Thursday, August 09, 2007

Baptism and Church Membership

The issue of credobaptism vs. paedobaptism is a serious debate, but one that most evangelicals agree should not divide us. But when it comes to church membership we have a problem. Should credobaptists admit paedobaptists into their membership? Wayne Grudem has recently changed his mind about this, but I agree with his earlier position. And so does John Piper, who writes:

When I weigh the kind of imperfection involved in tolerating an invalid baptism because some of our members are deeply persuaded that it is biblically valid, over against the kind of imperfection involved in saying to a son or daughter of the living God, “You are excluded from the local church,” my biblical sense is that the latter is more unthinkable than the former. The local church is a visible expression of the invisible, universal, body of Christ. To exclude from it is virtually the same as excommunication. And no serious church takes excommunication as an invitation to attend the church down the street.


Jared Nelson said...

Isn't the whole basis of Baptistic churches a fixation on the sacraments as "mere" non-important distractions?

If paedobaptism is not that big of a deal, is there really anything left that Baptists stand for that isn't held by the 3 great branches of the Reformation (Lutheran, Reformed and Anglican)?

In other words, if those baptized as infants have a legit doctrine (which Col 2:11-12, and Acts 2:38-41 indicate as new covenant baptism is linked to old covenant circumcision in form and use), why separate from the Reformed movement?

BCJ said...


I don't think I would say that the issue of credo- vs. paedo-baptism is "not that big of a deal." I would argue that it is one of those many issues that we should vigorously debate but not divide over. But when I say "divide over" I am not referring to the forming of various denominations as being "divisive" (though, undoubtedly, many times this is the outcome). There are some issues that do "divide" (perhaps we should say "distinguish"?) us practically. But this is not the same as communicating that we do not think one is actually a part of the Universal Church by forbidding chuch membership or the Lord's Table to individuals with whom we disagree (as seems to be the case with the position being advocated now by Grudem, Dever, and Mohler).

So, while I do think paedobaptists have a "legit doctrine," (though I do not hold to it), this does not mean that by worshipping in a different denomination we are choosing to "separate" from them. I guess the problem lies in how we define "separate."

I'm not sure I answered your comments well. Feel free to reply.