Paedo-Baptism Answers Membership and infant baptism

Dan1

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi all,

I'm curious to survey the crowd to get an idea of how common it is for presbyterian churches to deny membership to parents who refuse to baptize their children. The OPC GA in 1966 decided to leave it up to each session to determine whether or not to admit to membership adults who disagree with and do not follow infant baptism. I believe the majority of OPC/PCA churches permit baptist members, but I'm trying to get a feel for just how uncommon the other view is held in practice. Generalizations are welcome and often helpful :)
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Perhaps you will find that the same session will admit one set of parents, and deny another. The reasons for accepting the one, and denying the other, could include assessing the "teachability" of those who desire to unite with the congregation, or who profess to be leaning toward the view that children of believers should be baptized.

Claiming submission to the church's teaching is a parameter not always easy to judge. We can probably come up with situations where potential members were eager to agree with a congregation's commitments, much like a fiancee could be willing to profess love-no-matter-what more on the basis of infatuation than dispassionate analysis. The members are absorbed, only after attending a carefully presented series of classes; yet, after a period of time a clash emerges based on unforeseen intransigence. The subject could be anything, while infant baptism might be no big deal.

My point is: sessions should be evaluating potential members only in part based on particular commitments in both doctrine and practice. Yes, any new Christian should understand that his submission to the sacrament of baptism and his subsequent participation in the Lord's Supper are not "optional." However, we don't ordinarily demand of new members that they precisely and concisely articulate the 5-Points, or be unwaveringly sold on Presbyterian polity, etc. We familiarize potential members with our distinctives, while trying to ascertain if these present a "credible profession of faith." Beyond that, we ask them to be teachable.

Most strongly convinced Baptist parents will not be good candidates (in my opinion) for membership in a specific Presbyterian congregation. Once they have heard-out the stance of the church they have contemplated, they may doubt for their own part the wisdom of committing to membership. Many people, however, are at the beginning (or somewhere along the way) of a path to a new desire for an increase in their faith, their religious understanding, their growth in grace. Are the people asking about membership in this local Presbyterian congregation, who may be Baptist-by-default, the kind of people who will submit themselves to the authority of the Word of God as it is taught and proclaimed by this church? That is what the session should be desirous to know.

Preventing otherwise submissive and teachable, responsible Christian adults-and-parents from finding their home among the saints in a dedicated Presbyterian or Reformed congregation seems unwise, unhelpful, unloving. In some ways, it seems like a preemptive judgment, an exercise of church-discipline in advance of evidence of intransigence and troublemaking. I do not think a hasty admission or one driven by pragmatic interest is a good one either. But it does seem to me there is a big difference between admitting to membership people open to learning and growing in Christ, and admitting those with a desire for the benefits of church membership only on terms that do not challenge a cherished alternative commitment.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
I was a Reformed Baptist for 30 years. I became a member of an RPCNA congregation in the late 80s when I was single. Left when I was married to attend and new Calvinistic Baptist Church around 91. Became sick and my wife left in 2000. I was granted permission by my Church to leave again after the Divorce and ended up at a PCA plant just meeting at our local Westside Christian School.

The thing that caused me to leave the RPCNA was the thing that drew me back, worship. It was simple modest and totally uncultured to anything I had experienced. For a brief stent my 3 boys and I started wondering back to our RB roots and started going back to the Baptist Church we went to for the past decade when I was married. The congregation had moved on to dancing ballerinas and a bunch of white people trying to sing Black Spirituals. The church had grown so much in the past decade that it just didn't work for me. It is a good Church. The worship just drove me back to second RP.

I was admitted back with my boys probably around 2008? I am not sure. I was still a Baptist. Then my theology took an upswing as I started going back and forth with Reverend Winzer, Counselor Mark Van Der Molen and Robert Scott Clark. I noticed how the discussion between Law and Grace developed into a strange oddity to me. Even as a Reformed Baptist I didn't separate Law and Grace to be Moses vs Jesus. In a over simplified explanation I was convinced that the Mosaic and New Covenants did not oppose each other. There was a Covenant of Grace that administered various covenants progressively revealing Christ. Grace is not in opposition to Law. I love Bavinck. He does a great job explaining what I fail at doing. Read Bavinck. I became a convinced Reformed Covenant Theologian. It takes time when you have little to no religious upbringing. Well, sometimes at least. :)

Well, that is the way I might clumsily explain this. All that to say Patience was a good thing for me. I love my Elders from all of my Churches. They helped me stay somewhat between the lines.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
I would not admit a couple to membership who had young children and refused to baptize them. For one, it is schismatic within the congregation. Number two, it would externally go against the fourth query in our covenant of communicant membership which states:
"Do you promise to submit in the Lord to the teaching and government of this church as being based upon the Scriptures and described in substance in the Constitution of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America? Do you recognize your responsibility to work with others in the church and do you promise to support and encourage them in their service to the Lord? In case you should need correction in doctrine or life, do you promise to respect the authority and discipline of the church?"
Now if a couple were past child-bearing years and didn't 100% embrace paedobaptism for themselves, I might consider admitting them for membership provided they are clear on our convictions and practices and will submit to those teachings and never publicly speak against them, which is again assent to the fourth query above.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Well, I am glad Second RP was very Patient with me. I am glad you weren't my Elder then. Russ Pulliam and I have been really good friends since the late 80's. I love my Church and they have loved me no matter what. There is the matter of tending to the sheep that shepherds are required to do. It may be schismatic to be so tight. Just my humble opinion
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
I don't know of official statements, but my ARP congregation has admitted baptists into membership. I don't know the exact scenarios of all, but it's almost always been folks on the way to Reformed distinctives who end up embracing infant baptisms. Our area has a lot of methodists and baptists, so we have quite a few folks come from these perspectives as they look for sounded teaching, but often don't want to delay membership indefinitely as they learn.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Brothers,
Let's avoid giving and taking offense, by God's grace possessed by each one.

With good cause has the Lord divided his flock into numerous congregations, thereby allowing an equitable diversity of settlements. One congregation, or even denomination, can tolerate what another finds too difficult. To his own master he either stands or falls. Blessed be our God, who makes us all stand, Rom.14:4.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Me too. I was 9 years old in the late 80's.
The Spirit can use age and circumstance to smooth the bedrock stone. We all have our sharp edges. I have appreciated watching your growth the past many years brother. Just be careful as an Elder to remember that we are all growing and maturing in very different ways. We all experience working through sin and growth in various ways and at various times in life. No two children are the same and maturity looks different for each of us. Just be careful as a Shepherd brother. It is a hard office. I appreciate the fact that God didn't call me to the job. I can go places and do things a Pastor / Elder wouldn't be as welcomed to attend. That is what I am gifted for.

Be Encouraged Brother.
 

Dan1

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't know of official statements, but my ARP congregation has admitted baptists into membership. I don't know the exact scenarios of all, but it's almost always been folks on the way to Reformed distinctives who end up embracing infant baptisms. Our area has a lot of methodists and baptists, so we have quite a few folks come from these perspectives as they look for sounded teaching, but often don't want to delay membership indefinitely as they learn.
I get this. Seems like we are either asking Baptists to wrestle with it before membership, or after. Neither situation is perfect. If you require them to baptize their children to become members, you are potentially keeping them around as non-members for longer than is ideal (but it does force them to think about the matter). If you bring them into membership with the *hope* that they will be persuaded over time, there is no end date to that. That is, of course, if the session doesn't discipline the member parents for the great sin of neglecting baptism. Scripture and our standards recognize one baptism---no distinction between adult and infant baptism. Withholding from children is no different that if an adult convert refused to be baptized, which would certainly be addressed.
 

JH

Puritan Board Freshman
I think the Baptists are more consistent than some of us. Doubtless most of them, if not all, would require the "re-baptism" of those who haven't been immersed upon a profession of faith for membership because they hold fast to their confession, and rightfully so. Why should we not likewise hold fast to our Confession, in requiring for membership the baptism of the member's children? As Andrew noted, how could it profit the unity of the body?

I ask in the spirit of charity, but if it is "a great sin" for one to neglect the sacrament to their children, is not the implication then that the Session becomes enablers of this "great sin"? Again, I ask in fear and trembling, but aren't these the logical consequences?
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I agree with Bruce. The older I get (and hopefully wiser in the Lord) the more I realize how frail and needful people are of good shepherding.

I think Presbyterianism is marked, in contrast to Reformed Baptist convictions, on a notion of discipleship being a bar not for "marks of election" as much as being teachable and under the authority of the Church.

Let's draw the circle tighter, for instance, and base membership on an apprehension of the Trinity and the Hypostatic union. It would be easier to argue that a person is not even a Christian if they failed a doctrinal test and held some confused notion of these ideas in their head. We could argue that, unless fully taught/convinced of these core doctrines that no Church should admit them to membership.

But I see the Church as the place, under the offices of Christ, where sinners have Christ placarded to them. If, Today, you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Discipleship is not the "end" where the person is presented fully mature in Christ but the visible separation where a sinner is taught the things of Christ and is matured by Word and Sacrament. This is why I'm comfortable with ignorance as long as a person is teachable because we're teaching them to conform them to Christ's teaching and not merely admitting those who already understand everything.

Our Church has a wonderful track record of members who were formerly Baptist becoming convinced of a Biblical Covenant Theology and Sacramentogy. We have ceded no ground every time we baptize an adult or an infant as to what Baptism signifies and seals. Our members are "admonished" every time a baptism is performed and, in time, most are worn down lovingly by a Session that loves them and wants to present them holy to Christ.

Since I consider my Baptist Brothers and Sisters to be Christians (and even admit visiting Christians to the Table provided they are baptized and Evangelical), it is consonant to permit those who submit to our authority to become members of our local congregation and benefit from solid Biblical teaching.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
If some of the Lord's people desire formal union with your church, knowing full well what you teach for doctrine, what principles and standards would be applied in various cases, etc., receive them. If some controversy comes up in the future, deal with it biblically. That's all we can ever do. It's not like anyone in that situation could justly say they were deceived or wronged in any way.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
Our Church (RPCNA) would deny membership to a family if the adults refused to baptize their younger children (newborns/infants/adolescents). If the children are teenagers then they would consider it on a case-by-case basis. There are several Baptist families that attend our church and are not members for this specific reason. They're considered adherents that can participate with us in the LORD's supper, they can attend our church quarterly meetings, but are unable to vote.

Only members can vote and can hold church office.
 
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