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!