Paed-Day Someday?

May 1, 2013

By: Ron F. Hale

Opening Explanation:  The author is seeking to use the title of a classic sermon by Dr. R. G. Lee[1] (1886-1978) entitled Pay-Day Someday, while connecting the hybrid word (above) to the potential problem of receiving as church members those coming from other faith traditions that practice Paedobaptism[2] (baptism of infants) or affusion (sprinkling or pouring) without teaching them the NT truths of believer’s baptism by immersion and membership requirements.

Southern Baptists have always believed that the baptism of infants cannot be supported historically or doctrinally in the OT or NT; nor has it been espoused by our statements of faith.  Furthermore, we have never tried to make the case that certain rituals from the OT (i.e. circumcision) should serve as a NT symbol or sacrament.

Southern Baptists have never been Paedobaptists!  We have heard all the educated elucidations of the Princeton tradition, and read the writings of Luther, Wesley, and the popes of Rome and all of them put together have never been able to shake our resolve that we have indeed gotten this one right.   We are baptizers and we immerse people after they have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. This is who we are and what we do!

Most Paedobaptists base their view of the meaning and mode of baptism on church tradition rather than the clear practice and precepts of the NT.  Southern Baptists are Credobaptists, this simply means that we baptize those who have repented and trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and are willing to confess Him publically.

We have not taught a covenantal theology that maintains that God’s covenant of grace not only belongs to believers, but to the children of believers.  Therefore we have avoided an elaborate administration of God’s grace that has evolved among Paedobaptists with infant baptism the initial rite of incorporation into the covenant family.

Baptists believe that our maturing children need to hear the Gospel (just like all children need to hear), and they need to repent of their sins and believe the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation.  This “believing” is a full trust of the person of Jesus Christ; He is the object of our faith – not a creed, confession, catechism, or catalog of Christian facts.

As the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin and convincing of the truth of the Gospel, the sinner turns from their sin and turns to Jesus and is saved.  We believe that infants and younger children lack the spiritual maturity to understand their personal sinfulness and the moral accountability of sins and make a faith response to the Gospel. We have believed that each child reaches an “age of accountability” based on several factors, one being that the child has godly parents that consistently nurture their child in the faith like we see in the life of young Timothy[3] in the NT.

We have also been anti-sacramentalists, preaching against those positions that prop up the baptismal regeneration of infants.  Many early Baptists and Anabaptists were drowned, burned, and banished for their strong stands on these issues.

Having served in the Midwest and North most of my ministry, I lived with the fact that Southern Baptists were few and far between.  Christians from other faith traditions were open to discuss following the Lord in believer’s baptism as they came for membership.  I took the straightforward approach by first asking them one question:  What are your earliest memories of your baptism? A blank stare would appear on their face.  They had no memories for they were infants when they were sprinkled or poured upon. This factor caused a strong “missing ingredient” in their faith journey.

When I showed them from the NT how new believers went down in the water and came up out of the water and explained the meaning of baptism (to dip or plunge) and how it symbolized being lowered into a watery grave and raised to walk in newness of life – many were happy to follow the Lord in believer’s baptism.

The key was listening to their testimony and discerning if it was a “by grace through faith” experience and then explaining that we are NOT doubting their salvation experience but asking them to follow the NT example and the historic practice of our church.

If they did not wish to officially join, I would make sure that they understood that they were welcome to attend, worship, and experience the love of Jesus through our fellowship.

New believers coming from a Catholic tradition had the hardest time being baptized in our church because it was seen as a rejection of their immediate family, generational identity, and cultural ties.  This factor was magnified when the first baby was born to the young couple and parents and grandparents applied mountains of guilt in order to get their grandbaby baptized.   However, some of the greatest soul-winners that I’ve worked with have been born-again baptized believers from the Catholic tradition.

Recently I was reading the facebook post of a friend and comments on this subject.  Very quickly the post revealed a couple of SBC congregations that practice immersion but allow people to join that have been sprinkled.  One congregation’s online document entitled Baptism: At The Village states:

“Baptism is a requirement for membership at the Village Church.  We require anyone wishing to join the church to have displayed obedience to Christ’s command following conversion.  While we practice a baptism by immersion at the Village, we do not require the mode of immersion for membership.  If a person was sprinkled or immersed (or a possible other mode) after conversion, he or she has met our requirement for membership.”[4]

This brings up several questions as members move due to jobs or choose to join other congregations in the same city.  Here are a few questions:

  1. Would you receive non-immersed members from other SBC congregations and then allow them to teach a Bible Study Class?  What will they teach about baptism?
  2. Would you allow non-immersed members coming from other SBC churches to serve as a deacon?
  3. As a Baptist church would you license and ordain a non-immersed young man to preach the Gospel who has come into your church from a SBC church that did not require him to be immersed?

It is my hope and prayer that we will not have a “Paed-Day Someday” in the SBC.  By this I mean that I hope that we remain steadfast in protecting the NT practice of believer’s baptism by immersion and preserving the long held SBC principle of “like faith and order.”

If we as “Baptists” do not lead this effort, who will?

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Norm Miller

Slam DUNK!

Chris

If your members have not been immersed as part of their post-conversion baptism, then they have not truly been baptized in the first place. This has been the Baptist position for centuries. Taking it from a different angle, if any of these members want to work for an SBC school or organization (ex. IMB) in the future, their mode of baptism would automatically disqualify them.

rhutchin

The baptism of infants addresses the concerns of parents in dealing with the death of infants. To resolve the issue, some denominations told people that they could guarantee the salvation of their babies by having them baptized. Baptists resolved the matter by appealing to the immaculate conception of infants and their purity before they were old enough to sin and become subject to judgment. The church has addressed the issue of the death of infants in different ways. I don’t see that it one group really has the high ground on this.

The real issue is whether a person needs to be re-baptized when the person comes to a Baptist church from another denomination that practiced infant baptism. Baptists have concluded that they should. Of course, any person who was baptized as a child, or even as an adult, who did not have a clear understanding of the purpose and meaning of baptism should also be re-baptized when they come to an adequate understanding of baptism. Some Baptist churches slide over this point.

    Jeremy

    Paedobaptism is first and foremost a conclusion of covenant theology. I don’t think it’s accurate to say they were just “dealing with the death of infants.” Now certainly they use this to speak into such tragedies, but the reason for paedobaptism is very simply a continuity of the covenant of grace. I disagree with it, but it is part of a much bigger picture, not just trying to answer hard questions.
    That being said, I also would like to hear thoughts on baptists who made a confession at early ages ( or anytime) only to realize that experience was not true conversion. Must they be re-baptized and presented again for membership? I would like to add that I appreciate the post and agree with much of its content.

volfan007

I really believe that the ONLY baptism that a SB Church should accept as okay is Believers Baptism by immersion. And really, if a Church lets people join thier Church with any other baptism, are they really a Southern Baptist Church? I dont think so. If we let people join our Churches, and they were sprinkled on top of the head as a baby, or as an adult; or if they had water poured on top of thier heads; then they did not have a true, SCRIPTURAL baptism. If we let Mormons, or Campbellites(Church of Christ) join our Churches without being properly baptized, then we’re not being true to the Scriptures, either; because they were baptized in order to be saved…from Churches that teach a works salvation.

It’s hard for me to believe that we actually have Churches in the SBC letting people join thier Churches, who have not been baptized. Yet, I know that it’s true.

David

David R. Brumbelow

Baptists certainly do have the high ground on the issue of Baptism.

Scripture never teaches the baptism of infants. Never.

The only baptism taught in the Bible is Believer’s Baptism by Immersion.

Baptists have stood on this issue, sometimes to the point of persecution and death. May we never give up this biblical conviction.

One of many verses showing belief comes first, then baptism:

But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. -Acts 8:12

I challenge anyone to do a serious study on the Bible and baptism. Do so, and you will be in great danger of becoming a Baptist. Just ask Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice.

David R. Brumbelow

    Ron F. Hale

    David,
    I always love reading the story of Judson and Rice. Blessings.

Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

Here’s how we handle it at my congregation. We have the following language in our “Steps to Membership” brochure:

Perhaps you were baptized by a church of another Christian denomination. We will gladly recognize your baptism as valid if it meets these three criteria:

1. You were baptized after you believed on Christ.
2. The church baptizing you did so as a symbolic act and not as a requirement for salvation.
3. You were baptized by immersion.

If your previous experience does not meet all three criteria, we humbly ask that you be baptized according to Scripture.

Just last night I spoke with a woman about membership who is coming from a Church of Christ, salvation by baptism background. I explained to her why we would biblically baptize her before she joins the church.

We believe that’s the best way according to Scripture but of course, stand with the autonomy of the local church. For instance, I’ve also been part of a local church with Landmark tendencies that rebaptized people who met the biblical criteria above but wasn’t done by a “Baptist” in a “Baptist” building. There’s also a few congregations I know of who rebaptize people just about whenever they get an itch to be baptized again, almost like baptism is a repeatable ordinance like the Lord’s Supper. Of course, there’s also the recent phenomenon of “Spontaneous” baptisms.

To be honest, there’s quite a bit confusion over baptism.

    Dean

    Ben, I hate the fact that almost everyone is in complete agreement with you for the first time ever at Today and I am going to stop just short of making it unanimous. I have almost exact word for word information discussing joining our church. I am satisfied with it completely. However, I have a question that I would like answered by the theologians. If a church does not believe baptism is essential for salvation but baptizes in Jesus’ name only is that an issue. I have done some reading and not found much discussion.

    Ron, thank you for excellent article.

Bill Mac

I would not support anything but the criteria laid out by Ben. However, I think frivolous re-baptism is a far bigger problem in the SBC than accepting paedobaptism. Making people be rebaptized for example, if they simply join from another SBC church, demeans baptism.

Ron F. Hale

Ben,
I like your … three criteria, unless I’m missing something, I think that I agree with you! Is this our first time? :)

    volfan007

    I agree with Ben, too…and, I’m glad to see that this is the criteria for his Church.

    David

Ron F. Hale

Bill Mac,
I am not aware of a SBC congregation requiring a member from another SBC congregation to get re-baptized when joining. I have seen a SBC church require an Independent Baptist get re-baptized; I’m would not be in favor of that. Blessings!

Bill Mac

Ron,

I think churches with a Landmark history, even if they are no longer Landmark might fall into that category. I think most rebaptisms are a result of insecurity.

    Norm Miller

    Not to sound too rhetorical, what would be the scriptural refutation of admitting un-immersed believers into church membership? I ask the question b/c I understand there are some, however few, SB churches not requiring immersion when admitting affused or sprinkled believers into their membership.

      Bill Mac

      Norm: Good question. I’m not sure, because I’m not sure if what we call membership would be recognized by the early church. The early church model seems to have been nearly immediate baptism, so it may be that they would be reluctant to admit an unbaptized “believer” into fellowship.

Robert Vaughn

This is an interesting situation. Thanks for the article. My first comment is that my reading of The Village’s policy (which I definitely do not agree with) is not a paedo/infant baptism issue, but a mode of baptism issue (i.e. sprinkling and pouring vs. immersion) since they require the so-called baptism to occur “after conversion.”

It is my impression that The Village Church, though progressive, would be considered a theologically conservative church. If my impression is correct, I wonder if this is a new trend among theologically conservative Baptists?

In 1977 Perspectives in Religious Studies (the journal of the Association of Baptist Professors of Religion) published a full issue on “Documents Concerning Baptism and Church Membership: a Controversy among North Carolina Baptists.” This was a controversy within the State Convention of North Carolina over a small minority of churches not requiring “believer’s baptism by immersion in water as a prerequisite to church membership.” As best I remember that was mostly a conservative vs. liberal/moderate controversy.

Ron F. Hale

Robert,

I always enjoy your thougtful comments and observations. I do understand your point concerning “padeo/infant baptism issue” (verses) the mode of baptism issue.

If Southern Baptists ever became Paedobaptists or Paedobaptististic, I see the current view of The Village as a “first step” in that direction, therefore, my article. By the way, my article could have mentioned a church in Tennessee, Virginia and several more that I’ve been made aware of since the posting of the article.

I believe that one can perdict the future or at least perdict a trend based on what is currently happening in a microcosm. Do these Baptist churches represent a microcosm that will someday mushroom into a movement? Will we become one big …Community Church Network without any historical distinctives? I hope not.

Blessings!

Robert Vaughn

I agree that such a move as The Village here regarding baptism is a “first step” in the direction of paedobaptism; that is, once you give up one major point — baptism is only by immersion — then it can be easier to give up another important position. At first it doesn’t seem like you’re giving up a belief. “Hey, we still practice immersion, it’s just that we’re not going to tell anyone else what they can do.” (Or something like that). But this move has totally capitulated the belief that immersion baptism is a prerequisite to church membership.

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