Wednesday, March 01, 2017

An Analysis and Review of Kevin Bauder's "Landmarkism", pt. 8: What Marks a True, Actual Church?

Part 7 has links to parts 1-6, so you can go there from here and get everything that way.

Most of what is titled "Landmarkism" in Kevin Bauder's Baptist Distinctives book is just biblical and historical belief and practice.  It didn't originate with the men who began to be called "Landmarkers" in the mid 19th century.  His next section, he titled, "Involvement with Non-Baptists."  Bauder reports that Landmark Baptists advocated not having unbaptized individuals to preach to or speak to their assembly, even if they claimed a true gospel and a real profession of faith.

Bauder quotes Dagg, who expresses the point that unbaptized people shouldn't be accepted either into the membership of the church.  Dagg says that Baptist churches can treat these professing believers from other denominations like weaker brothers, even though they can't admit them into their churches.  Bauder treats the Dagg quote like he agrees.  You can consider men from infant-sprinkling denominations to be weaker brethren.

The weaker brother teaching in 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 is about Christians, not that are disobedient to scripture, but with a sensitive conscience to extra-scriptural scruples.  No one is permitted just to use "weaker brother" however he wants.  The weaker brother is a particular type of young believer.  Infant sprinkling isn't a weaker brother issue.  This is how scripture is manipulated in a pragmatic fashion.  It undermines biblical teaching on baptism, which dishonors God.

Bauder implies that he agrees that unbaptized people shouldn't be accepted into membership, but in addition to that negative responsibility, he says that there is a positive one to members of other denominations, like the ones that sprinkle infants.  Bauder says that Baptist churches have a responsibility to recognize them as members of a universal church.  Bauder says that Baptist churches have a duty to receive professing Christians who are not really baptized, because they are members of the universal church.  Bauder writes:
Brothers can welcome, encourage, support, sympathize with, and pray for one another even when they do not agree on all matters of church order.
He doesn't offer any scripture to back up this point.  There isn't any.  I see it as sheer sentimentalism. Believers have a responsibility to separate from false doctrine and practice.  The twisting of the weaker brother teaching does not justify it.  Believers have a greater responsibility to separate from those who call themselves brothers (1 Cor 5, 2 Thess 3).

With his next three paragraphs, Bauder lectures Baptists on how to treat men from different denominations, who differ in doctrine and practice.  He says, they shouldn't think they're stubborn or stupid and they shouldn't misrepresent their positions.  Separation, however, isn't unloving behavior. You should first try to help someone understand the truth.  Talking about issues with a Presbyterian, for instance, isn't fellowship.  It's ministry, doing spiritual warfare. If he is open to listen, you can spend time together, at the same time ensuring him that the differences aren't minor.  They matter.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to speak the truth in love, he also meant that it is loving to speak the truth.  Not speaking the truth is not loving.  Another doctrine in the Bible is the perspecuity of scripture.  You really can know what it means and so you should act like it.  With that biblical presupposition, you can conclude that men are being stubborn, that is a problem of their will and not their intellect.  It's not because they can't understand, and we can see in scripture that stubbornness is a prominent reason.  It could also mean that they really aren't saved, which is why they stay in perpetual disobedience to the plain truth.

Bauder encourages cooperation of men in various denominations in "interdenominational service organizations."  Again, he provides no biblical basis for that counsel.  It seems to rest entirely on some extrapolation from or expansion of the idea of a universal church or catholicism.  It is a recipe for the toleration of and then spread of false doctrine and practice.

The assumption of Bauder is that churches need parachurch organizations, that churches alone are not sufficient for God's work.  The sufficient Word of God reveals a sufficient institution for all of God's work, the church alone. Taking the truth outside of the church -- with its pastor, ordinances, and church discipline -- causes the corruption of doctrine and practice.  Another assumption in light of the chapter is that missing out on these interdenominational service organizations is some type of tragedy of Landmarkism.

To end the chapter, Bauder advises the practice of inviting Presbyterians and Methodists to preach at your Baptist church.  He suggests that successful accomplishment of the interdenominational meeting requires a "gentleman's agreement" where the different doctrines are not preached.  The various factions keep only to doctrines and practices they can agree on.  Bauder abruptly ends a chapter on Landmarkism with a paragraph admitting that there is nothing laid out in scripture to guide such a coalition of varied beliefs and practices, so that each Baptist church must figure out on its own what is a comfortable level of involvement with people who don't believe like it does.

In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about how to deal with false doctrine and practice, and cooperation is not part of it.  With the way Bauder finishes, his chapter against Landmarkism reads like a support of interdenominational fellowship.  It reads like a defense of fundamentalism.  Bauder seems like more of a fundamentalist than he does a Baptist.  I don't know of a biblical defense for fundamentalism.  However, the Bible does teach us the terms and conditions for fellowship with other believers.  Even if you defend interdenominationalism with universal church teaching, you will disobey the Bible in several different ways, because universal church doctrine itself clashes with the Bible.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said, Brother Brandenburg. Thank you.

E. T. Chapman

Jim Camp said...

"Most of what is titled "Landmarkism" in Kevin Bauder's Baptist Distinctives book is just biblical and historical belief and practice."

This is the truth of the issue.
Pendleton's sermon was entitled "An old landmark RESET", not a new landmark established. He was not arguing for some new position, but a very old position, that an unbaptized man, was indeed unbaptized, & should not be allowed into our pulpits as guest speakers. Sprinkling, Catholic baptism, is not baptism.

It is amusing, to me at least, that the second paragraph of the sermon states
"The question, Ought Baptists to recognize Pedobaptist preachers as gospel ministers? must receive either an affirmative or negative answer. It does not admit an ambiguous response."

I think Bauder gave a very ambiguous response. Neither here nor there. Politely in the middle, acceptable to all, applauded as broadminded & scholarly.
Just not true.

Craig Kuha said...

Kent said, "When the Apostle Paul said to speak the truth in love, he also meant that it is loving to speak the truth."
Heres my truckdriver version-
These doctrinal differences are very inportant, however they can quickly turn into relationalship problems. When that happens all hope is gone. Even if a pastor is sarcastic or cynical, that is fine with me as long as he is humble and doing the will of the Father and not his own will. People are not stupid, they can tell if someone is genuine. I think a pastor should be around 35-40 years old before he takes on a full size church. Theres exceptions of course, but thats my opinion.
Any comment on that? As far as the age of a pastor. Thanks Craig

Tyler Robbins said...

At what point is a church not a "church?" At what point is a Christian minister not a "true minister?"

Bauder is saying that ecclesiology is a cause for division and separation, but (for example) paedo-baptists are still Christians, who minister in true churches, and ought to be recognized as such - even amidst disagreements.

The Landmark position disagrees. This is a fundamental divide. The larger issue is with my first two questions, above. That will determine the position you take on the Landmark issue.

I will say this - the Landmark position is extraordinarily consistent. It is an attempt to apply Baptist ecclesiology relentlessly and unremorsefully. Nobody can deny that, and nobody should.

The crux is this - how tolerant should Christians be about different interpretations of doctrine? How would the apostles have dealt with a paedo-baptist (for example)? I wish we had a test case. We have plenty of test cases for outright heresy (e.g. Galatians), and for church discipline stemming from immoral and unrepentant behavior in the church (e.g. 1 Cor 5).

This brings us right around to the question of whether it is even appropriate to rank or triage doctrines. I know you believe you shouldn't. Here is another divide!

Bottom line - there are a whole host of foundational issues swirling about below the surface, and the real discussion lies there.

Anonymous said...

Tyler - Can you grant that there may be a difference between what a church is and what you believe a church is? For myself, I can.

Greg Byers, Jr.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi,

I'm going to comment on all of the above comments. The first two in this comment. Thanks E. T. Chapman. I appreciate it.

Jim,

I agree with you. Baptists were concerned they were losing biblical distinctives, diversion into error for various reasons, with a desire to rein in the churches, keep them where they should be. These were interpreted as new doctrine, when they were actually holding fast. This has been proven historically.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Craig,

I think men have lost sight of the biblical qualifications of the pastor and what they mean. Not a novice does require a church to care what that means too.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Tyler,

I would have appreciated Bauder spending some time proving his point from scripture. He didn't do that. I don't think his point was scriptural, but if what he quoted from Dagg, that they are weaker brothers, is the best he's got, then that's a problem, as I wrote above. Is there a basis for recognizing a disobedient brother or someone who doesn't pass a doctrinal test? For instance, in Acts 19, Paul questions these guys on their doctrine and didn't accept it. Today it is, you're accepted, you're just weaker brothers. There is an attack on truth in churches we've got to admit, and what Bauder is writing in that chapter is part of what I see of it.

Thanks.

Craig Kuha said...

Jesus baptism happened before the Jews rejected Him as king. He then makes himself Lord over there Sabaath, and includes the Gentiles in his ministry Matt 12:21. Then in Matt 16 he builds his church. Is this where the church begins or did it start at Pentacost?.
The reason i ask is not that Jesus Baptism wasnt inportant but like the Sabaath it became a landmark of separating himself from the Jews.
Dont know just learning as im reading the post and comments.

James Bronsveld said...

Tyler,

You wrote, “At what point is a church not a ‘church?’ At what point is a Christian minister not a ‘true minister?’” You followed that with the expressed desire that you wish there was a test case, like there was in Galatians (I would submit that Galatians is the test case for which you’re looking). That, combined with a previous comment of yours in which you distinguished between Presbyterians and baptismal regenerationists appears to reflect a perspective that Presbyterian/Reformed churches simply differ on the mode and subjects of sprinkling.

Out of curiosity, have you studied the WCF (Ch. 28), or the Belgic Confession (Article 34), or the Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A 69-74)? I grew up to adulthood in churches where those were preached every Lord's Day. The Reformed churches do not see baptism as merely a sign. To them, it is both a sign and a seal. The seal part of it, which speaks to the conferring of grace, if anything, especially places their doctrine of baptism into the realm of heresy. Baptism as a seal is not a small thing for them. It is huge. By way of example, you can read a former OPC minister (now with Mid-America Reformed Seminary) on this [here] and a former minister of mine on this [here]. They start by talking about salvation by grace, and then through semantics, they subtly bring in the idea of baptism as a means of grace.

“There is efficacy in baptism.” “God seals in baptism.” “Baptism is a means of grace.” “As surely as I have had the dirt washed off my body in baptism [which, ironically, is more likely to be effected by immersing the body than by sprinkling a few drops on the forehead, but I digress], Christ washes away my sins.” “Baptism is a pledge that God makes me His own. But it doesn’t save. But it does confer grace. But it doesn’t regenerate. But it does make me in Christ.” Their reasoning on the grace conferred in baptism reads like listening to a Watchtower Society devotee trying to explain Jesus, full of contradictions and confusion. Let them sort out their confusion over what God actually confers in an ordinance administered by sinful man, and then we can talk about true churches and true ministers. At best they are confused and ought not to be teaching and preaching. At worst, they are perverting the gospel.

If Bauder wishes to counsel his Baptist brethren not to “misrepresent their pedobaptist brethren’s” doctrine, let him demonstrate leadership in that by not presenting their doctrine as some insignificant difference in interpretation, because the “seal of baptism” is only one facet of a complex and vastly different covenantal interpretation of Scripture. It would also help if he would begin by not first mis-representing either the doctrines or the antiquity of those doctrines held by his “Landmark” brethren. :)

James Bronsveld said...

By way of further comment, I think the Baptist historian Joseph Ivimey (1811) (who like Thomas Crosby before him [1738], detailed the controversy over the authority to baptize/proper administrator, long before J.R. Graves ever resurrected the discussion) captured the importance of the baptism issue and why Bauder’s relegation of it to mere differences in opinion or countenancing of having the teachers of infant sprinkling in our churches and pulpits is so wrongheaded:

“Let it be therefore seriously considered, what a daring thing it is to introduce into this ordinance subjects which Christ never appointed, and a mode of administering it, never used by him or his apostles. In matters of worship, God is a jealous God. The case of Nadab and Abihu ought to be remembered by us, who offered strange fire which the Lord commanded not. In things relating to religious worship, as this ordinance of baptism is a part of divine worship, we ought to have a direction from God, either a precept or a precedent: and we ought to keep to the rule both as to matter and manner, and not dare to innovate in either, lest it should be said to us, Who hath required this at your hands? and become chargeable with will-worship, and with teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

What he said.

Anonymous said...

James Bronsveld,
Can you point us to where this quotation is in Joseph Ivimey's writings? Can you share the titles of the books written by these men that you think are worthy of reading? Do you know about their availability now?
Thanks!
E. T. Chapman

Tyler Robbins said...

James:

Yes, I'm aware Presbyterians believe baptism is much more than a seal. I cannot speak for Lutherans, but what I've read on that score is not very encouraging. The Presbyterians I've read (e.g. Reymond, Systematic, 950ff) are very careful to say they are not advocating sacerdotal salvation.

The typical Presbyterian argument for how, exactly, baptism actually is a means of grace has always been very difficult to follow. This goes to a fundamental divide between Presbyterians and Baptists about whether the New Covenant is a mixed multitude, or not. This divide is at the heart of an argument for infant baptism.

Basically, this is a convoluted issue. I believe Presbyterians are terribly and horribly wrong on the nature of the New Covenant and, therefore, the mode, meaning and proper subjects for baptism.

I don't believe Presbyterians advocate a sacerdotal efficacy to baptism, so I cannot put them beyond the pale of Gospel orthodoxy. I don't have ecclesiastical fellowship with them at all, and don't do cooperative ministry on any level. The divide is simply too great. But, I cannot say they're not Christians.

I rejoice when their ministers preach the Gospel and see souls saved. I mourn because they are so terribly wrong on the ordinances. I think Presbyterian ministers who are not careful will give many parents false assurance of salvation for their baptized children.

James Bronsveld said...

E.T.,

The quote from Ivimey appears on p.34 in his History of the English Baptists, Vol.1. The entire 4-volume set can be downloaded from archive.org. Crosby's 4-volume set, History of the English Baptists, and Adam Taylor's 2-volume (1818), History of the English General Baptists, are also worthwhile reading and can be obtained from the same source. William Jones (1819), although much maligned for his representation of the Waldenses, was, I believe, ultimately vindicated: History of the Christian Church. There are a host of other older books that lay this out, but Crosby is the earliest Baptist historian who lays out that the issue of the administrator/authority for baptism was not new, even in 1738...regardless of whatever consensus Baptists came to. FWIW, Crosby details how some General Baptists would not receive former Particular Baptists into their communion without administering baptism to them, because they, the General Baptists, did not believe limited atonement was a doctrine that marked a true church. Apparently some of the Particular Baptists reciprocated that kindness.

I don't want to derail the post here...but I'm happy to give you more info over email.

James Bronsveld said...

Tyler,

The Presbyterians/Reformed churches deny teaching sacerdotal salvation. The Seventh-Day Adventists deny teaching salvation by works, and even the Campbellites go through verbal gymnastics to incorporate baptism into salvation. It's so popular that even the Catholics preach grace. Now, I'm not trying to be inflammatory here by lumping them in altogether, but I do think that, regrettably, with many non-Catholic-professing Christians, antiquity passes for orthodoxy, so the tendency is to not consider their churches to be outside the pale of Christian churches.

If the "Presbyterians are terribly and horribly wrong on...the mode, meaning, and proper subjects for baptism" because they are horribly wrong on the nature of the New Covenant, at what point would you consider them to be baptized? Their meaning is wrong. Their mode is wrong. Their subjects are wrong. Their understanding of the basis for baptism is wrong. What's left to consider them baptized or to consider what they do to be baptism? It's not "Landmarkism" to conclude that a man who has neither the form nor the substance of the ordinance does not have the ordinance. And if unbaptized, how can their religious societies be considered churches? Does the church of which you're a member, for example, have a statement of faith describing a church as a group of baptized believers, or something to that effect? Are there principles or precedents in the Scriptures of unbaptized churches?

Tyler Robbins said...

James:

I don't believe paedo-baptism is valid in any way, shape or form. We need to distinguish these two categories:

1. What makes somebody a Christian, and
2. What makes somebody an obedient Christian (e.g. correct ecclesiology, among other things)

I'm not arguing that Presbyterian ecclesiology is correct. I am arguing they're Christians (category 1). We can go round and round about whether their doctrine on baptism is sacerdotal. I've carefully read and listened to learned Presbyterians, and that is not what they're saying. They explicitly reject that. Because I understand their position and presuppositions, I cannot say they aren't Christians.

I don't think they're obedient Christians, because their ecclesiology is all wrong, because their conception of the New Covenant as a mixed multitude is wrong. I think Baptists ought to separate from Presbyterians. I think Baptists ought to persuade Presbyterians why they're wrong. I don't think Baptists ought to tell people to go to a Presbyterian church. I think all this because doctrine matters.

But, I still think Presbyterians are Christians, I still think they preach the Gospel, and I still think guys like Carl Trueman are Gospel ministers. They're just wrong on ecclesiology.

This discussion is really rather ivory-tower and abstract. I doubt there would be any practical difference in our positions in real life. I've never done a single ecclesiastical event with a non-Baptist in my entire life, and I doubt I ever will. But, I am glad the fundamentalist Bible Presbyterians across the street (www.bpc.org - denomination) are doing well.

James Bronsveld said...

Tyler,

Your wrote, "This discussion is really rather ivory-tower and abstract." That's a little unfair. You began with the question, "At what point is a church not a true church? At what point is a minister not a true minister?" When I replied to that, you altered course to start reflecting on whether they're "true Christians" or not, without addressing the first two questions. I have not commented on their salvation condition. I have commented on whether they can call themselves churches. You have never answered that. You final comment reads like there are multiple streams of truth, enough that while you would "persuade Presbyterians why they're wrong," you are "glad the Presbyterians across the street are doing well." But are they true churches? Can a gathering of unbaptized men be called a church? That's not abstract, because there are numerous practical ramifications to discerning whether or not they are true churches--something you touched on in your first comment. You've commented on your belief that their ministers are true Gospel ministers, but I find it curious that you have left the discussion related to your first question untouched.

Craig Kuha said...

Ty and James,
I read through Rev chapters 2-3 this morning. I asked my self a question . Where those 7 churches churches real true churches that had gone astray or just fictional?
I think God is purifying HIS true church. Its not convenient for people nowdays to teach and learn scripture, but rather how you feel, also what you think, and situation ethics among other things.
Personally I dont think I know more, or better than or more separated then a lets say a Seventh day or Jehovah witness follower. I cast alot of blame on the people that started those cults, but the average Seventh day or Presbyterian or Methodist or whatever is just playing follow the leader. Its part of human nature not to change the way you think no matter how much reading and thinking takes place(devil blinds us). We pretty much want to stay the same and keep thinking what weve always thunked.
What is interesting to me is, I couldnt join the Amish even if I wanted to, and also the SDA's would never invite a Baptist to speak at there events. Romanism probably is the harlot church and she probably does have many daughters. THANKFULLY, God always has a remnant, and in every one of these churches there always is someone who is seeking a deeper spiritual life( oops! Tozer).
Its also human nature to have labels." Im a baptist", Im of Apollos , Im of Paul.
Thanks for comments.Craig.

KJB1611 said...

When I took a PhD/ThM class from Carl Trueman at Westminster, I believe he said he was converted over a period of weeks. I hope he actually has a genuine instantaneous conversion and is genuinely converted and perhaps I misunderstood. Many Presbyterians don't have a genuine conversion, but this post was actually about if unbaptized people can be a true church, not about their conversion or lack thereof.

Tyler Robbins said...

James:

I would say a church is a true church if it preaches the true Gospel. I could say a whole lot more (e.g. what are the "marks" of a church, etc.), but that will suffice for now. I know paedo-baptism is a bridge too far for you. I am convinced Presbyterians do not teach baptismal regeneration, so I am content to say they have "true churches."

Are they obedient churches? No. I think their ecclesiology is terribly wrong. But, I believe the Gospel is preached and proclaimed in conservative Presbyterian churches, so I am happy to acknowledge them as "churches."

A man is a minister if he is a genuine Christian who has been appointed by a church to preach the Gospel and shepherd a flock. So, for example, I have no problem acknowledging Trueman as a Gospel minister.

As I said before, I believe we need to make a distinction between (1) what makes somebody a Christian, and (2) what makes somebody a more obedient Christian. The same holds true for churches. I believe Baptist churches are more obedient and pleasing to the Lord, because they "do church" the way the NT intended.

I intended my "ivory-tower" comment to be about how, practically speaking, I see little difference in our positions. When we take this outside the comment box and into the real world, I doubt either of us encourages anybody to go to a Presbyterian church, or does cooperative ministry with a Presbyterian Pastor. I assume you separate from them, because of doctrinal differences. Good for you.

I assure you I didn't deliberately "alter course" in order to avoid an issue. We're both busy. I mentioned in an earlier comment (somewhere above) that I am convinced Presbyterians don't teach baptismal regeneration, so I cannot place them beyond the pale of bare Gospel orthodoxy, so I cannot deny they have "churches." I'd assumed we knew where we stood on that one. I hope I've been clearer now.

In the end, everybody has to answer:

1. Are there Christian who are not Baptists? I say yes.
2. Are there churches which faithfully preach the Gospel, which are not Baptist? I say yes.

This isn't some sort of post-modern acknowledgment that there are "two streams of truth." It's an acknowledgment that Christians exist, who worship God faithfully, who aren't Baptists. I acknowledge them as Christians who are in error.

James Bronsveld said...

Tyler,

You wrote, “I would say a church is a true church if it preaches the true Gospel.” That’s great, but it begins with a huge assumption (in this case, about the nature of pedobaptist assemblies and whether they are churches)—one that still does not answer my question to you, and your earlier question about when is a church not a church. What is a church? Is any religious assembly or gathering of professing Christians actually a church when baptism is not practiced? Bear with me on this, and let’s set aside the issue of the need for a Scriptural administrator for a moment. Is every organized group of people preaching a true gospel (however one might define that) to be considered a church?

I remember (when I first starting reading some of your comments here and your posts at SI) looking up the church you pastored and reading your doctrinal statement. I went back to that doctrinal statement last night (which to the best of my knowledge appears unchanged) and confirmed what I recalled reading under the heading “The Church”: We believe that the local church, which is the body and the espoused bride of Christ, is solely made up of born-again, Scripturally baptized persons”. “Baptized persons.” A church is not a church without baptism. So if a group of “disobedient but faithful Christians” gathers together, without baptism they are not a church. Based on that stated doctrinal position, an assembly would still not be a church if they managed to get all but one of the elements of baptism right, but missed any one of them, because the church is solely made up of Scripturally baptized persons. That’s pretty standard fare for Baptist doctrinal statements, both historically and even in the present.

Prior to this discussion, I would have assumed that our differences on the issue of Scriptural baptism might lie primarily in the area of a Scriptural administrator. Did I assume too much? Is your position that not only is the administrator not essential for baptism to be baptism, but neither is the mode, the subject, and the meaning? After all, if a church is made up of baptized persons, or, as most Baptists affirm and which I assume you also still affirm, “Scripturally baptized persons,” and pedobaptist assemblies lack the mode, subjects, or meaning of baptism practiced in their churches, how can they fit the standard Baptist definition of a “local church”?

I’ve asked if you believe that such a group constitutes a church. I await the answer, while noting the standard Baptist confessional (and Biblical) response to that question would be “No,” since a church consists of “baptized persons.” Pedobaptists practice a rite and call it baptism, but it is not baptism in either form nor substance because they reject the Scriptural mode, the Scriptural meaning, the Scriptural subjects, and even the Scriptural basis for it (due to their confusion over and failure to understand the nature of the New Covenant). Are you suggesting that because they perform some ceremony with water and because water is used in baptism, therefore they are practicing baptism? What is it that they practice that makes their rite baptism? And if they do not actually practice baptism when they sprinkle infants’ foreheads, even though that is the only rite practiced in their circles that they call baptism, then how do you conclude that they are baptized and as such capable of forming churches?

Joshua said...

I have to admit I am fascinated to read Brother Robbin's response here.

Tyler Robbins said...

James:

I've been quite clear that I don't accept paedo-baptism as legitimate. I'm not sure what more I can do to emphasize that. I fear we're talking past each other at this point.

Our discussion will continue to founder unless we discuss the marks of a church, whether each of these marks is essential, how many (if any) can be compromised before the church ceases to be a "church," etc. We also need to discuss whether there is a valid distinction between (1) a church and (2) a more obedient and healthy church.

If our discussion doesn't proceed along that track, then we'll continue spinning our wheels. What do you believe are the marks of a church?

FYI - please don't mention my old church any longer.

James Bronsveld said...

Tyler,

Without embarking on a corollary discussion on what all the marks of a true church are, I will state that Scripturally and historically, one of the marks of a true church has been the presence and practice of the ordinance of baptism. Although by now I'm wondering whether this will become a disputed point, I'm well aware that not only Baptists, but Protestants have recognized this doctrine in Scripture.

Second, true churches do vary in their conformity to Scripture. That's not in contention here. But that variance exists within the presence and practice of the Biblical ordinances, not variance in whether they have the ordinances or not. Paedobaptists themselves see this (Belgic Confession, Art. 29). Thus, no baptism: no church. Even if you disagree entirely with that, I fail to see the bearing it has on the answer to my question about whether or not pedobaptist groups practice baptism, and whether they are consequently baptized.

Thirdly, saying "I don't accept paedo-baptism as legitimate" is not the same as saying "paedo-baptism is not baptism," and I can't help but think you know what I'm getting at, because no matter how I have framed the question, it remains unanswered. The answers contain a convenient amount of wiggle room to allow for pedobaptists' "baptism" to be considered irregular, "invalid," or "not legitimate" while still insinuating it to be baptism, or euphemistically describing their practices as being "wrong on ecclesiology," all of which stop short of stating whether they have baptism or not. Paedo-baptism is not a bridge too far for me. It actually is not baptism. I don't reject it as simply illegitimate or invalid. I compare it with Scripture and see nothing similar, other than a common name used to describe two vastly different practices involving different amounts of water. One is an "innovation of worship," the other "an ordinance of Christ." That, again, is not a "Landmark" position, but a Baptist position. What pedobaptists practice, en toto, is not baptism. You say it's not "valid," but do you mean by that that it is not "baptism," making them consequently unbaptized?

Fourth, I have tried not to misrepresent your answers, and have sought to answer your questions. Mine await a direct answer. If a group of professing believers practice a rite, but it lacks the Bible's subjects, the Bible's mode, and the Bible's meaning, including the Bible's basis, is it baptism?

If it is, what makes what they do baptism? If it isn't, and since they practice no other rite called baptism in their circles, how are they baptized? And third, if they are not baptized, how can they be true churches of faithful Christians, lacking what even they concede is a necessary mark in distinguishing false churches from the true?

Tyler Robbins said...

James:

This is one of those times when I wish we could discuss in person. I now finally understand what you're driving at! No, I don't believe paedo-baptist "baptisms" are actually baptisms. I'd baptize somebody who wanted to join my church who wasn't Scripturally baptized. I actually did that to a man who was "baptized" by immersion in a UPCI church, and explained to him his "baptism" wasn't legitimate because the UPCI isn't even a Christian organization! I think we're on the same page, there.

Our division is over whether an error on "baptism" is enough to make a church not a true "church." Thus, what are the marks of a church? I did a study on this a few years back, and I may expand some of it at my blog soon.

Historically, Baptist answers to this question have been along a spectrum (see Bauder's short summary, 213-218). In my own research of several Baptist ecclesiologies, I've seen the same spectrum. Some answer "no baptism = no church." Others are willing to give a bit more room, depending on how they define the "marks" of a church, and how many of these "marks" a church holds to. I'm willing to give a bit more room.

A church can have valid baptism and founder on other critical areas. Is it still a church if (1) it has a very self-centered atmosphere (e.g. God as cosmic butler), (2) there is little emphasis on discipleship, (3) there is no systematic, expository preaching, (4) it doesn't have a covenental atmosphere, where the critical importance of church membership is emphasized, or (5) if the Lord's Supper is observed flippantly or irrelevantly? If a church practices legitimate baptism, but fails in all or some of the above, is it really still a church?

Your arguments have force, James. But, surely you see my point of view, too - baptism is a vital component of what makes a true church, but it isn't ALL that makes a true church. This is why a discussion of the marks of a church is important. It's about more than baptism.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi,

We pray the Lord's will be done on earth as it is in heaven and it is always done in heaven. On earth, it can't be sprinkling or immersion, like paper or plastic. It isn't one or the other. I couldn't prove from scripture that you have a church full of unbaptized members, because all of them were sprinkled, putting aside how salvific this is for a Presbyterian. I'm not sure that someone like Carl Trueman, and Thomas took a class from him, so if he's reading, he can let me know, wouldn't say that of course you had to be baptized to be saved. Of course that's what Calvin believed. But putting that aside, I can prove that baptism is required to be a church, that it is sine qua non in the definition of a church. I can prove that from the Bible, and since the Bible is how we understand God's will on earth, then we must say that they are not churches. We want them to find out now rather than wait until later (if they are saved), because then it will be too late. I recognize that a Kevin Bauder could be perceived as so much more into unity and into love, and flowing like a broad river of mercy, because he wouldn't bring that to the table, but we speak the truth in love, which required speaking the truth.

James Bronsveld said...

Tyler,

I wholeheartedly agree that baptism is not the only mark of a true church. A church with the right mode, subjects, meaning, and administrator of baptism that won't practice church discipline, for example, fails to meet an essential mark of a true church. Some of the other examples you describe would also fall into that category, most of which involve serious defects/innovations in the worship of God. But where these assemblies have no baptism as their basis, the consideration of the remaining marks in an effort to somehow offset their 1) unbaptized condition and 2) their purpose to propagate and establish other unbaptized assemblies has to be a non-starter. Add in the truth that an invention of man has been introduced both as the entrance and foundation of their worship, and it becomes no small matter in the glorifying and worshiping of God. This is where I believe the error of "considering antiquity to be orthodoxy" often clouds our judgment.

You agree that they do not have baptism, meaning they are not baptized, nor do they baptize, and their purpose or mission is to make many more such disciples who are not baptized. The first church was given a clear commission to disciple and baptize. Then they did just that. No scouring of the New Testament hints at anything different from that. How would the apostles deal with a Paedobaptist, an unbaptized man? If he professed and displayed a testimony of salvation by grace through faith, they baptized him. If a hearer of the gospel received the word gladly, he was baptized. There is no record of them confirming a single unbaptized man or "church" in that persuasion. No counsel is given on working with, endorsing, or approving unbaptized men or assemblies as viable conduits of establishing gospel churches.

The reason I brought in paedo-baptist arguments that baptism is essential for the make-up of a church is because while they will muddy the waters and try to make the discussion about mode (a redundant and unnecessary argument, since the mode is baptism), they do not, at least confessionally, undermine or dispute it as a mark of the church.

You have stated that you are willing to give a bit more room on this, allowing for, I gather, their existence as true but disobedient churches. Where would you, from Scripture, find divine authority for providing that latitude by way of either command or precedent? Specifically, in the matter of unbaptized men and churches.

Tyler Robbins said...

James:

Appreciate the discussion. It has been very helpful. Help me understand your position in a practical sense - what is the practical difference in our position in the real world?

Some people reading this may assume our positions are an academic distinction without a functional difference. I believe in and practice the doctrine of separation, personally and ecclesiastically. In the real world, in real life ministry, what is the practical difference between our positions? How will this difference reflect in actual practice?

KJB1611 said...

I doubt that Dr. Trueman would affirm that one must be baptized in order to be justified. I think is is possible that he, like many Reformed people, would be fine with someone who said he was regenerated in the womb and just repents and believes every day, so he is a Christian. One certainly does not need to have a credible conscious conversion to teach at Westminster Seminary, much less to be a student there.

As an interesting side note, when I asked him if Luther believed in baptismal regeneration, he said "of course." He is too good of a scholar to deny the obvious.

Also, Bro Robbins' Bible Presbyterian friends frequently put the Bible above their Presbyterianism, which is why they are more likely to require genuine personal conversion than other groups with which the Bible Presbyterians fellowship--the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in America (OPC / PCA). You can even be a Bible Presbyterian minister and only perform believer's baptisms (!!) as long as you are willing to receive the sprinklings done by others as legitimate. The Bible Presbyterians are willing to torture Reformed confessional documents to avoid denying the gospel, while many other Presbyterians, sadly, will torture Scripture to agree with their confessional documents.

I don't have time to get into the discussion about Bro Robbins' position, but arguing that one can have a real church of Christ made up of unbaptized people is going to be an extremely hard one to defend exegetically, since baptism is how one is added to the church (Acts 2:41-47; 1 Cor 12:13). Presbyterians are an ekklesia/assembly of people--but so were the heathen in Acts 19. They are not Christ's "my" ekklesia of Mt 16:18, even if some of them are, thankfully, part of Christ's regenerate family. One would also expect those regenerate ones to be willing to leave and join Christ's church (2 Cor 6:14-7:1), as (while it does not teach baptismal regeneration), "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" is teaching us something that is not to be explained away into nothing.

However, Bro Bronsveld, your arguments are excellent and I agree wholeheartedly.

Thanks.

Tyler Robbins said...

Let's all agree on this one point - baptism is by immersion upon a genuine profession of faith, anything else is not baptism at all, and baptism is a foundamental mark of a true church.

To move the discussion forward with anyone who cares to interject, let me ask this again - can a Christian organization practice Scriptural baptism, yet because of other doctrinal failings, still qualify as a "church," from your point of view? For example, (1) no practice of church discipline, (2) no discipleship, (3) a self-centered hermeneutic, (4) an irrelevant practice of the Lord's Supper, etc.

In other words, is baptism the only "stool" on which a true church sits, or are there other critical and foundational marks which are also necessary to constitute a true church? What are these marks? Do ALL of them have to be present in order to have a true church? What if some are weak (e.g. church discipline), but not altogether missing?

I believe this gets to the heart of our disagreement. Let's continue with this, and see where we go.

James Bronsveld said...

Tyler,

In answer to your first question about the practical differences between your position and mine (i.e. Is it just an academic exercise because our practice is the same?), let me say that the practical differences may or may not be immediately discernible (although I think they would be seen in the comparative urgency of our approaches to members of such churches to exhort them to leave and join true churches) depending on what we mean when we speak of personal and ecclesiastical separation.

I can affirm, however, that more important than differences in practice is the importance of fidelity to Scripture (relying solely on Scripture for authority) and consequently doctrinal purity. In other words, having the Scripture as the authority versus a subjective limited tolerance for false worship will produce divergent (and eventually widely divergent) practices.

Our practice may be indistinguishable because your separation from them is built upon a softer, more subjective position. (I'm basing that on previous statements made about being happy they're doing well, seeing them as faithful Christians/churches who are wrong on ecclesiology, etc.) But subjective positions are moveable, which is why, for example, you and Kevin Bauder (if I understood your previous comments precisely) can hold identical or nearly identical views on the nature and authority of peadobaptist churches but have differing practice in relation to them. That, I believe, is due to a more subjective reasoning for separation. Bauder simply moves the practice because he can comfortably do so coming from the position that they are true churches who are simply wrong in one area of practice. You, on the other hand, may not be comfortable doing so, but in both cases, the subjectiveness of the position or intent to separate gives greater latitude for tolerance of grievous error.

If one practices ecclesiastical separation from pedobaptists because the divide is simply too great, a certain amount of tolerance for their worship, or for the validity of their practice is assumed. Kind of like starting out witnessing with, "I believe God created the world,"(subjective and less likely to offend, because it leaves room for the listener to disagree and believe their position is still somewhat valid), versus making a simple declaration: "God made the world." (which forces them to confront the statement without the comfort of subjective differing opinions.)

"I won't fellowship with them because our differences are too great," is both subjective and also lacking in Scriptural authority to an extent. On the other hand, "I cannot fellowship with them because according to the Scriptures, they are false churches whose mission is to plant more churches like them, thus encouraging people not to obey the Lord's command to repent and be baptized," relies on the authority of Scripture as a basis for separation, and leaves the one objective standard for separation in place.

I could say much more about the effect these differing approaches have on the minimization of their disobedience and error, but I want to be sure I'm coming across clearly enough on this point.

Craig Kuha said...

Books to the ceiling. Books to the sky. MY pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! Ill have a long beard by the time I read them. Aaron Lobel.

Bill Hardecker said...

Tyler, the church at Corinth had many problems (discipline, Lord's supper, etc.) and yet they were still the Lord's church. I can't say at what exact point the Lord removes a candlestick but He does (cf. Rev. 2 & 3). It seems that problems don't immediately make a church a non-church. However, it seems to me, that Baptism really is the mark of a true church. What a church teaches and practices about baptism would seem to be the tell-all of whether or not the church is a New Testament assembly of baptized believers. One Lord, one faith, one baptism is what we have in the New Testament. His Word prescribes it and therefore it is the standard. IMHO.

Tyler Robbins said...

Bill:

Good points. You referred to Eph 4:5. I'm inclined to believe Paul is referring to salvation in Eph 4. Paul mentions:

(1) one and the same Lord (God or Jesus), (2) one and the same faith (the Gospel, and all it implies), (3) one and the same baptism (Spirit-baptism), (4) one and the same Father of us all, (5) and they're each recipients of His grace through Christ's gift. The basis of the unity of the Spirit is not the ordinance of baptism by immersion - it is a common salvation by God's grace through the Gospel.

I think it's hard to argue that Eph 4:1-7 is referring to the ordinance of baptism. Instead, Paul seems to be appealing to what they do have in common as the impetus for maintaining internal unity.

To turn to Corinth, I believe the reason why Paul still considered the congregation a church is because they were united in their faith in Christ - the unifying force was the Gospel.

This is not to say a church just needs the Gospel, and can do whatever it wants, and still be a church. I believe baptism is certainly a definitive mark of a true church. I've finished a survey through the Book of Acts, looking at "marks" of a church, and it is one - no question.

I'll post a link here when I post my article on the Book of Acts and the marks of a church, in a week or so.

Bill Hardecker said...

Tyler,

It would be strange to read into the one baptism of Eph. 4:5 anything else beside believer's baptism. If it is "Spirit baptism," then what is the point of believer's baptism? And what becomes of the command of Christ to baptize some from among those who are first taught from all nations in Matt. 28:19? I don't think the one baptism could be anything but believer's baptism.

Baptism (Scriptural baptism by immersion) proclaims agreement or unity with authority ("One Lord,") since it does what the Lord Jesus said to do. It demonstrates unity of doctrine ("one faith") in that it perfectly pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is a picture of the Gospel (although not itself the Gospel). For example, you see the Ethiopian eunuch wanting to get baptized in Acts 8, and why is that so? And that too was also believer's baptism, not "Spirit baptism."

Back to the context of Eph. 4, believer's baptism unites a believer to a church (the "one body" or "the body of Christ").

In a way, I think, baptism really is THE mark of a true church because believer's baptism honors the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord vested his churches with the authority to baptize.

So you see, I don't believe that it is hard to argue believer's baptism in Eph. 4, at all. Think about this, you say "Paul seems to be appealing to what they do have in common as the impetus for maintaining internal unity." But unity where? in the church? and what is the nature of the church? Is it local, visible? or is it universal, mystical? And if it is universal, mystical how could it be "fitly joined" and "compacted" (4:16)? On and on we could go, but I digress, for now.