Strange Subject:Mark Driscoll on the Regulative Principle

In the last few months of 2007, Mars Hill Church in Seattle initiated the “Ask Anything” project, which was, “designed for all of you out there in cyberspace who have ever wondered about or demanded to know Pastor Mark’s thoughts on…anything.” People submitted questions that were voted upon, and the top nine questions would form a sermon series to be made into a book. SBF blogger Timmy Brister submitted what became the number 1 question:

Do you believe that the Scripture not only regulates our theology but also our methodology? In other words, do you believe in the regulative principle? If so, to what degree? If not, why not?

As I believed the question to be important, I did a bit of work in promoting this question and defending it on the meta of the “Ask Anything” website.

On March 2, Mark Driscoll preached his sermon on the regulative principle. His answer to the question, in a nutshell, was, ‘No, because I believe we live our whole life of worshiping God by the same principles, and as we do not live by the regulative principle in other areas of life, why would a different principle come into effect when we gather as a church?’ Fundamental to Driscoll’s rejection of the regulative principle is his rejection to any distinction between public and private worship.

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Strange Subject:James White Baptism Debate

I’ll end the current SBF emphasis on baptism with a link to a debate between Reformed Baptist apologist James White and Dr. Gregg Strawbridge, the editor of The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism. One of the more interesting features of this debate concerns the idea of Christ as the Mediator for the New Covenant community. Dr. Strawbridge agrees to White’s assertion that Christ is the Mediator for all persons within the New Covenant community, which community, in Dr. Strawbridge’s view, includes baptized infants- some of whom will never come to faith in Christ. When asked what Christ mediates to those persons (supposed to be) in the New Covenant community who never believe in Him, Dr. Strawbridge responds with, “Wrath.”

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Strange Subject:Does the administrator matter?

Having addressed the definition of baptism and the question of whether baptism is necessary for church membership and admittance to the Lord’s Supper, Dr. Wills next turns to a question concerning who performs the baptism. We are not using any different method on this it is the same old database glitch method found few years back on some of the online game server. To our luck or to their-game owner’s unluck they haven’t patched this glitches yet. This rise of kingdoms mod has been tested by more than 50 users on different mobile phones and all of them reported back with 98% success rate.

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Dr Wills writes:

Let’s recognize that not every immersion done in the name of Christ, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a true baptism. We must recognize that a Mormon immersion is not a baptism. Not a Christian baptism, anyway, for the Mormon church is not a Christian church. Eastern Orthodox immersions and Roman Catholic immersions are also not true baptisms because they are not Gospel churches. The Christian Church, Churches of Christ, and the Disciples of Christ traditionally have believed that baptism actually accomplishes the remission of sins. That is not Christian baptism. That is an overthrow of the Bible teaching of justification by faith. Baptists have traditionally not recognized their immersions as true baptisms.

What makes a baptism true or false? The form must be correct for it to be a true baptism. We’ve already dealt with that. But is that enough? What about the meaning? Clearly, the meaning is key. Roman Catholics teach baptismal regeneration. When the immersion of a professing believer in a Roman Catholic church takes place, that baptism is held to be a regenerating baptism. That is the proclamation and doctrine of that church. That is not a biblical baptism. So, the meaning of baptism must also be right for a baptism to be valid.

I would also argue that the commissioning agent of the administrator determines the meaning of a baptism. Baptism was established by Christ, in the commissioning of His apostles. That’s where baptism begins. It didn’t begin in the synagogue. It begins in Christ who established His church.

Acts 19:1-7 is a key passage in helping us better understand this. Here you have the 12 disciples from Ephesus who come to Paul and he sees that they have not been filled with the Holy Spirit, that they have not been united to Christ through the Spirit. He asks them about their baptism: “Into what were you baptized?” It is pretty interesting the way he phrases it: “Into what were you baptized?” This implies that baptism gets its meaning from somewhere. And they respond: “The baptism of John.” And Paul says, “The baptism of John was.” He knows what John’s baptism is. It has a definite content, a definite substance, a definite meaning. John was commissioned by God to baptize for a specific purpose. Read the rest of this entry »

Strange Subject:Are only baptized persons qualified for church membership and admission to the Lord’s Supper?

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The above question addresses the issue raised in the second point of my last post. Are different understandings of baptism important enough to determine whether Christians can join together in membership to a local congregation? If we understand the term “baptism” as only properly referring to the immersion of believers, then I think the answer must be, “yes.” As Dr. Greg Wills explains:

My answer to this question [the title of this post] is “yes.” The only person whom we ought to admit to the Lord’s table is the one who is truly baptized, one who has obeyed the biblical command of baptism.

The question before us is, What about those who profess faith? Are we to invite all persons who profess faith to the table and to church membership or only those who profess faith and have been biblically baptized, that is, immersion upon a profession of faith? Why should we deny unbaptized persons church membership and communion? Well, the basic answer, as I see it, is that they are in disobedience. They have not yet obeyed the first command of Christian discipleship, which is to be baptized.

Disobedience that is unknowing and unintentional is not as bad as disobedience that is high-handed and intentional. The Lord Jesus makes this distinction. [I emailed Dr. Wills asking for Scriptural support of these last two statements, and he responded referencing Jesus’ teaching in Luke 12:47-48 as well as the Old Testament teaching found in Leviticus 5:17 and Numbers 15:27-30.] The fact that disobedience is unintentional and sincere does not turn disobedience into obedience. Only the strangest and most perverted logic can take sincere disobedience and say that because it is sincere, it is obedience. I am glad that people who have been sprinkled or poured are sincerely trying to obey God’s command to be baptized. But I must warn them that they are yet in disobedience. Unbaptized does not mean unbelieving, but a person’s belief that he is baptized does not change the character of the divine command. Read the rest of this entry »

Strange Subject:Is immersion essential to baptism?

In my next few posts on Strange BaptistFire, I will be giving excerpts from Dr. Greg Wills’ article, “Are we all wet or does Baptism matter?” from the Fall 2007 issue of Southern Seminary Magazine. I believe it is important to address issues of baptism on Strange BaptistFire for two reasons:

  1. Many Baptists who become convinced of the Doctrines of Grace naturally begin to question whether the Reformed tradition may be correct on other issues as well, including paedo-baptism.
  2. Many Calvinistic Baptists influenced by John Piper have begun to question whether different understandings of baptism are important enough to determine whether Christians can join together in a local congregation.

For these (and other) reasons, it is important that Baptists seeking a historic Baptist fidelity to issues regarding baptism clarify specific teachings on issues related to believers’ baptism.

In regards to the question, “Is immersion essential to baptism?” Dr. Wills writes,

The fundamental question here is what has Christ commanded? Does Christ require the mode of baptism to be immersion or is the mode a matter of indifference? The common attitude of Protestant paedobaptists is that the mode is a matter of indifference. Immersion is good, sprinkling is good, pouring is good, they believe. Traditionally, Baptists have held that the only valid mode of baptism is immersion.

When we say mode of baptism, we are introducing redundancy. We, as Baptists, actually don’t believe in baptism by immersion. We believe in baptism, which is immersion. Let me explain: the word baptizein in Greek means to immerse. When we begin talking about the mode of baptism, we prejudice the matter severely against Christ having revealed a specific form, the very form of the phrase there. Our word “baptize” in English is a lone Greek word, an anglicized transliteration of the Greek baptizein.

We could speak of mode of baptism if we were commanded to wash persons with water. If the command were to wash, louein, then we might ask, how much water should we use to fulfill the command? Shall we wash by immersion? By pouring? By sprinkling? It would be legitimate to ask about mode of baptism in this case. But we are not commanded to wash. We are not commanded to wet, we are not commanded to soak and we are not commanded to purify. We are commanded to immerse.

Strange Subject:Response to NOBTS interview of Dr. Nelson Price, Part 4

[Continued from Part 3]

4. What would you say is the most significant theological issue confronting Southern Baptists in this generation?

Calvinism is foremost, but glossology is emerging once more also. There are so many different schools of Calvinistic thought that no matter what is said to be a belief there are those of other schools who deny it. There are many admirable aspects of Calvinism with which most Souther Baptists agree. A high regard for the authority and integrity of Scripture, the belief that salvation is by grace alone, the atonement of Christ, and the belief that everything should be to the glory of God are broadly held concepts among Baptists. However, irresistible grace which teaches those predestined to be saved cannot resist salvation and limited atonement which says Christ died only for those predestined by God to be saved is where the road forks. This is where the introduction of the doctrines of Calvinism into a traditional Southern Baptist church becomes divisive. Read the rest of this entry »

Strange Subject:Response to NOBTS interview of Dr. Nelson Price, Part 3

[Continued from Part 2]

3. The issue of elder rule has been a controversial in many churches. What is your perspective on ruling elders as an expression of Baptist church polity and ecclesiology?

In the early church the terms “elders” (presbyteroi) and “bishops” or “overseers” (episkopoi) are used interchangeably as to functions not as titles or offices. The Bible gives clear insight regarding the roles of bishops and deacons but does not for elders leading many scholars to conclude it was not a separate office in the early church. There is no Scripture that teaches a church has to have a board of elders. The term “elder” has gone through an evolution since the Bible times. The present meaning and role is based on the role that evolved in subsequent years of the first century. Biblically the service of elders was to be performed by older individuals who related to the spiritual life within the church not the business affairs. Changing the of church governance can be traumatic for a congregation. If a church has a form of governance that works in place following a current trend is not advantageous. Read the rest of this entry »

Strange Subject:Response to NOBTS interview of Dr. Nelson Price, Part 2

[Continued from Part 1]

2. The resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC has been a controversial issue in some ways. What is your perspective on the resurgence in the SBC?

The school of doctrine is one thing. The method of introducing it into a local church and the contentious spirit of many current advocates are other matters of concern. Calvinism has been a nonissue issue among Southern Baptists for so many years most laypersons were not indoctrinated or even aware of its consideration in our ranks. Therefore most pastor search teams have not known to ask a potential pastor about it. Many pastors predisposed toward Calvinism have practiced a policy of don’t ask, don’t tell, and have come in fully aware the church was not committed to the doctrines of Calvinism. They conduct home cell study groups of confidants until they feel they have enough support to introduce it into the mainstream of the church. This has been highly disruptive to many local churches. It is a destructive deception. A potential pastor should be open and clear regarding the issue. The warrior spirit of many young Calvinists in attacking the integrity and intellect of those with whom they disagree is appalling and un-Christ like. Address principles and don’t attack personalities. Don’t try to defend a principle by attempting to destroy the reputation of a person. Read the rest of this entry »

Strange Subject:A response to the interview of Dr. Nelson Price by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Center for Theology and Ministry, Part 1

A week ago today the Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary interviewed Dr. Nelson Price. [HT:: Timmy Brister.] As many statements made by Dr. Price may be of interest to SBF readers, I will show the first four of the five questions and answers in this post and give brief responses. [You can read the entire interview HERE.] Read the rest of this entry »

Strange Subject:Emergent Church Job Description

I was recently sent the following job description from a “faith community” that describes itself as “emergent.” I am interested in how SBF readers would respond to this job description. [Note: The following description is rather long.] Read the rest of this entry »