An Imagined Exchange at a ‘No Creed’ Church

For those of you who have never heard of the Restoration Movement, Check Out This Page for a minute or two. You could also call it the “No Creed but Christ” movement.

But the Restoration Movement does have a written list of core beliefs (but no creeds). These beliefs, they believe, come straight out of the Bible (unlike creeds). Also, the affiliated churches within the movement write up their own beliefs:

“Many, if not most, RM congregations have a written “Statement of Beliefs.” Such a statement is for information only, and is not a standard to which one must agree in order to have fellowship.”

There is a list of “main practices” on the page I linked above, here’s one of them:

C. Believer’s baptism by immersion. Only those who choose to be baptised are baptised (we do not baptise infants or children who are too young to understand the decision). We baptise by full immersion in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I have never seen ‘baptise’ spelled like that.

Moving on. This will be the source statement for my imagined conversation at a RM church *Satire Alert!*:

Guy with newborn baby: “Hello pastor, I would like to get my newborn son baptized soon.”

RM Pastor: “But we don’t baptise babies here.”

Guy: “Why not?”

RMP: “Didn’t you read the practices page on the website? We only baptise believers.”

Guy: “I did read that, but I also read that the statement is for ‘information only’ and was not binding. I believe that the children of believers are members of the covenant and should be baptized. So, when can we baptize Guy Jr.?”

RMP: “You can’t. And we won’t baptise him because the Bible doesn’t teach infant baptism.”

Guy: “But I believe it does. I also read in our statement of beliefs that we allow diversity here around issues ‘not explicitly described in the Bible.’ So even though we don’t find an example of an infant ‘being sprinkled’ ‘explicitly described’ in the New Testament, the teaching and command to have the sign of baptism administered to our covenant children is clearly there. If you have a moment I can show you, for starters, how baptism has replaced circumcu…”

RMP: “…I’m not interested in your proofs! This church doesn’t believe in sprinkling babies and we don’t practice it. So good day.”

Guy: “But you’re denying my son the sign of the covenant and are not letting my family practice our beliefs…”

RMP: “…I said good day!”

***

-A little too much? Probably. But that was fun for me.

Would you prefer creeds (and confessions) or chaos?

Good day!

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75 Responses to An Imagined Exchange at a ‘No Creed’ Church

  1. “Guy” has such a firm belief in paedobaptism that I wonder why he’s attending an RM church in the first place…

  2. Rick says:

    I think he likes the preaching.

    C’mon aug, suspend disbelief.

    Good point though.

  3. Zrim says:

    I’ve played that exchange in my head before with a local non-denom.

    You do have to hand it to credo-baptists in general: they are stalwart about not administrating to children. And you really have to take it away from the “Bapterians” in our paedo-baptist circles who “don’t want {my} child to be baptized until he can walk himself to the font.”

    I think ‘baptise’ is the English spelling…

  4. Pingback: Just How Creedless is “No Creed But Christ”? « Heidelblog

  5. whiskeyjack1 says:

    Suspended disbelief, exactly. I was raised in that type of movement and it does happen sort of that way. You’re told that the “Statement of Faith” is just that, a statement. But when you begin to question its scriptural foundation you are quickly shown the door, often forcefully, rapidly discovering the teeth of their “informal” statement.

    Nothing like dogmatism without content, I say.

  6. Nothing like dogmatism without content, I say.

    Sounds a lot like the modern liberal “virtue” of tolerance… which is really only tolerant of itself.

    And, you’re right, that’s English. Thoze Britz really don’t like the letter ‘z’ (read: ‘zed’) at all, for zome reazon…

  7. You gotta hand it to those baptists for their PR machine, which is so much better than ours.

    I was telling some potential elders last night how that it’s amazing that we accept baptist immersions and Roman Catholic infant-sprinklings, and yet somehow we’re the ones who are supposed all hung up on precise forms!

  8. Machaira says:

    I was telling some potential elders last night how that it’s amazing that we accept baptist immersions and Roman Catholic infant-sprinklings, and yet somehow we’re the ones who are supposed all hung up on precise forms!

    You got that right! I never thought about it that way before. Good point.

  9. Zrim says:

    Auggie,

    Funny how “liberal tolerance” and “fundamentalist intolerance” have just so very much in common. Speaking of tee-shirts, I am thinking of getting Thomas Oden’s line stamped across one for my next family reunion: “Fundamentalists and Liberals have more in common than either would be willing to admit.” I get so tired of the small talk an Icthus symbol generates…

    I’ll refrain from commenting on any adverseness about the letter ‘z,’ except to say that I did get my alphabetical revenge on a Dutchie named Zylstra once in grade school.

  10. No way, Zs are killer, especially when you’re trying to reach the youth.

    For example, instead of calling your youth group “Teens for Jesus” you just call it “Teenz for Jesus,” and it really speaks to them on their level.

    Now if we ever get smart enough to call it “Teenz for Jezuz” we’ll be looking at a Third Great Awakening.

    Man, I gotta quit my day job and become a church consultant….

  11. Now Zrim, be careful that you know who you’re talking to… I happen to be a “Dutchie” myself (though of the three-generations-removed Americanized variety). No ‘z’s, myself, though one of those awful throat-clearing ‘ij’s was in our name before Ellis Island thoughtfully made it a ‘y’ and removed the need for expectoratory self-identification.

  12. Mike Brown says:

    In fairness, though, there is an unfortunate amount of chaos going on within many creedal churches. Try this imagined exchange:

    Baptist-Parent-Potential-New-Member: “Hello Pastor, my family and I would like to join this Presbyterian church, but we don’t want to baptize our children.”

    Presbyterian-Pastor (and I don’t mean PCUSA!): “That’s OK, as long as you believe the Apostles’ Creed and can make an otherwise credible profession of faith, we will let you join.”

    BPPNM: “But your church holds to the Westminster Standards which explictly teaches and prescribes covenant infant baptism. In fact WCF XXVIII.5 says that you believe ‘it to be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance.’

    PP: “It does? Let me see that…”

    PP: “Hmm. Yes, our confession does say that, but it doesn’t matter. If you are a Christian, we welcome you and your unbaptized children into membership. Yes, I guess we do confess that it is a great sin to neglect baptism, but, well…I don’t know. It just wouldn’t be nice not to let you in.”

    Creed or chaos?

  13. Bruce S. says:

    Don’t know about baptise being a UK-ism but they tripped up on the spelling of catechism.

    From what I read, it does appear that they won’t reject a believer who was baptized as an infant. Maybe they hadn’t thought of that one. That uncovers a basic problem with these Powerpoint, bulletized creeds. They aren’t nearly exhaustive.

    I may be presumptive here, but I am pretty sure they know some basic things – one for example is that a good working definition of believer is creed-sayer obviously from the Latin “credo == I believe”. A believer is someone who can truthfully say “credo“. All we need now is a direct object. Whose direct object will be acceptable? Well, it appears that the direct object here is in the possession of the ones who hold the list of “essentials”. So, not only do they have a creed (even though they are keeping the “essentials” secret at this point) but they are subscriptionists of a sort too. The elements of their creed are essential, which I think means you have to believe them.

    I also find this interesting

    Local control of congregations. Any and all decisions that affect a congregation, such as hiring, transfer or termination of staff; budget allocations; building projects; etc. are made by that congregation. No congregation is accountable to any governing heirarchy.

    This statement is included in order to keep out the thousands of Episcopalian congregations who are trying to join up.

  14. Mike,

    Ha! We just talked about this issue at officer training last night.

    Try this imaginary exchange on for size:

    Visiting Lutheran Pastor to Christ Reformed Church: “Hi, Pastor Riddlebarger, I’m a LCMS minister visiting my daughter who attends your church, and I’d like to take the Supper.”

    Pastor Riddlebarger: “Umm, OK…. Can you explain Calvin’s view of the mystical presence?”

    VLP: “Well, yeah, but I don’t believe it. I believe Luther’s view of consubstantiation.”

    PR: “So you’re NOT Zwinglian? That’s good enough for us! See ya at the Table — and if I’m ever in your city, I’ll be sure to worship with you folks.”

    VLP: “Uhh… alright. But we won’t commune you.”

    I think there’s plenty of creedal chaos to go around….

  15. Rick says:

    Pastor Brown,
    Well done. You’re right.

    JJS,
    ouch. But who do you see as the wrong party?

  16. Your imaginary conversation would have included an invitation to have the baby dedicated to the Lord. We pray for and ask God’s blessing on the babies and pray for the parents as well, but, of course, we believe that in every case in the New Testament, baptism followed repentance and salvation. When you stand before God, you will stand or fall alone, not with your mom and dad.

    I’m sure you already know that we believe that infant baptism is a leftover from Roman Cath. that you fellas neglected to reform, desperately trying to shoehorn it in from Scripture, when it really came from Roman Catholic traditions of men….way to go!

  17. Mike Brown says:

    JSS,

    Your example is HARDLY the same thing. The Consistory at Christ Reformed in your example would still be following their confessions and church order. The Presbyterian pastor in my example has trumped their confessions and Hebrews 13.17 for the sake of one’s conscience.

    Albino,

    Your imaginary conversation would have included an invitation to have the baby dedicated to the Lord. . Right. Baby dedications in the New Covenant. Now, that’s biblical!

  18. Mike Brown says:

    And while I’m asking, how do I post an avatar in WordPress land? It’s not that I feel the need to express myself, it’s just that the Platonist-anti-body-anti-material-world-generic-avatar really annoys me.

  19. Rick says:

    Al
    …but this post isn’t about baptism per se – So I don’t feel the need to engage you on that turf…again. We’ve been there a few times already. But you are brave man and the OH sitters all love you.

    Pastor Brown, you need a wordpress account. wordpress.com. (it doesn’t mean you need to get a wordpress blog, you can sign up just for the sake of commenting on wordpress blogs).

  20. Mike,

    I never said both situations were “the same,” only that they’re both confusing. You guys are the consistent ones, I’ll agree with you there. And I lean that way.

    BTW, how would CRC’s consistory be “following their confessions” by communing a Lutheran?

  21. Echo_ohcE says:

    Albino,

    You know good and well that it’s not like we SAY, “Look, we know no one in the NT was baptized apart from a profession of faith and repentance, but we just want to baptize infants anyway.”

    You ascribe arbitrariness to our position, when in point of fact, we DO claim to see our position supported by Scripture.

    For example:

    “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.” (Acts 16:14-15 ESV)

    It says SHE believed, but it never says her household believed, yet they were all baptized.

    But you said: “in every case in the New Testament, baptism followed repentance and salvation.”

    What you said is DIRECTLY contradicted by what the BIBLE says.

    The arbitrariness that you want to ascribe to our position should really be ascribed to YOUR position of baby dedication, which is NOWHERE mentioned in the NT. Anywhere. Nowhere at all. You just made it up.

    You say creeds are nice but the Word of God is better, but how can you, when you don’t know what it says?

  22. I, personally, see the steps of infant baptism -> confession of faith to be largely parallel to dedication -> conversion baptism. I was raised in a non-creedal family that chose churches based on community, not doctrine, and my experience is of the latter path.

    However, since discovering and embracing Reformed theology (and first being really weirded out by infant baptism), I’ve come to realize that the difference between those two paths really isn’t about which ceremony includes water. In my eyes, it’s about treating the person as an individual or as the member of a covenant unit (family, church).

    There’s probably much more to it than that, but from this layman’s perspective that’s what it seems.

  23. Mike Brown says:

    JSS,

    Both situations might be confusing, but one, in my opinion, is much more than confusing, it’s chaotic.

    When the Anaheim URC (or any URC for that matter) admits or denies a visitor to the Table, it is applying URCNA CO Art 45, which in part reads: “Visitors may be admitted provided that, as much as possible, the Consistory is assured of their biblical church membership, of their proper profession of faith, and of their godly walk.”

    In your scenario, the Anaheim Consistory would be convinced that the LCMS pastor met that requirement, since he comes from a church that the Consistory believes is true, according to Belgic Confession Article 29.

    Now, a member in good standing from the URC might go to a LCMS church (actually, I am not so sure about the LCMS, but this certainly would apply with a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran church) and be denied.

    That might seem confusing to you, but to me it’s not. Not at all, actually. The local governing body of elders in a church are the ones who must apply what they confess. We do not merely invoke our confessions and church orders, we must also apply them, which, as you know, is not always easy, neat and tidy. Nevertheless, it is not confusing to me if one admits and one denies, because in both cases, there is no breach of what that church actually confesses. Moreover, I would not be offended in the least if, when visiting a Lutheran church, the elders kindly said, “You know, we think it would be best if you just abstained today.” I respect that.

    But in the case of the OPC or PCA church that allows Baptists into membership without baptizing their children is not only confusing, but sheer chaos. The session, in that particular case, has not applied what they confess; rather, they have, in actuality, denied what they confess. There is no way around this one.

    True, there is a lot of creedal chaos to go around, but I don’t think your example made your point. The OPC or PCA admitting Baptists into membership – not to the Table, but to membership, in submission to the elders – is a glaring case of creedal chaos that could easily be remedied.

    The problem is, as you know, that would not be considered winsome. But the “W” stands for Westminster. And those fellas would not have done what many Presbyterian churches are doing today.

  24. Mike Brown says:

    That is, the “W” in WCF.

    Sorry. I need to get a WordPress account so I can preview my comments. 😉

  25. wgpubs says:

    I think someone should call the cops on Guy for wanting his infant to get dunked in water! 🙂

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with a buddy of mine who used to be an elder at a creedless church. I asked him how they would discipline a member for false doctrine without any creeds/confessions by which the person would first have to subscribe to in order to become a member. His answer: “I don’t know.”

    The real answer in most cases is that it never even happens. And even if it does, on what grounds can you even charge someone with false doctrine in a creedless church where truth itself is treated as relative and “open for interpretation” … especially truth as it comes to us in Scripture.

    – wayde

  26. Echo, Classic argument from silence, which is what you are reduced to when you preserve a Roman Catholic tradition. No mention of all of Lydia’s little infants. If this was such a key “covenant seal” don’t you think, just one time, it would be mentioned that babies were sprinkled? But since you cowboys violate direct and explicit commands in Pauline letters, “forbid not speaking in tongues”, it doesn’t shock me that you would make up other commands that aren’t there that must be obeyed. Ugh…

  27. Okay, maybe you could make the baby-sprinkling more attractive to evangelicals at large if you had mullet-sporting evangelist named Lil Markie sing before each sprinkling impersonating a child’s voice.

  28. Echo_ohcE says:

    Albino,

    You SAID that every case of baptism was preceded by faith and repentance. Wrong. I proved it. Adjust your claim.

    E

  29. Echo_ohcE says:

    In defense of the OPC allowing credobaptists in some rare cases to become members:

    To force someone to baptize their child contrary to their conscience is to force them to sin. Whatever is not done in faith is sin.

    Meanwhile, if they are true believers, we cannot deny them the sacrament.

    Someone who is confronted with sin, and refuses to repent, is denied the sacrament. That’s different from someone who’s not convinced they’re sinning.

    E

  30. Echo_ohcE says:

    By the way, those who become members and have children who aren’t baptized: this is a temporary situation, and again, rare.

  31. Mike Brown says:

    Echo,

    So let me get this straight: your confession says that to neglect baptism is a great sin, but you are willing to sin in order to keep the Baptist brother from sinning by requiring him to do what you believe and confess Scritpure to teach.

  32. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    I am not so sure Bapterianism is as rare as you may think. Mike asks you a pretty good question. It seems to me that your views here may be what is at bottom of so much Bapterianism: a high opinion of something rather than a high view (sorta like when you engage an anti-creedalist and say the forms are “necessary and useful” but stop short of any “binding and authoritative” language).

    For what it is worth, in general to this topic, while I know it can be fraught, my sense has always been that our rationalistic age is very ill-at-ease with the notion of participating in that which is not fully understood, etc. But when my wife and I came out of broad, credo-baptist Evangelicalism (OK, hers was a harder situation having been born and bred in it, me not-so-much) and had children after being received into full membership in a Reformed church, having our children baptized wasn’t the most natural thing in the world. But, simply put, it’s what Reformed believers do (that and a lot of other stuff). What is so bad about “growing into that which you don’t quite grasp or have natural aversion to”? Isn’t that the nature of faith itself? I mean, to even believe went against my rearing.

    Which brings me bakc to Echo’s idea that “to force someone to do something they think is sin.” Seems much too weak, comports much too much with the rationalistic spirit of the age. We are talking about baptism, Echo, not signing a petition or buying a car.

  33. RubeRad says:

    Hey folks, sorry I’m late to the party! Echo, Albino, you boyz (look how relevant I am!) settle down! This is not about baptism, and no new ground is going to be covered here.

    Bruce hits the point that struck me also:

    So, not only do they have a creed (even though they are keeping the “essentials” secret at this point) but they are subscriptionists of a sort too.

    Their mention of “essentials” indicates that they admit there is such a category, but by nature they refuse to define any. (If you look at the bottom of the page, they are stricter about participation in their wiki than for admission to the Lord’s table!)

    So do they consider orthodox, historical trinitarianism to be “essential”? Scanning the page Rick linked, and also the wikipedia page another hop away, there is no appearance of “trini”. They mention that baptism is “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” but that’s just a quote from the great commission. There’s no limit to the degree of anti-trinitarian heresy that would seem to fit within their “anti-system

  34. Whiskeyjack says:

    The mention of essentials reminded me of this line from B.B. Warfield:

    “Least of all, are we to seek unity by surrendering all public or organized testimony to all truth except that minimum which-just because it is the minimum, less than which no man can believe and be a Christian-all Christians of all names can unite in confessing. Subjection to the tyranny of the unbeliever in no more essential to unity than subjection to the tyranny of the believer (say the Pope); and this of course means nothing other than- “Let him that believes least among you be your lawgiver.” There is a sense, of course, in which the visible unity of the Church is based on the common belief and confession of the body of truth held alike by all who are Christians; but this is not the same as saying that it must be based on the repression of all organized testimony to truth not yet held by all alike. Unity to the truth is not founded on disloyalty to the truth that is in Christ.”

    True Church Unity: What Is It

  35. Alan says:

    I attended a RM undergrad school, here is an actual conversation I had with one of my professors:

    Church History Prof:”We have no creed but Christ!”

    Me:”Umm, sir, that’s a creed.”

    CHP:”What do you mean?”

    Me:”Creedo, Greek, means ‘I Believe'”

    CHP:(Crickets chirping)

  36. Rick says:

    Alan,
    If my imaginary conversation would have been continued, silence would on the part of the pastor would have been the final outcome.

    Thanks for sharing.

  37. Echo_ohcE says:

    Mike Brown,

    There’s no nice, neat, easy formula for this. It is a pastoral issue. I don’t believe it’s ok to admit a baptist to church membership and just wink at his refusal to have his children baptized. It’s not something you should just let alone. It’s something you should work on and not let go of. But meanwhile, bringing them into submission to the session will provide them the leadership to begin to come into conformity with what we believe. And bringing them into membership allows them to participate in the sacrament.

    If a guy is sinning, but doesn’t understand that he’s sinning, what do you do? Do you charge him with refusal to repent, or do you seek to instruct him, bringing him along patiently in order to convince him that it actually is sin?

    I say that patience with their sin is warranted, bringing them along slowly and carefully.

    I have seen lots of people join the OPC who were unsure about baptism. But in time, they eventually came around. That’s ok. We don’t have subscriptional membership.

    That doesn’t mean we don’t care what people believe. It means we don’t mandate that they are already fully mature before they come under the care and authority of the session. Bring them under authority, bring them under the care, and shepherd them, and help them to grow.

    While they don’t have to subscribe to the WCF to become members, that IS the goal. We have the luxury of waiting patiently for that day to arrive.

    In the end, they eventually, in most cases, conform, or they leave. And if they become obstinate and stir up dissension, then discipline becomes appropriate.

    Do I think it’s a grievous sin to not baptize your children? Yeah, I do. But if someone doesn’t understand that, then they need to be made to understand it before I can presume to judge their heart to be wicked in this regard. After all, baptists may be wrong, but they are TRYING to obey what they think Scripture says. God sees that, and judges their heart accordingly.

    E

  38. Mike Brown says:

    Echo,

    I agree completely that this is a pastoral issue and that applying what we confess is not always neat and tidy. But Echo, there is a difference between applyingwhat we confess and denyingwhat we confess.

    I appreciate that you want to be patient with people. Of course, we must. That is why it is so vital to have a thorough new members’ class in which a potential new member can receive instruction on what the church confesses and a forum in which he or she can ask plenty of questions. (Ours lasts for twelve weeks and we go through the whole Three Forms of Unity.)

    But what you seem to be forgetting is that the New Testament very clearly requires Christians in a local congregation to submit to their elders (passages like Hebrews 13.17). While I sympathize greatly with the decision to admit into membership someone who is still wrestling with a particular doctrine, the test always comes down whether or not that person is willing to submit to the elders in doctrine and life. A Christian who does not want to baptize thier children is not ready to submit to the elders.

    This also opens up all sorts of discipline issues. How could a session in good conscience discipline a member of their church who is delinquent in doctrine if, at the same time, they have admitted someone who refuses to submit to the session on another doctrinal matter. What does that say to the congregation? What does that say to our covenant children? It is not just a matter of being inconsistent, it is a matter of potentially damaging spiritual consequences.

    The bottom line is that the Christian who wants to join a confessional church must be willing to submit to the elders. If they he cannot, then he should find a church where he can submit. He cannot have it both ways.

  39. Zrim says:

    “After all, baptists may be wrong, but they are TRYING to obey what they think Scripture says. God sees that, and judges their heart accordingly.”

    Echo, you use this line of thought a lot. Why are you so comfortable with the human heart standing between God and sinners?

  40. Rick says:

    Hey Zrim,
    I think this Brown guy is applying for sainthood.

    I told him that you were the decider – on this thread.

  41. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:15-16 ESV)

    Jesus upholds the same idea of the intent of the heart in the sermon on the mount when he talks about hating someone being the same as murder, and lust being the same as adultery.

    The fact is, God judges the HEART. And Paul says furthermore that anything NOT done in faith is sin.

    That means that if you don’t do something out of the intent to obey God, then it is sin. If what you are doing is an expression of submission to God, then it is obedience. Not in absolute terms, of course, because everything we do is tainted with sin. But Christians could have no obedience, no righteousness at all if intent had nothing to do with it. Sanctification is all about changing the heart.

    This is why Paul says in Rom 8 that the unbeliever cannot even begin to submit to the law of God. Why? Because there is no intent in the heart to submit to God. So even though they may appear to do good, they aren’t doing good, because even the good they do is a reflection of their rebellion against God.

    E

  42. Echo_ohcE says:

    Mike Brown,

    I see your point. But people outside the OPC would probably get the impression from what you say that there are lots of children in every OPC congregation who aren’t baptized because their parents are Baptists at heart, and the elders don’t even care about it.

    You paint an inaccurate picture of the OPC.

    I wonder if your feelings on this stem from how you are perceiving the recent upholding of the excommunication of someone at last summer’s General Assembly?

    If that’s the case, his excommunication was not a statement in defense of Baptists. Since he felt that Baptists shouldn’t be allowed to take communion in our church, and yet they are allowed, therefore he considered the sacrament to be profaned and had refused to take the Lord’s Supper for about 10 years. He was excommunicated not because we think Baptists are just fine, but because he refused to submit to the church, and refused to participate in the Lord’s table, contrary to the commandment of Scripture to participate in it. This decision was not without controversy, but only because of the way his counseling was handled pastorally. (Some said there was not enough interaction with him and the ministers in question, that they didn’t try hard enough to convince him of the error of his ways.) That he was in the wrong was NOT disputed, but that maybe he shouldn’t have been excommunicated – YET – was.

    The fact is, Baptists are considered by us to be in Christ. If a Baptist visits our church, and they are in good standing in some Baptist church, they can participate in the sacrament with us. They are CHRISTIANS, and so we will NOT deny them the sacrament.

    The reason to deny someone the sacrament is because their profession of faith appears to be in doubt.

    The fact is, NEW members who have JUST joined the church are NOT forced by the session to believe in infant baptism. So the new member is NOT in rebellion against their elders’ demands on them. Their profession of faith is therefore NOT brought into question. Are they deficient in doctrine? Sure they are! But the answer to that is not to exclude them from the Lord’s table as if we don’t think they’re truly in Christ! The solution is to correct their doctrine patiently over time. And if IN TIME, they demonstrate a refusal to accept those teachings, and they are shown to be obstinate, THEN and ONLY then are they refusing to submit to their elders, and then and only then are they brought under discipline and denied the sacrament.

    More mature believers are held to a different standard than new converts or new members coming from an evangelical church, because these latter believers are less mature. More is expected from those who are more mature.

    And again, we DON’T have subscriptional membership. And I am very much in agreement with that, and I sharply disagree with the URC’s demand that lay members subscribe to the three forms of unity.

    As one OP minister said to my brother when he joined having come from a Baptist church, “Let the doors of the church be open as wide as the gates of heaven.”

    E

  43. Echo_ohcE says:

    PS Please don’t assume that when I say, “I see your point” that I’m only saying that for the sake of saying it. I truly do see your point.

  44. Rick says:

    Echo,
    What kind of timetable would you give a new family to “convert” to infant baptism.

    What if they don’t over a few years, and their kids are getting older and older… then it becomes a discipline issue because they refuse to submit and they refuse to leave the church?

    Do the elders check back every 6 months to see where they are at? Do they eventually say “well, since you’ve refused to baptize your child over the past 3 years, we now must begin the first phase of discipline” ? Don’t you think the parents could argue “Well, you let us in even though we wouldn’t get our child baptized, why are you changing your mind now?”

    When you expect them to mature to a Reformed confessional (biblical) understanding of baptism, then they don’t over, shall we say 3 years, the Elders need to discipline, right?

  45. Rick says:

    That written,
    I don’t think Presbyterian denominations are necessarily wrong (what I have described above must be extremely rare – but I’ve seen it at a CRC turned URC). But there is that rare circumstance where it must come to discipline I would image. This is avoidable with subscription.

    I think I need to read Brown’s book. Stellman commented on this with his Amazon review of Called to Serve. Here. (scroll down for the review)

  46. Mike Brown says:

    Echo,

    I wonder if your feelings on this stem from how you are perceiving the recent upholding of the excommunication of someone at last summer’s General Assembly?

    Not at all. I didn’t even know about this. I bring this up because I know of some OPCs and PCAs (pastored by some of my best friends in the ministry) who have done this very thing and/or allow it, and I think it is terrible misapplication and denial of the WCF.

    I realize that most people in Presbyterian churches are Presbyterian, and my original post was, of course, meant to be a little hyperbolic, but I don’t think that cases of Baptists being admitted into Presbyterian churches is as rare you are making them out to be.

    Echo, I appreciate that you say you see my point, but perhaps you do not yet see that your position on this point sounds utterly schizophrenic to me. I think that for those OPCs and PCAs who do this, they should simply amend their confession. As I said to Jason, the Westminster Assembly would not have admitted Baptists. The OPC and PCA should either amend the WCF or follow it.

    As one OP minister said to my brother when he joined having come from a Baptist church, “Let the doors of the church be open as wide as the gates of heaven.” OK, then get rid of the WCF. There are too many distinctions in there for you to be as wide as the gates of heaven. The fact of the matter is that, as C.S. Lewis put it, this side of glory, we have our rooms (Reformed, Baptist, Lutheran, etc.) and we meet in the hallway. Otherwise you should change your confession to the Apostles Creed.

    Let me ask you a question: would you admit an adult to membership who has not been baptized? What if he was orthodox on every other point except this one. He confesses Christ, the Trinity, and whatever else you require (even though you do not require a member to agree/subscribe to your confession). He says he just needs a little more time to work through this idea of being baptized, because he does not think it is necessary. Would you admit him to membership into the visible church? Why or why not?

  47. Mike Brown says:

    Rick,

    I think I need to read Brown’s book. Stellman commented on this with his Amazon review of Called to Serve. Here. (scroll down for the review)

    Thanks! Check’s in the mail.

    M

  48. Zrim says:

    Rick,

    Mike seems positively anxious about getting him some sainthood. I have no idea why he’d want such a shabby status. But I think he should have it. “Ask and it shall be given unto you,” Mike.

  49. Mike Brown says:

    Do I have to make a pilgrimage to GR?

  50. Rick says:

    Pastor Brown,
    I envision you giving the address at the annual meeting of Reformed Fellowship in ’08.

    But you don’t have to wait that long to become an OH saint. Ceremony at 6:00pm EST (or so)

  51. Zrim says:

    Mike,

    Well, two saints have made their way here in the last year or so and made personal intro. One even bought me a couple of rounds…nah, no indulgences required for you. Just keep up your good work is all.

  52. Mike Brown says:

    Hey, I would truly be honored. I am encouraged to know that there are some serious confessional types and Horton fans in the great state of Michigan. And if I ever make it to that fair country, I would be happy to buy you guys a beer.

  53. Echo_ohcE says:

    Rick,

    Three years is far longer than I envision. Such an abnormality should be aggressively pursued.

    Mike Brown,

    I think the disagreement simply amounts to disagreement over subscriptional membership. If you want to say that it’s schizo to NOT have sub membership, fine. But I think my opinion on the matter is in line with the OPC’s thinking.

    I would add, though, that I am aware that in some churches, they think that this sort of thing can go on indefinitely. I am not of that opinion. I would personally pursue instructing such members aggressively, and eventually it would come down to discipline, on a case by case basis of course.

    But I knew a young man, about his senior year in high school, who didn’t join the church because he disagreed with the way we worship. He thought that you should be able to lift a hand from time to time, and he was in favor of other broad evangelical practices. I was his Sunday School teacher at the time, and informed him that he didn’t have to agree with our worship practices in order to join, but that joining would allow him to participate in the Lord’s Supper, which is commanded to believers. He thought about that for about 2 weeks, and then joined the church.

    Now, about 2 years later, he has matured, and is in agreement with our practices, and recognizes that they are biblical, and is quite committed to the OPC.

    My own parents, when they joined, were unsure about infant baptism, but didn’t have any young children, so it wasn’t a big deal. In time, they came around.

    And my brother who I mentioned above? He was unsure to an extent when he joined, but he had his child baptized nonetheless. Now he is very much in favor of the practice.

    I am therefore convinced of the efficacy of the shepherding provided to members, and the efficacy of the means of grace to sanctify.

    Making a commitment to a church, even though you are unsure about some of its practices, eventually does its influential work, and in most cases, people come around.

    If they don’t come around, discipline is no evil thing, but also can produce good fruit.

    So you guys can go ahead with subscriptional membership, but I’ll never agree that that’s a good idea, because I know that being brought under the authority of the session, and being committed to the church bears good fruit. I’d rather bring people into the fold where they can receive good, patient shepherding, than push them away by holding out membership as an incentive to them to change what they believe.

    All of our members are sinful and deficient in some ways. They are all plagued with unbelief. This is what the church is FOR, to help them grow in grace and grow in faith. And we can trust that true believers will do that.

    Let me ask you this. When you deny a Baptist the sacrament who’s visiting your church because they’re staying with family over the holidays, isn’t that a statement that they are not in Christ? Isn’t your church making the statement that if someone doesn’t believe in infant baptism that they can’t go to heaven? Don’t all Christians, whatever their deficiencies, if they are true believers, have the right to come to the table clothed solely in the righteousness of Christ alone? Isn’t God able to make them stand? Doesn’t your church make the statement that you cannot be in Christ unless you believe in infant baptism?

    I think it does imply such a thing, and I am unwilling to send such a message.

    I don’t deny that failing to have your children baptized is grievous sin. But before such a thing puts someone’s profession of faith into doubt, such that the church doubts that they truly are in Christ, the person must be made to understand from the Scriptures that this is what God commands.

    This is very different, say, from a man who has an affair with a woman who is not his wife. Such a man knows he’s sinning, and if he is confronted with it and refuses to repent, then his profession is in doubt. But this is because he cannot make any claim that his affair is not ruled out by Scripture. It is clear as a bell that Scripture forbids his adultery. Infant baptism is NOT that crystal clear to someone steeped in Baptist theology.

    Are they deceived? Yes they are. Are they in error? Yes again. But does that mean their profession is not genuine? Not at all! Some other evidence must be brought forward to prove that they aren’t really trusting in Christ for their salvation, because this error does NOT prove that.

    They need to understand that the Scriptures command them to baptize their children before they can be accused of refusing to repent of sin, because again, to them, they are trying to conform to what they think Scripture says.

    And in most cases, all it takes is proving the doctrine from Scripture, patiently, and they come around. It shouldn’t take long.

    I know in some OP churches the practice is to let this go indefinitely, and I absolutely don’t agree with that, I think it should be pursued. But that does not mean that some patience with weak sinners isn’t warranted.

    The Baptist brainwashing is hard to overcome and takes a long time. Meanwhile, they ARE true believers, and they should be admitted to the means of grace, the sacrament, which will nourish them in their faith, so that they can grow and overcome that brainwashing.

    E

  54. Mike Brown says:

    Echo,

    1. If you want to argue by anecdotes, I could point to dozens of cases in the congregation I pastor in which proper catechesis before admitted a person to membership resulted in people coming around on the matter of infant baptism. Our URC congregation is made up of about 75 families, almost ALL of whom have come out of evangelicalism and wrestled with infant baptism. A session/consistory does not need to deny its confession.

    2. How do you know that our Consistory denies a Baptist brother who is visiting the sacrament? I never said that. We deal with visitors on a case by case basis, apply (read: don’t deny) our confessions and often admit visiting Baptists to the Lord’s Table. We are not denying anything we confess when we do so.

    3. You didn’t answer my question. I will ask it again: would you admit an adult to membership who has not been baptized? What if he was orthodox on every other point except this one. He confesses Christ, the Trinity, and whatever else you require (which I am not exactly sure what that is since you do not require new members to subscribe to the WCF) He says he just needs a little more time to work through this idea of being baptized, because he does not think it is necessary. Would you admit him to membership into the visible church? Why or why not?

    Mike

  55. Danny Hyde says:

    Speaking of sainthood . . . I had no idea I was dubbed so by Pontifex Zrimex so I blogged about it:
    http://dannyhyde.squarespace.com/journal/2008/1/30/when-the-saints-go-marching-in.html

  56. Echo_ohcE says:

    Mike,

    No, the OPC would not admit someone into membership without baptizing them. I see your point here. Your point, if I read it right, is that we then admit into non-communicate membership the children of Baptist believers without baptizing them. I agree that there is a contradiction here. But that’s certainly a reason not to wink at the failure to baptize the children.

    Certainly the best thing to do is to try to convince someone to baptize their children. And I agree the situation ought to be very rare. And in my experience in more than one OP church, it IS very rare, though I am aware that other churches sort of just let it go. I’m NOT in favor of that. I frankly don’t understand why someone would want to join if they didn’t agree with that.

    The only situation I ever heard of was a Reformed Baptist who had no other alternative church in the area that was anywhere close to what he believed. That’s the only specific situation I’ve ever heard of. So I’ll ask you, what would you do with a Reformed Baptist who could find no decent Baptist church in your area, who nonetheless wanted to be a part of your church because of your commitment to the gospel? I know at least some OP ministers would not let the person into membership in that case. What would you do? I don’t know what I would do, honestly.

    But anyway, if you don’t deny the sacrament to a visiting Baptist, then how can you deny them membership? If you let them take the sacrament, then aren’t you allowing their profession of faith to be judged as genuine? If their profession is in fact genuine, how can you deny them membership? This confuses me.

    I had actually assumed that you would deny the visiting Baptist the sacrament, because to me it seemed consistent with your membership policy. But since they are not, at least necessarily, denied the sacrament, then I’m confused about why they should be denied membership.

    Forgive me for not answering your question. The omission was unintentional.

    Anyway, I’d like to know what membership really MEANS. I mean, what is the statement being made by the church when membership takes place? What judgment is the church pronouncing, and what committment is the new member making, and for what purpose? Maybe we disagree on the answers to these questions. I haven’t really answered them in my own mind as of yet.

    E

  57. Zrim says:

    DH,

    It seems that all that is required is to maintain one’s good work. Yes, in keeping with the Reformed tradition, it really is that simple.

  58. Mike Brown says:

    Echo,

    1. So I’ll ask you, what would you do with a Reformed Baptist who could find no decent Baptist church in your area, who nonetheless wanted to be a part of your church because of your commitment to the gospel?

    If he wants to join, his kids have to be baptized. That is what the Consistory believes the Bible to teach, it is what we confess, and we would be sinning if we didn’t baptize them. The Baptist has to be able to submit to the elders (Heb 13.17). If he cannot, then our church is not the church for him. It is that simple.

    Look, it is no different than if I were to move to a town in which the only church that preached the gospel was a “Reformed Baptist” church. If I wanted to join that church, I would know what I was getting into and what was expected from me. I could hardly expect the pastor of that church to baptize any children born to me, because he is, after all, a baptist. But expecting a baptist pastor to baptize my children in that situation is no different in principle than the Reformed/Pres pastor who admits a baptist into membership without baptizing his children.

    I have actually faced this situation several times. I have found that with some patience and catechesis, people often come around. If he doesn’t come around, then the burden is on him. He is keeping himself from membership by refusing to submit to the elders on this matter.

    2. if you don’t deny the sacrament to a visiting Baptist, then how can you deny them membership? If you let them take the sacrament, then aren’t you allowing their profession of faith to be judged as genuine? If their profession is in fact genuine, how can you deny them membership?

    For the same reason we may, in certain cases, admit a confessional Lutheran to the Table, but not receive him into membership unless he is able to agree with our confession. I answered part of your question above in my comments to Jason before he exited this thread. (See URCNA CO Art 45 quotd above)

    A local Consistory has to be sure, as much as possible, of a person’s “biblical church membership.” The question then becomes what is biblical church membership? According to Belgic Confession Art 29, a true church has three marks. But there is quite a lot of debate within the URC as to what churches actually have those marks and to what degree.

    Consequently, a Consistory has to apply what it confesses. And that may vary from church to church. Some URC Consistories will only admit members from NAPARC churches, others will admit confessional Lutherans and Baptists. It is for a Consistory to decide. But here is the thing: even though it may vary a little from URC to URC, none of them are denying what they confess.

    But look, there is quite a lot of difference between a Christian from another church who is visiting our church from out of town, and a Christian who is worshiping with us on a regular basis yet not under the authority of the elders. In the latter case, the elders would tell that person to abstain from the Table. If a person is not under the authority and accountability of a local body of elders, we cannot admit them to the Table.

    3. No, the OPC would not admit someone into membership without baptizing them. I see your point here. Your point, if I read it right, is that we then admit into non-communicate membership the children of Baptist believers without baptizing them. I agree that there is a contradiction here.

    Remember, there is only one baptism. We cannot say that there is one type of baptism for an adult and another type of baptism for the children of believers. But if the OP would not admit an adult to membership who had not been baptized, then…

    M

  59. Zrim says:

    Sure seems like this exchange is one that may revolve around an in/visible church taxonomy. Mike seems to have an amillenial grasp on just what it means to be the church militant in this present evil age and just how important the visible church really is.

  60. Echo_ohcE says:

    Huh. Thanks Mike Brown. Good food for thought.

  61. ckm says:

    Wow. Lots to chew over in this discussion. As an evangelical non-denominational Christian, I freely admit my understanding of Reformed doctrine is very minimalistic. Can someone please summarize the biblical arguments for child baptism for me? Or if you can post some links pointing to a greater discussion of this point, it would help me better understand why this seems to provoke so much back-and-forth here, as well as give me additional food for thought about my own doctrine.
    Thanks.

  62. Rick says:

    ckm,
    Tall order. Especially with the limitations and challenges communicating on a blog (or even via e-mail) has. Perhaps one of the pastors who has contributed to this thread would be of better service.

    But I would say, for one, check out the Belgic Confession Article 34 HERE (scroll down to Article 34) and also the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Days 26 and 27 (scroll down)

    IMO, the best book written on the subject is from Rev. Daniel Hyde – CLICK HERE for a link to his book on Amazon.

  63. Echo_ohcE says:

    CKM,

    Best advice I’d give you is to read a book on the subject, like Rick recommended, rather than try to learn by interacting on a blog. Read a book, and then go to your local reformed church and ask the pastor to explain it or answer your questions or whatever.

    E

  64. Chris says:

    Funny thing about being non creedal, it sure limits the music you can sing on Sunday morning. When I pointed this out to a few of the men in a non denominational/ “non creedal” church, they stopped saying they were non creedal. They were also saying that creeds and confessions were dead, I said, yeah, especially if you don’t understand them and you are dead yourself. I haven’t heard much on the subject lately.

    Keep up the good work and pray a good Reformed church opens up near here. I feel like I am missing so much.

    -C

  65. Echo_ohcE says:

    Chris,

    Consider moving, or driving an hour on Sunday mornings. It’s worth it.

    E

  66. Chris says:

    I would have to drive 70+ miles. We live in a small rural community. Although we are not in a confessional church, at least our pastor is Calvinist and Amil. (Thanks in part to “A Case for Amillennialism” ) Moving not an option – yet.

    Thanks to the internet I can at least listen to many great sermons online while i am working

    C

  67. Echo_ohcE says:

    Chris,

    Forgive me if this comes across as insensitive, because that’s honestly not my intent. But good, solid, Christ centered preaching as the staple of your regular spiritual diet is worth any cost, to include changing jobs and moving. I know that sounds bad, even mean, but I don’t mean it that way. I’m just telling you, whatever it cost you, you wouldn’t regret it.

    However, if your pastor is preaching Christ in all of Scripture, and is somewhat reformed in his thinking and amillennial, then you’re probably getting the diet you need.

    But if believing in election is preached as a law you must follow, that’s not Christ centered preaching that continually points you to Christ as your only hope.

    E

  68. Echo_ohcE says:

    Of course, the other option is to talk to your pastor about joining a reformed denomination like the OPC or the URC, or maybe the PCA.

  69. Chris says:

    Thanks Echo-

    My pastor is definitely, without any doubt, preaching Christ in all of Scripture. Election is not preached as a law to follow, but as a reality of what scripture teaches. We could use a little more of pointing to Christ. We got the guilt part down pretty well. Grace is a little slower in coming yet gratitude is definitely making it’s way in.

    I think our biggest dilemma, being “non denominational” is a disconnect from the larger Reformed church sphere. Unfortunately our pastor is wary of denominations. This is largely based on his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 10-17, et al. So joining a PCA or OPC or URC is not likely at this time. However this would not keep us from developing a relationship with a church in one of these denominations, (I like the word “traditions ” better) and in fact I am beginning to work on that.

    For my part I learn what I can and try to slowly bring these things into our church, but I don’t have the education or a foundation in the Reformed church to do it well.

    If you are traveling in the Yosemite area, PLEASE, come stay with me and my family. Or maybe you have friends???? Maybe you know some seminary students traveling near here?

    I just picked up “God of Promise” so my next project in to introduce Covenant theology. Pray for me.

    -C

  70. Rick says:

    Chris,
    Do you know where your church stands on baptism and eschatology?

    God of Promise is wonderful. If you get through it OK you should try to tackle Kline’s Kingdom Prologue. KP rocked my world.

  71. Chris says:

    Rick

    Our church teaches credo-baptism. I’m a paedo-baptism major with a credo minor. I have largely kept silent on the matter so far until I learn more on Covenant Theology.

    Eschatalogically- we are solid Amil. Non dispy, non rapture. Christ returns, judgment, it’s over, new heavens new earth.

    Dispy/ pretrib /premil is an unfortunate irresponsible fiction.

    Thanks for the tip on “Kingdom Prologue”. I have been throughly edified by some of Michael Horton’s other books and writings, especially, “Too Good to be True” and “God of Promise” is looking pretty good so far.

    So much to read and grasp…….

  72. Chris says:

    Echo,

    Is that a picture of you eating a gyro on Amazon.com?

  73. Echo_ohcE says:

    Chris,

    It sounds like your church is heading in the right direction. Try not to get too impatient with such a process.

    In the OPC, we have regional church missionaries, who are involved in being a liaison to people who want to form a church, etc. I’m sure the other denominations have such people. Their job is to engage people like you and to help them out. Maybe you want to get together with some people and form a bible study and eventually become a church plant? The OPC might be interested in being a part of that. The other denominations probably have people who you can talk to, though I don’t know who.

    So reach out and touch someone. You’re not all alone out there.

    Search for Presbytery websites on the denominational website, and just contact someone and ask them to point you in the right direction. Or find the closest reformed pastor to you and send him an email. I’m sure he’d be glad to help and even meet with you.

    E

  74. Pingback: Move over Ichthys « The Confessional Outhouse

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