Sunday, August 26, 2007

Who's In Your Church?

The Kerux has had quite an interesting conversation emerging on his blog lately about the issue of baptism and church membership. These are issues I've thought about for some time, but I confess, I have not come to a firm view.

The arguments against having paedobaptists as members are legion, but I think that most (all?) of them fall short. Here's one of the arguments against it that drives me nuts:

Paedobaptists have aberrant theological views. We should not allow people with aberrant theological views into church membership. Therefore, paedobaptists should not be allowed to be members in baptist churches.
Some even extend this logic to the issue of who we allow to partake of the Lord's Supper. That just doesn't make any sense to me! Does that not seem unbiblical to anyone else?

It seems to me that when I examine the New Testament evidence, there is no theological quiz given before the Lord's Supper. Believers were not required to jump through theological hoops to be considered 'valid church members.' Membership in the local church was based on identification with Christ--which, granted, included baptism.

But paedobaptists believe they have been baptised, and if they are believers, have identified themselves with Christ. So why do we exclude them? Because they believe an 'aberrant theological view.'

But don't you hold 'aberrant theological views' too? I'm certain that I do.

So whether we like it or not, we're either (a) saying that we hold no aberrant views on any secondary issues, or else (b) what we've already done is drawn a line in the sand, saying that there are certain aberrant views we will accept and others that we won't.

Why draw that line at baptism? What if someone in our church is a dispensational premillenial (gasp)? What if someone is a continuationist rather than a cessationist? What if--God forbid--one of our people should be Arminian? Do we say 'Get out of our church!' or, 'There's no bread for your types around here!'?

I think not! If someone were to start picking apart my systematics with such a fine-toothed comb, I would think it would not be long before I would be barred from the Table!

Let me pose this question to all who are concerned for the preaching of doctrinal truth from our pulpits: Who do you want in your church?

I want people who love my Lord Jesus and are committed to loving him with heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want paedobaptists in my church because they'll hear me preach on baptism. I want Arminians in my church because they'll hear us teach on God's sovereign saving grace. I want egalitarians in my church because they'll hear the truth about gender distinctions in the church and in the home. I want charismatics and cessationists in my church because these are secondary issues and we love and serve the same Lord and we all have much to teach each other!

Where else will all of us with 'aberrant theological views' go to hear the truth, if not to our local church?

1 comment:

Dave said...

Julian,

The argument that drives you nuts looks a little familiar. However, I think you have oversimplified it in an effort to make it look absurd.

Here's what I mean: In your discussion of what constitutes "aberrant theological views" you blur the classic distinctions between primary, secondary, and tertiary issues. You talk as if differences in millenial positions are equal to disagreements over the meaning, mode, and proper subjects of baptism.

You do raise the distinction, however,when you present us with the following option:

"So whether we like it or not, we're either (a) saying that we hold no aberrant views on any secondary issues, or else (b) what we've already done is drawn a line in the sand, saying that there are certain aberrant views we will accept and others that we won't."

It seems like you are making distinctions in option a (since you restrict the discussion to "secondary issues.") However, in b, you seem to disparage the line drawing that you yourself did in option a.

Your answer to the question "who do you want in your church" strikes me as a bit confused. Though I share your desire to have all sorts of people will all sorts of mixed up beliefs under the preaching of the Word, whether they should be members of the church is a totally separate issue.

The answer to that is not as simple as you make it sound. We have to bring into the discussion such questions as congregational vs. elder rule, primary/secondary/tertiary distinctions, the role of the conscience, and all sorts of other fun stuff.