"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Taking issue

From my experience which is not as in depth I have found that Protestants tend to say that church splits were wrong, well the ones that happened after the church they belonged to were wrong. Kind of like when driving everyone slower than you is a slow poke and those faster than you are reckless and should get off the road. Well this Baptist refuses to get off the road. I do not accept that Baptists have to be viewed the way Matt says they are in his post on history. He brought up “Baptist Distinctives” here are the ones I like as printed in Christian History. I LOVE all the people Matt listed as his heros and view myself as part of that stream. It would seem I am more willing to drink from his well than he is mine. In fact so much that I would not call Calvin “his” but he belongs to all of us! I also think that if these distinctive can be proven to not go back to certian periods in Church History then we have a problem or should at least admit that the Church has never been gasp “perfect”. That there are things to restore I feel no need to doubt. That the church is unbroken in history I also feel no need to doubt. Now I understand these will cause debate. I believe Jared has argued against all of them with me in some respect with acceptation to the Bible with a different focus and Preaching and evangelism. But I believe these distinctive have something to offer the catholic Church as a whole. If a majority of a tradition must follow it to be true are a majority of Presbyterians as good as PCA? And why would we not take a catholic view of the problems of Christ’s church? From that view we are hopelessly divided and we should close up the whole shop of Christianity. Leave the Baptists is enough? Which ever boat we chose to fish from we should be committed to the fleet and humbly admit those outside our tradition might understand something we don’t. Which is why I love to read from and as much as possible, have fellowship with many Christian traditions.

Baptist Distinctives
Five key convictions that have been essential to Baptists from their beginnings

The Supreme Authority of the Bible
The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience. We acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God and government of the Church which are common to human actions and societies and which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.
Thomas Helwys (1611)

Believer’s Baptism
Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, given by Christ, to be dispersed only upon persons professing faith. The way and manner of dispensing this Ordinance the Scripture holds to be dipping or plunging the whole body under water. It is a sign as follows: first, the washing of the whole Soul in the blood of Christ; second, the interest that the Saints have in the death, burial and resurrection; third, a confirmation of our faith that as certainly as the body is buried under water and rises again, so certainly shall the bodies of the Saints be raised by the power
of Christ, in the day of resurrection, to reign with Christ.
The London Confession (1644)

Local Church Autonomy
Each particular church has a complete power and authority from Jesus Christ to administer all gospel ordinances, provided they have sufficient, duly qualified officers …to receive in and cast
out, and also to try and ordain their own officers, and to exercise every part of gospel discipline and church government, independent of any other church or assembly whatever. Several independent churches where Providence gives them a convenient situation, may and ought for their mutual strength, counsel, and other valuable advantages, by their voluntary and free consent, to enter into an agreement and confederation.
Benjamin Griffiths (1746)

Preaching and Evangelism
The work of the Christian ministry, it has been said, is to preach the gospel, or to hold up the free grace of God through Jesus Christ, as the only way of a sinner’s salvation. This is Doubtless true; and if this be not the leading theme of our ministrations, we had better be Anything than preachers. Woe unto us, if we preach not the gospel! It will not be denied that the apostles preached the gospel: yet they warned, admonished, and intreated sinners to repent and believe; to believe while they had the light; to labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life; to repent and be converted, that their sins
might be blotted out; to come to the marriage-supper, for that all things were ready: in fine, to be reconciled unto God.
Andrew Fuller (1785)

Separation of Church and State
As religion must always be a matter between God and individuals, no man can be made a
member of a truly religious society by force or without his own consent, neither can any corporation that is not a religious society have a just right to govern in religious affairs.
Isaac Backus (1781)


Jared Nelson said...

I do not wish to argue for the sake of argument. I would like to dialog on a few things though. I would agree that what you listed are indeed Baptist characteristics by in large. I would not say any but “Believer’s Baptism” is a distinctive. Distinctives would be those things held that are unique to the tradition. This is like Dispensationalism and the distinction between Israel and the Church, or Roman Catholicism’s doctrine of papal supremacy. The rest are held by other traditions. If by Supreme Authority of the Bible you mean Sola Scriptura, all Protestants hold such, as well as evangelism and preaching. Local Church Autonomy is found in Congregationalism, at least it was when it was still around. Perhaps the particular single-elder congregational rule would be particular to Baptists, but some Baptists have multiple elders, I think. The separation of church and state is found in Congregationalists and many Presbyterians. All this to say, I think the only true distinctive in the Baptist tradition is believers-only baptism.

Aaron said...

Well then that MIGHT be splitting hairs. All I would say is that this is what some scholar at Christian History put together. Luckily I do not have to take credit or blame. However I still hold that Baptists are a distinct group that came from the Puritan separatist movement. There for by your definition there are NO distinctive since there are still some "Anabaptists" that hold to believers baptism although I believe most Mennonites sprinkle.

However these are things that Baptists have contributed to and been pioneers on. Separation of Church and State in this country has huge Baptist Roots with Backus and with Baptists influence on gaining Madison's sympathy etc. It is something the Reformed tradition never really got on board with for a long time and you and I have still seemed had some disagreements on. Nice that it seems old man Witherspoon from Princeton was on board though. I am sure there are many, but Baptists by and large were there first because they were feeling the heat most.

Also I DO NOT hold Dispensationalism as a Baptist Distinctive because clearly you do not have to accept it to be a Baptist, unless you as a Reformed type throw it out at them as a theological swear word simply because they hold to believer's baptism. So I will not accept Dispensationalism as a "Baptist Distinctive". You might like to make the case that it is contained only with Baptists, but still you do not need to hold it to be one. I might but would have to think about accepting the only thing to give the label is Credo-baptism, but do not hold that they are the only ones to do it. You might be an Anabaptist which is different. Presbyterians labeled Baptists that to make it easier to persecute them, but they have different histories as I understand it.

Aaron said...

Also Restorationists perform Credo-Baptists with a different theology. But they broke off from the Reformed church as did Pentecostals (who perform beleiver's baptism, I attended one at a Four Square church) break off from Methodism. I am sure there are more. So yeah, no Baptist distinctive then. Also are there not some Pentecostals who hold to a dispensational view of end times? Not many but some? So really none of us have any distinctive.

Jared Nelson said...

I was not equating Dispensationalism and Baptists. Where did that come from? :)

I think every group has their martyrs. I constantly throw out Thomas Cranmer as blood on the hands of the Catholics, then if they cite Thomas Moore, I half-jokingly say he had it coming. Mormons were persecuted in Illinois. (Rightly so, heretics...) Anyway, being persecuted does not validate theology. It's tragic, but a little irrelevant.

Aaron said...

No not irrelevant if you want to understand WHY someone believes what they believe and feel some compassion for them even if you disagree with them. You may hate that they do not like creeds (although Wildwood once preached through them as a series) but if you had one shoved in your face and told to affirm it or very bad things will happen you may grow to distrust creeds. You may not like their focus on liberty and human rights and freedom but when you read King or Backus you MIGHT feel some compassion and maybe even think they have a point, as Madison did. Also you might be able to see that your tradition is not without spot. Persecution and martyrdom irrelevant? All the Bible seems to say that is not so. That is my point. As to whether it proves they are right in it of itself, I agree. But that was NOT my point. I know I am a bit of a rube but do you honestly think I would make a case like that?

Moore had blood on his hands. I agree with your joke, he may have had it coming.

Jared Nelson said...

Is Local Autonomy a good thing? Or even Biblical? Acts 15 doesn't seem very Locally autonomous. Some of the others may be good things, but Local autonomy seems to lean against a catholic spirit, (as does Believers Baptism, but I digress).

Aaron said...

I can see pros and cons. Single Churches and denominations as whole seem prone to wander. So whatever. I have seen a reasonable case from scripture made from it, but I do not get to worked up about it. I guess I would try to take the best of both if I could. I think a desire for church disapline works into this as well. Which opens another can of worms I am not interested in looking at right now. :-)

Matthew Bradley said...

On the question of distinctives, I wrestled with this for awhile as well. How can they calim these as distinctives when each one is shared with someone else? I came across a Baptist explaining how this is so (can't remember who or where, sorry). His explanation seemed sensible to me. His argument is that the distinctives aren't meant to be taken piecemeal. Each item is not a distinctive. The list together is distinctive. This particular list of characteristics is true only of Baptists and no one else (would be his argument). I don't know if there is another group out there that fits the same list, but in general I think he's right. This list accurately describes Baptists in a way that no one else can probably describe themselves (institutionally, of course).

Matthew Bradley said...

I meant to add that this is helpful for all traditions. The PCA might list as their distinctives (and they do talk about distinctives...it isn't just the Baptists) covenant theology, peadobaptism, the doctrines of grace, confessional theology, etc. Each of these is true of other denominations (some Presbyterian and some not), but the list we might eventually agree upon will only be true of the PCA (or maybe the PCA and a few others that are so similar it's hard to figure out why we aren't one denonmination, such as the OPC).

Talking about distinctives is, I think, a way of explaining why you aren't worshiping over there. Why are you here and not there? (again, I mean this more institutionally than privately)

If they are used with the wrong attitude and motivation (such as perhaps my first stab on my recent series) then I don't think they are as helpful. But if taken as a way to understand one another (and perhaps even evaluate the nature and level of our interdenominational cooperation) then I think they are a good thing.

Jared Nelson said...

I think the main focus of a tradition is important to judging the value of the distinctives. What is most important and at the center of one's theology? Baptists have a particular view of baptism at the center. Roman Catholics have a particular view of the church at the center, Dispensationalists have a particular eschatology at the center. What attracts me to Reformation churches (Lutheran/Reformed) is focus. There's a book out called "Why I am Lutheran" and the subtitle is: Christ at the center. Looking at Calvin, the same goes for his Institutes. It is not even soteriology (doctrine of salvation) that is Calvin's main drive, it is who Christ is and what he has done that shapes every topic, whether the church, the sacraments, salvation or the bible. It's amazing to see that every doctrine can be explained in Christ. Confessionalism and Creedalism help us know that no matter what confessional Lutheran/Reformed church you walk into they are supposed to believe certain truths about Christ and the gospel, where as walking into a Baptist church, one knows they dunk adults. That is unless they have the London Baptist Confession (which would be great!!), but unfortunately the LBC is not essential to being Baptist in the same way the Westminster is essential to being Presbyterian or the Augsburg is essential to being Lutheran.

Aaron said...

I can buy that. I really don’t care about being distinct anyway. That is too much responsibility for me.

Aaron said...

Oh hey I did not read Jared's before I posted the reply. WOW. Ok then. Baptism is supose to be all about Christ. And you just blanket infured they are not about Christ by and large. I am not sure you have enough experance between the three of you to be sure of that. Man that harsh. It just makes me really sad. You guys strike me as sort of Landmark Pedo-baptists.

Jared Nelson said...

Saying that the main focus of Baptists is merely their view of Baptism is a bit unfair, for it depends on the flavor of Baptist. Perhaps I over-generalize.

Therefore I will say the center of Reformation theology is Christ without excluding that others may do so as well in their formulations of their distinctives.

Matthew Bradley said...

Landmark Paedo-baptists?

I think the English language is great. That was a fun turn of phrase, Aaron.

In looking back through the posts, I couldn't figure out who "the three of you" and "you guys" are a reference to. Can you flesh that out for me?

Jared Nelson said...

It's not that a Baptist Church is not Christ-centered or orthodox, but is that essential to it. Kind of a local versus organizational question. If they are old-school Baxter/Bunyan/Gill/Spurgeon Baptists, then yes.

I guess another question is if Reformed Baptists are part of the Reformed world (and a subset like Congregationalists, Dutch Reformed, Scottish Presbyterian, etc) or Anabaptist or Baptist or if Reformed Baptists are true Baptists and the Modern Baptists have hijacked the ship. Modern American Baptist more often means Arminian/Pelagian rather than Reformed, but organizations like Founders (An SBC group calling the SBC back to the Founding principles of the SBC as embodied in the London Baptist Confession) are trying to change that. I hope they succeed to change the essence of the Baptist tradition back to being orthodox rather than what it means now which has less theology at in essence. Does that make sense?

Piper complains about this in going to prayer meetings with other pastors and asking at the beginning, "can we agree on some theology first?" and then will have people sign a statement of faith they can agree on. Love that - because doctrinal purity should be the basis of cooperation.

Aaron said...

Hey no problem. I can clear that up. “You guys” are “You people” as in “you know who you are”. As for the three of you, I have no idea. Could not find it although I have no doubt in a fury of typing I said it. Let us hope it was a typo or inability to count. Don’t really know. Sorry.

I think what you wrote here is pretty cool for the most part. I found a book from Judson press called something like “Baptist Confessions of Faith”. It is over four hundred pages of Baptist confessions so HA! Take that! Baptists must love confessions of faith to um… keep coming up with new ones… to fill a book…. And as you read them they get… more man centered… oh man I am so depressed. ;-)

Actually before you pile on, I can be self deprecating. You can not help me. ;-) I found some pretty good individual ones from Wildwood and other churches. So there is some good stuff out there. That the American Church is in a bind I have no doubt. It is being transformed by the culture, not a good thing of course. I am glad PCA is pretty darn good and I will join you in prayer that it would continue to grow and remain healthy. Not that you do not have a great system in place to keep it good but you know I am a Calvinist too, we like to cast it upon God in prayer. :-)