong conclusions. What are these wrong assumptions?
1. . . . that the Church is a Denomination (Acts 14:23)1.
Baptists believe every church is an independent autonomous body of baptized believers. We have no such thing as the Baptist church. We are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention for purposes of missions and fellowship. Other groups refer to themselves as a universal entity. Yet, the Bible makes the distinction in Acts 14:23 where Paul was assisting in the ordination of leaders in every church.
This is important because what any cooperating Baptist does is not top down but from the local church on up. We are not controlled by other higher bodies. We think the local church has the authority to decide in matters of faith and practice. Therefore, we think every believer ought to be in a local church. Paul explains that we need to do more than just profess our faith in Christ, more than just participate in a universal fellowship of believers known as the kingdom of God; we need to take an active role in our communities because the church is local.
2. . . . that believer’s baptism by immersion is just another form of baptism.
Infant or adult sprinkling is never taught in the Bible. Instead, the word transliterated baptism (baptizo) always means immerse or dunking in water.2 That is how Jesus was baptized, and that is how the early church baptized. (Matt. 3:15-17, Rom. 6:4). They did not sprinkle.
We do not accept any other mode of baptism as a valid form of New Testament baptism. It may have been meaningful to you; but we ask you to be immersed as a believer in order to show that you follow Christ, that you believe in the gospel, that you have died to life without Christ, that you are raised to walk in Him, and how we will be resurrected. No other method pictures this.
Wes Kenney presented a motion during the convention at Orlando that was referred to the Executive Committee. The following is the motion in full:
I move that the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 15-16, authorize the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to consider any church’s affiliation with the Alliance of Baptists to constitute an action to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.
Some may try to call this “guilt by association”, but it allows the Executive Committee the authority to make a determination during the year instead of waiting six or seven months after an incident. Also, it keeps precious business time from being consumed on the convention floor.
The catalyst for this motion was the DC City Council bill that was passed legalizing same sex marriage. The bill presented to the DC City Council was based on a Declaration that was authored by Clergy United for Marriage Equality. This group has for its members an area DC Baptist pastor the Rev. Dr. Amy Butler. Dr. Butler is Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist church in Washington DC. Calvary Baptist, while not sending messengers to the convention, is sending ACP information to the Southern Baptist Convention and thus is listed as a Southern Baptist Church. Also if you scroll down to the signatories of this declaration one will find Rev. Stan Hastey, Alliance of Baptists. Rev. Hastey is not just a representative of the Alliance of Baptists but he is Executive Director of this group The Alliance issued a position statement on same sex marriage back in 2004 as follows:
“Affirming that our federal and state constitutions exist to protect the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority and in the context of the current debate over same-sex marriage, we of the Alliance of Baptists decry the politicization of same-sex marriage in the current presidential contest and other races for public office. We specifically reject the proposed amendments to the constitution of the United States and state constitutions that would enshrine discrimination against sexual minorities and define marriage in such a way as to deny same-sex couples a legal framework in which to provide for one another and those entrusted to their care.
As Christians and as Baptists, we particularly lament the denigration of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers in this debate by those who claim to speak for God. We affirm that the Alliance of Baptists supports the rights of all citizens to full marriage equality, and we affirm anew that the Alliance will ‘create places of refuge and renewal for those who are ignored by the church’.”
While many in the Alliance openly affirm same sex marriage the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is not quite ready for that step, or is it?
This recent article reporting a break-out session that was attended by nearly 300 persons is one reason we see a need for the Kenney motion. While Kenney’s motion does not identify the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship it may not be long before a motion similar in language may be needed. Why would I say such a thing? Notice the position one of the presenters at the 2010 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship gathering takes. George Mason, Pastor of Wilshire Baptist in Texas presented the following thoughts in a break-out session of approximately 300.
“I can tell you that my mind has changed and I am seeing differently on this over time.” That has disappointed some people, he said. “As a pastor, I have known the pain of people who have left the church I serve because I was too conservative about the matter – and people who have left because I was too liberal about the matter.”
“A family conversation about same-sex orientation is not necessarily about behavior,” Mason said. “Some people think different orientations don’t exist, that there is only acting gay and sinning as a result. Others say people are simply born one way or the other.”
“I’m not certain about either position,” Mason said. “It seems that people are more on a continuum about their orientation. That’s uncomfortable.”
Mason noted that the few biblical texts that mention homosexual behavior are more likely to be about specific acts like rape or pederasty, and that “the Bible seems to be silent about orientation.”
It appears that now the position of non-committal is the favored position of the CBF. There is only one step left for this organization to take and that is the position of orientation. Orientation is the only viable position left for those that want to say they believe the Bible but be seen as scholarly by the academy. In the orientation position the ungodly behavior is not the fault of the person it is the fault of the Creator. If the CBF position of non-committal prevails, I believe, within five years the position on same sex marriage of the CBF will be the same as the Alliance of Baptists.
Here are some one liners from a Pastor named Kevin DeYoung, who is the Pastor of the University Reformed Church in E. Lansing, Michigan. These one liners are great quotes. Read, enjoy, and learn from them. Here they are:
• The Church is Christ’s bride. And why is it that so many people think it is cool to diss Jesus’ girlfriend?
• In this day with so much postmodern squishitude people are hungry to listen to someone winsomely, humbly, wisely, say—with passion and conviction—‘Thus saith the Lord.’
• What will it profit a man if he tries to transform the culture, but loses his own children?
• As long as God is interested in his glory, he will be interested and committed to the local church. He has a vested interest in your church. Nobody loves your church more than God.
• Those of you who have issues with the church, let me warn you that disillusionment can become an idol. You can easily find your identity in being jaded.
• Our generation in particular is prone to radicalism without follow-through. We want to change the world and we have never changed a diaper.
• Can we be the young generation that loves and respects and looks up to the older generation?
• The Church is, in fact, the hope of the world, not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her head. So do not give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity.
J. R. Graves, who was such a major influence for Landmarkism in W. TN and Western Kentucky, was also a major player in the development of Union University in Jackson, TN. Dr. James Pendleton was also a major influence for Landmarkism in Southern Baptist life, and he was a former President of Union University. These two men probably did more to influence the Mid South in the area of Landmarkism than anyone else. Of course, there are many others in SB history, who were real Landmarkists. Men like B.H. Carroll and J. M. Carroll, and many other, influential leaders in SB life held to this view of ecclesiology. Landmarkism slowly died in SB life, and sadly, its departure also meant that SB seemed to slowly ignore ecclesiology; began to look upon it as seemingly unimportant; or started to give it just a passing glance. That’s the way it almost appears, anyway. So, a group of people out there began to talk about good, sound ecclesiology. And, it seems in this day and age, that there are some people, who claim that Landmarkism is not dead in SB life; due to this group known as the BI(Baptist Identity) fellas stressing sound ecclesiology. They say that Landmarkism is being promoted by a group of SBC purifiers, who want the SBC to be a Landmark fortress. And, these decriers of Landmarkism claim that the so called “BI” fellas, or the “Bapstist Identity” crowd, are the ones, who are promoting this ecclesiological view. And, there have been all kinds of accusations and misconceptions floating around about what the “BI” crowd is promoting; what they actually believe. But, are the “BI” fellas really Landmarkists? Could they really be classified as Landmarkists, or do they just believe in good ecclesiology? I want us to take a look at how some of these fellas believe about doctrines that surrounds the basic beliefs of Landmarkism, and compare it to real Landmarkism. I’m going to ask a series of questions, and I’m going to ask each, so-called, “BI” fella to respond to the Landmark belief, or to the misconceptions of some people out there, with his view of these things. Then, let’s compare that to true, real Landmarkism. Answering these questions are: Robin Foster; Matt Brady; Wes Kenney; and David Worley(Me).
Question #1: Do you believe that a Southern Baptist Church can trace it’s beginning to the Lord Jesus Christ? that there’s been a trail of blood? that a true, SB Church has been in existence from Jesus until now; as the Landmarkists believed?
Robin: I don’t believe that JM Carroll’s trail of blood is correct in its theory. I do believe there has been a “free church” tradition witness throughout history, whether or not one can call it a “Baptist” tradition as we see it today I question. Baptist churches, as we know them today, I believe got their start from Smyth and Helwys, while we have a spiritual connection with the Anabaptist of the reformation.
Matt: True churches have existed from the time of Christ and will exist until He returns. I believe my Southern Baptist church to be one of those true churches. I am not so concerned with the ability to list the particular name of every true church that has ever existed in historical and geographical order back to the church at Jerusalem as the Roman church tries to do with popes back to Peter.
Wes: If by that do you mean that the baptism of everyone in my church can be traced back through churches authorized to baptize in an unbroken line all the way back to the Apostles, then no, I don’t believe that. I believe that there have always been, since the time of the Apostles, faithful New Testament churches in existence, and I base this belief on Jesus’ promise that He would build His church, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it (Mt. 16:18).
David: I agree with the others that the trail of blood idea of J.M. Carroll is not correct. I do believe that there has always been NT churches in existence thru out history. I don’t believe that they were Baptist churches, and I know that they weren’t Southern Baptist churches. But, they were NT churches, which preached the Gospel.
Question #2: Do you believe in closed communion? that only the members of a local Church should take the LS together, as Landmarkists believe?
Robin: No. We practice “close” communion which to our understanding is inviting anyone to the table who has received Jesus as their Lord and Savior and has participated in believers baptism by immersion. With this, I do believe that communion is a church ordinance and should only be practiced among the gathered local church.
Matt: Our church follows close communion. Just as a family gathers together around the meal table, it is the church family that should gather together around the Lord’s table. If we have others of like faith and practice in attendance, we do not forbid them as I suspect that the believers at Troas did not forbid the Apostle Paul when he met with them on the day they celebrated the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). Occasionally we will have guests that will be invited to eat with us at the table.
Wes: While I am sympathetic to this view based on Paul’s warning against partaking without “discerning the body” (1 Cor. 11:29), I am also in harmony with the Baptist Faith and Message on this point, and have no problem serving in churches which admit anyone who has been scripturally baptized to fellowship around the Lord’s table.
David: I believe in a modified close communion view. I do believe that the LS is a Church ordinance. I do believe that it should be observed by the Church, with others of like faith being welcomed to participate. I do believe that baptised Believers should participate in it. I do not believe in being so rigid that we’d have the LS police making sure that only baptised Believers of like faith are taking the LS with us. I would not make a big deal out of who should, and who should not be taking it. But, when I preached on it, and when we begin the LS; I would gently remind everyone about these things.
Question #3: Do you believe that SB Churches are the only true Churches out there in our world today, as Landmarkists believe that Baptist churches are the only true churches?
Matt: By definition a Southern Baptist church is one that gives money to missions through the Southern Baptist Convention. Giving through the SBC cannot possibly be the measure of a true church as true churches existed long before 1845.
Question #4: Do you think that only SB’s are going to Heaven? that they’re the only ones that are really saved? (This is a misconception that I continue to hear from people concerning the BI fellas)
Robin: That is just simply ridiculous. Salvation is by grace through faith and is lived out among the saints in a local New Testament Church.
Matt: Had the Conservative Resurgence not taken place, I probably would not be a Southern Baptist today, but I would still be a Christian. Salvation is determined by grace through faith and not by any organization of man.
David: I have to agree with Robin that it’s absolutely ridiculous that we’d even have to respond to this kind of a question, yet I keep hearing it from people. My answer is “NO.”
Question #5: What baptisms would you accept? In other words, what would be the bare, basic things that would have to be true before you would consider it a true baptism? that you would accept without asking the person to be baptised? (Landmarkists would accept only Baptist baptisms; baptisms done by another Baptist church)
Robin: Baptism by a local church, by immersion, as a symbolic representation of union to Christ, death to sin, and resurrection to eternal life, “never to die again.” Romans 6:3-11
Matt: A member of our church must be baptized by immersion after conversion by a church whose baptism is an ordinance of symbolism and obedience to our Lord’s command and not a means of grace.
Wes: I agree with the Baptist Faith and Message, which defines scriptural baptism as “the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the beliefer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus.” The BF&M also identifies baptism as a church ordinance. So as long as someone’s baptismal experience fits this definition, and took place under the authority of a local church, then I believe it to be biblical and would encourage my church to accept it as such.
David: I agree with the Baptist Faith and Message, as well.
So, hopefully this will clear things up just a little bit about who these “BI” guys are, and what they really believe. Maybe? I hope so.