Monday, January 15, 2007

Baptist identity: believer's baptism

In a post recommending a new book, Believer's Baptism, Alex Chediak comments:
This issue is of great contemporary importance, as some baptist churches in our day have sought to downplay baptist distinctives. Dr. Albert Mohler's article on theological "triage" is helpful. He distinguishes between first order issues (on which salvation hinges), second order issue (which should determine church or seminary affiliation), and third order issues (which would not prevent Christians from joining together in a covenant community). He characterizes the bodily resurrection of Christ as a first order issue, believers baptism and the ordination of women as a second order issue, and eschatology as a third order issue. Southern Seminary actually dedicated their entire Fall 2005 magazine to Baptist identity, and why it matters.
Source: Alex Chediak Blog: Believer's Baptism - Schreiner and Wright

In an article in that Southern Seminary magazine, Albert Mohler writes about Baptist distinctives:
The first of those principles was regenerate church membership. If there is any one defining mark of Baptists, it is the understanding that membership in the church comes by a personal profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is not merely a voluntary association of those who have been born to Christian parents — even Baptist parents — or of those who might have been moistened as infants. Rather, the church is an assembly of those who make a public profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and who then gather together in congregations under the covenant of Christ.

The second principle, a derivative of the first, was believer’s baptism, the conviction that baptism is to be administered only upon an individual’s profession of faith. Baptism is not only a symbol, but an act of obedience and entry into the covenant community of the church. To compromise believer’s baptism is therefore to paint a picture of the church that is much distorted.

The third principle was congregational church government. Baptists have made several and various attempts to define exactly what congregational church government should look like. At its root, however, congregationalism affirms that it is the covenanted community that must take responsibility for the ordering of the church, for the preaching of the Gospel and for everything else God has assigned to the church in this age. There is no sacerdotalism, no priestly class, no one who can be hired to do the ministry of the Gospel and no franchise to be granted. The church itself, the covenanted community of baptized believers, must take responsibility for the fulfillment of all Christ has commanded His people.

Much more could be added to Baptist ecclesiology, but these three principles are an irreducible minimum of Baptist identity....

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