Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Red Herring in the Baptism / Membership Debate

The interesting debate concerning whether or not a Baptist church should allow into membership convinced paedobaptists is heating up again.

It began with Wayne Grudem’s new edition of his systematic theology, wherein (as nicely highlighted by JT) Grudem reverses from his previous position. Now he argues that unity in a local congregation between paedobaptists and credobaptists is not wise or really possible.

John Piper weighed in almost immediately pointing out some disagreements and Grudem replied with a defense of his reversal.

Not to be outdone, Mark Dever stirred the pot a little more with his post that supports Grudem’s side from a congregational/Baptist model. Although Mark did write while on vacation and I think he can offer more.

As for me, it seems that the Grudem/Dever side (or maybe we should just call it the “non-Piper side” since Piper seems to be standing quite alone on this matter!) always comes back to the same argument. In an over-simplified form, it states: “If we let paedobaptists become members, they will eventually take over the theology of the local congregation and pull them away from their Baptist distinctives.”

You know, this may be true.

Or it may not.

But consider this.

How many local churches remain steadfast to the Gospel for more than one or two generations? Honestly, there are very few. And that problem is created by a lack of indoctrinating and “entrusting to faithful men” more than anything else! To suggest that barring paedobaptists from membership will “preserve” the local Baptist church is a red herring and needs to be removed from the discussion.

For my part, I would much rather see our church fellowship with a godly, Calvinistic, theologically-robust, Gospel-driven, Christ-centered, sanctified Paedobaptist congregation any day... than sidle up to a worldly, atheological, man-centered Baptist “church.” And I think most of the “non-Piper side” would agree with me – hence, Together for the Gospel.

I wonder if part of what drives the non-Piper side is fear - the fear of losing people or losing an entire church in years to come? If that is the case, then we need to apply our robust theology to the matter. One: God has determined the future in its entirety and no matter what steps I take now, I will be a complete failure at managing from the grave. Two: If I am faithful, like the Apostle Paul, to train and equip the next generation of leaders (which includes a whole lot of teaching on the meaning and nature of credo- baptism...) then I have fulfilled my ministry.