Tuesday, April 11, 2006

YES!!!

In case you didn't read my last comment on the last post (which may make more sense out of this one), the question was (roughly) "In view of all of the discussion and agreed disagreement that has taken place (whether here over eschatology or over on Luther's Stein about hermeneutics), can we still cooperate to advance the Gospel together? Obviously this is a "yes" but let me get more specific: CAN WE PLANT A CHURCH TOGETHER? Though I'm not sure all will agree here (I'm anxious to find out) I still say "YES!" Maybe I'm a naive idealist here (rather than a critical realist as elsewhere), but I think we can, if we bear in mind a centered set (versus bounded set) mentality. We are in HUGE, SIGNIFICANT agreement over the Gospel; is that enough to go forward in a church plant? I sure hopes so. Thomas, Bruno, Grif, Hayton and Baylor, I'm especially interested to see if you what you think, though all others are free to chime in.

29 comments:

David Hayton said...

Why not?! Perhaps we should even turn the question around a bit: "What Biblical reason can we find that would prevent us from following clear commands to do so?!" While I do not want to treat the whole separation/unity-thing glibly--I am still trying to solve questions in my own mind--the answer to this particular question to me is more obvious than the noon-day sun.

Can someone truly be serious that we could agree on not only the fundamentals of the Gospel--but also on the beauties and priorities of sovereign grace and the glory of God--and yet find reason to divide over issues of eschatological detail or church government, etc.? How utterly absurd! How categorically defaming and degrading to the glory and will of Jesus Christ--John 17!

Is it not interseting that such wild and narrow notions of "us four no more" only surface within the Church in times of great peace and wealth? Isn't that usually the case? I mean even the Donatist controversy, etc.--that was so much broader & bigger than what we deal with in our petty debates..., wasn't it? There the struggle was what to do with folk who apostisized but now return to the Church..., our struggles are Mr. So-and-so held a Gospel-Crustade with Mr. Jones, who goes to the Cove regularly...

I think we have displayed the extremity of our foolishness and wrong-headedness when people like MacArthur and Phil Johnson can't even be "accepted" officially by "Fundamentalism." What kind of @!$#% is this? Knowing who men like MacAthur and Johnson are and what they stand for--and against [and for now we'll just forget about that ever-flammable Third-wave Piper--that Open Theism-compromiser-even-though-he writes/speaks against it better/more than any Fundy out there, and is giving his all to see the BGC delivered from its grip--which may or may not happen, but he won't give up so easily]--and knowing what texts like Romans 15:7 unflinchingly demand, how can Fundamentalism justify such rejection and repudiation [whether direct or indirect]?

In my opinion, such divisiveness is sinful and damnable. And I also think that if severe and widespread persecution jarred our naion overnight, a whole lot of Fundy leaders would be interestingly a whole lot more willing to meet undergroud with a MacArthur or a Piper or a Sproul, etc.

So...Yes, Virginia, there is more than ample reason to work together pracitcally and meaningfully for the advance of Christ's Kingdom...including/especially planting churches!

Luther's Stein said...

I think that Reformed soteriology is obviously the core of unity (others call this the "gospel"). I think, however, that this is not necessarily enough unity to plant a church. I think a similar outlook on sanctification is also necessary. By this, I mean they must agree on what a "healthy Christian" is. For me, any practical theology, Calvinistic or otherwise, which considers the goal of the Christian life to be "not sinning" is abominably myopic. People need to know that spiritual maturity is not the attempt to become independent of God's grace, but rather to continually come into greater appreciation of one's need of God's grace, and trust in it.

So Calvinism, but Calvinism with an emphasis on the cross for sanctification. C.J. [my church is partial to his writings] calls this "the Cross-Centered Life."

Luther's Stein said...

Wow. When I began writing my previous response, there were no other posts on this page. That meant that somewhere between the time I started and finished mine, Dave must have crapped out his entire post. Nice Dave! And you even managed to squeeze in some explitives! I have missed that. If we really want to set him off maybe someone could open a forum discussing expository preaching in Fundamentalism. What are your thoughts Dave?!

NWMihelis said...

Hayton: Agreed on many points, but...how do you really feel :-)

Bruno: thanks for the clarificaion and tell Luke to get his own screen name :-)

Baylor: I agree with your caveat, only I would say sanctification is covered by reformed soteriology and Gospel (which I know the high priest and apostle of your faith C.J. would affirm). When you say "my church" (ekklesia mou) what sort of genitive is that? Certainly not possesive, since last I checked your membership still resides at 2221 centerville tpk and not 508 :-)

To all: Apparently we're all online at the same time because these comments are popping up all over the place. I am thrilled to hear the positive responses; I had not anticipated them all. Since there's already a T4G, maybe it can go a step further and make it a T5G (since using the number 4 in close connection with the gospel makes some uncomfortable - despite Bruno's [Luke, that is] apocalypticism). Those who haven't commented yet, we're still waiting...

Luther's Stein said...

Mihelis,

That would be a genative of relationship. Concerning Reformed theology and sanctification, I am directing this more toward emphasis than theory. Given what Calvinism holds concerning God's grace, I would think this would be a no-brainer. However, you can't throw a stone in any direction without hitting a pastor who "prays like a Calvinist and works like an Arminian."
So perhaps we should refer to those Calvinists among us who emphasize grace in sanctification as "True Calvin" -- what do you think Chris?

NWMihelis said...

I like to think of the fact that some pastors praying like calvinists despite the fact that they think like arminians as a mark of common grace.

BTW it's genItive; don't ever think about teaching greek:-) So, genitive of relationships...is genitive of illicit relationship one that Wallace recognizes :-0

Luther's Stein said...

Mihelis,

If you run and grab me the jaws of life I will pull that massive beam entitled "spelling" out of your eye.

Pitchford said...

Is Christ divided?

If we are truly believers in Christ, we are united. Since we are united, let's act like it. There may be a necessity of shoveling the crappy theology off someone's doorstep, but not in an "if-we-can-get-you-around-to-a-least-common-denominator-of-theological-unity-for-evangelistic-co-operation-above-the-credible-profession-that-you-are-indeed-clinging-to-Christ-alone-for-righteousness-then-we-can-church-plant-together" mentality -- rather a mentality that, since we are identical essentially (in Christ), and since we are bound for the same place practically, let's go there together, no matter how far one or the other of us is lagging behind right now.

The Church is Christ's, to the least faltering member, and we have no business carving it up. So let's church plant together. Any ideas where?

By the way, I just posted a nominally brief comment back at that other post, the name whereof presently eludes me -- sorry for the inappropriate positioning.

Sorry as well for my new-found love of hyphenating. I get carried away sometimes.

adam said...

First off I must say, YES (see my comments over at Thomas-colloquims and you'll better understand. Secondly, might I say that I like what Hayton has done in his introduction with changing the question around, nice, I think that it hits home. However, Hayton I have this against thee, your posts are TOO LONG!! Give us the cliff notes man!
I also agree with Tim/Nate in that I agree with the nature of sanctificaiton being crucial among leadership for a healthy body, and I think that it was best referred to my mihelis tying Gospel to sanctification, it is the gospel life. period. Baylor what are you some sort of Azusa Street revivalist?

Chris Bruno said...

I don't have the time to keep up with these discussions like I did last week.
Having said that, let me say that I agree with just about everything that has been said.
However, let me raise a question to further muck up the discussion.
I know that most who have contributed are creedo-baptists; I believe Pitchford has moved to paedo-baptism, and it seems like Thomas is asking questions. I can sympathize with this struggle, as I wrestled on and off with it for a few years (I am now a more convinced baptist, but notice the small 'b').

Since we agree that we could probably serve in a church together even with our differences on typology, etc., here is my question: could we disagree on baptism and still 'do church' together?
This issue is very real to me (because of my ties to BBC), and I have changed my mind on it more than once. Any thoughts out there?
crb

NWMihelis said...

Bruno:

I was about to post the exact same question. I REALLY like what I'm hearing. I do think the Gospel and it's implications may be the only sine quo non for planting a church, but I'm not sure how it would flesh itself out in practice. Mutual deference and humility (receiving one another) would definately be the order of the day (which is not a bad thing by any means). Yet, I still hate to think that this is simply the wishful thinking of naive idealist. Maybe we'll just have to try it and see. It would probably look something like a four views book (counterpoint series). Anyone up for Boston?

Tim Barker said...

Well, let me chime in on this group. I want to be named among these brethren. :) Seriously agreeing with all above I chime in (late as always) on paedo baptism. In the local body expression allowing the co-existence of both viewpoints seems plausible as said. Just curious for my paedo-baptizing brethren would the immersion of a previously baptized baby negate any of the covenant symbolism originally employed?

In essence if this "blended-minded church" practiced paedo-baptism would adult baptism negate anything (or again could a sprinkled baby be later immersed in the same church)?

Sorry for showing my ecclesiological ignorance at points. At the outset as a default immersionist at the moment I fail to see a major issue with being in a local body with paedo-baptisms yet still stressing adult immersions following profession.

David Hayton said...

How about Central Asia, instead?

Actually, at this point, I thought it would be a fitting time to mention to you, briefly, that I announced my resigation to the church here on Sunday, April 2nd, which will take effect on the 1st of June.

We have only been here for two years, but we really believe that God is moving us to enter full-time ministry for the upg's of Central Asia, and has brought a unique opportunity across our path to join up with People International, a mission agency focused on church-planting among Central Asian upg's.

PI is based in the UK, but has U.S. offices in Washington state and Ohio. For the "meantime" (or however long God wishes) we are planning to help out State-side as a full-time mobilizer & recruiter--speaking, networking, taking occasional short-term trips, etc. Once Katya's paperwork allows (3-5 years?), we are pursuing the possibility of residing somewhere in Central Asia ourselves.

So, just a heads-up, that in the coming months/years: I will probably be on all your sorry butts, either begging for money (we have to raise full-support) or forcing you over to Teheran or Tajikistan to fulfill your church-planting dreams...

Okay, okay, commercial done, and back to the good discussion. Chris & Mihelis: whatever you do, don't drown Dave in the Danube. Get the point? I really think the whole baptism thing has caused enough grief for enough centuries. Why can't we just admit the profound Biblical silence on the matter, and figure out some way to embrace both positions...and just "get over it"?! Baptism is beautiful & doctrine is surely important: but do the mode of baptism or little differences re: the covenant-community-make-up really constitue fundamental matters? Would Jesus really be okay with us stiff-arming each other over such things?

Sorry for the long posts this past week, AT: I have had a lot of coffee, and I am not smart enough to junk out my thoughts clearly or concisely. Oh well.

Luther's Stein said...

Missionary Dave,

Do you do anything concisely? I can't remember if you have.

Concerning Baptism, I think that the mode is not insignificant in as much as the pastor stresses its symbolic value to communicate Union with Christ -- a doctrine which possesses me. This being said, I would agree that this is by no means an issue that must necessarily preclude working with others.

adam said...

I must say this, I hate you all! I posted on baptism about 2 weeks ago in serious need and no one "bit"?
Anyway, I love the dialogue, but I think as mihelis. It is a bit of "wishful thinking of naive idealist". I am currently working through some of this at my new church (WRPCA). I UNFORTUNATELY think that it would only serve confusion amidst the body to have leadership viewing such a doctrine differently. However, in my present context of service (not elder/pastor) it is seemingly of no offense. I would really love to serve in the PCA but my view on baptism would have to really change. Let's pray it does.:)
What are we to do?

Chris Bruno said...

My Southern Baptist sensibilities are being shocked!
Seriously though, I think that baptism is more important than most here seem to be granting.
Tim Barker,
I think that the system you propose would undermine the significance of baptism for both sides--the NT is pretty clear that baptism is a one time event, if we start administering baptism multiple times, it loses its significance altogether. I appreciate the spirit of unity driving it, but it seems that your suggestion will be ultimately unsatisifying to both positions.
All,
As you might suspect, I do not think that the NT is as ambiguous on baptism as has been suggested in this thread. Philip told the eunuch-or at least an earlier variant says he did-if you believe you may be baptized. Paul equates belief and baptism so closely that they are often collapsed (Rom 6). Since I think the NT is fairly clear on baptism, I think it is important to follow its teaching--baptism for believers only.
Since this is the case, I am not sure the issue should be approached so casually.
On the other hand, I am not willing to say that different perspectives in baptism will necessarily prevent church unity. I think different contexts could provide different answers to that questions.
Please don't read this as saying that paedo-baptists are stupid or rebellious or whatever. I just think that the NT's teaching on baptism requires more vigilence than has been suggested here.
crb

adam said...

Bruno, what are you exactly saying? I understand you to be viewing body unity over one's view of baptism (atleast I think so), but what then do you mean by "I just think that the NT's teaching on baptism requires more vigilence than has been suggested here".I agree completely with the sentiment of baptism being a big deal! However, I am asking "how big"? From your vantage point what are we to do to ensure perhaps a greater amount of theological "vigilence" in the matter? What say you of church membership or T4G (not the current meeting, but rather the idea altogether of interdenominational unity)in light of such issues? I am guessing you would answer in the same vein as "I think different contexts could provide different answers to that questions".
I guess in sum, I am asking how can we practice our faithful distinctions within the body context?

David Hayton said...

Chris: Would you agree that Luke's record of the Eunich's baptism wasn't dealing with an infant? And what about the fact that circumcision is itself said to be the sign/seal of the righteousness one has by faith (Romans 4:11), but nontheless was commanded to be administered to infants incapable of expressing conscious faith? Especially when circumcision is so closely tied to baptism in Colossians 2, and you have "weird" statements about "sanctification" in 1 Corinthians 7, and the whole "household" thing. Add to this the observation that the Abrahamic covenant is nowhere obliterated or annuled..., and I for one see the debate as not so huge a deal. I think it boils down to disagreement on levels of continuity/discontinuity-progression between Abraham's day and our own. The real question is: Will we accept each other, even though we share differences on the answer to this question--a question that, honestly, recieves very little attention in the Bible? But not just "accept" in an arbritary or artificial way...rather, will we work together for the advance of the Kingdom meaningfully and intentionally? If not, what Biblical truth can justify such separation and exclusion? Why not work for complete agreement--but in the stinkin' meantime (which may last until Kingdgom come), honor Jesus by receiving each other--depsite differing interpretations--and labor to demonstrate (to ourselves and the lost masses) the love and supremacy of Jesus?

I actually am probably still a credo-baptist, though I remain fuzzy on more than a few points. But I am more convinced than ever that "until we all to unity on this" there is a way to work fully together, giving honor to each other, and allowing for both practices. Impractical? Why? Doesn't Wheaton's Campus Church practice this? What about dozens of Evangelical Free churches around the nation? I personally pastor a Baptist church, and will be immersing three or four on Easter Sunday, although just a few weeks ago I sprinkled Pitchford's infant. I don't have a problem with this. And why should I?

An aside: it is interesting to me how many of us Baptists are willing to "shed blood" over the mode of one sacrament/ordinance (baptism), but seem to not give a flip--comparitively--about the mode of the other (Communion). Most Evangelical churches around the nation are in dire need of "reforming" and uniting around a healthy/Biblical way for celebrating and remembering the death of Jesus in His meal. The usual nonchalant, quasi-rote "tradition"--along with individually-filled thimbles of unfermented Welch's grape juice, and separate pieces of 1/16 of a stale saltine, all in about 3-5 minutes...well, this just doesn't cut it...(and I think you all probably echo my consternation here). But, why then, do so many Baptists (like ourselves?), while steadily working for reform on this, remain willing to remain closely partnered with all their bone-headed brethren who either go on in ignorance or share significant disagreements on the mode/administration of the "love feast"? Regarding the modes of both ordinances (infsofar as heresy is not happening): yes let's reform, but let's find a way to do so that undergirds--not destroys--our Cross-born and God-demanded unity.

David Hayton said...

BTW, Mihelis, I'm serious about the forgotten peoples of the nation of Tajikistan... It is infinitely more needy of church-planting than MA, USA.

Luther's Stein said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Luther's Stein said...

Chris,

I am sympathetic to your concern here. I think it is a practical problem: how do you emphasize the meaning of baptism as union with Christ when you are baptizing infants who may, or may not, eventually be united to Christ? I am strongly credo-baptist and consider baptism to be a very significant symbol, and one which I think is able to communicate (probably more than is typically thought) to Christians in our post-modern generation.

I understand that you consider there to be a high level of perspicuity on this point, and it is your right to draw a line where your conscience sees a clear scriptural warrant for doing so. However, I cannot see why this issue in particular [would you plant with a person with the opposite view on the sign gifts, though I understand you likely see less perspicuity here than in baptism] must be the dividing line, or why such an ecumenical spirit must necessarily imply that baptism is of "lesser importance" to those of us who might seek to integrate.

Certainly there will be practical concerns as to how you communicate what it means in the context of your local assembly. However, why can't the elders of a church exist in open disagreement about the issue, teaching both sides while remaining passionate for the symbol they envision in the baptism? Would this not teach the assembly to look with grace upon those whose theological differences are outside the scope of the gospel?

Pitchford said...

Hayton and Baylor,

I agree.

Bruno,

please don't roast my butt over paedo-baptism -- by all means explain to me scripturally why I may be wrong -- but couldn't you do that more effectively when we're self-confessed members of the same church body, striving together for the sake of the Name? Being justified or still in our sins is a point of division. Demonstrating the reality of saving faith through intentional and fervent pereseverance, relying on the means of grace, is essential. But if those realities are being displayed, how can we see fit not to work together. Yes, explain to everyone with whom we have contact why you believe your views on Baptism are scriptural and pleasing to God. Maybe they (and I) will come around, as the Spirit grants. But whatever you do, do it as a part of the same body that I'm a part of.

I love my Baptist brothers who love Jesus, and want to show forth the reality of my unity with them in Christ. I hope that they will see fit to extend the same fellwoship to me.

Chris Bruno said...

Okay Okay
I don't want to roast anyone's butt. Let me clarify.
First, I don't think this thread is the place to debate baptism. I am certainly willing to talk with people about it, and am happy to listen to paedobaptist arguments, especially from guys like Pitchford. I have become a more convinced creedobaptist this year, but I sure don't think the paedobaptist position can be refuted in a 2 paragraph comment on a blog. But I think that discussion should be saved for another day.
Second, I am not convinced that every church should exclude paedobaptists or even exclusively practice believer's baptism. My earlier comment was intended to emphasize the importance of baptism-regardless of your position on it.
Like I said, different contexts call for different solutions. I think the main contexts where baptism should not be a distinctive for church membership is 1) mission contexts and 2) traditions that primarily practice paedo-baptism (Anglican churches for instance). In the baptist tradition, I think it is not best for every church to move toward open membership.
I have wrestled with this issue for a while; I wrote a paper last semester in favor of open membership, but have since hedged my view a little. I am happy to discuss it more.

Pitchford said...

Chris,

Thanks for the clarifications. I agree that this is perhaps not the venue to discuss baptism, except as it touches on Christian unity. Perhaps the next helpful step we could hash out is local church membership -- what is it, what does it propose to do, what does it mean for the unity of all who are part of Christ's universal body in a particular area? In other words, how would an official church membership affect our ability/responsibility to be co-operating together as much as is possible, what implications does it have for our essential unity and true Church membership, etc.

Any thoughts?

NWMihelis said...

I've got to admit, I'm a definite fence straddler on this one. However, there's a ton that's been said:

1) Obiviously I agree this isn't the best forum to debate baptism.

2)I am also a strongly convinced credobaptist, however, I have not interacted with a paedo position and I am willing to think it through.

3)I still wonder how much hesitation regarding planting a church together may grow out of the fact that most of us have never seen one like this (perhaps Hayton and Pitchford excepted). I am concerned about the practical implications. I don't think it's so much an issue of "receiving one another" (which on this thread it is extremely obvious that we ARE) but more an issue of Amos 3:3 "Can two walke together except they be agreed?" (pardon the abusive rip from context - though you amills might not mind - KIDDING! sorry for the cheap shot :-) So I'm not saying it can't happen, just that the practical implications need to be nailed down prior to acting in order to spare the church from undue controversy.

4) So I firmly straddle the fence and remain open to the possibility.

5) I don't mean this to be the final word on the topic; those with the patience to read all of these comments, please feel free to keep it going. In the mean time I need to get a fresh post up :-)

Anonymous said...

To all of you,

I am a graduate with most of you from Northland. Pardon me for not going to to Seminary but last I check we all graduated from a Baptist school. Our forfathers died for such insignificant matters as mode of baptism. Do we think that we have come to the intelectual level that suppersedes our heros of the faith. Men like Adoniram Judson who gave up all his support because he became convinced by only studying the Bible, that the historic Baptist position was the correct one. He felt strongly that he could no longer take money and be in association with the Congregationalist. Perhaps its time to put away our Pipers and other writers who do not claim to be fundamental, and start reading our Bibles again. Let the Scripture say what it means and overread what you want it to say for your convience. I am not trying to make anyone mad, but I cannot believe I went to the same school. I remember being taught against situational ethics and compromise. It is a good thing we are not in old days, because no historic baptist would ever have you in their churches or dream of working with you. I think I have said too much already, but I am moritfied that your doctrine has been skewed to such a degree.

NWMihelis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
NWMihelis said...

Josh,

Thank you for identifying yourself; as promised, I deleted my initial response. Man...I'm really not sure where to start, but I think you're missing the point. It's not that we're denying the importance of a right understanding of baptism; we're simply saying the scriptural data is not as clear on this topic as it is on the Gospel. Therefore, the question we are entertaining regards cooperating on the basis of the Gospel (one of the fundamentals) even though we are in disagreement over the mode of baptism. The very fact that you can't defend your own position and need to point to some human authority ought to be enough to convince you that it is an area we need to be cautious about being schimatic.

Second, if you elevate baptism to the point of a fundamental (test of orthodoxy) as your latest comment seems to imply (you've said that we would be in part departing from fundamentalism) then let me suggest 1) You are historically naive--reformed presbyterians have almost always been a part of historic fundamentalism; in fact they are some of the greatest champions of the faith (Warfield, Hodge and Machen come to mind). 2) You are doctrinally confused. Though all doctrines are important, not all qualify or disqualify one from a position of Christian Orthodoxy. In this sense, baptism has always been considered a peripheral issue. 3) Practically speaking, you're in sin. The scriptures are clear that we are to avoid those who depart from essential truth, but it is also equally clear that we are to mark those who cause (needless)division and have nothing to do with them. If you continue down the path you've begun, I'm concerned you may end up in the latter group. Any thoughts?

Nate

Josh said...

Perhaps I should explain my position more accurately. I am a Baptist. Infant baptism has one source and one source only--the Roman Catholic Church. Every protestant group that has split from them has maintained the position of pedo-baptism. The Catholics make no bones about the fact that baptism is a means of grace and necessary for salvation. Also there is never one time a mention of a child being baptized in scripture. The Etheopian Eunuch asked to be baptized, but Philip only concented after the profession of faith. Interestingly enough, despite our covenant theological friends, baptism was a common Jewish practice once a person became a Jew(Procelite). Baptism cannot be the equivelant to circumcision in the OT if both existed in the OT. (Josephus talks extensively about baptism). John the baptist in Matt 3 was baptizing and Matt says in verse 6 "And were baptized of him, confessing their sins."
One of the fundamentalist doctrines and perhaps this is the one that really should be discussed is seperation. Two cannot walk together except they be agreed. I am familiar with a church who has done exactly what Dave and others are proposing. It is called a federated church. By church constitution they are required that everytime they change pastors they must flip between Presbyterian and Baptist pastors. This has caused incredible tension and strife in that church, because the husband is baptist and want to raise the family that way. The wife is a convinced presbyterian and wants her babies baptized. I understand that this is not a theological argument, but you were discussing practicality.
I make no appologies for beliving in Baptist Distinctives. As have Baptist in the past and present, I find infant baptism an unscriptural practice and something worth dying over. That is the definition of a fundamental I believe. This will be my last post in regards to the matter as I highly doubt anythin I say will sway anyone and you certainly will not sway me. Let us go our seperate ways as friends.

Josh