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I thought this post might be helpful for those seeking to keep track at home regarding the credobaptism-paedobaptism-membership-Lord’s Supper debate. Here’s a recap.

1. John Piper used to believe that excluding paedobaptists from membership in a Baptist church but fellowshipping with them in other venues demonstrates a commitment to both serious love and serious unity.

Local Christian communities, called churches, are built around shared Biblical convictions, some of which are essential for salvation and some of which are not. We do not define our covenant life together only by the narrowest possible set of beliefs one must have to be saved. We believe rather that the importance of truth and the authority of Scripture are better honored when communities of Christian faith define themselves by clusters of Biblical convictions and stand by them, rather than redefining the meaning of membership each time one of their convictions is disputed. When different Christian communities can do this while expressing love and brotherly affection for other believers, both truth and love are well-served. For example, the fact that many of the speakers we invite to the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors could not be members of this church says that we take love and unity seriously and we take truth seriously.

2. Wayne Grudem used to believe that the best path of wisdom in the credobaptist vs. paedobaptist debate was in “allowing both views of baptism to be taught and practiced in denominations on both sides of the question.” In other words, according to Grudem’s 1st edition of his Systematic Theology textbook, a paedobaptist should be able to join a Baptist church.

3. But then Piper and Grudem switched teams.

In 2005 Piper sought to persuade the elders (thus far unsuccessfully) to allow the possibility of informed paedobaptists to become members of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Grudem rewrote that section in his theology textbook. He wrote, in part, “For someone who holds to believer’s baptism, admitting to church membership someone who has not been baptized upon profession of faith, and telling the person that he or she never has to be baptized as a believer, is really giving up one’s view on the proper nature of baptism.”

4. Piper publicly responded to Grudem’s rewritten section.

5. Grudem offered a short reply.

6. Mark Dever then joined the fray with a post on Baptism, Church Membership and Congregationalism.

7. Abraham Piper (Son of John) penned a response to Mark on the issue of unrepentant sin.

8. Dever, returning from a presumably restful vacation to find a blogstorm waiting for him, offered a reply regarding the issue of unrepentant sin.

9. Credobaptist Sam Storms then entered the mix. Noting that Dever and Mohler would deny the Lord’s Supper to paedobaptist Ligon Duncan, Storms asks, “How can we claim to be ‘together’ or ‘united’ for the sake of the gospel and turn away a brother or sister from the very expression and proclamation of that gospel that is so central to the life and testimony of the church?” Grudem amens Storms’s argument. Storms also responded to a commenter who thinks Dever may sometimes allow paedobaptists to partake of the Supper.

10. Ligon Duncan has now posted a response. He writes, in part: “This significant difference (on baptism and church membership), far from being fatal to our unity, is precisely one of the reasons that Mark and Al and C.J. and I are in fact ‘Together for the Gospel.’ It is precisely one of the things that makes Together for the Gospel so different and extraordinary.” In his next post he’ll seek “to explain (historically, theologically and practically) in these posts is why this discussion/difference/disagreement, far from being a fatal contradiction of our unity in the Gospel is precisely a picture of the uncompromising unity that we enjoy.”

By the way, there are some who think that bloggers can’t be journalists. Well, Between Two Worlds is going to break some exclusive news here. Trusted sources tell Between Two Worlds that Ligon Duncan was not baptized as an infant, but was baptized as a believer! This certainly adds a wrinkle to the discussion, doesn’t it? So shouldn’t Dever accept Duncan both into membership and at the Lord’s Table? Inquiring minds want to know!

I’m not sure why anyone would care what my position is, but I agree with old Piper, new Grudem, and unchanging Storms. I agree with Dever about membership and disagree with him regarding the Lord’s Supper. And I think we’d all get along if we just followed the happy middlemen, Ted Christman and Vern Poythress!


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Comments:


31 thoughts on “Baptizoblogodebate Roundup (with Breaking News)”

  1. Jerry says:

    What a comprehensive review of the subject in such a small space. it kind of makes you wonder what those folks who disdain blogging are rebelling against.

    Thanks for the good work.

  2. Elnwood says:

    It is my understanding that Capitol Hill Baptist allows all members of evangelical churches in good standing, including paedobaptists, to take communion.

    Many baptist churches, including the one I currently attend, would accept Duncan as a member since he had a true baptism. It is my understanding, though, that Capitol Hill Baptist Church, as a confessional church subscribing to the New Hampshire Baptist Confession, would not allow Duncan into membership because he would not be able to sign that statement of faith in good conscience. This is a doctrinal safeguard since Capitol Hill Baptist is congregationally governed.

  3. CalvDispy says:

    “I agree with… unchanging Storms.”

    Does this mean you have weathered the persitent ‘storms’ of controversy with no let up in the gale?

  4. Jake says:

    This is quite possibly my favorite firestorm since my faithful readership of BTW began. It has real potential to keep me from my work. I think BTW should do more expose’ work along these lines.

  5. Matt Foreman says:

    Thanks, Justin. Great post! In the famous words of Delmar, “I’m with you fellas” (that is, you, Justin).

  6. Mason says:

    I posted this on Dever’s blog – In the New Testament, not being allowed to fellowship with a body of believers is tantamount to proclaiming belief that this person’s profession of faith is not valid. In other words, to deny someone fellowship is to proclaim them unregenerate. This problem is insurmountable. Are they your brothers? If yes, why will you not let them be apart of your local church? If not, why would you spend time “fellowshipping” with them outside of the meetings? Where is this third catagory in the NT (i.e. someone is not being disciplined but cannot be apart of the fellowship)?

  7. Alex Chediak says:

    Thanks for pulling out that old John Piper sermon. I, too, am with the old Piper, new Grudem, and unchanging Storms (with respect to open communion).

  8. m b redmond says:

    UMMM, I am still waiting after 3 posts at 9marks to get a reponse to my request for a biblical argument for the exclusion of a paedobaptist believer from the Lord’s table b/c he or she is a paedobaptist. Can someone please give me something…just a hint… or just point me in the right direction.

  9. Bryan C. McWhite says:

    This has been a great stuff, fellas, thanks.

    I’m still with new Piper and old Grudem. The comment Piper once made along the lines of: ‘Who am I not to welcome someone into my local church whom Christ has welcomed into his universal church?’ seems absolutely conclusive to me. If Jesus says, “Welcome,” that’s good enough for me.

    I cannot fathom that God would be pleased in me forbidding Sinclair, Lig, Keller, Ryken (not to mention Luther, Edwards, Calvin, etc.) if they were earnestly seeking membership in my church.

  10. Mark L says:

    I want to get in trouble with this note.

    I think there is a way for a paedobaptist to come under the oversight of elders of a credo-baptist church and partake of communion. I advocated his in my baptist days . . . with what has been called watchcare membership. yes, it is not a biblical idea. Traditionally it has been used for military personnel or students who are temporarily far from home but want to be under the elders of a church.

    I advocated that we apply it to folks who were not quite in doctrinal agreement with us but who could find no other church of similar doctrinal persuasion to their own.

    The example was an elderly dutch couple who were thoroughly reformed, were paedobaptists and had a very strong conviction about being under elders. There were no other reformed churches within twenty miles. They were 78 years old and not going to change their minds. I thought we should take them under our care as a compromise, but, in our case, they would not have been able to vote (we were congregationalists), but they would receive our care, and participate in communion, etc.

    I think there may be an argument that comes from providence — that we make allowances for the extreme cases. Their actions were an honoring of the church and truth. If a reformed paedo baptist church had been started nearby, we would have commended them.

    is not the problem with the narrowness we apply to the idea of a member?

  11. michele says:

    I’m surprised that there are requirements to membership at all. Why would you guys deny a Christian the ability to join your church?

    I hope that someone answers m b redmond’s question because I can’t see any biblical warrant for this type of exclusion.

  12. Shamgar says:

    Of course there are requirements to membership. The point is simply being missed. Under the NT, all believers were under the semi-direct authority of the apostles themselves. Any question of orthodoxy was answered w/out question by them. Hence there was no such thing as denominations. Those who wrote, could also interpret.

    Today, we don’t have that. God has given us his word as our guide, and it is for us to interpret and apply that word practically as faithfully as we can. There are two primary groups who still follow this principle of Sola Scriptura (not only two, but two primary). They are reformed/Reformed baptists, and reformed presbyterians.

    Each of us have a different view of how we interpret what God has done in history and how he has established his church. We both have strong biblical arguments which support our positions, and see it as the authority which guides us to these.

    Yet we are both committed to the exact same Gospel, even though the way we practice it has some visibly different variations. It so happens that the way presbyterians practice it doesn’t prohibit them from accepting a baptist into their congregation. However, I think a truly convicted baptist would have a difficult time signing a presbyterian statement of faith regardless.

    The reverse isn’t true. It doesn’t mean they aren’t Christians, in fact that is, as Duncan says, the beautiful part of it. Even though we have convictions that run against each other, we see no need to fight each other. We love and respect our presbyterian brothers, and vice versa. We know what motivates their hearts, and we welcome them in fellowship anytime.

    However, we cannot allow them to be a /member/ which is not the same thing as denying them fellowship, without them abandoning their convictions – which we would not ask them to do without they themselves seeing the biblical warrant to do so.

    It is precisely our mutual commitment to biblical truth and our respective convictions that allows us to work side by side and respect each other and see unity despite our differences.

    It’s not like there are lines of presbyterians clamoring to get into baptist churches and we’re just turning them away into the darkness. Some are really making a mountain out of a molehill here. Most presbyterians have no particular desire to be a part of a baptist church. It’s far more common for a baptist to have no biblical church to call home and fellowship with a presbyterian church than the reverse.

  13. greglong says:

    Matt Redmond,

    Here is the logic behind those who would exclude a paedobaptist from communion. It is based on two suppositions from Scripture.

    1. The nature, meaning, and mode of baptism. If a person believes that the only truly biblical baptism is believer’s baptism by immersion, then infant “baptism” is not baptism at all, but just getting the baby wet.

    2. The nature and meaning of communion. If it is believed that only those who are a part of the universal body of Christ who have joined themselves to the local body of Christ can partake, and if that local body requires believer’s baptism by immersion for membership, then those who haven’t been biblically baptized cannot partake. Simple as that.

    Now, I have not taken time to unfold the biblical arguments behind each of these statements, and of course it must be admitted that Bible believing Christians differ, but at least now you understand some of the reasoning behind the decision.

    In other words, a paedobaptist might say to a credobaptist, “Why can’t I take communion? Why can’t I join your church? I’ve been baptized!” The credobaptist would respond, “No, you haven’t been baptized.”

  14. m b redmond says:

    greg long said…

    ‘paedobaptist might say to a credobaptist, “Why can’t I take communion? Why can’t I join your church? I’ve been baptized!” The credobaptist would respond, “No, you haven’t been baptized.”‘

    Don’t get me wrong I know the logic. I understand the arguments about meaning and mode of baptism very well.

    The question is “where is the biblical (not confessional and not systematic) warrant for excluding a blood bought borther or sister in Christ from the table?”

  15. matt o. says:

    Matt,

    Your frustrations are well placed given that the NT does not speak clearly, or perhaps not at all, to this issue. First, all of the baptisms in the NT are 1st generation, missionary baptisms. It doesn’t really address the issue of what to do with 2nd generation children of believers. Secondly, Acts 2:38 indicates that water baptism may be a preparatory rite for Spirit baptism. Notice the order: repent->water->Spirit. I assume we all agree that one becomes a Christian when the Spirit comes to that person. However, Acts 10:44-48 demonstrates that one may receive the Spirit prior to water baptism. So, all talk about “thing-signified/sign” doesn’t really take into account the all of the textual evidence. Peter did not say in Acts 2:38 that he would baptize someone only after clear evidence of Spirit reception. Actually, it is the opposite. The point is that there is no normative baptismal rite prescribed by the NT. The NT is descriptive, not prescriptive, of what happened during the initial mission of the new church. Third, ‘baptizo’ does not necessarily mean immerse or dip. It refers to a water rite and basically means to wash. The Didache’s acceptance of pouring as an acceptable, though not primary, mode of baptism demonstrates this.

    I recommend Ben Witherington’s “Troubled Waters” as an exegetical foundation for helping us all get past this debate.

    That being said, may our Triune God grant us grace to move on in unity.

    Grace and peace,

    Matt O.

  16. el gordo says:

    Redman,

    you’re just all hot and bothered b/c you jumped ship a few years back. You’re still a believer baptizer at heart, and your conscience is getting the best of you. Come back to the fold, my Van Morrison lovin’ brother!

    Great post and timely for us, as we’re going thru a series of “what and why” of baptism at Coquina. We are believer baptist, but admit psuedobaptists … uh, paedobaptists … as members and for communion. One thing we do, and what needs to be done more: we teach about the meaning and importance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the biblical and spiritual significance.

  17. pilgrim says:

    I’m not saying this settles the issue–but I believe it would be helpful to this discussion to read what a great Christian mind said in the oast when facing similar issues–in fact at a time when the consequences had greater significance.

    Check out John Owen’s work-
    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/owen/churchlove.i.viii.html
    including this statement-
    “He, therefore, who professeth and pleadeth his willingness to observe and do in church-communion whatever Christ hath instituted and commanded cannot regularly be refused the communion of any church, under any pretence of his refusal to do other things which confessedly are not so required.”

  18. Matt Foreman says:

    Putting things together – I’m assuming that Capitol Hill practices a temporary open communion policy. Meaning – any believer visiting their church who is a member in good standing in a biblical church is allowed to take communion. But they don’t accept permanent visitors – people who hang around the church for years and never join. They would view this as rebellious and disorderly. Dever (rightly, I think) views the Lord’s Table as a real communion of the church. A Presbyterian who attempted to attend their church for a long time but not join (because of baptism) would be seen as out of real communion and not under authority. This would be the real reason to refuse them the Lord’s Table. Dever’s advice, I assume, would be: submit to baptism and join or, if your conscience won’t let you, join a church where you are in agreement. Until then, we’re not even going to talk about Lord’s Supper.

  19. Urguess says:

    What would the Church Fathers say about my dilemma? I know they wrestled with heretical baptism.
    When I was 30, I was baptized in private by a “Jesus Only”, non-Trinitarian Pentecostal minister. I was pretty immature spiritually, but a believer, nevertheless. Would you say this is a valid baptism?

  20. Pastor Klay says:

    Here’s a few points to consider:

    1) It is inconceivable that a person should be admitted to the celebratory rite of the New Covenant community (Communion) without first having received the initiatory rite (Baptism). We even see this in the signs of the Old Covenant – a person had to be circumcised (initiatory) to partake in the passover (celebratory).

    2) For the same reason above, every major Christian denomination (including the Presbyterians) require Baptism as a prerequisite to Communion. They just have a very loose definition of what constitutes Baptism. We “seem” overly strict because of our particular view of baptism NOT our view of communion – though most do not understand this and think the reverse.

    3) Communion is an ordinance of the local church for confessing members of Christ’s Church. The only ecclesiastical means Christ has given us to ID those in or out of this Church is the ordinance of baptism. I can personally recognize the fruit of conversion through other means, but this is not the same issue.

    4) I would receive members of paedobaptist congregations to the Lord’s Table IF they have received believer’s baptism, which is entirely possible.

  21. m b redmond says:

    My good friend el gordo said…

    “you’re just all hot and bothered b/c you jumped ship a few years back. You’re still a believer baptizer at heart, and your conscience is getting the best of you. Come back to the fold, my Van Morrison lovin’ brother!”

    ok!

    Psator Kay,

    You still did not give a biblical warrant for such a position. I appreciate your passion and clarity but they will not convince without the rock-solid foundation of the Scriptures. Can you please use the Scriptures to show me this as a biblical position and not simply a theological one.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if only the circumcised children ate the passover?

  23. Zach says:

    One reason that it is hard to reach a Biblically satisfying consensus on many such questions is that they contain presuppositions which are foreign to the Bible to begin with. It is good to examine our answers against Scripture, but we also need to go one step further and examine our questions against Scripture.

    In this case the presupposition that most of us are bringing to both sides of the issue is a extra-Biblical notion of “church membership”. I do not see in Scripture that God’s people maintained scrolls that recorded who was a church “member” and who was not. First Corinthians 12 is probably the portion of the NT where the concept of a “member” of the body of Christ is discussed most clearly, and it has nothing to do with your name being on a list maintained by the church secretary.

    Is denying someone “membership” in the local church tantamount to disfellowship/excommunication in (the sense of Mt 18:17, 1 Cor 5, etc.)? Well, the latter concept is at least familiar to certain Scriptural contexts while the former, as far as I can see, is not. So if I seek to respond “Biblically”, I stub my toe on the question before even starting on the answer.

    With the church “roster” out of the way, a cloud is lifted for certain questions to be answered more clearly, while other questions now have to be addressed or readdressed. For example, how then do we know who is allowed to vote? Response: start by examining presuppositions behind this concept of “voting”…

  24. Pastor Klay says:

    As promised HERE is a beginning sketch in support of “Close Communion”.

  25. Wolf N. Paul says:

    I find this discussion interesting, and for the most part displaying the respect we as Christians should show for each other even when we disagree.

    The only discordant note (to me at least) is Mark Dever’s assertion that Paedobaptists who continue in this view are unrepentant sinners.

    I am a strong advocate for individual believers and churches holding their beliefs with the conviction that they are correct and biblical (after all, if we didn’t think our beliefs were correct, we should be compelled to find out what the correct beliefs are, and to adopt them).

    However, in view of the divided state of the Body of Christ, and the clear evidence of God’s Spirit working in believers who on some points are persuaded differently from us, and especially in view of Paul’s statement that in this present age/state we “see through a glass, darkly”, the conviction of our own orthodoxy must be tempered with the humble acknowledgment that we, too, see through a glass, darkly, and that, while we don’t think so, it is conceivable that we are mistaken.

    Calling someone an unrepentant sinner for following his honestly held convictions, in an area where serious, Spirit-filled Christians have disagreed practically since the beginning of the Church, does not display that humilty.

    Further, one could argue that the Paedobaptist who submits to what in his eyes must be a “re-baptism”, would thereby be committing a sin, because “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

    BTW, I live in Austria, where the Baptist Union has recently (within the past five years) debated this issue of the status of convinced Paedobaptists in their congregations, and has not reached a consensus. It is thus not a new debate nor one limited to the US.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Quote:

    Anonymous said…
    I wonder if only the circumcised children ate the passover?

    Reply:
    Hebrew children were circumcised on the eighth day after birth, and were breastfed up to possibly the age of three years. By the time they started eating solid food (passover) they would long since have been circumcised.

  27. centuri0n says:

    Aw Dude.

    It’s no surprise to some people that I really like Shamgar’s answer, but I think he overlooked something which actually makes his case much stronger: the divergent practice is paedobaptism.

    There’s no question, I think, that paedobapotism existed in the first 2 centuries as a microscopic-minority practice, and then sort of took over after the 3rd century. As the divergent and late practice of the church, we have to ferret out why this practice took over as the majority practice — and determine why it was not practiced as normative early on.

    The divergent view has a defense of itself — and we have to decide if that defense is compatible with credobaptist theology as it manifests the local church. If it is not, we have to uphold our view of the ordinance as normative and require it for membership; we have to understand our view of membership (that is, a regenerate membership) to express our view of the table (for believers only).

    I have sympathy for the Sam Storms argument, but I can’t work it out to the place where I think my preference expresses what Scripture expresses.

  28. centuri0n says:

    Wolf N. Paul:

    I think you’re mistaken about early disagreement about baptism. The view of what baptism accomplished changed over time, and in that, the practiced moved from credo to paedo.

    In that, there are non-sacralist reasons for presbyterian baptism. Those would be the reason we have to wrestle with, and they were not really expressed in the first 2 centuries of the church.

  29. Anonymous says:

    There is legitimate difference of opinion with respect to historical evidence of preferred mode of baptism. Was the Jordan deep enough year-round to immerse everyone? When shallow, what did they do? What if they couldn’t get a large person all the way under? If God’s grace is contingent upon the fine details of these matters, then how can one ever be sure his mode of baptism is precisely right? Perhaps the words used at the moment are not precisely right. Or maybe it should be a river or stream rather than a baptismal fount.
    Let each man be fully persuaded in his own mind and heart, and let’s move on. If God turns out to be obsessed with the particulars in all such matters then who can stand? Is there enough love in the church to cover the multitude of inherent inadequacies in our practice of the sacriments? If not, then we really are in trouble.

  30. centuri0n says:

    I am not aware of any debate over the mode of baptism. One of the great treasures of second-generation Christianity is the Didache, and it says this about the rite:

    [quote]
    1 Concerning baptism, baptise thus: Having first rehearsed all these things, “baptise, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” in running water; 2 but if thou hast no running water, baptise in other water, and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm. 3 But if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head “in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” 4 And before the baptism let the baptiser and him who is to be baptised fast, and any others who are able. And thou shalt bid him who is to be baptised to fast one or two days before.
    [/QUOTE]

    The last resort is the pouring/sprinkling form. That doesn’t make it invalid: it simply means that it is not the preferred method.

  31. Pastor Patrick says:

    Great recap. Thanks for the succinct summary!

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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