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

Discussion in 'Ecclesiology' started by rbcbob, Jul 20, 2009.

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  1. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Just as a point of clarification, I would not term Presbyterianism as "hierarchical." That connotes the idea of a type of episcopacy, and any Presbyterian worth his salt disdains that system as much as do Baptists. Even though church courts do exist within presbyterianism, they are still composed of pastors and lay elders who serve as representatives of the congregations (who call/elect them). That is not really hierarchical, In my humble opinion.
  2. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    That can certainly be arranged, Louis!!! :)
  3. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member


    I can appreciate your explanation. I used the term to describe any form of church governance that has authority (formal or informal) over the local church.
  4. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Thanks for that explanation, Bill. I suspect, though, that "hierarchical" is almost as distasteful a term for Presbyterians as "anarchist" is for Baptists. ;)
  5. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    We can always join our two churches together and name it, "The First Anarchist Baptist and Hierarchical Presbyterian Church."

    You know, the more I think about, "First Anarchist Baptist Church" has a ring to it. Maybe we can call Chuck Norris to be our pastor.
  6. Reformed Rush

    Reformed Rush Puritan Board Freshman

    Another question.

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

    Years ago, after being rescued from Dispensationalism and led into Reformed theology, by the grace of God and private bible studies, we became members of an OPC.

    However, due to a dearth of Reformed teaching in our area, it was miles away from where we lived, and after becoming members and while commuting to their services hours away, we met a Reformed Baptist teacher and began hosting Bible studies in our home in order to minister to a large group of young people (without churches) and neighbors, who could not attend our OPC church for geographical reasons.

    After much prayer, we founded a Reformed Baptist church to accommodate the needs of these people, on geographical needs mostly, and of course at the time, necessarily resigned our membership in the OPC.

    We were harshly rebuked by the Pastor of the OPC for doing so, and were told that by our actions, we proved to be outside of Christ and His church, for leaving the Presbyterian church.

    When we retired several years later, and moving many miles away, we found an OPC in our new rural neighborhood, and being more inwardly sympatico with Presybterian teaching and formalities than the local (Bob Jones) baptist church, we began visiting this OPC.

    We visited for almost a year, but internal problems due to misconduct by a teaching elder, kept us from becoming formal members. One of the results of the misconduct, was that assigned Pastors did not stay long before being removed or resigning.

    And low and behold, on one visit, our former OPC Pastor was filling in the empty pulpit one Lord's Day, and spotted us in the pews, and quickly visited us in our home, to tell us that unless we became formal members of that OPC again, we were to still to be considered non-Christians.

    Guess what we decided not to do ...

    Any opinions about all this?
  7. PointingToChrist

    PointingToChrist Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi Jim,

    How recent was the latter part of what you explained? And where do you attend church now?

    I obviously do not know all the details of the misconduct and the aftermath, but from what you describe, something seems to be amiss in that OPC church. Without prying too much, in what way does the misconduct prevent you from wanting to become a member, and what is driving away the subsequent pastors?

    I reserve further thoughts until I know more :book2:

  8. Reformed Rush

    Reformed Rush Puritan Board Freshman

    Almost 20 years ago.

    After these events, and after finding a newspaper blurb announcing the presence of a Reformed Church in the area, and after calling the Pastor of that advertised church, which had legally and formally existed for about two years, and after asking a zillion questions, it was discovered that this very group, in desperation, had left the OPC, and formed an independent church, under the Pastorship of a retired OPC minister.

    We had nothing to do with the split, but we did eventually become members of this group and experienced several very blessed years of fellowship with the Reformed membership.

    I really do not want to begin conveying what all was happening in that particular church (I would only divulge such in a PM, but that is probably not even necessary), for what I was interested in was opinions about whether one who leaves the Presbyterian camp, and taking upon a Baptist (Reformed) effort, should be considered outside Christ.

    For those were the charges made against us (almost 30 years ago); which were painful beyond expression, even to this day.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2009
  9. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior


    Was there an actual charge? (Did the pastor bring up charges and follow process, including requiring you to appear before the session?)

    Generally, if you joined another church, the discipline would be erasure (which is without full process). But that is far different from not considering you to be a part of the body of Christ (which is excommunication, BOCO, ch VI.5). Excommunication is not a discipline without full process, so it would have required a trial, and it appears you could appeal it even today (charges have to be made within a 2 year period, but I see no limit on appeals).

    Of course if there was no full process of charges, trial and pronouncement of censure, then I would think you were dealing with a pastor that did not know the BOCO very well. (At least that is how I read it ... you could look at it yourself here.

    But the salient part is chapters IV through VII.

    While this is a 30 year old case, if the actual case was a pronouncement of excommunication by the session, then you should be able to have the case appealed (at least that is what it appears to me ... though I could be wrong about that).

    It seems crazy that if you lived two hours away from a church, left to be a part of a much more local church, that the church two hours away would excommunicate you for that reason. (And because it is presbyterian, you would not have to leave it at that, but have the right to appeal to a higher court.)

    -----Added 8/11/2009 at 02:19:14 EST-----

    Okay ... that is different from what I was used to. The SBC church which I was a member of when I first heard the gospel was congregational democracy. Everything was voted on by the congregation (and I do mean everything!) They didn't have elders, but they did have deacons. I saw the same thing in another SBC when I moved to a location without any confessional church within 60 miles. Eventually, I helped with planting a PCA church in a town 20 miles away (where I was going to school and working).

    Hmmm... I don't know as what you describe is such an oil and water mix as what you might think. Suppose you had a very large church with 100,000 members, you might for administrative reasons break that up into smaller sized groups (say 10,000 each) with a subset of elders that work within each of the groups. If you did the same thing yet again (perhaps breaking up individual groups of 10,000 into smaller groups, with a subset of elders for each smaller group) then you have Presbyterianism on a practical level. The church with 100,000 members would be the general assembly, the subgroups with 10,000 each would be the presbytery, and the smallest subgroups would be individual churches. :)

    That of course doesn't address Biblical reasons for Presbyterian polity, but there isn't a reason to argue over it (especially here). We are brothers, even if we are members of a church with a differing polity. While I firmly believe presbyterian polity is correct, the best man in my first wedding was a Baptist. (In other words, there is room in the body of Christ for differences in church polity, even if there truly is only one "correct" polity for the church).
  10. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Reformed Rush.....

    this might interest you

    Clark teaches at WTS-CA and openly stated he would put a church member under discipline if they went to a Baptist church instead of paedo. So yeah, excommunication for one who leaves the Presbyterian camp, and taking upon a Baptist (Reformed) effort, should be considered outside Christ.:rolleyes:

    By the way if he ever apologized or changed his views, somebody please let me know.

    The last two issues of Modern Reformation Mag had an interesting combo of a book review by Clark and a letter to the editor the next month. The gist of it, distilled down, is that for RSC being Reformed is about paedo baptism...not the solas or the five points or grace and sovereignty, or Covenant theology or anti dispensationalism. Hold to paedobaptism or you are not Reformed.

    So yeah, to answer your question, a professor who works alongside the likes of Riddlebarger and Horton at a major Reformed University can say that you'll be excommunicated if you leave his paedo church for a credo one. A minority view to be sure, but it is out there, sorry to say. Sorry about what you had to go through.
  11. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Well, it sure beats the snot out of the name of this "church":

    Mary, Queen of the Universe (warning: possible 2nd commandment violations)

    That's a whole 'nother kind of "hierarchy"...
  12. Reformed Rush

    Reformed Rush Puritan Board Freshman

    Hello Brian,

    Thank you for your response.

    No, we were not charged. We simply presented a letter of resignation of membership, which was accepted. The rebuke was personally delivered both times. Which totally shocked us, because none of the process of starting the new work was kept a secret. We thought others would be pleased that Reformed ministry had successfully been established in a needy area, instead we were told we were sinning and proving to be outside of Christ and His church.

    There is nothing to protest, other than at the second OPC which we were visiting, we were partaking in the Lord's Supper (which says a bit about that situation there), and this same Pastor forbid any further attendance at their table unless we formally joined that church.

    I am glad and relieved I asked about this, because I have always wondered if there was a general Presbyterian policy, belief, or an OPC attitude that thinks only membership in their churches is assurance of regeneration.

    It sounds like maybe it was just the personal opinion of the Pastor, because nothing was officially conveyed to us at all, from either of the two sessions. At least I have always hoped this was the case, and your reply has affirmed that was probably the situation.

    My wife and I have been following these two particular threads with interest, because we have great compassion for both sides of the discussion, and we do not find either side wrong, but instead, find all contributors quite impressive in their explanations, reasonings, and expressions of civility towards each other.
  13. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    That was exactly my reaction when I first saw "Mary, Queen of the Universe."
  14. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior

    The OPC specifies what the discipline is for someone leaving ... it is not excommunication, it is erasure. It would probably be overturned at a higher court if excommunication were attempted (at least I would hope it would be).

    Post script on that ... I just thought about it a little more .... If someone were joining the first church of Sunday Golf and Harlotry they might get excommunicated. :)
  15. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Brian.....thank you for the clarification. Below is the actual blog post I was referring to. Whatever it was that he would do, he would be doing it because he thought the person leaving was not attending a true church, so I wonder if that just means erasing their name from the members list. I apologize for thinking it meant excommunication if it did not. I am used to hearing the word disciplne used in conjunction with Matthew 18 where there is either repentance or excommunication. I am sorry if I misunderstood.

    At any rate, I was trying to help Rush out a bit to know that his situation might not be unique: we were told we were sinning and proving to be outside of Christ and His church. I will give Clark the benefit of the doubt for now that hopefully he would still consider the person to have union with Christ. But he definitely would consider them to be outside the true church.


    . Scott Clark, on May 14th, 2009 at 4:45 pm Said:

    No, we wouldn’t discipline someone for sending his children to Lighthouse but we wouldn’t discipline them for not sending his children there. We would discipline someone if they left OURC and began attending a baptistic congregation or a sect.

    I don’t think that any congregation that denies the administration of baptism to covenant children can be a true church. I don’t see how any baptistic congregation is practicing the “pure administration” of the sacraments. Arguably the best reading of WCF 25 is that that when it says that it is a “great sin” to “contemn” baptism to take it as a reference to the newly organized particular and slightly older regular baptist movements. The first London confession was in ‘44.
  16. Curt

    Curt Puritan Board Graduate

    That rather sounds like what I was taught as a child in the RC "church." Even entering a protestant church (even fir a funeral or wedding) was a mortal sin.
  17. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I really think RSC needs to be read carefully, in context, and with exactitude, not much which is in evidence.

    I say that, with strong feelings of sympathy to the Rushes, and to anyone else who has been (possibly, Prov.18:17) on the bad end of poor disciplinary process. I've no idea what a pastor was doing treating former members like they were still in his charge--folks who were dismissed and living two hours away. He certainly was in no position to properly shepherd them, in my opinion.

    On the other hand, on the subsequent occasion in another church, he might not have been able to serve them the Lord's Supper in good conscience. His statement might have been ill-spoken or mistakenly understood. And there might have been other factors we know nothing of. Stupid factors or serious factors.

    I can say that people who are not on the roll of some church somewhere shouldn't take communion. If you can't be EX-communicated, then you should not be IN-communicated. That's a simple matter of elementary church-discipline. Invitation to (as much as barring from) the Table is an exercise of church discipline, and not a matter of an individual Christian's "heart" before God.

    An individual's decision on his own worthiness or unworthiness (as important as that is) is not as significant as the elders' (plural) decision, which is the church's decision. Not a popular stance in modern, lone-ranger, anti-institutional America. But the minister himself has not the right to make that kind of unilateral decision. He is no little popish prelate.

    RSC said, in conformity with his church's public confessional stand, unchanged for nearly 500 years now, that to leave their (presumably, if they actually believe teach and confess the 3FU) gospel church, for one with a truncated gospel--in the fullest sense of the term--would face discipline.

    Now, who can really argue with that? It's his definition of "gospel" (full or minimalist) and his definition of "discipline" that is being read in only one way. RSC isn't being allowed to define his own terms by his critic here.

    The Belgic Confession or the Heidelberg Catechism, both in a true sense declare the gospel from start to finish. They are confessional-maximum documents. Might there be a "core" to them? Perhaps, but that only says what person X believes on A,B,andC (though not D,E,andF) brings him into closer but still defective fellowship with a "full" gospel understanding.

    If the church to be transferred into was a run-of-the-mill baptistic church, no confession, maybe no membership, just "better music" and maybe the baptism issue was a change--does this sound like a church even an RBC would feel comfortable just sending off this person or family to them with a letter of transfer?

    Historically, Reformed and Presbyterian churches have recognized degrees of closeness. But look, if we don't have a pre-existing relationship of any kind with a church, we can't transfer our members to the care of that church. That sort of church usually refuses to recognize our churches as having (mainly) a validly baptized membership. OUR churches don't even have ministry and members to a strict Baptist!

    I'm not trying to be controversial, only pointing out that people and groups that take their confessions seriously end up having to deal with vexing questions, and it isn't only the Reformed. Think about the shoe on the other foot...

    Specifically, RSC's response has to do typically with a transfer "within the parish" so to speak. In other words, the move is being made not because they have moved away, and need to find a church home, but for convenience, or the rejection of doctrines that as members, they swore they understood and upheld as truth--and now reject, or just don't "care" about anymore.

    Why is even "mild" discipline here viewed with suspicion?

    And what is the discipline? Might it not be simple "erasure" from the rolls (which happens when a formal transfer cannot happen for reasons given)? Yes.

    "Oh, but discipline is censure and excommunication." No, there's the category of formal "discipline without process". And we aren't even talking about the informal discipline of every single day; but any time that is broken off, some formal discipline has to take place.

    What RSC means is nothing more or less than when someone goes away from our churches, they never stop being under discipline.

    ---We transfer membership (an act of benevolent discipline) and the person never falls out from under it.
    ---We send a letter of "standing" to a church which may have the gospel (in greater or less measure), which is a "less benevolent" form of discipline.
    ---We refuse to send a letter to a church which is too far out of our ken to recognize their gospel or discipline. And if they leave anyway, then they will simply be erased (a form of punitive discipline).

    RSC is talking about people who, without a reasonable defense, go across the street to another church, who refuse a disciplinary process in the church, who refuse to use the church courts for addressing their complaints. All of this refusal is in violation of their membership vows, which in some 3FU churches bind the members to the doctrinal statements (different from most Westministerian Presbyterians).

    OK! If the proposal is still complaint-worthy, then just realize that we are Ref/Presb and not autonomous, individual and separate, congregational types, also manifesting itself in radical individual sovereignty as well.

    But in our Presb/Ref minds, there really is only one Church, despite its many manifestations and divisions, even among our own types that doctrinally are almost indistinguishable. So, a person who moves away, or just runs away, doesn't just get to tell THE CHURCH what sort of "discipline" he's entitled to. HE DOESN'T GET A SAY!

    Tough. That's the Reformed doctrine of the church. It's not RCC, or any "hierarchy". It's the doctrine of the unity of the church lived out in the practical discipline of the church.
  18. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior

    So are you saying that if a person in a pres church believes that process was not appropriate, and that a judgment is given that is outside the standards of the church, that they do not have the right to appeal?
  19. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Could you clarify your question, Brian?

    I'm referencing a person who is simply ducking the entire church government.

    A man who "escapes" church discipline by leaving before his trial is in no position to appeal. A man who walks out after his trial, and refuses to follow the appeal process is in no position to appeal. To whom will he appeal?

    I suppose he can appeal to Christ, and hope that on the Last Day, he get vindicated. Certainly all wrongs will be set right then. But, the question may come: "Your session was in error, but you judged the ENTIRE church unfit when you walked out on the process. Who gave you that right? You failed to put the church on trial, and then prejudiced the church without due process."

    But the original quotation has to do with anyone departing a particular congregation for any reason. They are still under a "discipline." No one, once he has been included in the church, is ever away from discipline--not unless he has been formally excommunicated. Then he is an outlaw. But transfer your membership, or receive "cover" by a letter, and you were never apart from discipline.
  20. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Reformed Rush wrote:

    Thankfully, we are Christians because we are in Christ, not because we are part of a denomination. Any pastor or elder who suggests otherwise is not qualified to be in the ministry. Christ did not die for Presbyterian or Baptist polity, He died for His sheep. To believe that only those who are a member of a specific denomination are saved is to join in the heresy of the Church of God (you must be baptized as a CoG member to be saved), as well as many cults.
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2009
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