To immerse or not to immerse? That is the question.

Discussion in 'Credo-Baptism Answers' started by Herald, Feb 24, 2013.

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  1. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    A question for my Baptist brethren. Will your church accept someone for membership that was baptized as an infant without requiring baptism by immersion as a requirement for membership?

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  2. A Tulip Not a Daisy

    A Tulip Not a Daisy Puritan Board Freshman

    I'd like to hear the answer to this, too.
     
  3. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    Our church will not.
     
  4. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Bob, if you do not mind elaborating. How would you explain this to a person who was baptized as an infant, but now wanted to become a member of your church?

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  5. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    The first question in my mind is does that person still believe in infant baptism?
     
  6. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    Two of the three Baptist churches I pastored required rebaptism (constitutional stipulation)
    One expected it, but did not require it officially.
     
  7. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    Bill, we would graciously explain that they had never yet been biblically baptized.

    Acts 2:41 (NKJV) 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

    Acts 8:12 (NKJV) But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.
     
  8. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    My church will accept infant affusion for membership, but not for leadership. I would not recommend this stance under ordinary circumstances. We are located in a small town with no Presbyterian presence for many miles. Our intention is to provide Presbyterians with a local fellowship. We will see how it works.
     
  9. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Ken, do you personally take exception to chapter 29 points 2 and 4 of the 1689 LBC?

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  10. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I do not take exception. Therefore, I only baptize those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ. And I only baptize by immersion. If a Presbyterian joins my church, their infants will not be baptized. This is a bridge we have not crossed. Like I said, we will see how it works.
     
  11. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    No, all members must be able to partake in the Lord's Supper and believer's baptism by immersion is a prerequisite for partaking in the Lord's Supper. Even the rather tame BFM 2000 makes this clear;

    Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.
     
  12. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Ken, if I understand correctly then, if an adult who has been previously baptized as an infant (or by other than immersion) applies for membership, it is your current practice to receive them? I'm just trying to understand at this point.

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  13. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Bill,

    As I know you are quite familiar with the arguments in this case, I'm not going to recapitulate all of them here. Baptist churches that have any kind of focus on Baptist distinctives will require immersion and won't accept sprinkling even if it was done as an adult. Any church that does is out of accord with the LBCF as well as every other historic Baptist confession, a fact to which you allude above. (This is an aside, but moreover many American Baptists, including the SBC Founders, have rejected what is termed "alien immersion" or paedobaptist immersions as well i.e. immersions that were not performed under the auspices of a baptistic church. It's not nearly as common as in the 19th Century (and it didn't begin in that century and was apparently the view of the influential Philadelphia Association that produced the Phila. Confession) but it still persists in some quarters, including among some Sovereign Grace Baptists. I don't know if any who would accept the Reformed Baptist moniker would be of this opinion but I would think it would be exceedingly rare.)

    It's interesting that you ask this question at this time. In previous centuries, mode was as much a part of Baptist polemics as the subjects of baptism was. In some cases, it was more heavily focused upon. Alexander Carson is probably the chief example of this, with him writing more on mode than subjects. Just the other day I was reading Adoniram Judson on mode. Famously he adopted Baptist views on the way to Burma and was baptized at the hands of William Carey upon arrival in India. He spends more time on the subjects of baptism but maybe 40% of the book focuses on mode. He provides a large number of quotes from church fathers as well as later writers like Wall who quote them. Assuming he and they read them right, the consensus seems to have been that until roughly the 16th century, immersion was the preferred mode by far in the West (and persists in the East) and sprinkling was only allowed on sickbeds, etc. and was considered irregular or a "half-baptism" at best. Several sources, primary and secondary, were quoted noting that unimmersed believers who had been sprinkled on their sickbed were barred from holding office until they were immersed. One case of a prominent ECF was noted in which his proposed ordination caused significant controversy as he had not been immersed. (Note that Judson wrote prior to the discovery of the Didache but other opinions at the time and later seemed to have an even stronger emphasis on immersion. I think the Didache was also written at a time in which there was more persecution, which may perhaps account for the allowance of sprinkling or pouring.) Then you of course have the quotes by Luther, Calvin, Wesley and others who state that immersion was undoubtedly the practice of the early church but that other modes were not invalid. The first editions of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer reflect a strong emphasis on immersion that was later softened if not abandoned outright. Later Presbyterian polemics (starting with the 19th C it appears) have attempted to rebut the idea that baptism means immersion and argued that sprinkling is the actual biblical mode. I think you had Congregationalist and maybe Methodist writers making this argument by that time as well. Later writers who make this argument include Jay Adams and Rowland Ward.

    There is an independent Bible church near me that was originally Protestant "Union" church begun over 100 years ago in a heavily Catholic area where there weren't existing Methodist, Presbyterian or Congregationalist churches. This is an interesting case. They've become more baptistic as time goes on. They will accept those who have been sprinkled (I think adult only, but I'd have to check again) but only practice immersion. A baptistry was put into the building at some point. I don't know whether or not they require immersion for officeholders but I don't remember seeing that in the bylaws. But this is a Bible church pastored by a Dallas Seminary graduate and is not a Baptist church, even though many Presbyterians would put it in the "Baptist, other" category. It's certainly more Baptist than those Bible type churches that have no requirement on baptism whatsoever, even to join the church.
     
  14. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Not to get into the question of baptist(ic) origins, but in earlier years what was most controversial was the refusal to baptize infants in a church-state environment. Later the sectarianism of Baptists in refusing paedobaptist sprinkling (and immersion in some cases) became perhaps the most controversial element. This is reflected in writings like Dabney's denunciation of immersionists unchurching all, etc.
     
  15. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Our constitution reads ( under membership requirements ) " who has been baptized upon profession of his faith".
     
  16. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Chris, as you probably know, I am not without opinion on this topic. I am trying to find out the practice of confessional Baptist churches in this area. Any confessional Baptist church that would compromise on the worthy recipient and mode must do so for a reason; a reason I would like to have explained.

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  17. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Rich, do you think that leads mode open to interpretation?

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  18. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    No. Why? Because it is clearly stated that we hold to the LBC1689, and as you pointed out before, it states the proper candidates and mode of baptism. When my bride & I applied for membership, we had several meetings with the Elders. One of the points they kept stressing was that we are a confessional congregation. Many have come before us that didn't really have a handle on what that meant. I told them the reason that I arrived at CBC was that it was the nearest confessional congregation to my home. I was tired of the constant infighting and wrangling over what was acceptable teaching & practice in other congregations near by. I'm sure that I don't have a perfect grasp on the total content and intent of some items in the confession, but I'm learning.
     
  19. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    It would be better to say that, in and of itself, infant baptism is not a hinderance to membership, but it is a hinderance to leadership. Our stance as a church is that if a professor was not the proper subject of, and/or he was the subject of an unduly administered baptism, that fact does not, in and of itself, invalidate the baptism.

    Again, this policy has not been tested and we don't recommend it for other churches. We take this position temporarily as an act of charity toward our Presbyterian brothers and sisters who have no local fellowship.
     
  20. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    Ken, I question whether a temporary setting aside a biblical definition of baptism, albeit in the name of compassion, is not a tantamount to pragmatism over principle. If we may go this far why may not our children go farther, showing even more charity to non-baptists?
     
  21. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    First, it should be noted that we are not a LBC church. Not being under the LBC we are free to interpret the biblical definition of baptism according to our collective conscience. Therefore, we as a church have not 'set aside' anything.

    Second, this policy has not been vetted at all and it might crash and burn. We will have to wait and see.
     
  22. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    My apologies Ken. I should not have presumed that your church held to the 1689.
     
  23. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Not a problem. I am sure most would assume that since the Pastor is a LBCer that the church would be also, but real life doesn't often work that way.
     
  24. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Does your church hold to any confession?
     
  25. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Yes. Is is available at our website but it is under construction at the moment. Basically, our confession is most of Spurgeon's Catechism.
     
  26. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Similar language used in fencing the table is also sometimes open to interpretation on the part of the hearer if not explicitly defined. I know of at least one church in which one elder thought it meant one thing (the term "Biblically Baptized") and the other elder thought it meant something else! (In other words, one of them said that it was perhaps open to interpretation on the part of the hearer whether or not "Biblically Baptized" equates with immersion.) But I think they are probably on the same page now.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2013
  27. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    Bill our church would not permit such into membership (along similar lines of argumentatuion to Bob above). I would have thought most Baptist and Calvinistic/PArticular/Reformed Baptists would not. An associated question where there may be more variance is whether someone baptised by another mode as a believing adult may be admitted to membership. I know that is not the subject of your OP but in my mind this is a more frequent scruple among us. I would also say to my presbyterian brothers and sisters who may read this, that I, and I trust all of like theological bent, take, or should take, no real satisfaction in denying membership to brethren under such circumstances (even as per OP), but we must go with conscience and biblical principles as we see it, and I am sure and expect that you would of certain principles too.
     
  28. AThornquist

    AThornquist Puritan Board Doctor

    To the OP: No, we will not accept someone as a member unless they have been baptized Biblically. We have a few Presbyterian brothers and sisters who have been regular attenders for years that we love and cherish and treat as family but due to our convictional differences cannot allow to vote or demand mutual accountability in certain commands of Christ, i.e., baptism. Though we are more than willing to keep one another accountable in every way we can, and though we enjoy their presence in worship and at the Lord's Table, we believe that it would be pragmatic to allow them entrance as members to avoid awkwardness and dangerous to set this sort of precedent. We believe in being flexible, but not to the point of breaking our convictions.
     
  29. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member



    Paul,

    We share the same position on baptism and membership. I brought this subject up because there is a family, currently members of a very conservative Presbyterian church, that are thinking of applying for membership at our church. This will be a first for us if it happens. I cannot answer for the adults, but I believe the children have been sprinkled as infants. We are not the only Baptist church in the area, but we are the only Reformed Baptist church within reasonable driving distance. We do not engage in what is termed "sheep stealing" (encouraging members of other churches to join our church). This would be the first Presbyterian family to apply for membership at our church. Our decision will be that all those who have not been baptized upon a profession of faith, and by the mode of immersion, will only be received for membership by said baptism. To capitulate on either of these two areas calls into question what we actually believe scripture teaches.
     
  30. ProtestantBankie

    ProtestantBankie Puritan Board Freshman

    Would your churches allow non-immersed (non-baptised as you consider them) believers to come to the Lord's Table?
     
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