Friday, October 05, 2012

Thoughts on "People of God: The Church" by Kevin Bauder

I am taking a break for one week from my series on the Reformers and whether or not they were heretics to illustrate a point from a previous series I had posted.  Some time ago, I did a series on the historic Baptist doctrine of Spirit baptism.  In that series, I included an extensive exposition of 1 Corinthians 12:13, a verse which indicates that the Holy Spirit leads people to be immersed into the membership of a local congregation. (See, for example, here, and parts 11ff. also.  My entire study of Spirit baptism is in the Pneumatology section of my website here.)   While immersion into the membership of the local congregation is the clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 12:13, the verse is the lynchpin of the unscriptural universal church theory of Spirit baptism, which alleges that Spirit baptism unites one to to the mythical universal, invisible body of Christ.

Recently, Kevin Bauder from Central Baptist Seminary posted an article that illustrates the typical sort of interaction local-only, historic Baptist ecclesiology and the historic Baptist doctrine of Spirit baptism receive from advocates of the universal church position.  Dr. Bauder argued that the church is in Christ (which is true, because the congregation has a regenerate membership, but which by no means establishes that "body of Christ" and "in Christ" are synonymous terms Biblically) and that 1 Corinthians 12:13 proves that every saint in the church age is in the universal, invisible body of Christ.  He affirmed that the “we” of the verse provides proof for this position, and provided as proof-texts 1 Corinthians 12:14-27, Ephesians 1:22-23, and Colossians 1:18, without any explanation.

Dr. Bauder did not provide any verses that establish that ekklesia was even once clearly used in the NT, or at any time whatsoever in pre-Christian Greek, to designate something universal or invisible.  Nor did the view that 1 Corinthians 12:13 referred to water baptism receive any mention, although such a position is overwhelmingly dominant among those not influenced by Dallas/Chafer theology and in commentaries that predate the rise of the Chaferian theology.  The argument that “we” in 1 Corinthians 12:13 proves a universal, invisible church is very weak—I have dealt with it here.  Nor does anything in 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 1, or Colossians 1 establish a universal church, as the word study of ekklesia in the ecclesiology section here demonstrates.

Indeed, the fine exegetical job Dr. Bauder does demonstrating that 1 Corinthians 12:13 refers to the Holy Spirit, and that en heni Pneumati, “by one Spirit,” is indeed instrumental, stands in definite contrast to the unproven assumptions employed in actually establishing the Chaferian and universal church view of Spirit baptism.  His article is convincing only if 1.) A person presupposes the existence of a universal church, and 2.) One presupposes that 1 Corinthians 12:13 refers to Spirit baptism.  Of course, with presuppositions of such a character, there is not much of substance left to prove.

I recognize that not everything can be stated at once;  perhaps Dr. Bauder feels he has clearly established the existence of a universal church, and of his Protestant dispensational view of Spirit baptism, elsewhere.  However, I am afraid that the cold shoulder so generally given to historic Baptist ecclesiology and the historic Baptist doctrine of Spirit baptism is not simply due to space limitations, but is evidence of the total absence of any substantive interaction with the Biblical and historic Baptist position at many fundamental-moving-conservative-evangelical sorts of Protestant-Baptist parachurch educational institutions.  At many such a place, one can graduate with an expensive degree, having one’s head filled with all the latest foppery, foolishness, and compromise arising out of the mess of modern evangelicalism, but entirely ignorant of historic positions of Baptist churches.  It would be nice if Biblical, Baptist doctrine were taught—or at least if not taught, at least interacted with and not either caricatured or generally ignored—at such places. But perhaps it is not surprising that ecclesiological truth, and its corollary view of Spirit baptism, is taught at church-run educational institutions that are separated from the wideness of broad fundamentalism, while a massive ignorance of the truth pervades those institutions outside of the particular local, visible congregations that are, individually, and in truth, the congregation, body, temple, and bride of Christ.


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