Sunday, June 01, 2008

Are unregenerate church members in the SBC validation for infant baptism?

In response to a statement that it is troubling that paedobaptists baptize people with absolutely no indication of them being regenerate, the response was made on Voice of the Sheep that Baptist church rolls have a number of names on them of clearly unregenerate people. There are two ways to approach this issue, the problem of unregenerate church membership.

One, is the method espoused by Les Prouty. In a comment response on Voice of the Sheep, Les makes the following statement in response to my concern for paedobaptists intentionally baptizing people who are not believers (for some reason you can't copy text in the comment section of VOTS, some quirk in Wordpress):

Witness: Southern Baptists for example, where millions on the rolls of SBC churches, baptized and members, cannot be found!

That statement is silly on it's face. There is an enormous difference between baptizing people who have made a confession of faith and baptizing infants. Every faithful, Bible believing Baptist church I know of makes a sincere effort to ascertain whether or not conversion has taken place. It is not perfect, but the effort is prayerfully made. No effort is made in paedobaptist churches. Mom and dad are members of the church (and believe me that paedobaptist churches baptize infants of unregenerate members, thus nullifying the promise), so you get sprinkled with water. That is the extent of their examination. Your kid has Christian parents, so he/she gets baptized.

So, the logic seems to go, if there are SBC members who are not regenerate but are still on the rolls, heck we might as well baptize infants. Indeed this brings us to my point that by the logic of infant baptism we might as well sneak up on people on the street and throw some water on them in the hopes that they might eventually become regenerate.

The second way to deal with that issue, the Biblical one, is to do as Dr. Tom Ascol at Founders Ministries has done, and introduce resolutions calling on the SBC to repent and clean up it's rolls and membership process.

Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership

Whereas the Baptist Faith and Message states that the Scriptures are "the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried" (Article 1); and

Whereas life in a local church should be characterized by loving discipline as the Bible teaches in passages like Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Corinthians 5 and Titus 3:10-11; and

Whereas the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Church Profiles indicate that there are 16,266,920 members in Southern Baptist churches; and

Whereas those same profiles indicate that only 6,148,868 of those members attend a primary worship service of their church in a typical week; and

Whereas the ideal of a regenerate church membership has long been and remains a cherished Baptist principle as described in Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message; and

Whereas the significance of believers' baptism tends to be lost when churches that practice it fail to exercise loving care for all their members; therefore, be it

RESOLVED that the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 10-11, 2008, urge Southern Baptists to repent of our failure to maintain responsible church membership, and be it further

RESOLVED that we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the widespread failure among us to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18), and be it further

RESOLVED that we plead with pastors and church leaders to lead their churches to study and implement our Lord's teachings on this essential church practice, and be it further

RESOLVED that we encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior's teachings on church discipline, especially when such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally

RESOLVED that we commit to pray for our churches as they seek to honor the Lord Jesus Christ through reestablishing integrity to church membership and to the reporting of statistics in the Annual Church Profile.

I am not sure what chance this resolution has of passing, but the recognition by Dr. Ascol and many others is there that there is a problem. All churches, ALL CHURCHES, have membership problems. The difference is that Dr. Ascol recognizes the problem in the SBC. Les Prouty doesn't even see that there is a problem in paedobaptist churches. I think I like Dr. Ascol's method better.

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