Am I a Baptist? You Decide.

questionmarks.jpgAs regular readers of this blog will know, I was recently asked by a friend "How can you call yourself a Baptist?"  Another friend basically questioned "Why would you want to call yourself a Baptist?"

Why the questioning?  I stated in a recent posting that I will NEVER separate over non-essentials.  I included in this category modes of baptism, dispensational positions, and forms of church government.

Here's the deal.  What the Bible says explicitly, I affirm dogmatically.  What I infer from the study of Scripture, I practice but I do not separate from others who come to different positions.  How does this work practically?

The Bible teaches baptism explicitly.  If a person refuses to be baptized following conversion, I am dealing with a sin problem.  Baptism is commanded.  Now, the Bible does NOT say baptize by immersion.  Unfortunately, the Greek word for baptism was transliterated, rather than translated.  I think the best meaning of the word is "to dip."  That seems to be supported by examples in the New Testament.  I know, however, that outside the Bible the Greek word for baptism is sometimes translated "to pour."  So, I won't separate from my brother who practices pouring (all 5 of them).

Another practical example is dispensational position.  The Bible teaches explicitly that a "day of the Lord" is coming, a time of tribulation.  It teaches explicitly that the church will saved from that wrath.  I think the Bible demonstrates a pretribulational rapture.  Some think mid-tribulation.  Others say "pre-wrath."  In order to be dogmatic on the pre-tribulational position (which I hold), I have to be absolutely confident in the interpretation and resulting numerology of a vision given to the prophet Daniel as well as the precise interpretation of symbols given in a vision to the apostle John.  I'll give a little wiggle room.

With regard to church government, I believe the Bible teaches pastor and deacon leadership.  Some think the Bible teaches congregational rule.  Others hold to elder rule.  I won't make it a matter of separation, although I have come to lean strongly toward elder rule.

Now, to the question at hand.  Am I a Baptist? 

Well, I do consider myself a Baptist.  In fact, I am more staunchly Baptist than I am fundamentalist.  The point of this article is to prove it.

So have at me.  Slice and dice.  I am completely vulnerable and will not shrink back from any related questions.  Here's what I believe.  I will fight to defend each of these statements.

1. I believe that the Bible is the final authority for faith and practice.  God said it; that settles it; I believe it.

2. I believe in the autonomy (self-ruling) of the local church.  No hierarchy exists outside the local church.  The shepherd is accountable directly to the Chief Shepherd.

3. I believe in the priesthood of the believer.  I have direct access to God through my great High Priest, Jesus Christ.

4. I believe in two ordinances of the local church: baptism by immersion and the Lord's table.  Neither ordinance conveys grace–one is simply a public testimony of salvation and the other is a ritual of remembrance.

5. I believe in individual soul liberty.  No one should be forced to assent to any belief against his will.

6. I believe in saved, baptized church membership.  When a person comes to faith in Christ and gives public testimony of that fact through baptism, that person becomes a member of the church.

7. I believe that there are two offices given to the local church: pastor/elder/overseer and deacon.  The Bible gives qualification and obligation for each position.

8. I believe in separation of church and state.  Each institution was created by God and has a defined purpose and responsibility.

Okay, now the fun begins. Am I a Baptist?

Here's a few more "issues" to throw into the fire:

1. I believe that the Bible was inspired in the original manuscripts only.  No translation is perfect or free from errors.  God preserved His Word in the multiplicity of manuscripts.

2. I think that musical style is a matter of Christian liberty.  While that does not mean "anything goes," it DOES however mean we cannot be either libertines or legalists in this area.

3. I hold to a pretribulational rapture of the church.  I will NOT, however separate from a brother who has a different persuasion from the Scriptures on the exact timing of that event with other eschatological happenings.

4. I think that "elder rule" is the best form of church government.  I am not convinced in congregational rule as the biblically-prescribed form of church government.  I believe that pastors are called on to lead the church in all doctrinal matters.

5. I think biblical baptism should be by immersion, yet I can have fellowship with those who practice effusion as a public means of identification with Christ.  I recognize there are linguistic difficulties with the word baptizo and I will not make this a matter of separation.  I practice immersion only.  Infant baptism and any other forms of baptismal regeneration are heresy and I will separate over them.

6. I believe that biblical worship should include the raising of hands, clapping, bowing, kneeling and other bodily expressions of both humility and joy.  Stoic worship for the purpose of disassociating ourselves with charismatics is wrong and displeases the Lord.

7. I think that every sermon should issue a call to repentance and conformity to Christ.  I also know that every Christian should respond to the Bible each time it is presented.  Because of this, I am convinced that the invitation system currently employed by many churches is unwise and allows the impression that many are not making decisions for Christ.  I think it promotes spiritual callousness.

8. I do not think that we have the right to either limit our fellowship with or separate from Christians because we differ on non-essentials.  In areas of doubt (Romans 14), unity is supremely more important than uniqueness.  In fact, when we restrict fellowship over these kinds of areas, I think we are indeed guilty of sinful divisiveness.

Am I still a Baptist?  Can I still join your church?  Can I pastor your church?  Why or why not?

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71 responses to this post.

  1. I’m not sure, Brian, but that picture gives me the creeps.

    Reply

  2. He IS creepy, isn’t he? Good attention getter though!

    I should clarify for the record that the picture posted with this article is NOT Brian McCrorie, thankfully.

    Reply

  3. Brian,

    Have you listened to Dever’s message on Membership and Congregationalism?

    If not, you should.

    Reply

  4. I have a real problem understanding how List 1 No. 2 and List 2 No. 8 can both be true, unless you are willing to repent of your sinful schism as a sectarian Baptist pastor and begin efforts to dissolve your fellowship and its doctrinal statement as it stands right now and move to unite congregationally with believers who currently call themselves Pentecostals, Mennonites, Presbyterians, Nazarenes, and so on. The very fact that 1. We choose to identify as Baptists and 2. Hold to an idea of a limited (saved and baptized) church membership limits our fellowship and separates us from other Christians.

    In the end, I don’t see what List 2 No.1-7 have to do with the topic at hand. Topic eight, however, is very important to our non-conformist identity as Baptists. Why did Roger Williams leave the Puritans and the Massachusetts Bay Colony? Why didn’t John Bunyan stay with the Anglicans, choosing instead to live in a jail cell? Why is Judson known as the first American Baptist missionary? I’m sure that by-and-large they would have generally agreed on “The Fundamentals.”

    As Dever rightly observes in the message I linked to above, there are many non-essentials that are nevertheless of great importance.

    Reply

  5. I said:

    I’m sure that by-and-large they would have generally agreed on “The Fundamentals.”

    That is, they would have agreed with their opponents on “The Fundamentals.”

    Reply

  6. Greg,

    I am listening to the message right now. Will get back to you. Thanks for the link.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Dan Miller on May 23, 2006 at 9:25 am

    You might be interested in this note from the Bethlehem Baptist Church staff.
    Especially along the lines of Baptism as discussed here.

    http://www.bbcmpls.org/What_is_the_Present_Status_of_the_Issue_12_29_05.htm

    Reply

  8. I will post some thoughts tonight on elder rule/congregational rule, especially in context of the Dever sermon. It is a subject that deserves its own thread. Meanwhile, I look forward to everyone’s comments on all aspects of this article.

    Reply

  9. First Question: Is this an identity issue (Is Brian a Baptist?) or a separation issue (Is Brian right/wrong for not making distinctives an issue of separation)?

    Second Question: Just because someone holds a position, there is a natural separation, however the term has become loaded with all sorts of baggage. Greg, are you saying that if a guy holds to immersion but doesn’t separate from non-immersionists, that he is in sin? I understand the natural separation, but are we talking disobedient brother stuff? If so, we all must separate from BJU which does not separate over mode of baptism.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Brad Jury on May 23, 2006 at 10:06 am

    1. Brian is a Baptist

    2. BJU is not Baptist : ) –could we say that they are the one with the identity issue? What I mean is that they’ve got separation down (less the baptism mode) but the identity thing is up in the air. You’re right when you say there is naturual separation. But beyond natural separation on this issue there does not appear to be grounds for mandated separation.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Brian Dare on May 23, 2006 at 10:28 am

    Greg, to me it seems as if your saying there is a difference between “separation,” concerning church membership, and “separation” concerning personal fellowship? Is this correct? I would agree with you here.

    For example, my personal fellowship is pretty broad. One of my closest friends was once an Episcopalian, until his gospel-preaching father got kicked out of the denomination. It seems that requirements for membership must be much narrower, including mode a baptism, dispensational understandings, and church polity. Disagreements on this within the congregation can result in confusion, a lot of variant interpretations, and unnecessary conflict concerning the interworkings of church polity and too much disagreement in catechizing. Of course then there is the issue of who we, as a church will fellowship and cooperate with. This is where things get really complicated.

    Reply

  12. You need to look at the comments of Brian’s post on the rapture. This will help you see how we got here.

    I am not arguing over who is in sin. Brian indicated that those who do divide over
    “non-essentials” were guilty of sinful schism. I am defending the idea that a Christian can be a confirmed Baptist (dispensationalist, etc) and avoid church fellowship with those who are not- still recognizing that his “opponents” are Christians, but maintaining his distinctions for the sake of obedience to the whole counsel of God as revealed in Scripture. Such a person is NOT in sin for being “sectarian,” I believe.

    Reply

  13. RE: “What I infer from the study of Scripture, I practice but I do not separate from others who come to different positions.

    Brian, you would really like the writings of Alexander Campbell.

    The Bible does not explicitly teach that Jesus Christ is the second person of the Godhead, or the same essence as the Father, or homoousios/consubstantialem (of the same substance) as the Father, or “begotten, not made” (et al). All these are inferences, so I suppose that you should not separate over these either.

    Reply

  14. Posted by Andy Efting on May 23, 2006 at 11:48 am

    Ryan,

    I have a friend who makes a distinction between Biblical inferences and Biblical implications. Do you think this distinction is valid?

    In applying biblical teaching, Christians whould make a distinction between biblical implications and biblical inferences. Biblical implications are distinguished from biblical inferences as follows:

    A biblical implication is derived as an inescapable consequence of sound deduction from biblical propositions or principles. To the extent that they are based on sound reasoning and unambiguous biblical teaching, biblical implications carry the full weight of biblical authority with respect to their certainty.

    A biblical inference is derived as possible or probable consequence of either deduction or induction from biblical propositions, principles, patterns or examples. To the extent that they are based on sound reasoning, biblical inferences carry biblical weight with respect to their plausibility, but not with respect to their certainty.

    It is clear from the above definitions, that a conclusion based on biblical inference implies a certain degree of doubt as to its certainty; hence, to dispute over such issues (or worse, refuse Christian fellowship) would be to engage in doubtful disputations.

    Reply

  15. Andy,

    Your friend makes an important point. I would agree with his reasoning.

    Reply

  16. Andy, I am not sure I am willing to bite. Even if I did, we are talking here about Brian’s article. Therein he made a very plain distinction between “What the Bible says explicitly,” and “What I infer from the study of Scripture.” That’s two categories.

    Let me get this straight, Brian. You are now saying that there is a new “third category” that you did not mention in the original article?

    Reply

  17. Posted by Keith on May 23, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    1) You could join my bible-believing presbyterian church, but I couldn’t join your baptist church. We’d recognize your dipping but you won’t recognize our sprinkling. Seems like you’re limiting fellowship because of something, that by your own admission is not too clear (mode of batism).

    2) Infant baptism doesn not equal baptismal regeneration. You are confusing two issues: a) candidacy for baptism and b) effect/purpose of baptism. Many covenantal infant baptisers reject regeneration as an effect. If all infant baptisers are heretics, the ranks of the heretics is huge. Some key examples: Paisley, Duncan, Schaeffer, Sproul, Lewis, Luther, Calvin, Knox, etc. , etc.

    3) You believe in saved and baptized church membership. How do you accomplish that? The baptized part is easy (were they baptized), but the saved part? How do you check their hearts for regeneration? You must mean professing and baptized, right? That’s definitely an historic baptist distinctive. I’ve just never figured out how that accomplishes anything substantially different from churches that admit covenant and professing baptized members.

    Reply

  18. Ryan,

    Yes, I would see the validity of a third category. The point is the conclusion reached from comparing Scripture with Scripture is doubtless.

    Reply

  19. Keith,

    You’re right. I see no validity to sprinkling.

    Regarding infant baptism, many denominations do indeed view it as regenerational. I recognize that not all do. I will continue to be dogmatic on the purpose of baptism as evidence of salvation. It is not the NT equivalent of circumcision.

    Obviously, we go on profession of faith. Thanks for the clarification. I assumed everyone understood that we can’t see people’s hearts.

    Reply

  20. Posted by Andy Efting on May 23, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    Brian,

    Of course, the problem comes in when something is doubtless to one person but not to another. So, while I think the implication/inference distinction is probably helpful to some extent, I wonder (and I told my friend this, too) if it is always easy to distinguish between the two.

    Reply

  21. Brian, perhaps you could clarify further. Doubtless to whom? For example, in the theology articulated in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed I cited above, Arian (and many other after him) would doubt your “comparison” of Scripture with Scripture (i.e., your interpretation). It seems like you get to pick and choose between “implications” and “inferences” based on what you happen to think is “doubtless.” Christians have disagreed over several of the points you raised above, and with evidently a great deal more certainty than you seem to have. When does a position become doubtless?

    Reply

  22. Andy, it looks like we’re chasing the same rabbit.

    Reply

  23. Posted by Keith on May 23, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    I think you have every right to see no validity to sprinkling, and you have every right to exclude from membership those who have been so baptized. Doing so, however, does not seem to agree with your last point (#8).

    With your baptismal position (it’s just a public testimony), how can baptism be viewed as an essential? And, based on the last 500 to 2000 years of church history, how can baptism NOT be viewed as an area of doubt?

    I think that everyone does understand that we can’t see people’s hearts. That’s why some of us scratch our heads at the baptist position. You can’t know that you’re baptizing a truly saved person any more than a paedobaptist.

    Reply

  24. Ryan (and Andy),

    You said, “When does a position become doubtless?” I would answer that it is when there is no other legitimate explanation from a study of Scripture.

    I’m not interested in a post-modern “that’s your interpretation” type of scenario where each person becomes the authority rather than letting the Bible interpret itself. That’s why I hold as essential a grammatical-historical hermeneutic. I am willing to limit fellowship over that.

    What points are you referring to that CHristians would disagree over? The baptist distinctives? Or my positions on various issues?

    Andy, I think it is fairly easy to distinguish between those two categories. Give me an example of a position that would be difficult to distinguish into one of those categories.

    Reply

  25. Keith,

    Sure, it agrees with my last point because I believe baptism is only expressed as an identification with Christ following conversion. It is an essential, taught in Scripture explicitly. There is no room in the language of the New Testament or in the practice of New Testament churches for sprinkling. It’s not there. So, I have an obligation to rebuke such error as false teaching and withdraw myself from the fellowship of those who would teach otherwise.

    At least believers who are baptized can profess faith in Christ. Infants have no such ability. But this is part of a larger discussion which can hardly be continued through infrequent comments like this. Our approach to Scripture is quite different, I would assume. Covenant theology and Dispensational theology will always be at odds because our hermeneutic is different. Will/should that affect fellowship? Yes.

    Reply

  26. Posted by Keith on May 23, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    As I made my initial comment, I thought that I mostly agreed with you — I was just trying to answer your “can I join your church” question and maybe refine/work out some minor details. However, as the discussion has progressed, I have come to agree with you that our disagreements are major, and that we won’t likely resolve them with infrequent comments like these.

    I also agree with you that Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology will always reach different conclusions on certain topics. I just don’t think that always requires separation or limiting fellowship — unless by limiting fellowship you mean something like Greg Linscott.

    I can and do regularly fellowship and worship with Baptists, Dispensationalists, Lutherans, and others who have reached different conclusions than me from the Scriptures. We can’t all be members of the same church but we can fellowship. Although, while my presbyterian church limits leadership to those who hold presby distinctives, it doesn’t limit membership or fellowship that way. To be a member all you must be is a baptized, professing christian.

    I would also like to say that what Ryan and Andy are talking about has nothing to do with postmodernism. Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli lived a long time before postmodernism. Yet, from the Bible (they all stood for Sola Scriptura), they arrived at different conclusions about baptism and various other matters. They would have been amazed to learn that your positions are the only ones that can be legitimately derived from Scripture.

    I don’t think the Bible ever clearly commands one to use the grammatical-historical hermeneutic exclusively. So, it’s puzzling that you view that hermeneutic as an essential. Clearly, the Scripture must agree with itself, and using the analogy of Scripture is good biblical practice — but these are not synonymous with what you call the grammatical-historical approach.

    I’ll bow out now, but I thank you for the interaction.

    Reply

  27. Keith,

    I appreciate the interaction. As I said in the article, I am completely open to constructive criticism. I am also willing to change my mind on something if I can be persuaded through the Scripture.

    My referring to postmodernism was in light of Ryan’s statement about someone doubting my interpretation. When there is no authoritative method of interpreting the Bible, then it is very much like postmodernism. Truth is truth to you or to me but not the truth.

    It appears I need to also defend my hermeneutic, which is dreadfully inadequate to do in comments like this. I have several articles to go, I think, to clarify my position on essentials/non-essentials.

    Reply

  28. Well, Brian, I’m not advocating postmodernism (?), and I certainly hope you are not reading me that way. I am (for one) observing that different interpretations (a far cry from interpretative methods) exist (there are certainly other methods of interpretation, but that is a question for another day). More the point, I am questioning the validity of this test you introduced between an “inference” and “implication,” which seems to be whether or not the conclusion is “doubtless.” All I am saying is that there are many persons who would doubt your interpretation (again, not interpretative method) of several of the “inferred” (assuming they are inferred) doctrines you listed above. In fact, they would doubt the truthfulness of the doctrines using the same hermeneutic you use. You asked for examples of doctrines where other persons would doubt your conclusion based on the Scriptures. Here you go:

    1. I believe that the Bible is the final authority for faith and practice. God said it; that settles it; I believe it.

    2. I believe in the autonomy (self-ruling) of the local church. No hierarchy exists outside the local church. The shepherd is accountable directly to the Chief Shepherd.

    3. I believe in the priesthood of the believer. I have direct access to God through my great High Priest, Jesus Christ.

    4. I believe in two ordinances of the local church: baptism by immersion and the Lord’s table. Neither ordinance conveys grace–one is simply a public testimony of salvation and the other is a ritual of remembrance.

    5. I believe in individual soul liberty. No one should be forced to assent to any belief against his will.

    6. I believe in saved, baptized church membership. When a person comes to faith in Christ and gives public testimony of that fact through baptism, that person becomes a member of the church.

    7. I believe that there are two offices given to the local church: pastor/elder/overseer and deacon. The Bible gives qualification and obligation for each position.

    8. I believe in separation of church and state. Each institution was created by God and has a defined purpose and responsibility.

    I’m curious about something you said: “When there is no authoritative method of interpreting the Bible, then it is very much like postmodernism.”

    I am wondering which author you have run into that defines postmodernity in this way.

    Reply

  29. Posted by Dan Miller on May 23, 2006 at 7:55 pm

    Andy, I for one find the distinction between implication and inference to be completely unsatisfactory.

    THE difference between these is in whether they are “made” by the writer or the reader.
    An implication is done by the intention of the writer. An inference is done by the intention of the reader.

    If we read the Scripture and perceive a non-explicit message or application, then it is an inference.

    The only known implications in Scripture are in those cases where Scripture comments on itself. The first message may have had an implication that is pointed out when the second passage comments on the first.

    Other than that, to assert an implication is to claim further revelation.

    Reply

  30. It is very interesting how easily we label Bible teaching as essential or non-essential. I am assuming what is meant is clear Biblically teaching vs. teaching that is not as clear. In addition, one might consider teaching that relates to salvation as essential–eternity is on the line–vs. teaching regarding, for example, music choices, as non-essential–a wrong music choice will not keep a saved person out of heaven.

    But I have to wonder what the Lord thinks of all of this. Is not all of His Word essential? Perhaps I am merely suggesting that we use better phrases to describe what we mean by this.

    Reply

  31. No, Ryan, I asked for positions that people would have difficulty distinguishing between biblical implication and biblical inference. I don’t believe the baptist distinctives would fall into the category of “difficult to distinguish.”

    One of the chief attributes of postmodernism is the idea that truth is relative, no absolutes. Of course, there would be many liberal and heretical theologians that would DOUBT my interpretations in areas I believe are explicitly taught in Scripture. You said some would doubt the interpretations using the same hermeneutic I employ. I would be interested in such an example. Do you not believe there is an authoritative method of interpretation?

    Reply

  32. Michael,

    All of Scripture is useful (2 Tim 3:16). When I use the term non-essential, I am referring to opinion, things not taught explicitly in God’s Word.

    Dan,

    You are, of course, correct in your vocabulary of the difference b/w imply and infer. I don’t think, however, that Andy’s friend was using the terms in that way.

    Reply

  33. Brian said, in defining “inferences”: “The point is the conclusion reached from comparing Scripture with Scripture is doubtless.”

    Ryan said, “It seems like you get to pick and choose between “implications” and “inferences” based on what you happen to think is “doubtless.” Christians have disagreed over several of the points you raised above, and with evidently a great deal more certainty than you seem to have. When does a position become doubtless?”

    Brian asked, “What points are you referring to that CHristians [sic] would disagree over?”

    Ryan said, “You asked for examples of doctrines where other persons would doubt your conclusion based on the Scriptures. Here you go: . . . ”

    Brian said, “No, Ryan, I asked for positions that people would have difficulty distinguishing between biblical implication and biblical inference.”

    ???

    Brian, I am not sure you answered my question concerning postmodernism.

    Brian, you said, “Of course, there would be many liberal and heretical theologians that would DOUBT my interpretations in areas I believe are explicitly taught in Scripture.”

    If that is true, then how can you say that inferences are places where “the conclusion reached from comparing Scripture with Scripture is doubtless”?

    This, it seems, is the logical flow of your argument: When do we separate over theological conclusions from the Scriptures (i.e., determine who are heretics)? When your Scripture conclusion is a “scriptural inference.” How do we know when something is an inference? When it is doubtless. What if someone doubts the interpretation of that inference? They are obviously a heretic.

    Reply

  34. Ryan,

    That’s good.

    Reply

  35. Posted by Dan Miller on May 23, 2006 at 9:47 pm

    Ok – here’s how I take it. This is the reasoning:

    Accuser:
    1. X application is obvious. It is so obvious to me that I believe that this is implied by the Scripture.
    2. “To the extent that they are based on sound reasoning and unambiguous biblical teaching, biblical implications carry the full weight of biblical authority with respect to their certainty.”
    3. You don’t think that X application is necessary. You have violated Biblical authority.
    Translation: “I can judge you in a non-explicit issue because it is obvious to me.”

    Responder:
    1. X application is not obvious.
    2. You have inferred that from the Word.

    Am I way off?
    ———————-
    I mean, to me, credo-baptism is pretty obvious. The “answer of a good conscience”! I mean, hello! How can a baby’s conscience give a good answer?

    Reply

  36. I was referring to implication as Andy's friend defined them. Sorry I didn't make that more clear. Inferences are the non-essentials I have been talking about.

    What question about postmodernism? What writer defines it the way I used it? I'm not going to go research authors right now. Probably the author that has impacted me the most in the area is Dennis McCallum. I think the further clarification I made about postmodernism is widely accepted.

    I don't separate over inferences, but would over implications (as defined above) and explicit teaching. If you have a point to make, make it. I'm open to criticism. If you take issue with the baptist distinctives, I'd be interested to know which ones, why, and I'd debate you on them because I believe them to be explicitly taught in Scripture. If you take issue on the other items I mentioned, that's fine. I acknowledge other positions on those issues. If you have a better understanding, submit it. I'll listen. I might even be persuaded.

    Reply

  37. Dan,

    I think that’s a fair assessment. The fact is: the Bible doesn’t address immersion or infant baptism explicitly. However, because of the explicit teaching that only believers are to be baptized, I think we can say that the biblical implication is that infant baptism is in error. It doesn’t matter if someone else agrees with the conclusion. The biblical evidence for believers baptism is overwhelming and the logical application with respect to infant baptism cannot be ignored.

    Reply

  38. Ryan,

    Would it help if I used the word “opinion” instead of “doubtful”? I’m using the word “doubt” as it is used in Romans 14:1.

    Reply

  39. Posted by Dan Miller on May 23, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    Brian,

    If the reader is doing it, then it is an inference. But if it is “obvious” then some claim that it’s an “implication.” Why not call it an “obvious inference”? That’s what it is.

    This is my problem with the “imply/infer” system. It creates a false dichotomy in one’s mental framework.

    I see a spectrum of obvious-ness within inferences. Some are super-duper-obvious. I call them “no-brainers.” Some are less obvious. But all are inferences I’ve made.

    If I take something that to my human reasoning is super-obvious and call it an “implication,” I would be claiming that it is from God rather than myself. The danger is putting my own reasoning at or near the authority of Scripture.

    The fact is that some things that I see as super-duper-obvious are not so obvious to other people. I don’t see how that can be, but there you are…

    ———————-

    PS. I do have to point out that, in a sense, I do just what I’m warning about. I believe that all inferences that are in the Spirit are implications by illumination. But that includes both the obvious and the non-obvious.

    Reply

  40. Yeah, I guess that is true. Better to keep it “God said” or “I’m inferring” without any kind of middle ground. Keep authority clear.

    Reply

  41. Posted by Andy Efting on May 24, 2006 at 6:48 am

    Careful, though, what about the following? Are these “God said” or “I’m inferring?”

    Trinity
    Hypostatic Union
    Substitutionary atonement
    Election
    Believer’s Baptism
    Church Membership
    Biblcial inerrancy
    Verbal, plenary Inspiration
    Separation from Billy Graham
    Not reading Playboy
    66 canonical books
    Doctrine of eternal punishment

    Reply

  42. Posted by Dan Miller on May 24, 2006 at 7:54 am

    Andy,
    It’s interesting that my first reaction to your list was to start thinking of people who disagree with them and asking if I would confront their position as “sin.”

    This is so backwards.

    – For instance, your 6th issue. I know a pastor here in town who doesn’t value church membership, per se. They simply consider a person who comes regularly to be a “member” of sorts. I’ve challenged him on this and he says that he doesn’t see it as all that important. He has a few members who would have conscience objections if they pushed membership.

    Personally, I think you’ve got some super-obvious and some super-duper-obvious inferences on that list.

    Nevertheless, the danger of which you warn, while real, serves to demonstrate what I’m talking about. You seem to perceive that replacing “implication” with “obvious inference” the matter is changed from “God said” to “I’m inferring.”
    – Thus, the “implication” system is about viewing our inferences as revelation.

    Reply

  43. Brian,

    After all the feedback this post has received, ,maybe your next post should be …

    Am I A Christian? You decide! 🙂

    Just a thought … oh, and you need to come back over to my blog for a moment … you won the book!

    Reply

  44. Ken,

    I’ll be right over!!

    Oh, and I do consider myself to be a Christian too!

    Reply

  45. Posted by Keith on May 24, 2006 at 8:20 am

    I know I said that I was bowing out. So, ignore this if you want. But, I’m wondering where exactly the Bible explicitly teaches that only believers are to be baptized?

    Explicit teaching would not include: “The only sure examples of baptisms in the NT were of professing adults.” Explicit would need to be a clear teaching or command passage that says “Only believers are to be baptized.” It might use more or different words, but it would need to establish that proposition clearly. I don’t think any such passage exists.

    I grant that the absence of such a passage does not prove infant baptism. However, it does prove that your position on baptism is not “obvious” or beyond “doubt”. People who take the Bible very seriously and endeavor to understand its intended/authorial meaning have reached very different conclusions (inferences?) on this matter. Both sides have to take all of Scripture and develop a position from it — the position is not explicitly spelled out. It is not addressed in the same way as “Thou shalt have no other gods . . .”

    Both positions cannot be correct (paedo and credo). Somebody’s wrong here. I’m not arguing for any relativistic — we’re both right — nonsense. All I’m saying is that you aren’t correct if you believe that your position is obvious to all but the ignorant, unintelligent, or liberal/heretical.

    Reply

  46. Posted by Andy Efting on May 24, 2006 at 8:30 am

    Dan,

    The question is do I have authority to teach those as from God or are these just my opinions based on fallible inference?

    Brian,

    Which if any of these would you separate over?

    Reply

  47. Keith,

    One example of explicit belief-before-baptism teaching would be Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. “What doth hinder me to be baptized?” The answer “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” His reply “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Then, Philip baptizes him.

    Reply

  48. Posted by Keith on May 24, 2006 at 8:52 am

    That does not explicitly teach that “only believers are to be baptized.” It explicitly teaches that converts must profess belief to be baptized. Paedobaptists affirm that explicit teaching as well. A nonbaptized convert to Christianity must profess that he believes with all his heart in order to be baptized in a presbyterian church.

    What has not been addressed though is, “What should be done with the children of baptized converts?” The Eunuch wasn’t going to have children, but other baptized converts do. Where does the Scripture explicity teach that they may not be baptized? Or, that they should be “dedicated?”

    Reply

  49. Well, as you might expect, I disagree. I believe it is quite clear. If they don’t profess belief in Christ, baptism is not for them, regardless of age. The burden of proof is on you, my friend. You cannot say, Scripture doesn’t explicitly say children can’t be baptized so they can. You have to show explicitly that Scripture commands something for children that is an exception to what is taught and practiced in the New Testament regarding baptism. Here’s a link you might find interesting. It’s a covenant theologian who subscribes to believers baptism and the process he went through to arrive at that conclusion:

    http://www.founders.org/library/malone1/malone_text.html

    Reply

  50. Andy,

    Would you say that the list you provided is a list of biblical implications? If so, are you referring to the fact that those terms are not explicitly stated in the NT or that their meaning is not explicitly taught in Scripture? At first glance, I would assert that several of them, if not most of them, ARE explicitly taught in the NT.

    Reply

  51. Posted by Keith on May 24, 2006 at 9:50 am

    Brian,

    You continue to reveal that your qualification as to what is explicit in the Scripture is what you “believe is quite clear.” What “is quite clear” to you and “explicit” are not the same thing.

    I did not claim that children can be baptized because the Bible doesn’t say they can’t. I am not trying to make a case for infant baptism. All I’m saying is that you are claiming clarity and explicitness for things which are not clear or explicit.

    I did claim, and still do, that the passage you present does not explicity teach that adult converts are the only ones who are to be baptized. The passage does not explicity address anything other than the qualification for an unbaptized convert. This, my friend, is objective truth. The passages addresses what it addresses. It is silent regarding the children of Christians.

    In the OT, if an uncircumcised convert had asked a Jewish leader what he had to do to be circumcised and join the people of God, the answer would have been similar to what Philip told the Eunuch. That would not have proven that only professing converts could be circumcised.

    Again, I am not claiming to have made a case for infant baptism. I have not established that baptism is the NT version of OT circumcision. I am merely trying to point out that the Eunuch passage only explicitly deals with adult converts — regardless of what seems clear to you.

    Reply

  52. Sorry, Keith, that’s not the teaching of the passage. Belief precedes baptism. That is the teaching. It doesn’t say adult or child. It is quite clear and quite explicit. You can object to that, but you need to understand that you are coming to the text with a presupposition about children in covenant theology. Even in Acts 2, it was the ones who received the Word that then were baptized. That passage applies the truth of believe and be baptized to children as well. Children are people who need to be converted just as adults are converted. They then can be baptized. There is no need for children to be baptized before conversion. It is not taught in Scripture.

    You were the one that brought up the question “where does the Bible explicitly teach that children cannot be baptized or dedicated?”.

    Reply

  53. Keith,

    Did you read the linked article?

    Reply

  54. Posted by Keith on May 24, 2006 at 10:32 am

    Yes, belief precedes baptism — in the case of converts like the Eunuch. I agree. However, the passage is narrative, and the narrative deals only with a nonbaptized, adult, convert. Therefore, all it can explicitly teach are the baptismal qualifications for nonbaptized, adult, converts. It can’t be explicit about a category of people who are not found in the narrative. You can infer that it applies to all humans, but you can’t claim that it explicitly deals with all humans. It doesn’t say adult or child because it is narrative and the person asking the question and receiving the answer is who he is.

    I am not saying the inferring as you do is out of bounds. Each position must infer something here. I am just saying that it is inference not explicitness.

    I am not applying any presupposition about covenant children here. I am pointing out what is explicitly in the text — an unbaptized, adult, convert. Nothing else is explicitly mentioned.

    Perhaps the Acts 2 passage deals explicitly with the children of the baptized. However, it doesn’t look like we’re getting anywhere, so I’ll leave that alone for now.

    My question was, “Where does the Bible explicitly teach that children cannot be baptized? Or that they SHOULD be dedicated? Again, it was trying to engage your explicitness claims — not prove infant baptism. But note, I asked where does the Bible say that children SHOULD be dedicated. A lot of baptists do that — where’s the explicit command?

    Reply

  55. Posted by Keith on May 24, 2006 at 10:42 am

    I have not yet read it. I will try to when I get some time. However, once again, I want to say that I am not trying to argue that infant baptism is explicitly taught — or even taught for that matter. I believe that both baptismal positions are less than explicitly clear. They both require interpretation and they both are tied to a host of other biblical issues. It is from reading much from each position that I believe this, and I doubt the linked article will raise any new arguments — but you never know. Wheteher it does or not, I don’t think it helpful or acurate for either position to claim that it is explicitly obvious in the Scripture. That means that a whole lot of godly and brilliant churchmen — of both positions — were either idiots or rebels. That’s just not reality.

    Reply

  56. Posted by Dan Miller on May 24, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    Keith,
    I think you’re right about the level of explicitness of Baptism. (I do think you’re wrong about Baptism, but I can’t say for sure. Hopefully you take that in a non-insulting way – I’m sure you’d say the same to me.)

    The biggest issue in paedo -vs- credo is in what the “baptism” does. To us baptists, it is an external sign of faith in the individual. Once a person voluntarily takes baptism, they are to be treated as a believer. Thus, they can join the church and be subject to church discipline, etc.

    Without this external sign, church membership is altered from what we see as the Biblical model. Again, this is inferred, but I believe it’s true.

    This is why I think it would be hard for a church to exist as a mix of Baptist and Presbyterian believers. I’d love to see it happen, but it would really be tough. For this reason, we depart (note: we do not “separate”). I’ve been interested in the Bethlehem Baptist Church treatment of this issue. Have you read the proposed change to their constitution from last fall? It was eventually withdrawn. So they haven’t done anything with it yet.

    ————-
    To Andy,
    You asked which of those I’d separate over – I think the answer is none. Though I might over Trinity. However, I would employ Non-Fellowship of Convenience over almost all of them.

    Reply

  57. Posted by Andy Efting on May 24, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    I would say they are all in the inference/implication category, yet while I think the Bible clearly teaches all of them, I can think of “evangelicals” that deny most of them. I was just reading in Christianity Today about how the idea of substitutionary atonement is taking a hit these days within evangelicalism.

    Reply

  58. Posted by Keith on May 24, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    Dan,

    No insult taken. I think it is completely proper — and honorable — for a man who is convinced of the baptist position to say that he thinks the other positions are wrong. If he doesn’t think that, why would he hold his position? I even think that you can say you are sure of your position. I just don’t think anyone can say the position is explicitly and clearly obvious.

    To paedobaptists, baptism is also a sign of faith, and all those who are baptized are to be treated as believers — they are members of the church and subject to church discipline. Paedobaptists believe that this external sign is a requirement for church memebership. In fact, it is the initiatory rite of membership.

    The only difference is, credobaptists believe that the one being baptized must verbalize his profession, whereas paedobaptists believe that God’s promises to believing parents and God’s commands regarding how to raise children mean either (a)the one being baptized or (b) the baptized parents of the one being baptized must profess.

    If a baptized baptist apostacizes, he is kicked out of the church. If a baptized paedobaptist apostacizes, he too is kicked out of the church.

    I think that it can be tough for a church to house baptists and paedobaptists — at minimum there will be challenges. And, I am not saying churches ought to allow both types of membership — let each be convinced.

    That said, in presbyterian churches baptists are more than welcome to be members WITHOUT having to agree to have their children baptized. Our church has many such families. I did read Bethlehem’s paper — it was basically a baptist attempt to operate like a presbyterian church (in reverse). I thought it was a great idea. But I also respect their right to not adopt that practice.

    Reply

  59. To Andy, you asked which of those I’d separate over – I think the answer is none. Though I might over Trinity. However, I would employ Non-Fellowship of Convenience over almost all of them.

    Unbelievable.

    You might over the Trinity.

    Unbelievable.

    Reply

  60. Posted by Dan Miller on May 24, 2006 at 4:05 pm

    Ryan,
    I can certainly see why you feel that this is unbelievable.
    If you read SI, I’ll be turning in Part 3 of 4 on separation soon, which hopefully will make this make more sense.

    Just to relate it to the idea of “implications” and super-duper-obvious-inferences, separation over the Trinity would be such a thing. I cannot imagine not “separating” there. It would be hard for me to imagine any conscientious believer not separating. But…well…you’ll see.
    Dan

    Reply

  61. Why would I want to read the writings of someone on separation who only “might” over the Trinity?

    Reply

  62. Posted by Dan Miller on May 24, 2006 at 8:51 pm

    To me, “might separate over the Trinity” is a huge statement. If I’m saying that separation is ok to do (thus I might do it), then I’m saying that the belief is sin.
    I certainly would refuse fellowship – but that is not necessarily “separation.”

    Ryan, read or don’t read.

    Back to Baptism:
    Keith said: “…all those [babies] who are baptized are to be treated as believers…”
    huh. Really? So you treat a 1 year old as a “believer”? What does mean?

    Reply

  63. Yeah, that “read” comment was a little nasty. I apologize that I said it. There are many other worse things I am willing to read, so this should be no different. At the same time, we shall see if I find it convenient (I am sorry to sound so crass).

    I must say, Pastor Miller, that your views as you have articulated them to this point disturb me greatly. If you are not willing to call a denial of the Trinity or the hypostatic union or the inspiration of Scripture sin, or to separate over it, then you are nearing a very precarious position, and one that I myself would refuse fellowship (i.e., separate) over.

    Perhaps the problem here is the strange “insider” language you are using. You obviously distinguish between “refushing fellowship”or “separation.” If you are using these as some idiosyncratic terminus technicus, it’s no wonder we having problems here. It would seem to me (and perhaps I am showing my theological ignorance here) that to refuse fellowship is a kind of separation.

    Reply

  64. Posted by Dan Miller on May 24, 2006 at 11:20 pm

    Two quick things, Ryan.
    I’m not a pastor – I’m an ophthalmologist. Also, I misspoke (typed) in my last post and said something I should not have.

    It’s way past my bedtime – but I agree with you that denial of the Trinity is sin.

    Reply

  65. Posted by Keith on May 25, 2006 at 8:25 am

    Dan,

    You baptists treat your babies and children like believers all the time (a better term would be members of the covenant community, but I’m trying not to debate terms here), like all good Christians. You just tell yourselves and everyone else that you don’t.

    What does this mean? It means you do all these good things:
    * You make them attend Christian worship — the worship of the believers. Why are they there?
    * In worship, you make them sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as soon as they are able — even before an individual conversion experience in which they profess belief. Many of those hymns contain explicit professions of faith. Are you asking your children to lie?
    * You teach your very young children to pray — before “getting saved.” They pray in Jesus’ name. If they don’t believe in Jesus, why are they using his name?
    * You discipline your children at home according to Christian principles — before a conversion experience.
    * Your churches discipline the young people of member parents — regardless of the young person’s profession. Why should nonbelievers be subject to such discipline?
    * Etc.

    Whether you agree with me about baptist practice or not, what presbyterians mean by treating all baptized as believers (even 1 year olds) is:
    1) God has promised to bless the children of believers. Presbyterians trust that God will regenerate their children and bring them to faith.
    2) They believe that the primary means God uses to bring people to faith is the church. God has told believers to raise their children amidst the worship of the people of God. It is through this practice that the children receive a blessing not received by the children of unbelievers.
    3) As a part of the people of God — as described above — they are subject to the discipline of the church. This discipline is part of the blessing. It is both “positive” (catechism, sunday school, worship in song, worship in hearing preaching. etc.) and “negative” (“church discipline”).

    All of this means that these children are treated “AS IF” they are believers. Many children in fact (both baptist and presbyterian) never remember a time in which they did not believe. They cannot imagine being able to not believe. That is the blessing of God — not some problem that requires emotional manipulation to stimulate a conversion experience.

    As these children grow, if they reject the faith or persist in unrepentant sin, they will be treated as if they had professed belief by being disciplined by the church. You cannot discipline someone who was never part of the church. Discipline has as its hope restoration. Discipline is a blessing of God.

    Of course, most 1 year olds aren’t going to persist in blatant unrepentant sin, so they aren’t usually excomunicated. This point would also answer someone else’s question back in the thread about how can a baby’s conscience give a good answer? A presbyterian would respond, how could a baby’s concience give a bad answer?

    Hope this isn’t too long and that it helps answer your question.

    Reply

  66. Posted by Keith on May 25, 2006 at 8:33 am

    In the post above, “As these children grow” should read: “Other children may reject the faith (showing that they have not actually believed) . . .”

    Reply

  67. Posted by Dan Miller on May 25, 2006 at 9:41 am

    Not too long, Keith.
    Very interesting.
    Hmmm…

    Reply

  68. Posted by Alan Shook, Jr. on December 21, 2006 at 11:47 am

    Hi Brian,

    Long time, no see! I should email you separately and catch up.

    Anyway, just wanted to say how much I appreciate your spirit in this post. I have come to many of the same conclusions, though with some differences. In fact, perhaps I may be even broader than you in some ways, while more narrow in others.

    For examples:

    I (in theory) agree with you that there is no one prescribed Biblical musical format. But, I am still not comfortable with any music in church that is more like entertainment than it is like worship. And we have to admit, I think, that some musical “styles” are strongly associated in our minds with entertainment. Entertainment is not wrong; in fact, I enjoy the music of U2 when I’m in my car or cleaning dishes. But I don’t want to hear their music Sunday morning when I’m gathered for worship (and I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but some churches are actually playing U2 songs in their services now). Even if you changed all the lyrics to be explicitly Christian, it still wouldn’t be appropriate for church. Isaiah 58 tells us that we shouldn’t seek “our pleasures” (i.e., “entertainments”) on His holy day. And I think that principle applies just as much to the Christian Sabbath (the Lord’s Day) as it did to the Jewish Sabbath.

    Perhaps you commented on this in one of the other 68 comments (sorry, not gonna read all of them – LOL), but I would not associate infant baptist NECESSARILY with baptismal regeneration. Evangelical Presbyterians would strongly disagree with that association. But, yes, I am a credobaptist; ironically, though, one of my favorite preachers is Ted Donnelly, and Irish Reformed Presbyterian! : )

    I am so glad to hear of your tolerance of other eschatological positions. Over the years since we were in the same church, I have actually become an amillenialist. But interestingly, I have simultaneously realized that one’s position on the millennium is not a matter of separation among brethren. I used to think (because I was taught to believe) that anything besides pre-trib pre-mill dispensationalism was heresy or liberalism (which is the same thing). I don’t hold that opinion anymore. I think the church over the centuries has wisely muted the issue in the classic confessions of faith. Eternal heaven and hell? Yes. Second Coming? Absolutely. But the timing of His return, the literal or figurative character of the millennium? Negotiable. From my admittedly limited knowledge of theological history, it seems to me that, generally speaking, eschatology did not become such a “fighting” issue until dispensationalism obtained a firm grip on American churches.

    Anyways, again, I appreciated your post! Merry Christmas!!

    Reply

  69. Alan,

    Best wishes to your family! Great to hear from you! Feel free to “drop by” anytime.

    Reply

  70. Posted by Rick Shepler on May 16, 2010 at 7:36 am

    interesting blog, I believe that the reason Christianity isn’t spreading like wildfire is the divided church (denominations) so I tend not to identify myself as a Baptist, even though that is where I gather with other believers to corporately worship. as for baptism I’ve always referred to the scripture that paints a beautiful picture of CHRIST being baptized as “coming up out of the waters” that is a picture of immersion in my mind, but as you, I will not cause division in the body of CHRIST over my opinion. there are certain non negotiables pertaining to Christianity, among them are the vrgin birth, death on the cross, ressurection, etc. other than that denominations are a product of human pride and I feel like I was called to work across those boundaries.
    I do differ with you on at least one main point and that would be the separation of church and state. the state cannot effectively and properly exist without the Church, our “state” was founded on Christian principles and apart from them it is doomed to decline (just take a look around) the single biggest reason that our society is in the condition that it is in is the “silence of the Christian church”
    Blessings and you are welcome at FBC Long Beach, MS anytime :o)
    Your brother (from another Mother) Rick

    Reply

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