My former church history professor (and current Dean of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University) Bill Leonard recently delivered a series of lectures at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary where he talked about (guess what?) baptism! Leonard said that after four centuries, believers’ baptism remains the symbol of Baptist identity, but in the 21st century, Baptists must respond to two pressing “problems” with baptism — the widespread requirement that long-term Christians be immersed before joining a Baptist church and the rebaptism of church members.
I don’t know how often we rebaptize Baptists at FBC (do we do that?), but the matter of requiring Christians from other denominations to be immersed before they can become full members is something we will be talking about again this Wednesday night, as we enter Round Two of “Holy Conversations.”
Dr. Leonard posed some provocative questions in his remarks at Baylor. I’ve copied a few of the more relevant ones below. If you’d like to read the full article from the Associated Baptist Press, just click here.
I hope these questions will help you think about the issues involved, and I hope you will take some time to pray over these things as well, so that when you come to the Dining Hall this Wednesday night at 6:15 you will be ready to participate in truly holy conversation.
Questions for churches to consider
• “Can churches that require immersion of non-immersed, long-time Christians articulate a clear biblical mandate for doing so, especially when ‘New Testament baptism’ is given to those who have made immediate profession of faith?”
• “Does immersion given to long-term Christians on the basis of a profession of faith require recipients to repudiate at least implicitly their earlier faith and the Christian tradition that nurtured them to grace?”
• “Should immersion of long-time Christians at least be distinguished from the immersion of new converts?”
• “Given that the New Testament knows nothing of child baptism, can Baptist churches that require immersion of all members claim ‘the true New Testament baptism’ if they baptize children under the age of 12, when Jewish children confirm their faith?
• “Given that many Baptist churches accept children — some even in the preschool ages — as members, how will they define the nature of a believers’ church?
If you have good answers to these questions, or if you have some additional questions of your own, feel free to comment by clicking on the word “comments” below.