Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Any Old Baptism Will Do

A couple years ago John Piper and the elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church made a statement that their church would begin accepting the baptism of any believer, even those who had undergone paedobaptism. The justification for this decision was the desire to extend fellowship to every believer in Christ. This position, however, was in conflict with both the historic position of Baptists as well as teaching of Scripture regarding baptism. I understand they have since made adjustments to their position.

It would appear that many Southern Baptists share similar confusion about Baptism. On May 6, Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., was nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention. In a questionnaire sent by Baptist Press he was asked the following question: The IMB trustee guidelines governing baptism and private prayer language in appointing missionaries: Do you think their action was needed and appropriate? Johnny Hunt responded: “I am not sure that I fully understand all that the IMB trustee guidelines have said, however, if a person has received Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, and has been baptized by a minister who embraces the Gospel and the Scriptures as we do, their baptism should count in our churches. If James Dobson desired to become part of First Baptist Church Woodstock, I would not require him to be re-baptized.”

The IMB guidelines are not the only thing Johnny Hunt fails to “fully understand.” First, the Bible doesn’t give guidelines for the person performing the baptism. Obviously, as an ordinance of the local church, baptisms should be performed by one of the elders since God has placed them as shepherds of the flock with oversight over the church. However, if a pastor apostatizes from the faith and forsakes his office this would not automatically render all of his baptisms null and void. The Bible does, however, give strict guidelines concerning the one who is baptized as well as the mode of baptism. The Bible knows nothing of the baptism of anyone other than one who has professed faith in Jesus Christ.

Johnny Hunt mentions that he would not require James Dobson to be “re-baptized”. Dobson belongs to the Church of the Nazarene. According to their Articles of Faith on Baptism they state: “Baptism being a symbol of the new covenant, young children may be baptized, upon request of parents or guardians who shall give assurance for them of necessary Christian training. Baptism may be administered by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion, according to the choice of the applicant.”

Baptist baptism (Biblical baptism) does not include infant baptism or baptism by “sprinkling or pouring.” If James Dobson was baptized by sprinkling as an infant he has not been Biblically baptized. We would not require him to be “re-baptized;” we would require him to be baptized. As much as I appreciate the theological work of men such as R.C. Sproul, Charles Hodge, and even John Calvin, each of them would need to be baptized before we would receive them as members into our church.

Our generation has seen a terrible slide in the understanding of theological truth. When a prospective president of our Convention is confused on the subject of baptism it demonstrates just how serious the situation is.

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