Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Baptist Churches Not So Sure About Baptism

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Baptist Churches Not So Sure About Baptism

In the last couple of months, the Baptist world has been in debate, and at times, downright hostility concerning the re-thinking on the part of some Baptist churches of the requirement of baptism to precede church membership.

The issue deals with ecclesiology, that is, the nature, structure, constitution and function of the church. It is not a branch of theology to take lightly. As you know by now, I am still a believer in denominations and there is a high cost and responsibility that is associated with the uniting of ones self to a particular tradition, in this case, Baptist. Although the primacy of Scripture cannot be forgotten, there is woven into our tradition a historical understanding and identity to what it means to be Baptist. So, the underlying motive is what I think we should be looking for. In other words, why are these churches asking the question?

If it is because of a desire to be more tolerant, or an adaptation of the postmodern understanding that questions the exclusive claims of truth, or just simply wanting to align with the more commonly cultural movement of the day that may be more popular that the denominational differences, then I wouldn't have much respect for that kind of thinking.

But, if the process is the result of an earnest desire to wrestle and search Scripture, then we have another story.

Pastor Dennis Newkirk of Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmund, Oklahoma has been dealing with that exact issue. As far as I can tell, and I am of course not on the inside, this is a Godly pastor who is genuinely searching the Scriptures to answer the boldly asked question, "why are we doing it this way?" In that process, Pastor Newkirk reached out to Baptist leaders and pastors for help with that question. What he received was name calling and red hot press in the local and national Baptist publications for what they were pretty much calling heresy. Now I am not bad mouthing the Baptist press, perhaps that is their responsibility, I don't know. But I do know this. Anytime we have a fellow pastor who is trying his best to find what God's Word is really saying and how to best lead a congregation through that Word and asks for help deserves more than just ridicule and name calling.

After all, I wonder how many Baptist pastors out there, both in the small county church and the downtown city church, could confidently support the reasons we do what we do as Baptists with Scripture.

If we as conservative Christians react in this manner to even the thought of taking another honest look at Scripture, then we are guilty of wearing the flesh of fundamentalism that we get so commonly called by our friendly liberal brothers and sisters out there, and we deserve it.

Being conservative does not mean we don't listen to other ideas. Being conservative does not mean we refuse to make changes. Being conservative does not mean we should not ask the question why.

I disagree entirely with any Baptist church that would consider a removal of baptism as a prerequisite for church membership, but I am ready and able to support, pray and assist in any way I can the continued search for the application of Scripture in our lives and church.