Archives For Christian Unity

A man was about to jump from a high bridge, when a second man ran up to him shouting, “Stop! Stop! Don’t do it!”…

 

“But I have nothing to live for,” said the first man.

 

“Maybe I can help you,” said the second man. “Are you religious?”

 

“Yes, I am,” said the first man.

 

“Me too!” said the second man. “Are you Christian, Jewish, or Muslim?”

 

“I’m Christian,” said the first man.

 

“Me too!” said the second man. “Are you Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant?

 

“Protestant” said the first man.

 

“Me too!” said the second man. “Are you liberal or conservative?”

 

“Conservative,” said the first man.

 

“Me too!” said the second man. “Evangelical or Fundamentalist?”

 

“Evangelical,” said the first man.

 

“Me too!” said the second man. “Reformed, Lutheran, or Wesleyan?”

 

“Reformed,” said the first man.

 

“Me too!” said the second man. “Baptist, Presbyterian, or Anglican?”

 

“Presbyterian,” said the first man.

 

“Me too!” said the second man. “Truly Reformed or Winsomely Reformed?”

 

“Winsomely Reformed,” said the first man.

 

“Me too!” said the second man. “Transformationalist or Two-Kingdom?”

 

“Transformationalist,” said the first man.

 

“Me too!” said the second man. “Complementarian or Egalitarian?”

 

“Egalitarian,” said the first man.

 

“Egalitarian?! Then die, you blasphemous heretic!”

 

And the second man pushed the first man off the bridge.

 

Larry Baptizing

Pastor Larry Kirk (Right) baptizes a new member at Daytona Beach. Childers & Kirk are best friends for 30 + years.

As a Baptist pastor, Bill Kynes offers 3 reasons why he believes Baptists should not deny church membership (and require adult baptism) to adult believers baptized as infants.

This is an excerpt from a blog post on the Gospel Coalition website (June 2014), “Why I am ‘Baptist’ (With a Small ‘B’)” by Bill Kynes, the senior pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Annandale, Virginia and a Council member of the Gospel Coalition.

Senior Pastor Bill Kynes

Senior Pastor Bill Kynes

So if I hold to this theology of believers’ baptism, then why am I not a Baptist (with a capital “B”)? Why would we as a church accept the baptism of a believer who was baptized as a infant as a valid baptism for the purpose of church membership? I offer three reasons.

 Humility

I recognize that paedobaptism has been the practice of the overwhelming majority of Christians throughout most of church history. This includes the practice of the Protestant Reformers to which I owe a great theological and spiritual debt.

I humbly recognize that I could be wrong about paedobaptism (and the conclusion that the great majority of Christians through history were never really baptized), and for this reason I am hesitant to insist upon my position on baptism as a grounds of church fellowship.

Charity

Even if the baptist position is correct, I still want to receive my paedobaptist brothers and sisters as fellow believers based upon our common understanding of the gospel. Evangelical paedobaptists recognize the three aspects of the gospel I have outlined, but in their practice of baptism they separate them in time. They baptize the infant children of Christian believers—objectively declaring the gospel to them before they can understand it.

They do this with the prayer that their subjective and personal response of faith will come at some point in their life (whether it occurs at a clearly recognized moment in time or not). And then later, at some public act of confirmation, the social aspect of that personal faith is recognized as, upon their profession of faith, that person is received as a communicant member of the church.

Our unity in the gospel outweighs our differences in the practice of baptism in relation to the timing of those three aspects of the gospel. Charity in the gospel calls me not make those differences a barrier to church fellowship.

Theology

Baptism presents a visible and objective declaration of the gospel, and its validity as such is not nullified by the absence of the proper subjective response of faith. In those cases in which that subjective response is not present at the time of baptism, it remains a valid baptism, though not an effective and completed one. This is similar to the preaching of the gospel. Its validity is not nullified by a failure of the hearers to repent and believe. But when they do, that preaching achieves its appointed end.

On this ground, I can accept the paedobaptism of someone who has come to faith as a valid baptism, though only their subsequent response of faith and the recognition by the church of the reality of that faith complete that baptism and make it effective.

However, since I am convinced that baptism properly ordered according to God’s design embodies in one act the objective promise of God in the gospel, the (Spirit-inspired) subjective response of faith, and the social recognition of that faith by the church, I practice the baptism of professing believers. Furthermore, I will “re-baptize” those previously baptized as infants who so request it, though I believe this is a matter of personal conscience of the believer and is not required.

That’s how I operate as a “baptist with a small ‘b.'” I recognize that this understanding has its own problems as we seek to work it out in the life of our church, but I offer it as a way of allowing our common grasp of the gospel to overcome our historical and theological differences with regard to baptism that prevent us from welcoming one another in the fellowship of the church. I long for our “Gospel Coalition” to be realized in the context of the local church so that we might live out that statement made famous by Richard Baxter:

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity,”

and that we might better embody that more recent rallying cry:

“Together for the gospel!”


Click here to read the entire blog post “Why I am ‘Baptist’ (With a Small ‘B’)” by Bill Kynes, the senior pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Annandale, Virginia and a Council member of the Gospel Coalition. On this post by Kynes there are also links to other blog posts on differing views of baptism in Evangelicalism.

Click here to read the related post by Steve Childers, “My Brother(s) in Error About Baptism”

Naomi's Baptism

Steve Childers baptizing his granddaughter.

While in a small gathering of church leaders, one of the leaders jokingly referred to me, in a truly good-humored manner, as “…Steve Childers, my brother in error.” Everyone in the room received the comment as it was meant, a friendly-jab, and laughed out loud–including me. The error he was referring to was my belief that baptizing infants is biblical. I suddenly realized that I was the only one in the room (among 15-20 leaders spending that day together studying the bible, praying, and sharing) who believed in infant baptism.

Even though I bit my lip and resisted the temptation to respond with more than laughter and a smile, I must admit it was hard for me not to mention several other “brothers” (especially one theologian (deceased) whom I knew this leader had the highest respect) who join me in this “error.” I was reminded that, although my belief in baptizing babies is the minority view in Evangelicalism in North America today, the opposite is true when looking back at the history of Christianity—especially the Reformation and the 18th Great Awakenings. R.B. Vincent writes,

“…The overwhelming majority of Christians whom God has used in the past centuries of the Church not only practiced infant baptism but did so because they believed the Scriptures taught it. The great evangelical theologian of the Ancient Church, Augustine, held to the practice and so did the great Reformers: John Hus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox. Those devout scholars, John Wycliff and William Tyndale, who labored to give us the English Bible, and all the translators involved in the King James Version held that the practice was biblical.

When we come to the Eighteenth Century, we find both John and Charles Wesley, George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards, men whom God used in the conversions of untold thousands, all practiced infant baptism. This is true also of the overwhelming majority of the Christians who were involved in settling and founding the United States—from the Pilgrims on the Mayflower to the Huguenots from France.

These were not people who did things because of tradition; they laid down their lives that they might worship God strictly according to the instructions given in Holy Scripture. They held to justification by faith and the necessity of the new birth. To their number must be added most of the authors of the great Evangelical hymns which have stirred the hearts of so many Christians, hymns such as “Amazing Grace” and “Rock of Ages…[1]

After 2000 years of church history, guess what? True followers of Christ, who embrace the essential doctrines[2] of Christianity, still have disagreements regarding non-essential doctrines (not essential for salvation). So what should we do? I’ve always loved this historic phrase:

“In essentials, unity;

in non-essentials, liberty;

in all things, charity.”

This phrase has been called “the watchword of Christian peacemakers[3]” by the distinguished 19th century church historian, Philip Schaff. And I love that no one knows for sure who originally wrote it. Although it’s often been wrongly attributed to Augustine, its origin is most likely rooted in the early 17th century where we find it in the Latin writings of relatively unknown church leaders. Many believe that the English Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691) is responsible for popularizing this phrase throughout the English-speaking world of his time.

Whatever the origin of this phrase, it sets before us a desperately needed way for followers of Christ to demonstrate to the watching world the unity we all share in him (“the communion of the saints”). But we must not try to achieve this by reducing what we believe to just a few doctrines we can hold in common with all followers of Christ. History has proven that normally puts us at risk of losing all orthodox Christian beliefs. Nor must we allow ourselves to continue bringing shame on the name of Christ by isolating ourselves from and wrongly criticizing Christians with whom we don’t agree on all the “non-essentials.”

The Christian leader who poked fun at me recently for believing in infant baptism, was doing so in the context of lovingly and graciously including me in an inner-circle of leaders who did not believe what I did about baptism. Why did he do that? Because he believed what desperately needs to be recaptured in our day: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.” This is why I really look forward to my next time with him and these dear “brother(s) in error.”

Click here to read a related post, “A ‘Baptist’ (With a Small ‘B’) On Infant Baptism”


[1] Reference: http://rbvincent.com/BibleStudies/Infbapt.htm

[2] I consider examples of essential doctrines as including affirmations in the Apostles Creed, Sola Fide (salvation by faith alone), Sola Gratia (by grace alone), Solo Christo (through Christ alone), Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone).
[3] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 7, p. 650