How does one’s stance on baptism affect membership decisions? If a person is a convinced paedobaptist (i.e., one who holds to infant baptism) and declines to be baptized (i.e., immersed) as a believer, should that prohibit him or her from being a member of the church?
My attempt to answer these questions is on The Gospel Coalition Blog.
Good answer to a tough question.
He can’t, if that church wishes to maintain its Baptist stance. If that church does not believe in believer’s immersion on profession as the sole teaching of the NT, then it follows that it might admit that Presbyterian to membership. However, it is hoping against hope that the church will long continue to be identified as Baptist. I understand (admittedly my knowledge on the matter is limited) that John Bunyan’s church for all practically purposes became Presbyterian. I do know of one small group in Kansas nearly 50 years ago that started out Baptist and wound up Prsbyterian. Generally, such things are the exception rather than the rule as the evidence for believer’s immersion in the NT is clear, whereas the support for infant baptism of any type (sprinkling, pouring or dipping) can only be inferred on what seems to my mind a basis which cannot be sustained. My position, of course, is that of a convinced Baptist minister.
Thanks for your thoughts Dr. Hamilton. I agree with Dan Phillips.
I always enjoy your material. Thanks for having a gracious spirit while still maintaining a Biblical stand on such issues.
Man, you’ve caused quite a stir over there on the TGC blog. Thank you for clearly setting forth our view as Baptists in this stream (as opposed to the Bunyan stream). It has strengthened my convictions and gave me some other things to think about. We don’t practice closed communion, but a paedo-baptist regularly attending our church and not joining one where his conscience can be fully clear would not be allowed at our church.
Thanks for your labor brother.
Good thoughts. Coming from “the other side” as a Presbyterian, I have thought about this somewhat myself.
Since God is Lord of the conscience, a baptist church would not, and indeed should not, allow a convinced presbyterian into membership. It is a matter of conviction.
The flip then is, should a presbyterian church allow a convinced baptist into membership? Again, it is a matter of conviction, so the answer should be, no.
But where then should we draw the line? If presbyterians and baptists are attending each others churches, are they harming (for lack of a better term) their own conscience by being a faithful attender of a church where they disagree on this theological point? Should presbyterians and baptists even attend each others churches? My gut says yes, particularly if that is the only place where the gospel is clearly preached. But, ultimately, can they get along with one another over the long haul? Or are we destined to be separate until the Lord comes in glory?
Again, thanks for your thoughts on the issue. Dan Phillips is right, it indeed is a good answer to a tough question.
Thanks for your note, Mike, I assume you saw Michael Horton’s TGC post on how Paedo-Baptists should require infant baptism for membership.
As for long term attenders where there aren’t other good gospel churches, I think the question is whether the person is willing to reconsider/consider themselves in process on the issue.
Yes, I saw it late yesterday. Again, thank you for your article and thoughts on the matter.
Blessings to you as well,
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