Distinctive Baptist Beliefs:
Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians
Distinctive Baptist Belief #3—
Believer’s Baptism (or the Gathered Church)

August 30, 2011


By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the
Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


Introduction

All denominations that broadly share the Reformation heritage share more beliefs in common than beliefs that differ. This is true of dominations in the Baptist, Arminian, and Presbyterian/Reformed tradition – we agree on many more points than we disagree about orthodox Nicean Christianity and other key Reformation beliefs. Despite these many points of agreement, it is the points of agreement on which theological discussions tend to focus. In an earlier post entitled “The Middle Way,” I asserted that centrist Baptists are “the middle way” between Arminians, on the one hand, and Calvinists/Presbyterians, on the other. In it, I listed twelve points of doctrinal disagreement between centrist Baptists and many Arminians. In this series I want to point out nine points of difference between centrist Baptist beliefs and the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition.

These nine Baptist doctrinal distinctives I will discuss do not include the five point summary of Reformed soteriology (best known in the TULIP acronym–for a critique of five-point Calvinism from a centrist Baptist perspective see our book Whosoever Will). In fact, most of the nine points that I will be addressing were explicitly held by the Particular Baptists in contradistinction from the Presbyterian or Reformed theology from which they separated themselves. These, then, are distinctively Baptist beliefs. The first Baptist distinctive I addressed was a cluster of interrelated beliefs — soul competency, priesthood of all believers, and religious liberty. The second Baptist distinctive addressed was the age (or state) of accountability. This third post concerns the Baptist distinctive of believer’s baptism (or “the gathered church”).[1]

Distinctive Baptist Belief #3:
Believer’s Baptism (or a Gathered Church)

One of the most obvious changes in the Second London and Philadelphia confessions from the Westminster Confession regards believer’s baptism. According to the Westminster Confession, “Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized.”[2] In clear contradistinction from this statement, the Second London and Philadelphia confessions affirm, “Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36, 37, 2:41, 8:12, 18:8).[3] The affirmation of believer’s baptism is in all major Baptist confessions, including all three Baptist Faith and Message statements.[4] Likewise, the Westminster Confession defined the visible church as consisting “of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion,” together with “their children.”[5] The Second London and Philadelphia confessions defined the church as consisting of “All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it . . . and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted (Rom. 1:7; Eph. 1:20-22).[6] Obviously, the Baptist confessions omitted the children of church members from membership until they had made their own profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. The Baptist confessions speak of a “gathered” church. The three editions of the Baptist Faith and Message follow the New Hampshire Confession in describing the church as consisting of “baptized believers.”[7]

It is, after all, because of Baptists’ distinctive practice of baptizing new believers (rather than sprinkling infants) that separated us from the magisterial Reformers.  And it was this practice that gave us the name “Anabaptists” (baptize again) or, more simply, Baptists. Believer’s baptism is central to our identity as Baptists. The notion of sprinkling of infants to wash away or remove their original sin is repugnant to Baptists throughout our history. This is not a peripheral issue for Baptists. Baptists have literally given their lives for this belief at the hands of Calvinist authorities. The New Testament is utterly bereft of any reference to infant baptism, and thus it is one of the Presbyterian doctrines without any significant Biblical support. Indeed, it is accurate to say historically that infant baptism was simply a “leftover” from the universal Catholic practice, and leaders like Calvin realized that it was a practice too engrained in European culture to simply eliminate it. Leaders like Zwingli recognized that the practice lacked Biblical support, but they compromised out of political expedience.  Indeed, this was one of the key differences between the magisterial Reformation and the radical Reformation. As Al Mohler asserts, Baptists and Presbyterians “fervently disagree over the most basic understanding of Christian baptism.” [8]

Is believer’s baptism a secondary or peripheral issue? When one applies a “theological triage” [9] among various theological issues, how important is believer’s baptism?  Baptists deny belief in baptismal regeneration – that baptism is required for salvation — baptism is a symbol of a salvific event that has already taken place. Nonetheless, for Baptists, persons are not viewed as saved (and thus candidates for baptism) until they have repented of their sins and placed their faith personally and consciously in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This is impossible for infants.  Do Baptists recognize the salvation of Presbyterians (or Catholics) baptized as infants?  No, because as infants they were incapable of believer’s baptism. So believer’s baptism is directly tied to an essential doctrine – the doctrine of salvation. The baptism of those baptized as infants would not be recognized because their salvation is not recognized, since it was not associated with repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus.

If Baptists today don’t see believer’s baptism as a crucial issue, it is a departure from our heritage. Baptists in prior generations suffered persecution and even martyrdom from Calvinist and Catholic authorities in defense of their beliefs. For example, Balthasar Hubmaier, Felix Manz, Conrad Grebel, Georg Blaurock, and Wilhelm Reublin opposed Ulrich Zwingli in two disputations in Zurich about Zwingli’s continuance of the Catholic practice of infant baptism which they viewed as unbiblical. Hubmaier and Zwingli also exchanged rather sharply worded pamphlets on the subject. Early Anabaptist leaders like Manz, Grebel, Blaurock, and Manz were imprisoned repeatedly for their beliefs, and most of them fled Zurich to avoid further torment (although some such as Hubmaier were tortured and executed in other places). Felix Manz stayed and was executed by Zwingli and the Zurich city council for the crime of “having said that he wanted to gather those who wanted to accept Christ and follow Him, and unite himself with them in baptism.”[10] Clearly, their convictions were that believer’s baptism was an essential rather than secondary issue, an issue of conscience that was important enough to these early Baptists to lay down their lives in affirming it. Baptizing those who are not yet the age of accountability and have not affirmed Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is a crucial soteriological issue, not merely a secondary ecclesiological one.


[1] To preview the entire series, you can see the larger article from which these posts are drawn, plus responses from three theological perspectives, from a paper presentation for a conference sponsored by the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. You can see them at Steve Lemke, “What Is a Baptist? Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians,” Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry 5, no. 2 (Fall 2008):10-39, available online at http://www.baptistcenter.com/Documents/Journals/JBTM%205-2_Baptists_in_Dialogue_Fall_08.pdf#page=11. It is posted in this blog format in SBC Today to facilitate discussion on these issues. The next scheduled article in this series is “Baptist Distinctive #4:  Baptism by the Mode of Immersion.”

[2] Believer’s baptism was the first distinction between Baptists and Presbyterians that T. S. Dunaway addressed in “Why Baptist and Not Presbyterian,” in J. M. Frost, ed., Baptist Why and Why Not (Nashville: Sunday School Board, 1900), 127-136. Dunaway cited Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge that “children of one or both believing parents” are proper candidates for baptism (131-132), and the Book of Church Order adopted by the Presbyterian General Assembly of 1879 that “the infant seed of believers are through the covenant and by right of birth members of the church” and thus “entitled to baptism” (132). See also R. P. Johnston, “Why Baptism of Believers and Not Infants,” 151-162; and J. O. Rust, “Why a Converted Church Membership,” 205-224, in Baptist Why and Why Not.

[3] Second London Confession, Art. 29, par. 2; Philadelphia Confession, Art. 30, par. 2.

[4] BF&M, Art. 7.

[5] Westminster Confession, Art. 25, par. 2.

[6] Second London Confession, Art. 26, par. 2; Philadelphia Confession, Art. 27, par. 2.

[7] BF&M, Art. 6.

[8] Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity,” in Baptist Press (August 23, 2006), available online at http://www.bpnews.net/bpcolumn.asp?ID=2359; and at Dr. Mohler’s web site (July 12, 2005) at http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/07/12/a-call-for-theological-triage-and-christian-maturity/.

[9] Ibid; see also John Piper, “Twelve Theses on Baptism and Its Relationship to Church
Membership, Church Leadership, and Wider Affiliations and Partnerships of Bethlehem
Baptist Church,” p. 14 in “Baptism and Church Membership at Bethlehem Baptist Church: Eight Recommendations for Constitutional Revision,” by John Piper, Alex Chediak, and Tom Steller, available online at http://desiringgod.org/media/pdf/baptism_and_membership.pdf.

[10] The Mennonite Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Reference Work on the Anabaptist-Mennonite Movement, 5 vols. (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1990), 3:473. Manz was executed by being paraded through town, put in a boat, his hands bound over his knees, with a stick between his knees and arms to immobilize him, and lowered into the water of the Limmat Reiver and drowned as a symbolic final baptism.

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David Rogers

Dr. Lemke,

While I agree that believers baptism is a key Baptist distinctive, on which we should be careful not to compromise, it appears to me you are not differentiating very clearly here between paedobaptists who believe in baptismal regeneration, and those (like most Reformed/Presbyterian believers) who do not. You also seem to imply that so-called “secondary” issues, in the theological triage model, are to be taken as “peripheral” or “unimportant.” While believers baptism is indeed crucial for being a Baptist, it is not an essential prerequisite for being a member of the Body of Christ. Also, as I understand it, baptismal regeneration is a soteriological issue, while the difference between a Baptist view of baptism and that of paedobaptists who do not believe in baptismal regeneration is an issue of ecclesiology.

Tim Rogers

Dr. Lemke,

Great article.

You say;

The notion of sprinkling of infants to wash away or remove their original sin is repugnant to Baptists throughout our history. This is not a peripheral issue for Baptists.

However, Brother David references;

it appears to me you are not differentiating very clearly here between paedobaptists who believe in baptismal regeneration, and those (like most Reformed/Presbyterian believers) who do not.

Whether an individual parent believes the sprinkling at child birth is salvific or not has nothing to do with the practice. The practice has historically represented a “grace” being imparted on the infant. When that individual grows into adulthood and refuses to walk into the baptismal waters to acquiesce to baptism by immersion that is still a disobedient act to the command of Christ. If that infant that grew into an adult refuses to submit to baptism by immersion and bases that decision on his/her baptism as an infant, are they not acknowledging there to be a salvific quality to baptism?

Blessings,
Tim

    Chris Roberts

    “If that infant that grew into an adult refuses to submit to baptism by immersion and bases that decision on his/her baptism as an infant, are they not acknowledging there to be a salvific quality to baptism?”

    No

    David Rogers

    Tim,

    Do you believe that infant baptism is a damnable heresy, i.e. one that will send you to hell if you believe it and practice it? That is what I believe is implied by first-level matters of theological triage.

      volfan007

      I dont know about Tim, but I do believe that it could lead to a false assurance of salvation, that will lead some people to Hell. I have some cousins, who would tell you that they were baptised as a baby…thus, they were going to Heaven…

      I do believe it confuses people into Hell.

      David

        Chris Roberts

        One could say the same thing about walking the aisle…

          volfan007

          Chris,

          Yea, and?

          Walking an aisle doesnt save anyone? I dont know of any, who give an invitation, who say that walking an aisle saves someone. Do you?

          That also still doesnt change the fact that this practice of baptizing babies is confusing and leads people to Hell. Not to mention that its unBiblical.

          David

          Chris Roberts

          No one claims walking the aisle saves anyone, yet there are many people who believe they are saved just because they walked an aisle or said some magic words. It isn’t the fault of the practice that people misunderstand the meaning.

          Presbyterians do not claim infant baptism saves anyone. They are quite clear in teaching that baptism does not save. If there are those who think they are saved because they were baptized, it is not the fault of the practice or teachings of the Presbyterian church.

          I agree that infant baptism is not biblical. It’s the #1 reason why I am a Baptist instead of a Presbyterian. But let’s be careful to represent the practice correctly – Presbyterians do not teach salvation through baptism and those who think they are saved because they were baptized are in the same camp as those Baptists who think the act of walking the aisle, or the fact of going to church as children, or a million other non-saving acts, are the things that saved them.

        Les

        volfan007,

        And I have met Baptists who do in fact equate their walking the aisle with being saved. In fact, I’ve met a Baptist deacon some years ago who when asked “Why should God let you into His heaven (EE),” he replied, “Well, that’s a tough question. Well, I would say that I’m a deacon and I’ve taught SS…and he rambled on and on with no true biblical answer.

        The fact is that Presbyterians AND Baptists have chaff among the wheat and always have. The fact that your cousins or anyone else misunderstands the significance of their baptism as infants does not a case make against the practice. You and others surely may bring other arguments against the practice, but anecdotal stories of misunderstood theology should not be one of those arguments.

        As Chris commented here, Presbyterians do not believe that baptism saves, whether as an infant or as a teen or an adult (yes, we baptize teens and adults too).

        Blessings from Les, PCA and former SBC pastor.

          David Campbell

          “19 eThey went out from us, but they were not of us; for fif they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, gthat it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
          I John 2:19

          Les

          Yes David, I agree…whether baptized as a baby or by immersion as an adult.

Les

As a Presbyterian (PCA) I do think it important to fairly represent what we actually believe and confess. The WCF says regarding baptism:

“VI. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered;[16] yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.[17]

I know of no Reformed folk who believe that baptism applied to an infant is salvific. Notice that we confess that the efficacy of the sacrament is not tied to that moment and is in fact conferred “to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.”

You wrote, “Baptists deny belief in baptismal regeneration – that baptism is required for salvation…” We Presbyterians agree!

You wrote, “The baptism of those baptized as infants would not be recognized because their salvation is not recognized, since it was not associated with repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus.”

Baptists are surely free to not recognize the infant baptism. I understand that. I used to be a Baptist. But surely you know that there are many teens and adults who were baptized as infants in a Presbyterian church and have repented and trusted Christ and are by any definition considered to be “saved.” So I think it better to say that Baptists would not recognize their infant baptism because Baptists find it improper. The way it is stated in the post sounds like Baptists don’t recognize it because the person hasn’t repented and believed.

We Presbys nurture and teach the children to place their faith in Christ alone from the earliest age leading to their own profession of faith before the congregation.

Les

Oh and Dr. Lemke,

You said above, “The New Testament is utterly bereft of any reference to infant baptism, and thus it is one of the Presbyterian doctrines without any significant Biblical support.”

Of course as a Presby, I would differ with you on that. But that is not the subject of your post. But you did say re the age of accountability in a comment on your previous post,

“So I think a person should not say that there was “no” biblical support for Trinity (or the age of accountability); but that while it is not addressed directly in a specific text, it can be inferred from other Scriptures.”

We use the same hermeneutical reasoning regarding infant baptism as you do re the age of accountability.

Steve Lemke

Les and David,
Thanks for the points you raise, and the opportunity to clarify my view more precisely. Both of you mentioned baptismal regeneration. By saying that Baptists do not believe in baptismal regeneration, I did not mean to suggest that Presbyterians do — I agree that they do not. But I’m a bit confused when you say, Les, that Presbyterians do not believe that baptism of infants is salvific in any sense. Going back to your quotation from your WCF confession, while it denies that salvation is necessarily concurrent with baptism, it nonetheless asserts that “by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.” I read that to say that the infant baptism is in fact a means of grace and thus salvific. It is “really exhibted,” not just “offered.” It opens up the time frame for salvation being experienced over time rather than instantaneously, but it is salvific nonetheless.

Les, I think you’re right that I should have further clarified what I said about recognizing the salvation of Presbyterians baptized as infants. I did not mean to indicate at all that Baptists would not recognize the salvation of those who later repented and believed in Christ as Lord and Savior. My primary reference is to someone who is baptized as an infant and never comes to make a personal decision for Christ. However, I’m a little uncomfortable with the notion of “Confirmation,” in that much of that seems to be merely cognitive — parroting answers they have been taught in classes — as opposed to a volitional decision to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. We would need to hear that person’s personal profession of faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord to consider them saved. You are correct, though, that Baptists would still consider the baptism invalid of the person whose only baptism was as an infant.

Les, let me quibble a little with your equating the biblical support for the age of accountability and infant baptism. Infant baptism is an active practice of the church. If infant baptism were the biblical pattern, we would expect to see it mentioned in Acts and some of the epistles. However, as I said, in fact Scripture is entirely bereft of references to the practice of infant baptism at all. You did not suggest any Scripture references in which the practice is taught, exemplified, or inferred. That is powerful evidence against the practice. The age of accountability is not a regular practice of the church, but a theological tenet inferred from other Scriptures. So I believe that the age of accountability, like the doctrine of the Trinity, can be inferred directly from the Bible, but the church practice of infant baptism cannot.

    Les

    Dr. Lemke,
    Thanks for the helpful clarification. As to this

    “But I’m a bit confused when you say, Les, that Presbyterians do not believe that baptism of infants is salvific in any sense. Going back to your quotation from your WCF confession, while it denies that salvation is necessarily concurrent with baptism, it nonetheless asserts that “by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.” I read that to say that the infant baptism is in fact a means of grace and thus salvific. It is “really exhibted,” not just “offered.” It opens up the time frame for salvation being experienced over time rather than instantaneously, but it is salvific nonetheless.”

    I suppose I wasn’t clear when I said in any sense. We do see the sacraments as a means of grace, baptism and Lord’s supper. What I was intending to say was that baptism is not salvific…that is the water being placed on the person. Nothing salvific in the act. God, however, does act. The confession is careful to note that the grace is promised and really exhibited and conferred and then qualifies that that grace offered and exhibited and conferred is efficacious to “according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time,” i.e. to those He chooses and in His time. It reinforces the point that one’s baptism and one’s regeneration may be at different times. So, most often, we assume, babies are baptized and then in God’s appointed time make a profession of faith upon their conversion, which may be at age 8, 13, 24 or whatever.

    “My primary reference is to someone who is baptized as an infant and never comes to make a personal decision for Christ. However, I’m a little uncomfortable with the notion of “Confirmation,” in that much of that seems to be merely cognitive — parroting answers they have been taught in classes — as opposed to a volitional decision to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. We would need to hear that person’s personal profession of faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord to consider them saved.”

    In PCA churches, as far as I know, we have membership classes, not confirmation classes. Children are taught (catechized) and in conjunction with their parents either do or do not make a personal profession of faith. They are presented with the gospel and the claims of Christ and urged to consider those claims. The children meet with elders and profess their faith and if deemed a credible profession are admitted to communicant membership. So we also need to hear that profession of faith.

    “Les, let me quibble…If infant baptism were the biblical pattern, we would expect to see it mentioned in Acts and some of the epistles. However, as I said, in fact Scripture is entirely bereft of references to the practice of infant baptism at all.”

    I’m happy to have that discussion but since it was not the thrust of the post I didn’t really go there except to not what I saw as an inconsistency in you using good and necessary inference for age of accountability like we do for paedobaptism. FYI, the NT is also entirely bereft of females partaking in communion, either commands or examples. But of course we still permit women to take communion.

    “You did not suggest any Scripture references in which the practice is taught, exemplified, or inferred. That is powerful evidence against the practice.”

    As I’m sure you are aware paedobaptism is connected with circumcision and we see a follow through from the OT. Of course though there are no examples (see women and communion above) of infant baptisms we can infer the possibility in several NT household baptisms. That is, we can assume there could be young children in those households. But, those are not strong arguments. The stronger argument is via circumcision and placing the sign of the covenant on children as they did in the OT.

    Blessings,

    Les

Chris Roberts

“…given their lives for this belief at the hands of Calvinist authorities…”

I’m curious about your choice to express it this way. I’m assuming you chose your words in this article intentionally, and so there is significance in the fact that it was Calvinist authorities who performed these acts.

Chris Roberts

“it is accurate to say historically that infant baptism was simply a “leftover” from the universal Catholic practice, and leaders like Calvin realized that it was a practice too engrained in European culture to simply eliminate it. Leaders like Zwingli recognized that the practice lacked Biblical support, but they compromised out of political expedience.”

What is the historical evidence, particularly of the parts I italicized?

Steve Evans

The proper baptism for the proper candidate. Proper baptism – immersion. Proper candidate – someone who has repented and asked the Lord to forgive their sin. Salvific? absolutely not! But nonetheless an answer of a good conscience toward God to quote I Peter 3:21. Infants are NEVER the proper candidates for baptism. Having come from the roman catholic tradition to faith in Jesus Christ, I can assure you my baptism as an infant just got me wet. Thank you, Dr. Lemke for standing by these solid biblical principals. It is scary to think that some would desire to change said principals.

David Campbell

Mr Rogers,

I’ve wanted to ask you this question ever since we interacted here on Mr Worley’s “Landmarkists Really?” thread? Why have you no conviction for your distinctives?? I read various blogs where you continually give our distinctives lip service, but ultimately desire to place them aside for ecumenical unity, in the name of your warped, misunderstood “Body of Christ”. If you believe Jesus and the Apostles taught what we believe… why do you have such a big crush on false teachings and their adherents??

    Tim Rogers

    Brother David Campbell,

    I absolutely have no idea of what you are referring.

    Blessings,
    Tim

      David Campbell

      Lol, I would hope not… That comment was directed at Mr. David

    David Rogers

    David,

    I am just doing my best to be faithful to what I understand the Bible to teach about both matters such as baptism as well as about Christian unity and the Body of Christ–both/and, not either/or. Are you inferring that the unity of the Body of Christ is not a biblical doctrine? Or, perhaps, that it is not important?

      volfan007

      Unity in the body of Christ is most certainly important. I wish that all the Pentecostal crowd would stop denying the Trinity, so that they could join with us. I wish that the Assembly of God crowd would start believing in the security of the Believer so that they could join with us. I wish the Methodist crowd would start believing in the security of the Believer, and would start truly baptising people, so that they could join with us. I wish that they Church of Christ people would stop believing in a works salvation, so that they could join with us.

      Yes, David, unity would be great….but, how can we join with people, who deny such important, crucial, vital doctrines?

      David

        David Rogers

        David W.,

        1. I’m sure the majority of Pentecostals, who are trinitarian, don’t appreciate you throwing them all in the same sack with the United Penteccostals.

        2. Do you believe we share a positional unity with all those who are truly “in Christ”?

        3. If so, what do believe are the requirements for being “in Christ”?

          volfan007

          Dave,

          There are also many Pentecostal type churches that believe in “Oneness.” There are many, many Church of Jesus Christ, God’s Church, and Church of the Living God type churches out here….Pentecostal type churches….which deny the Trinity. There are many all over TN and KY, which I know. Pray tell how we can join with them, as long as they DENY the Trinity.

          Two, if people from other Churches truly have faith in Christ, then they are my brothers and sisters in the Lord. I love them as such. I can fellowship with them. But, JOIN with them? Exactly what do you mean by JOIN with them?

          Thirdly, being in Christ means that someone has surrendered thier hearts to Jesus in faith….and yes, a Methodist can be saved…a Pentecostal can be saved….shucks, I even have some Catholic friends that I believe are truly saved. Soooooo?

          David

          David Rogers

          David,

          We’re rehashing a lot of old conversations here. But…

          1. Yes, there are “Pentecostals’ that don’t believe in the Trinity. There are also “Pentecostals” who do believe in the Trinity. My point is, whenever you want to talk about the ones who don’t, it is best to call them United Pentecostals, or Oneness Pentecostals, not just “Pentecostals” because that confuses the issue.

          There are also Baptists who believe in women pastors. How would you feel if someone started talking like all Baptists believe in women pastors?

          2. I don’t remember where I ever brought up the term “JOIN with them.” I am talking about unity with other true believers, and putting it into practice. I am not inferring we have to all form one united ecumenical organization.

          3. In actual beliefs, I don’t think we are very far apart. It’s just those of you from the “BI” side of things seem to want to emphasize the need for separation from those who don’t dot their i’s and cross their t’s the same way we do, and those of us from the “Evangelical Ecumenism” side want to emphasize the fact that, even though we are different in some things, and may not be able to cooperate fruitfully in every ministry project, if we truly trust in Christ, and believe the essentials of the gospel, we are “one in the bond of love,” and ought to treat each other that way. Mostly, a difference in emphasis, as far as I can tell.

      David Campbell

      A noble quest indeed, but Im afraid thats as plausible as Dr. Lemke being neither Calvinist nor Arminian :)

Steve Lemke

Chris,
Thanks for reading the article and for your comments. Why did I single out Calvinists persecuting Baptists? Because (a) Calvinsts were (along with Catholics) the primary persecutors of Baptists in Europe, and (b) this is an article about what doctrinal differences divide Presbyterians from Baptists. If Presbyterians (i.e., people in the high Reformed denominations) persecuted Baptists, even to the point of execution, then CLEARLY there was significant disagreement over doctrine.

The historical basis of the claim that Zwingli, Calvin, and others maintained infant baptism essentially as a concession to the long Catholic tradition in the cities they took over? Well, that’s pretty easy. I would commend the writings of Balthasar Hubmaier vs. Zwingli, along with the Zurich disputations (Manz, Grebel, Hubmaier) over baptism. In addition, we have in our own NOBTS library dozens of tracts written by Baptists in the 1600s and 1700s (and the Anglicans who opposed them). This claim is discussed over and over again in these discussions. Since Manz and Grebel were originally with Zwingli and had extended Bible studies and discussions with them, I think they are probably the best historical source. Obviously, it was not in Zwingli’s vested self-interest to acknowledge it, but he did acknowledge privately that Manz and Grebel had the better New Testament case. However, he called Hubmaier a “madman” — why? Because he was simply mistaken in his hermeneutics? No! Because he was demanding of Zwingli something that was not politically expedient or even possible to do. Hubmaier escaped Zwingli’s persecution, but was executive near Vienna for the same reasons — his affirmation of believer’s baptism and opposition to the Catholic/magesterial Reformation insistence on the long tradition of infant baptism.

    Chris Roberts

    “Why did I single out Calvinists persecuting Baptists? Because (a) Calvinsts were (along with Catholics) the primary persecutors of Baptists in Europe, and (b) this is an article about what doctrinal differences divide Presbyterians from Baptists.”

    But (a), none of these groups, as far as I am aware, identified themselves by the ecclesiological label Calvinist. Calvinism refers to a theological distinction, not an ecclesiological distinction. Presbyterians may all be Calvinists, but Calvinism and Presbyterian are not synonymous terms, particularly since many Baptists (and others) are also Calvinists.

    And (b), baptism is the difference, not Calvinism. Presbyterians and Baptists are not distinguished by their views on Calvinism, as the history of Baptist theology attests over and over again.

    The reference to Calvinist authorities comes across as less an attempt to be historically precise and more an attempt to demonize Calvinism, making Calvinism out to be a vicious enemy of Baptists. But if we are going to lump all the wrong actions of people as natural consequences of their theology, perhaps we should next move on to the actions of the Anabaptist authorities in Munster.

    “I would commend the writings of Balthasar Hubmaier vs. Zwingli, along with the Zurich disputations… over baptism…”

    As for this, the examples you cite are far from specific or conclusive or, oddly enough, from Calvin himself. You said Calvin continued infant baptism out of political expediency rather than biblical conviction, and yet he was missing from your list of examples. As for Zwingli, I know you don’t have time to chase down specific citations for some comments on a blog post, but that’s what I would need – to see the sources from Zwingli himself. After reading your summary of Sproul, I’m not overly inclined to accept your summary of Zwingli.

peter

Chris,

And just how has Dr. Lemke somehow botched the summary of Sproul, Jr. so much so that one is inclined to assume he botched the reading of Zwingli?

With that, I am…
Peter

    Chris Roberts

    Peter,

    Please see my comments in Dr. Lemke’s previous post (also mentioned on my blog here and here). I know Dr. Lemke feels he has not misrepresented Sproul (and I imagine you would agree with him) but I disagree, and as the Baptist principle of soul competency means we do not need to rely on the words of a magisterium to deliver the proper understanding of truth, I’ll need to evaluate Zwingli’s words for myself.

volfan007

David Rogers,

The point is…we “BI” guys….whatever that is…do love other Brothers and Sisters in Christ. I dont know of any of these people, whom you would lump into that camp, who would hate other Believers from other types of Churches. We do love other Believers from other Churches.

I fellowship with them. I pray with them. I pray for them. So, what else would you want us to do to show “unity?” I mean, what more can we do to show “unity?” Brother, we already love them in the Lord. My Grandma and Great Grandma on my Mom’s side belonged to the Church of God, and I still have many relatives in that church. I love them. On my Dad’s side, there are many Church of Christ. I love them. I pray for them. I eat meals with them. I’m very friendly with the Pentecostal Pastor in my town, as well as with the Presbyterian Pastor, and others. What more should I do to show “unity?”

I think you’re view of unity is out there somewhere….in the deep, blue sky, Brother. I’m not trying to be disrespectful to you…but, what else would you think should be happening to show unity??????

David

    David Rogers

    David,

    In your actual practice there where you minister, you may well be doing a fantastic job of putting into the practice the implications of our basic unity in Christ with the fellow believers in your community. From what you write here, it appears that you probably are. My point has more to do with the style with which we write and the particular side of things we tend to emphasize.

    A lot of what I write has been forged in the experience of life on the mission field, in which questions of practical unity, fellowship, and cooperation were everyday issues with important implications. For me, it involves real life situations where different missionaries and different missionary organizations take different positions. Also, what we do on the mission field is often a reflection of what we and the churches who send us out do back home. So it all ties back here as well.

    Anyway, I am probably highjacking Dr. Lemke’s main idea on his post here, so I’ll just leave it at that for now. I cannot really do these issues justice in a blog comment stream anyway. Many of the posts I’ve written over the last couple of years in other places do a better job of getting across what I am trying to say.

    I hope you have a great day, and God continues to use you and bless you in your ministry there.

      volfan007

      Dr. Lemke,

      I’m also sorry for hi jacking your post….sorry, Brother.

      David

Steve Lemke

Chris, brother, you’re straining on a gnat here, trying to find things in words that aren’t there. My article and this series is not about Calvinism in the SBC. I have said that over and over again. Read the title. My series is on the doctrines about which Baptists (even the Calvinistically oriented Particular Baptists) disagree with Presbyterians. Presbyterians are the church/denomination which most clearly represents Calvinist/Reformed theology. You have seen me say over and over again that Presbyterians are “true” Calvinists, while Calvinistic Baptists are “partial” Calvinists in that (like the Particular Baptists) they disagree with some of the main tenets of classical Calvinism. However, the Calvinist/Reformed tradition is expressed in a number of denominational expressions (various Presbyterian groups, Congregationalists, Reformed churches, etc.). In this conversation, I am using “Calvinist” or “Refomed” as an shorthand overarching term, rather than listing each denomination. In contrast, “Catholic” clearly refers to just one denomination. So, hear what I’m saying.

The same struggle pertains to your struggle to accept my answer to your historical question about the accusation of the early Anabaptists that reformers like Zwingli clung too tightly to the Reformed tradition. You evidently have refused to look into the historical documents I cited. Consider what Balthasar Hubmaier wrote to Zwingli, arguing that the reformer had cast himself as being against Catholicism only to reclaim it with infant baptism: “If you do not [demonstrate infant baptism from Scripture], the vicar [i.e., the Pope] will complain that you have used against him a sword that you now lay aside.” I can cite dozens of quotations like that.

Zwingli attacked the Anabaptist practice of baptism and defended infant baptism in On Baptism, Anabaptism, and Infant Baptism in May 1525. Balthasar Hubmaier responded with a defense of believer’s baptism and a critique of infant baptism in a treatise entitled, On Christian Baptism of Believers, in June 1525. Zwingli then published A True, Thorough Reply to Dr. Balthazar’s Little Book of Baptism” in November 1525, a rather caustic and bitter attack on Hubmaier and the Anabaptists. In December 1525, Hubmaier wrote an imaginary and somewhat satirical dialogue between himself and Zwingli entitled A Dialogue between Balthasar Hubmaier of Friedberg and Master Ulrich Zwingli, of Zurich, on Infant Baptism (this is well worth reading).” You can find most of these treatises online in some form. Meanwhile, in November 1525 was what is known as the Third Zurich Disputation, in which Zwingli reversed his earlier openness to believer’s baptism and sided with the Magisterial Reformers in affirming infant baptism, while Hubmaier upheld believer’s baptism. You can find much of this documented in Bill Estep’s book The Anabaptist Story.

So, I would encourge you to read these historical documents. I think if you do, you will acknowledge that the early Anabaptists believed the magesterial reformers did not go far enough in their “reform” of the Catholic church. That’s why we call them the “Radical Reformation.”

I’m sorry that you don’t accept my account of Sproul, Jr. Just realize that you’re one of a few people on his side here. Ron Hale and I both patiently explained to you in the comments section to the second doctrine (age of accountability) why your reading of Sproul, Jr. was not fully representational of what he was saying. I’m sorry if you won’t accept that, or if you refuse to look at what Hubmaier and others said, but that doesn’t mean you’re right. The child who puts his hands over his eyes while playing hide and seek, and thus assuming that no one can see him because he can’t see anyone else, is obviously mistaken. I’m not calling you childish, but I am saying that if you refuse to look at the facts, then your conclusions will be skewed.

    Chris Roberts

    “you’re straining on a gnat here, trying to find things in words that aren’t there. My article and this series is not about Calvinism in the SBC.”

    Then speak of Presbyterian authorities, not Calvinist authorities. As it is, you – in your own words – pitted Calvinists against Baptist. You made the distinction, not me.

    “you will acknowledge that the early Anabaptists believed the magesterial reformers did not go far enough in their “reform” of the Catholic church.”

    I have no doubt of that, that wasn’t in dispute. But you claimed that Calvin and Zwingli knowingly sided with Rome on the issue of baptism out of political expediency. Your references show anabaptists making the accusation you made, but no actual evidence from the men themselves.

    What I say to Presbyterians today would have been true of Calvin: I know what his argument is, I know where he goes in Scripture, I know why he believes infant baptism to be true, but I think he is wrong. There is a biblical case to be made, but it is an incorrect case, drawing a wrong understanding and incorrect inferences. But there is a world of difference between trying to reach a faithful understanding of Scripture but being wrong, and adopting a belief out of political compromise. You have accused the reformers of the latter, and it is a bold accusation to make, particularly when you’ve still not offered anything resembling actual proof of the claim. It’s too bold a claim to accept at face value, and it’s too bold an accusation to make without backing it up with more than “Go read all these documents”. They may be well worth reading, and I’ll note them to hunt down, but the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate they are guilty of what would be serious sins.

Steve Lemke

Sins, Chris? You think it’s even possible that elect(ed) Presbyterians in history might have commited sins? You think they might have even done something that was politically expedient, given that they interacted almost daily with their city councils in running the theocratic government of their cities? Unthinkable!

sal

While many Christians have always held to certain notions appearing in Calvinism, this did not make them Calvinists. It is crucial that this is understood. An actual Calvinist believes in an interlocking nexus of doctrines involving baptism, church government, the church’s relationshiop to society, and many other things. While some people think Calvinism is a cool trend, they often see it only from a distance. For example, they’ve not attended an old-school Presbyterian or Reformed Church. They haven’t seen how different they are from the Baptist position. They’re unaware of how many differences exist.

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