Can a Baptist become a Presbyterian and still be a Baptist?

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rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
On another thread the following exchange took place:


Quote:

I realize that the Reformed Baptist churches are bound together by a common confession, but I would like to see more effort to bind together in more visible ways for outreach and fellowship together. I'm not sure what the best ways to accomplish this would be, perhaps others can contribute some application.

Response:
The best way? Become Presbyterian.

That raised a question in my mind. Is Presbyterianism defined, first and foremost, as a form of Church Government with things like baptismal mode a secondary issue; and if so then might a conscience Baptist become a Presbyterian, properly defined? Or to put it another way, can there exist such a thing as a non-paedobaptist Presbyterian?
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
There are non-paedo Presbyterians, but strictly speaking, a Baptist cannot remain a Baptist and be Presbyterian. Presbyterianism is a form of church goverance, among other things, which Baptists reject. I suppose a Baptist with no Baptist church in his area can join a Presbyterian church, but if there is no change of conviction, they will remain very much a Baptist. Rich was a member of a Baptist church in Okinawa but he was not a Baptist by conviction, so it cuts both ways.
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
There are non-paedo Presbyterians, but strictly speaking, a Baptist cannot remain a Baptist and be Presbyterian. Presbyterianism is a form of church goverance, among other things, which Baptists reject. I suppose a Baptist with no Baptist church in his area can join a Presbyterian church, but if there is no change of conviction, they will remain very much a Baptist. Rich was a member of a Baptist church in Okinawa but he was not a Baptist by conviction, so it cuts both ways.
I agree. Historically Baptists have understood that the elders of a local congregation are the highest constituted HUMAN authority over a church. Associations can tend to be a half-step toward Presbyterian government but however appealing that may seem it still goes beyond the Bible.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
There are non-paedo Presbyterians, but strictly speaking, a Baptist cannot remain a Baptist and be Presbyterian. Presbyterianism is a form of church goverance, among other things, which Baptists reject. I suppose a Baptist with no Baptist church in his area can join a Presbyterian church, but if there is no change of conviction, they will remain very much a Baptist. Rich was a member of a Baptist church in Okinawa but he was not a Baptist by conviction, so it cuts both ways.
I agree. Historically Baptists have understood that the elders of a local congregation are the highest constituted HUMAN authority over a church. Associations can tend to be a half-step toward Presbyterian government but however appealing that may seem it still goes beyond the Bible.
Bob, associations are not necessarily a "half-step toward Presbyterian government." ARBCA does not supplant the scripturally-bound authority of the local church; neither does the SBC, GARB, CBA, or the ABA among non-Reformed denominations. Associations exist for missions and equipping. Let one of these associations try and act like a presbytery and you'll have a revolt on your hands.
 

Grimmson

Puritan Board Sophomore
There are non-paedo Presbyterians, but strictly speaking, a Baptist cannot remain a Baptist and be Presbyterian. Presbyterianism is a form of church goverance, among other things, which Baptists reject. I suppose a Baptist with no Baptist church in his area can join a Presbyterian church, but if there is no change of conviction, they will remain very much a Baptist. Rich was a member of a Baptist church in Okinawa but he was not a Baptist by conviction, so it cuts both ways.
Wow, am suprised a Bapist Church let a Presbyterian, keeping in mind most baptist requirments for membership.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
My understanding is that "Presbyterian" is a denominated as church government by a plurality of elders. That's where the name comes from so that would be an essential.

Whereas reformed theology might be defined as a minimum of:

doctrines of grace "five points" + covenant theology + confession
Historic, reformed, biblical presbyterianism might be:

doctrines of grace ("five points") + covenant theology + Westminster confession + spiritual view of sacraments + church discipline + infant and adult baptism + presbyterian church government
A "hybrid" might accommodate and even be a good place, but it would not be the original.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
There are non-paedo Presbyterians, but strictly speaking, a Baptist cannot remain a Baptist and be Presbyterian. Presbyterianism is a form of church goverance, among other things, which Baptists reject. I suppose a Baptist with no Baptist church in his area can join a Presbyterian church, but if there is no change of conviction, they will remain very much a Baptist. Rich was a member of a Baptist church in Okinawa but he was not a Baptist by conviction, so it cuts both ways.
Wow, am suprised a Bapist Church let a Presbyterian, keeping in mind most baptist requirments for membership.
I'll have to let Rich speak for himself on that one.
 

raekwon

Puritan Board Junior
There are non-paedo Presbyterians, but strictly speaking, a Baptist cannot remain a Baptist and be Presbyterian. Presbyterianism is a form of church goverance, among other things, which Baptists reject. I suppose a Baptist with no Baptist church in his area can join a Presbyterian church, but if there is no change of conviction, they will remain very much a Baptist. Rich was a member of a Baptist church in Okinawa but he was not a Baptist by conviction, so it cuts both ways.
Wow, am suprised a Bapist Church let a Presbyterian, keeping in mind most baptist requirments for membership.
There are plenty of Presbyterians who were baptized after their confessions of faith. (If that's the requirement you're thinking of.)
 

Grimmson

Puritan Board Sophomore
There are non-paedo Presbyterians, but strictly speaking, a Baptist cannot remain a Baptist and be Presbyterian. Presbyterianism is a form of church goverance, among other things, which Baptists reject. I suppose a Baptist with no Baptist church in his area can join a Presbyterian church, but if there is no change of conviction, they will remain very much a Baptist. Rich was a member of a Baptist church in Okinawa but he was not a Baptist by conviction, so it cuts both ways.
I agree. Historically Baptists have understood that the elders of a local congregation are the highest constituted HUMAN authority over a church. Associations can tend to be a half-step toward Presbyterian government but however appealing that may seem it still goes beyond the Bible.
Bob, associations are not necessarily a "half-step toward Presbyterian government." ARBCA does not supplant the scripturally-bound authority of the local church; neither does the SBC, GARB, CBA, or the ABA among non-Reformed denominations. Associations exist for missions and equipping. Let one of these associations try and act like a presbytery and you'll have a revolt on your hands.

There were some practices of associational church displine done on pastors from time to time, which I think would be similar to the Presbyterian model. I sited one yesterday with Robert Morris, but it was a pastoral issue and not a general congregational problem. Another case much earlier was with Thomas Selby about a disturbance, but I do not remember the full details. This of course is done by the churches address or if there is a clear confessional breach with respect to a congregation.

On a side note, I do think many SBC churches instead of acting in accordance to their free power in the association does whatever the SBC tells them, which is a clear distinctional difference between a general association and a denomination. This is also reflected by the use of SBC materials.

-----Added 7/20/2009 at 01:47:44 EST-----

There are non-paedo Presbyterians, but strictly speaking, a Baptist cannot remain a Baptist and be Presbyterian. Presbyterianism is a form of church goverance, among other things, which Baptists reject. I suppose a Baptist with no Baptist church in his area can join a Presbyterian church, but if there is no change of conviction, they will remain very much a Baptist. Rich was a member of a Baptist church in Okinawa but he was not a Baptist by conviction, so it cuts both ways.
Wow, am suprised a Bapist Church let a Presbyterian, keeping in mind most baptist requirments for membership.
There are plenty of Presbyterians who were baptized after their confessions of faith. (If that's the requirement you're thinking of.)
Not just that, but also through immerson. I have even seen a few that says that you sign off in agreement to the core beliefs of the church.
 

Ivan

Pastor
On a side note, I do think many SBC churches instead of acting in accordance to their free power in the association does whatever the SBC tells them, which is a clear distinctional difference between a general association and a denomination. This is also reflected by the use of SBC materials.
WOW! That's quite a statement and in my experience is patently untrue. I have never heard of a SBC church following blindly what the SBC says. I know that the powers that be, as limited as they are, wishes that the churches would toe the line. They are often pulling the hair from their respective heads because churches won't follow them. As to SBC material, it may be used or not. My church uses material from different entities on a regular basis, but maybe I'm just a rebel!

As for as an association disciplining a church, they only thing that they can do is disfellowship themselves from the church. The SBC did just that at its last annual meeting in Louisville when it disfellowshipped itself from Broadway Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas because of church's stand on homosexuality.
 

JML

Puritan Board Junior
On a side note, I do think many SBC churches instead of acting in accordance to their free power in the association does whatever the SBC tells them, which is a clear distinctional difference between a general association and a denomination. This is also reflected by the use of SBC materials.
WOW! That's quite a statement and in my experience is patently untrue. I have never heard of a SBC church following blindly what the SBC says. I know that the powers that be, as limited as they are, wishes that the churches would toe the line. They are often pulling the hair from their respective heads because churches won't follow them. As to SBC material, it may be used or not. My church uses material from different entities on a regular basis, but maybe I'm just a rebel!
:agree:

Most SBC churches that I was familiar with had no clue what went on at the convention level and definitely weren't run by it.
 

Ivan

Pastor
On a side note, I do think many SBC churches instead of acting in accordance to their free power in the association does whatever the SBC tells them, which is a clear distinctional difference between a general association and a denomination. This is also reflected by the use of SBC materials.
WOW! That's quite a statement and in my experience is patently untrue. I have never heard of a SBC church following blindly what the SBC says. I know that the powers that be, as limited as they are, wishes that the churches would toe the line. They are often pulling the hair from their respective heads because churches won't follow them. As to SBC material, it may be used or not. My church uses material from different entities on a regular basis, but maybe I'm just a rebel!
:agree:

Most SBC churches that I was familiar with had no clue what went on at the convention level and definitely weren't run by it.
Generally speaking, local churches don't know what is going on at the convention, and the convention likes it that way. Why do you think that some of the agency heads (chiefly Dr. Morris Chapman of the Executive Committee) are against the Great Commission Resurgence? Because it (the GCR) is calling for more financial accountability! Still, we have two SBC seminary presidents, Dr. Mohler and Dr. Akin (who wrote the GCR) leading the way. It is a most interesting scenario!
 

Grimmson

Puritan Board Sophomore
On a side note, I do think many SBC churches instead of acting in accordance to their free power in the association does whatever the SBC tells them, which is a clear distinctional difference between a general association and a denomination. This is also reflected by the use of SBC materials.
WOW! That's quite a statement and in my experience is patently untrue. I have never heard of a SBC church following blindly what the SBC says. I know that the powers that be, as limited as they are, wishes that the churches would toe the line. They are often pulling the hair from their respective heads because churches won't follow them. As to SBC material, it may be used or not. My church uses material from different entities on a regular basis, but maybe I'm just a rebel!

As for as an association disciplining a church, they only thing that they can do is disfellowship themselves from the church. The SBC did just that at its last annual meeting in Louisville when it disfellowshipped itself from Broadway Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas because of church's stand on homosexuality.

I was talking about in ths past with regard to displine, like the 1700s. Where the assoication actually had power to to excommunicate a pastor if some herersy was taught. There were also cases when a entire church was denied membership to an association or was removed from the association as well during that time.

Good for the SBC for finally taking up ground and doing the right thing in Texas. But as far as their materials, I have had pastors tell me that they had to use Lifeway materials because it was Southern baptist. In one case there is a lifeway associate within the church. So I guess it varried on region or where you go on that issue. Im just going by my own experience and my current frustrations that I have within the SBC, which are many. I just want to pull of my hair, so I guess the feeling is mutual. And I have been in the SBC for about 20 years with the exception of 6 years being else where. I have seen what happens if you dont dont follow in step with the state or national convention if your a pastor, and not over issue of doctrine or confession, but based on style and programs. So I have seen much in blind acceptance of whatever the SBC says in churches and to challenge that is like challenging the Pope of Rome to a Roman Catholic. Church politics can be bloody and a sad thing in our churches, for I have sadly seen to much. The only reason why i am still in the SBC techically is because of the founders movement. Without them i would have left the SBC a long time ago, so I still have hope for reform; but over the horizon I see another fight brewing that will seperate many churches from the SBC or perhaps have an SBC split. i just pray that does not happen.
 

Ivan

Pastor
On a side note, I do think many SBC churches instead of acting in accordance to their free power in the association does whatever the SBC tells them, which is a clear distinctional difference between a general association and a denomination. This is also reflected by the use of SBC materials.
WOW! That's quite a statement and in my experience is patently untrue. I have never heard of a SBC church following blindly what the SBC says. I know that the powers that be, as limited as they are, wishes that the churches would toe the line. They are often pulling the hair from their respective heads because churches won't follow them. As to SBC material, it may be used or not. My church uses material from different entities on a regular basis, but maybe I'm just a rebel!

As for as an association disciplining a church, they only thing that they can do is disfellowship themselves from the church. The SBC did just that at its last annual meeting in Louisville when it disfellowshipped itself from Broadway Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas because of church's stand on homosexuality.

I was talking about in ths past with regard to displine, like the 1700s. Where the assoication actually had power to to excommunicate a pastor if some herersy was taught. There were also cases when a entire church was denied membership to an association or was removed from the association as well during that time.

Good for the SBC for finally taking up ground and doing the right thing in Texas. But as far as their materials, I have had pastors tell me that they had to use Lifeway materials because it was Southern baptist. In one case there is a lifeway associate within the church. So I guess it varried on region or where you go on that issue. Im just going by my own experience and my current frustrations that I have within the SBC, which are many. I just want to pull of my hair, so I guess the feeling is mutual. And I have been in the SBC for about 20 years with the exception of 6 years being else where. I have seen what happens if you dont dont follow in step with the state or national convention if your a pastor, and not over issue of doctrine or confession, but based on style and programs. So I have seen much in blind acceptance of whatever the SBC says in churches and to challenge that is like challenging the Pope of Rome to a Roman Catholic. Church politics can be bloody and a sad thing in our churches, for I have sadly seen to much. The only reason why i am still in the SBC techically is because of the founders movement. Without them i would have left the SBC a long time ago, so I still have hope for reform; but over the horizon I see another fight brewing that will seperate many churches from the SBC or perhaps have an SBC split. i just pray that does not happen.
I pray it doesn't happen too. As to materials and program, like I said, I'm a rebel. Ditto on the Founders movement.
 

Eoghan

Puritan Board Senior
A friend and I were bemoaning the state of the C of S re: the infamous minister in Aberdeen. The funny thing, is if he were to be baptised as an adult (having been christened as a baby), he would be thrown out the C. of S.

Believers Baptism seems to be worthy of excommunication where an openly gay lifestyle is not!
 

Grimmson

Puritan Board Sophomore
I apoligize for my experience, I may go a little overboard for it. I realize not everyone has had such poor experiences with the SBC as me. I am also sorry if we got a bit off track too.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I apoligize for my experience, I may go a little overboard for it. I realize not everyone has had such poor experiences with the SBC as me. I am also sorry if we got a bit off track too.
David, we all should be careful painting with broad brushes. Thanks for recognizing that.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Not to steal the thread, but I have a somewhat-related question.

A fellow is ordained a minister in the SBC. After a time he joins a PCA church and is taken under care. What is the state of his SBC ministerial credentials? In particular, is he still permitted to perform marriage ceremonies based on his Baptist credentials?
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
That raised a question in my mind. Is Presbyterianism defined, first and foremost, as a form of Church Government with things like baptismal mode a secondary issue; and if so then might a conscience Baptist become a Presbyterian, properly defined? Or to put it another way, can there exist such a thing as a non-paedobaptist Presbyterian?
I don't know the technical/theoretical answer to your question. However, existentially, the longer I stay on the PB, the closer I get to becoming one of those Presbyterian cultists and the more disconnected from my Baptist roots. I mean, I've never had my staff in our "Baptist" organization bake me a "Roger Williams" birthday cake! :lol:
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
That raised a question in my mind. Is Presbyterianism defined, first and foremost, as a form of Church Government with things like baptismal mode a secondary issue; and if so then might a conscience Baptist become a Presbyterian, properly defined? Or to put it another way, can there exist such a thing as a non-paedobaptist Presbyterian?
I don't know the technical/theoretical answer to your question. However, existentially, the longer I stay on the PB, the closer I get to becoming one of those Presbyterian cultists and the more disconnected from my Baptist roots. I mean, I've never had my staff in our "Baptist" organization bake me a "Roger Williams" birthday cake! :lol:
Dennis, perhaps since I wasn't raised with Baptist roots I find myself becoming more and more Baptistic (from a confessional perspective). That's quite a turnaround considering how close I was to jumping ship four years ago.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Here is a good little piece that I would recommend. I edited it a bit.

http://www.reformedbaptist.co.uk/What%20Council%20of%20Jerusalem.htm

What Council of Jerusalem? (Acts 15)

The purpose of the two articles on this page is to illustrate why Reformed Baptists are not Presbyterian in their church government..... Establishing Presbyterianism from scripture is most often attempted by citing Acts 15. I hope to indicate with the following articles how weak this argument is.

What Council of Jerusalem?


Suppose the visit of Paul, Barnabas and the others from the church at Antioch to the church at Jerusalem was not a Council. Suppose rather it was a representation and complaint from one local church to another whose members were behaving erroneously and opposing Christian doctrine through mistaken zeal (for superseded Jewish tradition). The account in Acts 15 can be read perfectly logically with no inference of authority, delegation or council. To read in the idea of appeal to the “authority” of the Jerusalem church is bad exegesis.


First we have the cause for complaint from Antioch.

Acts 15.1,2 “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.


Then the appropriate** response from the Antioch church to the Jerusalem church.

15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”



Suppose the Apostle Paul made the journey to Jerusalem to inform James (the Pastor of the Jerusalem Church – not James the Apostle) and have the problem dealt with at source. The Apostle Paul (and witnesses) took the problem to the responsible Pastor. **This, of course, is precisely how the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to deal with brethren (fellow believers) when we have issues with them (in Matthew 18: 15-17.)



18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more,

that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

The meeting of the church at Jerusalem.

There were still Apostles in the Jerusalem church (including Peter) -Acts 8:14; 15:4 et sec.

And there were erring members -with the same Judaising attitudes as caused the problem in Antioch. -Acts 15:5 “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” –and there was the Pastor, James.


Now read the account of the elders’ meeting (one church, remember) in which the elders and Paul’s came together to consider this matter and to reason. The verb translated “disputation” is suzhthsis, from suzhtev; mutual questioning, i.e. discussion: disputation, reasoning.


15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter


Note the Apostle Peter’s contribution vv 7-11.

15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;

15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Next read Barnabas and the Apostle Paul’s contribution.

Acts 15:12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.


Finally the Pastor’s resolution.

When all had said there piece (note the absence of debate or “dispute” in the negative sense), the Pastor makes his response TO HIS OWN CHURCH, where he is the governmental authority under Christ, even though Apostles are present. His ruling on this issue is:



15:19 “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.”

The Apostles endorse the decision of the church leadership and send men and encouraging letters to Antioch. The tone is apologetic and the Jerusalem church acts on the resolution to put right the wrong done in Antioch.


15:22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren:

15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.

15:24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:

15:25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

15:26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15:27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.

15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;

15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

15:30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:

The reaction of the Antioch Church

15:31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.


A longer presentation of this argument follows, taken from “The Battle For the Church 1577-1644” by David Gay, pub. Barchus.


“As for the Presbyterian's second claim ‑ that churches should be organised into groups, and ruled by a series of ecclesiastical courts ‑‑ they offer but one attempted scriptural proof ‑ namely Acts 15, which they call a record of the Council of Jerusalem. They say that several churches sent delegates to a Council in Jerusalern to debate a doctrinal issue and formulate bind ing decrees for all the churches which were represented, and this is the standing pattern for all churches for all time.

But this is wrong. Acts 15 does not speak of a synod or Council. What happened is this. Some teachers, who were members of the church in Jerusalem, came to the church in Antioch, where they began to teach error. The church at Antioch was troubled and disturbed, to the extent that some believers were even made to stumble by these false teachers (Acts 15:24). After Paul and Barnabas had disputed with the men concerned, the Anti*och church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem 'about this question' (Acts 152). What if these teachers from Jerusalem, or their friends, went to other churches ‑ Lystra, Derbe, Iconium and the rest? What harm might they do? Would there be men of the calibre of Paul and Barnabas in those churches, men who could silence the false teachers? This would be essential (Tit. 1: 5‑11). And what about Jerusalem itself? Did they realise what their members were teaching, and the damage they were doing? Should they not be told, and thus be able to discipline their mem*bers? Consequently the saints at Antioch decided to send Paul and Barna*bas to Jerusalem to put the matter before the Jerusalem church. The Anti*och believers 'determined' to take this step (Acts 15:2) ‑ it was entirely voluntary on their part, there was no structure or organisation of superior courts in place which made it compulsory. Jerusalem was not the head church. There was no idea of a Council. Paul and Barnabas had already sorted the question out at Antioch. The man of Galatians 1: 12 and 11‑21 did not need to be helped by the counsel of others on the subject! If Paul was prepared to resist Peter, confront him face to face and put the matter right, it is foolish to think that he needed Peter's guidance over the very same issue. Paul and Barnabas did not go to Jerusalem to get a ruling on the question itself. It was the practical responsibility of the Jerusalem church which had to be sorted out. And Jerusalem had to do something to stop the trouble reaching other churches in the Gentile world. There were no 'delegates', not even from Antioch, let alone any other church.

When Paul and Barnabas reached Jerusalem, it was the church they tackled (Acts 15:4); the apostles and elders considered the matter (Acts 15:6). Quite right. Some teachers had gone from the Jerusalem church over which they were responsible and were causing trouble elsewhere by their false doctrine. Paul and Barnabas were taking the issue back to where it belonged ‑ the church at Jerusalem. It was necessary for the elders at Jeru*salem to sort out their local problem, whilst the apostles had to deal with the world‑wide aspects of it. The elders took care of the church members who were under their discipline; the apostles defined the true doctrine. Discussion took place within the church ‑ not at a Council ‑ and a decision was duly arrived at. The false teachers were simply wrong. A letter was composed by the church in Jerusalem, and sent to all the other churches so that no other church would he molested by these false teachers and their arguments (Acts 15:23). The tone of the letter was rightly apologetic (Acts 15:24). It was then delivered with apostolic authority to the churches (Acts 16:4).

Not a Council

There was no gathering of representatives from various churches at Jerusalem, no Council called to decide a common policy. To say there was is unwarranted. It was simply a case of one church holding brotherly contact with another over an issue which affected them both. Jerusalem needed to put its house in order, and that is what the church at Antioch helped it to do. There was no 'appeal' to the Jerusalem church. Far from being a synod or Council, Acts 15 records the transactions at a church meeting ‑ the church in Jerusalem.

As for the letter which conveyed the decision, it must be remembered that the apostles were still alive and resident in Jerusalem (Acts 15:2,4,6,22,23). In order that the infection of false teaching which had come out of Jerusalem should go no further, the apostles joined with the elders at Jerusalem to send out this letter to all the churches. But none of this supports the Presbyterian idea of separate congregations forming one church, following which the churches in a region submit to Councils, Synods and General Assemblies. In Acts 15 no disciplinary action by a legislative Council was threatened against 'dependent' churches. There were no dependent churches. No one church was dominant over another. There was no higher‑court mentality. Interestingly, in passages such as Romans 14 and 15, and 1 Corinthians 8, there is no appeal to this letter. Why not, if the Presbyterians are right? To read into Acts 15 the concept of a law‑making Council with powers over churches through their dele*gates, is a travesty of exposition.

Of course, Acts 15 shows that whilst churches are independent, they are not isolated or insular. On the particular issue of the day, Antioch was right and Jerusalem needed to reform itself. But the church at Antioch, in brotherly love, took the necessary steps to inform Jerusalem of the prob*lem in order to give it the opportunity to do that very thing. The issue concerned both churches. And both churches concerned themselves over each other's welfare. They also thought of other churches. Therefore, even though Acts 15 gives no support to the idea of Councils, it does teach the need for brotherly cooperation between churches wherever possible and whenever it is needed.

Despite this clear teaching in Acts 15, Bannerman, however, asserted that besides the churches of Antioch and Jerusalem, 'there were also repre*sentatives from the churches of Syria and Cilicia, commissioned to go up to Jerusalem on the same errand'. Where did he find any evidence for that statement? What other churches? What commissioned representatives? A few sentences later Bannerman drew back somewhat. Instead of being certain that these representatives were present lie wrote, 'We have deputies ... it would seem, from Syria and Cilicia'. Ah! It would seem! Even so - despite the inference and speculation method once again ‑ Bannerman was prepared to argue, 'Now, in this narrative we have all the elements necessary to make up the idea of a supreme ecclesiastical court, with authority over not only the members and office bearers within the local bounds of the congregations represented, but also the presbyteries or inferior church courts included in the same limits'. With respect, I submit the Presbyterian case is far from being ratified!

In any case Bannerman proved too much by his speculations. If he was right, and the churches he mentioned were represented at Jerusalem, they did not come merely from a district or locality. They came from different countries. And the letter was sent to all churches, even those which had no ‘representative' at Jerusalem. In the light of this, are Presbyterians pre*pared to assert the need, the scriptural warrant, for world‑wide Councils with binding authority over all the churches? If so, they are getting very close to the Papist system, developed from the Fathers.

Berkhof, once again, was much more restrained, and rightly so. He said, 'Scripture does not contain an explicit command to the effect that the local churches of a district must form an organic union. Neither does it furnish us with an example of such a union. In fact, it represents the local churches as individual entities without any external bond of union'. Exact*ly so. Why could the case not rest there? But even Berkhof could not resist the temptation to go on to speculate. He said that it 'would seem ... it is but natural that this inner unity should express itself in some visible man*iier, and should even, as much as possible ... seek expression in some corresponding external organisation ... Every one of these terms points to a visible unity ... Certain passages of Scripture which seem to indicate ... Moreover, there are reasons for thinking that the church at Jerusalem and at Antioch consisted of several separate groups, which together formed a sort of unity'. Pretty vague stuff this! But, even though there is no scriptural example nor any scriptural command for these courts, Pres*byterians think they are the standing order for church life!

On Acts 15, Berkhof frankly and honestly admitted, 'This ... did not constitute a proper example and pattern of a classis or synod in the mod*ern sense of the word'. Why go on with it, in that case? But he did. He then developed the 'modern sense of the word' in three paragraphs. He spoke of the representative nature of synods, the way they should be organized, wliat they deal with, their power and authority, and similar matters. What biblical texts did he supply to support his case? None whatsoever! Not one! Even so ‑ and without a shred of scriptural warrant ‑ Berkhof was pre*pared to conclude that the highest ecclesiastical courts have authority over all the churches, they carry great weight and must not be set aside except on the rnost telling of grounds. 'They are binding on the churches as the sound interpretation and application of the law,' he said. What a stagger*ing claim!


This is not a theoretical debate. The outcome of setting up non scriptural bodies and organizations to govern the churches is always diabolical. Presbyterians of the 16th and 17th centuries believed that the decisions of ecclesiastical courts were binding on all the churches, their members and their officers. The consequences would be far‑reaching as we shall see. There are Presbyterians who continue to believe the same today.

Those who hold to this notion of federations and a system of formal connections between churches argue that separate, independent churches are weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. In time of persecution or apostasy, the enemy ‑ Satan ‑ needs only to attack the central authority, the central theological seminary, or the highest ecclesiastical court of the federated Church, and he has captured the entire set‑up. He only needs to poison the central spring, and all the waters will be lethal. At any rate that is what has happened down the centuries. History is littered with the ruins of apostate federations. In a barrel, one rotten apple will corrupt the lot by contact! However, if the adversary has to try to grapple with a host of scattered, unknown, unlinked churches, he has a real fight on his hands. He has got to find them all first! Of course, independent churches can be guilty of apostasy, but at least they have the power in their own hands to resist, they have not delegated it to a higher court. And if other churches should fall, that has no automatic effect on the next. But whatever else is said about it, the separation of the churches is the scriptural way. And that should be the end of the matter.

In this connection, a highly significant and relevant passage is Revelation 2 and 3, concerning 'the seven churches' (Rev. 1:20). By this late stage of the canon of Scripture, the New Testament system of church order was well established. What do we find? Whilst it is always dangerous to argue from silence ‑ though Presbyterians are fond of it, as we shall see ‑ certain points stand out. The seven churches were located close together in one region, yet they are called seven churches, not seven congregations which form one church. Furthermore, there is no hint whatsoever of any organization linking them together. There is not a vestige of support for the idea of one common government over the seven, separate churches. There is no association spoken of. On the contrary, each church is commended for any good within it, each church is responsible for its own faults, accountable for its own failures, and responsible to reform itself under Christ ‑ all without any outside interference whatsoever. What is more, each church is autonomous. It has the full powers necessary to reform itself.

Reader, you will see that the attempted scriptural defence of the Presbyterian system in these matters is largely drawn from the early chapters of Acts. These chapters, as noted earlier, deal with extraordinary apostolic circumstances which had an overwhelming effect on church organization and government in those days. But the ordinary New Testament church order is made very clear in the later books. There (he proper administration of the Lord's supper, the recognition of elders and deacons, and all other church matters, are dealt with in plain instructions. Why is it not possible for the Presbyterians to establish their system from the letters to Timothy and Titus? Why are there no plain passages dealing with synods, church courts, congregations and all the rest of it? We are not left to establish the principles of eldership by inference, are we? Therefore why should we have to do it in the case of synods? The truth is, whilst there is a large amount of New Testament material dealing with the rule, order and practice of local, separate, independent churches ‑ there is nothing whatsoever which deals with the government of several churches that are combined into one church. What is more, though Bannerman might speak of the 'simplicity' of the Presbyterian system, it is evident that it is extremely complicated, and largely speculative. Oh! for the simplicity of the New Testament.

Is there any significance in the unforced admission by Berkhof, 'It seems rather peculiar that practically all the outstanding Presbyterian dogmaticians of our country, such as the two Hodges, H.B. Smith, Shedd, and Dabney, have no separate locus on the church in their dogmatical works and, in fact, devote very little attention to it'? Presbyterians ought to think about that!

To sum up: The introduction of Presbyterianism, whilst it was a huge improvement upon the Papal system did not get as close to the New Testament as mainstream Congregationalism did.”



From David Gay “Battle For the Church 1577-1644” pp54-59.

Published in the UK by Brachus, ISBN-0 9529982 0 3.



Further Reading:

Edward T Hiscox “Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches.” Pub Kregel

Poh Boon Sing “The Keys of the Kingdom”

John Owen, “Nonconformity Vindicated” in Works Vol 13 “Ministry and Fellowship”. pub Banner of Truth
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I would say that the author David Gay is somewhat off the wall in his book Battle for the Church, but he says some good things.
 

Ivan

Pastor
That raised a question in my mind. Is Presbyterianism defined, first and foremost, as a form of Church Government with things like baptismal mode a secondary issue; and if so then might a conscience Baptist become a Presbyterian, properly defined? Or to put it another way, can there exist such a thing as a non-paedobaptist Presbyterian?
I don't know the technical/theoretical answer to your question. However, existentially, the longer I stay on the PB, the closer I get to becoming one of those Presbyterian cultists and the more disconnected from my Baptist roots. I mean, I've never had my staff in our "Baptist" organization bake me a "Roger Williams" birthday cake! :lol:
Dennis, perhaps since I wasn't raised with Baptist roots I find myself becoming more and more Baptistic (from a confessional perspective). That's quite a turnaround considering how close I was to jumping ship four years ago.
I'm with you, Bill, my time here has caused to look deeply into my Baptist roots. As so I remain.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Further Reading:
For further reading I highly recommend William Cunningham's "Historical Theology," vol. 1, pp. 43-79, where the Council of Jerusalem is specifically discussed and the leading principles of Presbyterianism are clearly explained and vindicated.
 

Nathan Riese

Puritan Board Freshman
Keeping to the question at hand,

Can a Baptist become a Presbyterian and still be a Baptist?

The answer is No. It's not that hard of a question to answer. The reason why it's not hard is because Baptists and Presbyterians are not the same, therefore if one BECOMES the LATTER, then it is no longer the FORMER. Simple. If a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, can it still be a caterpillar? NO! Because it has morphed into something different and does not retain its being a caterpillar.

Can a baptist (congregationally autonomous, credo-baptist) become a (presbytery governed, paedo/credo baptist) and still remain a baptist? If you're speaking of beliefs, the answer is a simple, "NO"

If you're asking, "can a baptist join a presbyterian church as a member and still remain a baptist" then the answer is yes. I know of some who have done that. many presbyterian churches are not as strict as to force their members into paedo-baptism, so if that baptist can tolerate the different form of government, then there shouldn't be too much of a problem.
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
... but strictly speaking, a Baptist cannot remain a Baptist and be Presbyterian. Presbyterianism is a form of church goverance, among other things, which Baptists reject....
So Baptists are anarchists? I thought Baptists were congregational democracies, at least that's what I thought when I was one.

Presbyterianism strictly speaking is just a form of church government, and it requires a system of courts (not just a single church ... which would be an oligarchy unless there were multiple levels of court). Because a Presbyterian form of government requires the ability to appeal to a higher court, a single church would not have that ability. I have seen some churches that operate governmentally like this ... a session of elders that rule the church, and no denominational relationship to keep the local church in check.

I had thought that "Baptist" was generally a doctrinal stand strictly on Baptism, not on church government. Do *all* Baptists agree on governmental form?
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
... but strictly speaking, a Baptist cannot remain a Baptist and be Presbyterian. Presbyterianism is a form of church goverance, among other things, which Baptists reject....
So Baptists are anarchists? I thought Baptists were congregational democracies, at least that's what I thought when I was one.

Presbyterianism strictly speaking is just a form of church government, and it requires a system of courts (not just a single church ... which would be an oligarchy unless there were multiple levels of court). Because a Presbyterian form of government requires the ability to appeal to a higher court, a single church would not have that ability. I have seen some churches that operate governmentally like this ... a session of elders that rule the church, and no denominational relationship to keep the local church in check.

I had thought that "Baptist" was generally a doctrinal stand strictly on Baptism, not on church government. Do *all* Baptists agree on governmental form?
Brian,

I am sure there is some Baptist church out there that will throw a wrench into my argument, but Baptist churches are congregational. We do not have the hierarchical framework of our Presbyterian brethren. We are not anarchists. We recognize that God has ordained elders to lead the church. The elders answer to scripture and are held accountable by the church. Baptist and Presbyterian polity together would be like water and oil.
 
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