Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Pernicious Evil of Mere Preference

…in matters of denominational division

It is a serious matter to divide the Body of Christ. In the New Testament we find both the longing of Christ that division might not take place (John 17:20-23), and the accomplished fact of division as the necessary consequence of discipline in the church and the task of contending earnestly for the faith (e.g., 1 John 2:18-19; 1 Corinthians 5:13; Jude...in its entirety; Revelation 2:2, 6, 14-16, 20-25). In every case, the only grounds for division in the New Testament were as a response to the continued, unrepentant sin (either in doctrine or in practice) of fellow members in the church. Every age of Christianity has understood this simple truism: Division is to be avoided and unity is to be prized in the body of Christ. The only appropriate time to cleave the people of God is in response to unrepentant sin.
  • When Christiantiy divided East and West, the leaders of the two factions mutually excommunicated one another. If they had not considered it a matter of sin, they would not have divided.
  • When Martin Luther left Roman Catholicism, he did so over what he regarded as profound, unrepentant sin in the theology and practice of the Roman Catholic Church. If he had not considered it a matter of sin, he would not have divided.
  • When John Smythe and company separated from their congregation of English expatriates, Smythe declared the faith and practice of the Anglican Church, the Ancient Church, and all of his former spiritual kindred to be "Antichristian." If he had not considered it a matter of sin, he would not have divided.
As I said, every age of Christianity has understood this simple truism—every age, that is, except for the present age. To divide the Body of Christ over anything other than obstinate, unrepentant sin is itself an act of obstinate, unrepentant sin. We have instituted in some corners among ourselves a consumeristic mutant of Christianity in which the basis of unity is, rather than our collective submission to the indwelling Christ, the common preferences of our little band regarding the things that we consume (music, activities for our children, activities for ourselves, or preferences for cultural trappings). People shop for churches like they shop for restaurants. This is the legacy of Evangelicalism, which derives its idiosyncrasies from the present zeitgeist—it is just so much more polite to sidestep questions of true or false, right or wrong, and find refuge in the concept of personal preference. Enter a recent conversation I had with Paul Littleton at his blog (click here). Paul had his knickers in a knot over Dr. Mark Dever's frank assertion that pedobaptists are engaged in unrepentant sin for baptizing contrary to Christ's institution of the ordinance in the Bible. I entered the thread to assert that Dever was no less consistent than Littleton (or John Piper), who would bar pedobaptists from positions of leadership in the church. Paul retorted that his church's refusal to place a pedobaptist in positions of high leadership within the church was based merely upon their preferences, and not upon any matters so grave to call them sinful:
No, our church would not call a paedobaptizer as pastor, but it isn't because we would say he is an unrepentant sinner. That I know of Faith Baptist would not allow an unrepentant sinner to knowingly speak from the pulpit. We also discourage unrepentant sinners from partaking of the Lord's table (though we don't always know who they are, so that is often left to their own consciences). But again, we would not consider our Presbyterian brother an unrepentant sinner. . . . . . . . . The reason would be that we are a Baptist church and he is a Presbyterian. We believe in believer's baptism by immersion and he does not. We practice congregationalism and I would presume he does not.
Littleton's underlying point here is that he considers "Baptist" and "Presbyterian" to denote personal religious preferences—that being one or the other does not amount to a sin. Certainly, I can comprehend coming to the conclusion that Baptists and Presbyterians are divided by mere preference. Christian history is replete with churches split, individuals alienated, and battles waged over things that, in the long run, history has adjuged to be less than substantial. Perhaps, someday, somebody like Paul will convince me that the distinctive beliefs of Baptists are not matters of biblical obedience, but instead are merely points of private interpretation. It's possible. But when I am so convinced, I shall know what I must immediately do—at that moment, if I would be faithful to Christ, I must immediately renounce the separate existence of such a thing as a Baptist church and repent of ever being a member of such a church. Why? Because it is a sin to divide the Body of Christ (or to perpetuate division) over matters of mere preference. Thus my reply to Littleton:
Put me in the same category as John Smythe, Thomas Helwys, Roger Williams, John Clarke, et al. If it would not be a sin for me to merge with the Presbyterians, the Anglicans, the Romans, or whomever else (i.e., if to do so I would not be joining them in their unrepentant sin), then it would be a sin for me not to do so. Anything less fails to take seriously Christ's plea for Christian unity.

…in matters of church leadership.

It is also a serious matter to deny to any person the opportunity to exercise what the person believes to be a calling from God. Jesus Himself warned us about hindering people in the pursuit of Christian ministry (Mark 9:38-40). The Bible also provides us with a full set of qualifications by which we admit or bar people into the offices of the church (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:9-3:13; Titus 1:5-9). When we apply these biblical qualifications, we know that we are limiting the offices of the church not according to our personal prejudices but according to God's command. Who are we to restrict the calling of God? If we limit the offices based upon anything other than biblical authority, we limit them based upon illegitimate authority and are guilty of a grievous sin. Enter a recent post by Wade Burleson (click here). Burleson's post spun off from a post by R. L. Vaughn (click here), which in turn found its origin in the comment stream of a post by Emily Hunter-McGowin (click here). Burleson's position appears in his own words in comment #137 at the original post, where he said:
Finally, I have said publicly that I would not personally lead my church to hire a female pastor, would not be a member of a church where the senior pastor was female, and I have no problem personally with the BFM 2000 on this issue. However, I am honest enough to say that my discomfort is personal and cultural—and not Biblical.
Someday, somebody like Wade Burleson might convince me that the Bible does not prohibit women from serving as elders/pastors/overseers. Better men than I have reached this conclusion. It's possible. But when I am so convinced, I shall know what I immediately must do—at that moment, if I would be faithful to Christ, I must disavow my former affirmations of The Baptist Faith & Message, must campaign to alter the policies of FBC Farmersville to permit women to serve as pastors, and must give my personal benediction to women called to serve as pastors. Why? Because it is a grave matter to obstruct anyone in the pursuit of what they believe to be God's calling upon their lives. For me to dare to tell anyone, based upon nothing but the authority of my own mere preferences, that that person must not comply with what they believe to be God's calling upon their lives, would be a heinous act of sin. Either I have sound biblical grounds to say that they have misunderstood God's calling—that it would be sinful for them to pursue their plans contrary to the commandment of God—or I had better keep my opinion to myself and prevent my opinion from being legislated into the tenets of my church. But, in both of these matters (denominational division and qualficiations for biblical offices of the church), what if I am not convinced either way? What if I can see both sides of the matter? What if I have not come to any sound conclusion? Then I must preserve liberty on the matter. But liberty doesn't mean "I'll go arrange my church according to my view, and you go over there and arrange your church according to your view." Liberty means staying in the same congregation together and not making my uncertain preferences a test of fellowship. God prevent me from tying the hands of my own closest brethren over matters that I find entirely unimportant beyond the bounds of our local congregation. If I have matters of mere preference in view, my own congregation—my next-of-spiritual-kin—are the very last people upon whom I should impose my commands rather than the commandments of God. To divide or restrict the body of Christ over matters of mere preference (personal, cultural, denominational, or otherwise) is a pernicious evil.

116 comments:

Paul said...

Bart,

A couple of observations. First I wasn't aware that my knickers were in a knot over Dever's inconsistency. Perhaps I can get some help with that. I mainly asked questions and thought we had a pretty respectful conversation. Now I wonder.

Second, I think you unfairly set me up to be one of "those people" who advocates a "consumeristic mutant of Christianity" which seems both impolite and untrue. My thoughts are not based upon a consumerist notion of my beliefs.

Third, I have never said that my differences with Presbyterians are mere "preferences." I think that is an unfortunate description which is also inaccurate. Can there be something in between "preferences" and "unrepentant sin?" Surely there can. Are your eschatological views mere "preferences?" Are your views of worship mere preferences? You don't divide over them yet you disagree with fellow Baptists in those areas. Is that all they are? Preferences?

Grosey's Messages said...

Bro Bart, I agree substantially with what you have posted here. There is however one paragraph with which I would disagree.
You state "But when I am so convinced, I shall know what I immediately must do—at that moment, if I would be faithful to Christ, I must disavow my former affirmations of The Baptist Faith & Message, must campaign to alter the policies of FBC Farmersville to permit women to serve as pastors, and must give my personal benediction to women called to serve as pastors."

If FBC Farmersville is a fellowshipping church of the SBC, then the BFM2000 is its statement of faith in association with the SBC.

If you changed your view on something in the BFM2000, either you can lead your church OUT of the SBC (only if you felt that the majority of members were in agreement with your position), or resign from your church.
The ethical thing would be to resign from your church, and trust the Lord to lead you to some church that agreed with your belief statements.
Steve

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

1. I guess knicker-knots are in the eye of the beholder.

2. I never assigned you as an advocate of this approach (i.e. somewho who consciously advocates it), but only as someone whose argument (we divide over these matters not grave enough to be classified as matters of sin) is consonant with this approach.

3. You miss the point (the only comfortable alternative for you). I gave you another out...those things over which you are uncertain. In those areas, the prescription is liberty, even within the bounds of the local congregation.

Here, to state it again, is the point: If it is not a matter of sin, we should not divide over it.

What say you?

Bart Barber said...

Steve,

We're in substantial agreement. If I believed my church to be in grave scriptural error, it would be my duty as their overseer to call them to repentance, as well as myself. I could not depart silently.

However, if the church were to disagree, your prescription is precisely on-target.

We should also note that I did not come to this church with any reservations on these matters (and I hold none today). Even if I were to seek to lead my church in a different direction, this would not be a case of me coming into the church with hidden views and then seeking to lead some stealth campaign to change the nature of the church.

Grosey's Messages said...

yep, well said Bart :)
Steve

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Bart,

Thank you for this conversation. Personalities aside, it is helpful to drive at the core doctrines underlying these issues of evangelical ecumenism as opposed to biblical fidelity.

One correction, in addition to the one brought up by Brother Steve and clarified by you: John Smyth. Sorry, the pedantic professor came out.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Paul said...

Bart,

Perhaps the saddest thing is that you have intentionally misrepresented me to make your point. You know well that my point in my post was not "Dr. Mark Dever's frank assertion that pedobaptists are engaged in unrepentant sin for baptizing contrary to Christ's institution of the ordinance in the Bible." While that was the point you wanted to discuss, I had to go to great lengths to keep you on my point which was that it is inconsistent for Dr. Dever to claim a pedobaptist to be in unrepentant sin and then to invite that unrepentant sinner a place in his own pulpit.

You could at least be honest in your characterizations. Given the fact that I had to so forcefully make that very point to you in the comments of my post I can hardly think that this mischaracterization was unintentional.

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

Yes, you rightly note that there are inherent implications of your point which you did not wish to discuss. You might assert that it breaches some sort of protocol that I wished to discuss a different aspect of what you wrote than what you regarded as the main point. I will not dispute you at that point, because you get to set the topic of discussion at your blog. I will note in my defense that I did fully answer every question that you posed to me at your blog, and I encourage you to do likewise in this forum (see my last reply to you and the pointed question at the end).

So, I pursued a different aspect of the topic that you raised. But wanting to discuss something entailed within your point is a different thing entirely from misrepresenting your writings. Precisely how have I dishonestly mischaracterized your position?

I have asserted that you differed with Dever over characterizing pedobaptism as a matter of sin. Here are your own words: "But again, we would not consider our Presbyterian brother an unrepentant sinner." Do I mischaracterize your point here, directly quoting you word-for-word?

And if not, then what point are you trying to assert here?

Les Puryear said...

Bart,

I guess I'm a little slow. I haven't read Paul Littleton's post so maybe I am misunderstanding what you are saying. Please clarify for me where you view my following question to be in error.

Are you saying that the existence of different denominations means that one denomination is biblically correct and all other denominations are operating as unrepentant sinners?

Is that what you are saying?

Regards,

Les

Bart Barber said...

Les,

There are two possibilities, logically speaking. Either one denomination is right and all the others are in unrepentant sin...

...or all of the denominations are caught up in unrepentant sin.

If I knew of a denomination that was not caught up in unrepentant sin, I would not be authoring something like the Fifth Century Initiative. I am trying to address our faults as well.

But failing to call sin sin in other denominations does nothing to help us get our situation straight, either. Our sins are not yet grave enough, in my opinion, to warrant separation. I don't know yet that we are "unrepentant."

Time will tell, won't it?

Paul said...

Bart,

Your misrepresentation comes when, just after you link to my post (not the comments in my post, but the post itself, for which you rightly say I get to set the agenda for) you write this: "Paul had his knickers in a knot over Dr. Mark Dever's frank assertion that pedobaptists are engaged in unrepentant sin for baptizing contrary to Christ's institution of the ordinance in the Bible." If my "knickers were in a knot" it was over the substance of my post, not over a related point that wasn't even brought out until you commented. You clearly implied in your post that your point was the substance of my post when it was not.

I haven't responded to your question because at this point I don't believe I can do so without you twisting my words into something they are not. If you can't show more respect for me or what I have already written I don't have any confidence that you will start with my answer to your question.

Paul said...

And actually, to correct my first paragraph, I do not believe I even said that I had a problem with Dever saying pedo-baptizers are unrepentant sinners. I said in comments that I would have a problem saying that, but I did not say one way or another what I thought of Dever saying that. Thus, the whole point of the quote in your post is untrue to what I said either in the post or in comments on my post.

Bro. Robin said...

Bart

Thank you.


Robin

joerstewart said...

The key issue at hand has been addressed by Nathan Finn over at www.SBCwitness.com. Nathan is cogent and concise as ever. May I quote?

Question: What do the following men have in common?

Hanserd Knollys, Thomas Grantham, Obadiah Holmes, John Clarke, John Waller, James Ireland, Joseph Craig, among many others.

Answer: All went to prison for their belief in the baptism of believers alone. This is not including countless others, like early Harvard University president Henry Dunster, who were persecuted in other ways. Or the Anabaptists, who suffered and died for similiar convictions.

Would you be willing to suffer persecution for your baptismal convictions? Not the gospel itself, for which I assume (hope?) the answer is "yes." But would you be willing to suffer for the conviction that the gospel is most consistently displayed in the full immersion of new believers in water? Is baptism a conviction worthy of enduring suffering and persecution?

Your thoughts?

Does the question assume that the call to follow Christ is not part of the Gospel itself? If so, perhaps you might help me in seeing why we should dichotomize discipleship to Christ from proclamation of Christ. My reading of these men brings me to believe that they understood baptism as an act of discipleship to the one who called them to discipleship. I daresay they would find our modern division of Gospel and call to discipleship strange.
Malcolm Yarnell

Strider said...

Feel the love? This post and comment stream is a good example of why legalism does not work. What the heck is unrepentant sin? Apparently, anyone who is mistaken about anything has unrepentant sin, we all are wrong about something so all have sinned- that sounds familiar- I must divide from unrepentant sinners or that is yet another sin, therefore I must split off of myself. The logic is impeccable. The lack of understanding of the Gospel is unforgivable.
Pedobaptists are wrong. Every PedoBaptist who loves and follows Jesus is my brother and I am called to love him and honor him. I will argue with him about his being wrong but I will also learn from him as he, like me, learns more about the one who calls us both. Denominations are a reality that I don't like but they can not undo the work of God. My wrong attitudes, ideas, or even actions can not undo the work of God. He who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved- and is saved indeed in spite of wrong ideas.
Unrepentant sin is that thing that I do knowing it is wrong and not feeling the least bit bad about it. It is an incredibly sad state for a follower of Christ to fall into and we grieve for those who have gone down that road. They have chosen to stop following Jesus, giving up His way for their own way. This does not describe Pedo-Baptist. Followers of Jesus need very much to stop disrespecting each other and be about the task of loving each other. This does mean challenging sin and wrong doctrine when we see it. But we must go forward with much more humility and grace if we are to come close to being like the one we claim to follow. Drop the unrepentant sin phrase, it is rude and it is wrong to apply it in the way Dever has.

Bart Barber said...

Strider,

I've lost patience with the notion of decrying denominational fracturing of the Body of Christ as wrong, and then proceeding to shrug our collective shoulders against it and suggest that we just have to live with it. If pedobaptists are not in unrepentant sin for being pedobaptists, then we are in unrepentant sin for separating from them over it.

To say so might be rude, but it is the rudeness of Nathan, Elijah, Jesus, Peter, and Paul.

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

I see no need to debate the matter further. The link is in the OP. Everyone can stroll over and determine for themselves the nature of your post.

...and the nature of your refusal to answer my question.

I'm willing to leave the matter right there.

Bart Barber said...

Joe,

I'll stroll over and look at what Nathan has written. It sounds like his characteristically solid stuff.

Scott Shaffer said...

Bart,

Is there not a difference between unrepentant sin and sins of ignorance?

I follow your argument, but it seems to me if carry it to its logical conclusion you will ultimately end up separating from just about everyone because few will agree with you on every single point. Where do you draw the line? The BFM? Abstract of Principles? Some other creed or confession?

Scott

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Strider,

I am not trying to be coy here but I do want to ask a question. You said; "Denominations are a reality that I don't like..." Do you not realize that if it were not for the very animal that you say you do not like, you would not be able to enjoy the ability to serve the Lord on the mission field without concern that you family will be provided for? I praise God for the calling you have surrendered to, but that kind of statement makes one wonder why we are supporting missionaries. If all churches were to go the way of "Glocalization" there would be no IMB, and all M's would have to use their furlough to visit churches to re-raise their support.

Also, I have one more question, I think. :>) While you do not say it, you seem to imply that unrepentant sin means people stop serving God when you say; "They have chosen to stop following Jesus, giving up His way for their own way." I do not believe the Bible teaches someone living in unrepentant sin no longer serves Jesus, I believe it teaches that unrepentant sin breaks fellowship. Thus, if we believe one is in unrepentant sin we break fellowship because we believe they are in unrepentant sin. It makes no difference if they honestly believe in a doctrine. Here is my question. On the mission field, if you have a person desiring to join a church that is planted but they state they were baptized as a baby, would they be allowed to join the church? If not, why?

Blessings,
Tim

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Scott,

I do not presume to answer for Brother Bart, but your question has peaked an interest of mine.

I see your differentiation of sins of ignorance and unrepentant sins. However, would you not also agree that sin, from the human perspective, have levels? I am not one to pick an choose levels of sin, but I do pick and choose where I break fellowship. The Bible tells us that we are not to fellowship with one that sows seeds of discord among the brethren. However, in every church I have pastored we have had people in it that sowed seeds of discord.

As you speak about separation we, as Baptist, have clearly identified baptizing infants as an area that we are separating. The question, I believe, should be asked; Why? Why did our Baptist forefathers separate from Presbyterian doctrines?

Blessings,
Tim

Scott Shaffer said...

Tim,

You wrote, However, would you not also agree that sin, from the human perspective, have levels?

Yes, and the key is "human perspective". But, what about from God's perspective? We know that the wages of even the smallest sin (from a human perspective)is death. Yet, God does appear to find some sins more grievous. Just check out Paul's list of sins in Galatians and Colossians for example.

Back to the separation issue. I need to think some more about Bart's argument; there is something about it that doesn't set right with me but I can't put my finger on it. Part of the issue may be Christ's ideal for the church, that is unity, and the practicality of living in a fallen world. Ideally we would all agree on every point of doctrine and even application. Of course that isn't what we see because in our fallen state we still don't have 20/20 spiritual vision. I have a hard time describing a brother who is walking in fellowship with Christ as an unrepentant sinner because he holds a different view on communion, baptism, or eschatology. Just to be clear, I'm speaking of the different views we encounter within conservative evangelical circles.

Then, how does Romans 14 apply? How do we determine what issues are just matters of conscience?

So many questions! We need to humble ourselves and ask God for His wisdom.

Scott

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Scott,

I know that you wanted to discuss this with a scholar and you end up getting Elmer Fudd. :>) I do hope that Brother Bart will chime in on this as you asked him the question. However, as I said, it is something that has peaked my interest.

While "unrepentant sinner" sounds very harsh and strong, I must admit it would have to be correct. The reason I say that centers on my understanding of the sufficiency of the Scripture.

In your response to me you equated eschatology with communion and baptism. While the scripture is not so clear on eschatology, it is quite clear on baptism. While I am, what many more intimately refer to as Pre-Mil Pre-Trib, I am also open to the fact that the Bible does not clearly describe this position. However, when it comes to Baptism, one has to do serious hermeneutic gymnastics in order to arrive at a pedobaptist point of view. Thus, I can clearly say this is against Scripture. If I believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, then I must come to the conclusion either one that teaches pedobaptism is in unrepentant sin for adhering to and advocating a doctrine the Bible does not teach, or the text is open to molding and shaping in order to match my pet peeve.

You are very correct as to our Brother Bart's assessment on some things raising flags. I too have noticed some of these flags. However, I have found when dealing with this Brother, the more I think and debate him, the more the flag lowers and I am the better for the time of debate.

Blessings,
Tim

Debbie Kaufman said...

I am not trying to be coy here but I do want to ask a question. You said; "Denominations are a reality that I don't like..." Do you not realize that if it were not for the very animal that you say you do not like, you would not be able to enjoy the ability to serve the Lord on the mission field without concern that you family will be provided for

For how long Tim? Many have already been turned away or left finding other sources. Doctrinal purity as a criteria never works. For one thing there are just silent dissenters who disagree but don't dare say anything and then there are those who believe in being honest yet have paid the price.

You do realize that many have sought other sources for missions and for this very reason. Read Bryan Riley and see how God is blessing that move. God does not need Southern Baptists. I however as a Southern Baptist desire that He give us the privilege of being used by Him. I'm stubborn and not willing to throw in the towel, however with this latest post of Bart's I must admit that I am discouraged and wondering......however I do not believe Bart's view the majority view among Southern Baptists. Not by a long shot.

Anonymous said...

Who was the unrepentant sinner: Paul or Barnabas?

Mike

Debbie Kaufman said...

I would like an answer to this question that Paul Littleton posed on his blog.

How could Dever deny a person who was baptized as an infant a seat at the Lord's Supper because he views that person's failure to be baptized as a believer by immersion to be "unrepentant sin" (though unintentional), yet invite that same unrepentant sinner to preach in his church?

Tim Rogers said...

Sister Debbie,

It has been some time since we last crossed swords. What a refreshing post on which we can once again encounter each other's differences.

You have stated; "Doctrinal purity as a criteria never works."

However, someone pretty well known headed up a conference back in 1974. The purpose of this conference was world evangelization. There was a covenant drawn up known as the Luasanne Covenant. In this covenant they said; "Missions have all too frequently exported with the gospel an alien culture and churches have sometimes been in bondage to culture rather than to Scripture." These leaders also stated; "We recognise that there is a great need to improve theological education, especially for church leaders. In every nation and culture there should be an effective training programme for pastors and laity in doctrine, discipleship, evangelism, nurture and service. Such training programmes should not rely on any stereotyped methodology but should be developed by creative local initiatives according to biblical standards."

Thus, I am not certain that your statement on "doctrinal purity" would, as it is said around here, hold water.

As to Brother Bryan Riley, I do not have any information on him. However, if he is doing something to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I am all for him. Praise God we are seeing creative ways to get the Gospel to the Nations.

Blessings,
Tim

Bart Barber said...

Scott,

I am not calling for division over every little issue of the faith.

With all of the jockeying around with Paul, perhaps my point has been lost. Allow me to reiterate what I am saying, and then you let me know whether you still find it troubling.

1. There are actions serious enough that we might refer to them as grave, unrepentant sin.

2. There are actions serious enough to warrant division in the body of Christ.

3. Level 1 is lower than level 2.

4. Therefore, if it ain't serious enough to call it a matter of unrepentant sin, then it ain't serious enough to be divided over.

I think that framework leaves plenty of room for you or I or anyone else to work out which things are grave enough to call us to such sober action. I am not calling for us to divide over every minor point of doctrine. I have, in fact, explicitly stated the contrary. Plenty of room is still left to sort out what warrants liberty (items of uncertainty mentioned in the OP) and what warrants division.

HERE'S THE RUB: What it leaves absolutely no room for is to make division in the Body of Christ over things that really aren't very serious. To do so is a grave sin.

I believe that the items of the faith that have lead to the separate existence of Baptists are indeed items of sufficient gravity to justify separation. But anyone is free to conclude otherwise and remain true to this principle by returning to the Congregationalists, the Anglicans, the Roman Catholics, or wherever the sincere search for Christian unity would send them.

Bart Barber said...

Mike,

Re: Paul and Barnabas...on which occasion?

At Antioch, Barnabas was the sinner, and the Bible so indicates very plainly.

When they went their separate ways regarding John Mark, that wasn't any sort of denominational fracturing. No church split. Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark all ministered together later on. Christian unity was preserved. This is a perfect illustration of my point.

In both cases, I'm sure that there was sin involved. In both cases, clearly there was also repentance involved.

Bart Barber said...

Debbie,

Since Paul Littleton has a fine blog of his own, and one at which that question has already been posed and addressed at length, maybe you ought to go there to look for an answer?

Debbie Kaufman said...

OK, I'll fess up, I wasn't looking for another answer, but wanting to highlight a question which needs highlighting. Answer: It doesn't make sense. It's talking from both sides of one's mouth. I could go on but you get the jest. The question is the answer.

Debbie Kaufman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Shaffer said...

Bart,

Thanks for your reply.


I am not calling for us to divide over every minor point of doctrine. I have, in fact, explicitly stated the contrary. Plenty of room is still left to sort out what warrants liberty (items of uncertainty mentioned in the OP) and what warrants division.


and...

I believe that the items of the faith that have lead to the separate existence of Baptists are indeed items of sufficient gravity to justify separation.

OK. Does the BFM 2000 delineate each of these items?

Scott

Tim Rogers said...

Sister Debbie,

I will allow Brother Bart to answer for himself as to the bunny trail you seem to be running down. However, maybe I can answer it by issuing a challenge in the form of a question.

I am not a 5 point Calvinist and do not believe I was chosen to be. I preach in a church that believes Calvinism is not a Biblical doctrine and is a Doctrine arrived at by a man.

I am told that there are churches in the Southern Baptist Convention that do not practice Baptism by immersion and even accept pedobaptist because they honestly believe that was their baptism.

Here is what I will do. When we get to Indianapolis next year during the Misc. Business, I will present the Name of the church to the convention and make a motion that we remove fellowship from this church because they do not practice baptism by immersion. You on the other hand, make a motion that the convention remove fellowship from the church I pastor because we do not accept 5 point Calvinist as a legitimate Biblical Doctrine.

Let's see which one the convention will remove fellowship from.

Blessings,
Tim

Debbie Kaufman said...

Tim: I could not nor would not make that motion because I do not believe such a church should be removed, and I imagine you would have more luck removing me for being a five point Calvinist. Secondly I do not believe Baptist churches should practice pedo-baptism, nor do those who would fellowship with such a church. We are Baptists because we believe in immersion. The issue as I see it is calling those who believe in pedo-baptism "unrepentant sinners." You have succeeded in confusing the issue again Tim. Congratulations.

Debbie Kaufman said...

I removed my post because I thought I could word it better. This is what Tim was replying to. I asked if I am an unrepentant sinner for being a five point Calvinist. I just believe by Bart's reasoning that would have to be so. Or I could claim he was an unrepentant sinner by not agreeing with my view. I wondered if this statement would be correct.

Bart Barber said...

Debbie,

Those particular areas of soteriology belong to that category of uncertainty about which I wrote in the OP. You read that part, right?

I don't know that there's any profit to be gained by you and I going back and forth through a laundry list of what is or is not a sin. Let's just work it out in abstract with the one example that we already have on the floor: baptism.

What is sin? Action contrary to God's will is sin. Does it have to be intentional? I don't think so. What if I am ignorant of God's will? If so, sin is still sin. That's why everyone requires God's grace for salvation. We preach the gospel here at FBC Farmersville saying that all have sinned, and that even the "sincere Buddhist" who has acted in ignorance is still guilty of sin. I'm certain that the same gospel goes forth from the pulpit at Enid.

Is pedobaptism God's plan for baptism? No. Therefore, is pedobaptism sin? Yes. Pedobaptism, even if performed in ignorance or sincerity, is nonetheless an action contrary to God's plan.

Those who sprinkle infants regularly...Catholics, Presbyterians...have they repented of doing so? No. Thus, pedobaptism is an instance of unrepentant sin.

Debbie, if you believe that pedobaptism actually is in accordance with God's plan for baptism, then you cannot regard pedobaptism as sin, nor pedobaptists as unrepentant sinners. In which case you have no good reason to stay separated from them in your Baptist church.

If you aren't certain whether pedobaptism is or is not in accordance with God's plan for baptism, then you have to give liberty on the matter, since you're not sure which position is the wrong one. You must allow that pedobaptists might very well be right. In which case you have no good reason to stay separated from them in your Baptist church.

So, having bantered about with everyone else's questions, I'm finally going to step up and require that somebody answer mine, straight from the main point of the post: Name for me one sound basis of division—one solitary biblical basis for separation—that does not amount to a matter of unrepentant sin. Can anybody anywhere give me the slightest biblical justification for the line of thinking that says, "Well, I don't think that's a sin, but I'm not going to church with you over this issue, anyway"? On what authority do people arrive at this conclusion?

When somebody answers that question, then I'll be glad to answer other people's questions.

Bart Barber said...

Scott,

I've never looked at it that way before. Off the top of my head, nothing comes to mind that is conspicuously absent from the BF&M. Of course, a few years ago the BF&M didn't really say anything about homosexuality. A church like Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, or any church that affirms homosexuality, is engaged in grave, unrepentant sin of such a nature as to warrant separation. I would have believed so whether it were in the BF&M or not. Are there other possible matters of sin that are not addressed in the BF&M? I'm sure that there are. The heart of man is deceitfully wicked, and there seems to be no end to human variety in depravity.

Nevertheless, I'm betting that your question is more along the lines of "do you have any big issues in mind that are not contained in the BF&M?" As I am writing this, the things that I have in my heart are indeed contained in the BF&M.

Scott Shaffer said...

Bart,

Agreed. I think the BFM 2000 is a solid document. Sure, it doesn't cover every possible heresy, just as the original Fundamentals didn't. Therefore, the document will change to address the issues of the day. Nevertheless, it is a tool that can instruct us with regards to fellowship and separation. That is one reason why I have a difficult time understanding how some call it a "maximal" statement yet take exception with some of the points it contains. Once you start doing that, where do you stop? At what point can you say, "Well because you disagree with 3 points, you can't serve in leadership, etc.?"

I digress. Thanks for the discussion.

Alan Cross said...

Bart,

I read your exchange with Paul when it happened on his blog and now I have read your post here and the comments. I must admit that I have never heard it put this way. I have never thought of Presbyterians as being in a state of unrepentant sin because they believe in infant baptism.

Your argument caused me to think of this passage's implications:

1 John 3:4-10

4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

7Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. 9No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

ME - I have always believed that even though Christians sin, because the Holy Spirit is in us, we cannot stay in a state of unrepentant sin. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God will bring us under conviction and we will repent at some point. If repentance never occurs and we stay in a state of unrepentant sin, then we can believe, based on 1 John 3:4-10, that that person was never a believer to begin with. Or, we can believe that God's grace covers that sin (as it does all sin) and the person is saved based on his trust in Christ as Savior, yet he is out of fellowship with the Lord and is under God's discipline in some way.

I have tended to side with the perspective that unrepentant sin throughout a person's life is a sign that they are not in Christ and that they are "of the devil" and beyond the influence of the Holy Spirit. In other words, they are actually going to Hell, or at the very least, they are believers who should be turned over to the devil (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:20) so that they would be disciplined. I am not here talking about someone who is struggling with sin. The struggle shows that they are fighting against the sin nature at least on some level. Surely, we all have and will continue to struggle with sin in one form or another. I am talking about unrepentant sin which leads to church discipline, banishment, and death. In some cases, it means that the person was never a believer to begin with.

Is this your perspective regarding Presbyterians? What I have outlined seems to be the biblical implication of division over unrepentant sin. Anything less than that perspective cheapens the actual impact of church discipline and the idea of excommunication. I don't think that we can just say that we are dividing with people over their unrepentant sin and that each person can just be "free to conclude otherwise and remain true to this principle by returning to the Congregationalists, the Anglicans, the Roman Catholics, or wherever the sincere search for Christian unity would send them." We are not "free" to engage in unrepentant sin without warranting condmenation from the church and undergoing church discipline. Under your perspective, if anyone left a Baptist church to go to a Presbyterian church, then they must be excommunicated from their Baptist church and be handed over to Satan or treated as a "pagan or a tax collector" (Matt. 18:17) because they have joined up with people who encourage others to engage in unrepentant sin. Their teaching could be considered to be a form of heresy, if not outright heresy, that denies the truth of God's Word.

To go even further under your perspective, if Presbyterians teach children that their infant baptism is sufficient, thus leading them to engage in unrepentant sin, Jesus says that, "it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be dropped in the depths of the sea" Matt. 18:6. Are you putting Presbyterians in that category?

A charge of unrepentant sin carries grave implications that calls someone's eternal destiny into question. I am not saying that you are wrong. I am actually ready to seriously consider your position because I am a firm proponent of believer's baptism and believe with all my heart that it is the biblical way of Baptism. I am just wondering how we should properly view others based on 1 John 3:4-10. I am also wondering if have completely considered the implications of your position and if you are ready to possibly consign Presbyterians to hell because they are unrepentant in their belief in infant baptism as opposed to believer's baptism?

Debbie Kaufman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debbie Kaufman said...

Bart: Alan and I posted at the same time. I liked Alan's wording better. I would like to add this to what Alan said however. John Piper said this and I agree.

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.

I also do not think you can begin to compare Presbyterian baptism with Catholic Baptism. To the Presbyterian baptism is not salvic. At all. I can see how you got there. I just think this is seriously flawed thinking on your part.

As for reading your OP part, I just wanted to make sure that things such as Calvinism or other things I could name were not in there. For some they are.

peter lumpkins said...

Bart,

My goodness, my Brother. It seems like you've added plenty peppers to the porridge! Ummm...

I am still processing your argument. Not its form per se. Nor actually the Biblical thrust behind it. Indeed I think you are spot on when you frame it in Biblical separatism as you do which is one reason it is driving your dissenters nuts, from my view.

I personally have not employed the categories that you choose. That is, for example, assigning those who sprinkle to the category of "Unrepentant sinner." Rather, I heretofore have established, in my little mind anyway, that those who *believe in sprinkling* possess a crisis in *belief* not a crisis in *behavior*.

I am further suggesting that one reason your proposal appears so radical is its insistence in placing someone possessing a less than appropriate doctrinal point (believer's immersion)--albeit a *clearly* revealed doctrinal point as Tim noted above-into the "Unrepentant sinner" category and not the "Biblically deficient belief" category.

Understand, my Brother Bart: I am definitively not at this time arguing for my position, which, as I place your lens in my frames, it seems to expose a glaring flaw:

When belief *becomes behavior*, belief ceases to be *just belief*. Indeed it becomes visibly moral or immoral. Consequently, assuming it is judged to be sin, it now must be gauged as to whether the severity of the sin justifies separation from the sinner.

Interesting discussion. And, surely one upon which we all must reflect.

Thanks for it, Bart. With that, I am...

Peter

p.s. Oh, by the way, you inquired this: "Can anybody anywhere give me the slightest biblical justification for the line of thinking that says, "Well, I don't think that's a sin, but I'm not going to church with you over this issue, anyway"?

I can think of a few but I don't think you would count them:

1) I'm not going to church with folk who do not observe good hygiene though being not well-kept I do not think is a sin
2) I'm not going to church with a preacher who yells and screams at me though not being a 'polished' pulpiteer do I think is a sin
3)I'm not going to church with preachers in jeans though wearing jeans I do not think is a sin
4) I'm not going to church with people who forbid musical instruments though forbidding musical instruments I do not think is a sin

Just lightening it up...:^)

Grosey's Messages said...

mmm Alan.. your words are interesting "if Presbyterians teach children that their infant baptism is sufficient,"
I have many good Presbyterian ministerial friends, (I have even baptized one recently shhhhhh!) who practice infant baptism and say that as far as they are concerned it means "NOTHING" because the children must come to saving faith in Christ (be born again) or they are going to hell.
I have a Presbyterian minister near by who says "Presbyterians teach children that their infant baptism is sufficient" and by that he means infant regeneration via water ( exactly as his High Church of England and Catholic mates say.
There is a variety of views concerning the efficacy of baptism within the Presbyterian church)
I cannot have fellowship at any level with such a man because he is most certainly a false teacher opposed to the gospel. His gospel is not the atoning death of the Saviour at the cross, but the wonderful efficacy of the water at the font.
My evangelical Presbyterian friends in the same Presbytery wont have anything to do with him (the Presbytery is divided 50/50 between evangelicals and liberals).
When my evangelical Presbyterian friends say that they have to (Ugh!!) "do" a baptism, I know they are cringing at the hypocrisy and heresy of it. If they could, they would practice believer's baptism only (perhaps by effusion, most agree with immersion). But they are bound by the "rules" to practice what they oppose.
Why do they not become Baptists? Well they already know our Australian Denom will NOT accept them because
a. they are reformed in their viewpoint.
b. because they have a higher view of scripture than the Baptist Union seems to have.
c. They have seen how conservatives are maligned in the Baptist Union.
d. They know their names will NEVER be put forward for a church to consider.
e. They feel called to gospel ministry so they better stay where they can still do it in some measure.

I very much empathise with them and feel myself their distress.
And you too can have this if you widen your parameters.
:(
Steve

Alan Cross said...

Steve, once again, I don't really understand your point.

When I said sufficient, I meant sufficient as their baptism - not sufficient for salvation. The Presbyterians that I know do not teach baptismal regeneration, although I do not know all the Presbyterians in the world.

I still look forward to Bart's response when he returns to his blog. Until then, I'll be watching the Saints-Colts on NBC. Go Saints!

The Milkman said...

Bart, I will attempt to answer your question from an Arkansas perspective:

Bluegrass "gospel" music- Especially with a banjo. Actually, I think the banjo definitely makes it a sin, so never mind that last part. In the meantime I'll try to come up with a real answer.

Grosey's Messages said...

Alan, I guess I am more familiar with your statement than you are:
:)
You conclude "I am also wondering if have completely considered the implications of your position and if you are ready to possibly consign Presbyterians to hell because they are unrepentant in their belief in infant baptism as opposed to believer's baptism? "
I demonstrated that
a. Some Presbyterians take a baptismal regeneration view on infant baptism... thus denying the nature of the gospel... and yes... we should recognise these usually liberal Presbyterian ministers as unsaved.. (or as you so richly stated "consigned ... to hell".
Others of an evangelical stripe quite normally struggle over the issue of Infant baptism (usually from a covenant family perspective) and have concerns about the tendency of the unsaved to find false hope in this. they are usually moving towards a Baptistic perspective (although I am certain that you may find a few Presbyterian ministers who for the sake of a fight claim to be entrenched in their understanding).
As some of these struggle with the issue, they come to the conclusion that the broad school is sinful (broad school.. if it breathes wet it, if it pairs marry it, and if it stops breathing bury it).
And then commences the movement towards a Baptistic practise.
I guess you have baptised a few Presbyterian ministers in your time Alan... tell us of your experiences. Or does your experince move the other way?
Steve

volfan007 said...

boy, the water's gettin' deep in here.

bart, i know that you're familiar with the church of christ(cambellite) churches around these parts. are you not getting dangerously close to sounding like them? you know, if you dont belong to our church, then you're not only in the wrong church, but you're going to hell?

like peter and some others in here, i'm thinking hard on what you're saying here. it's really thought provoking.

david

peter lumpkins said...

My Brother Bart,

Doggone you. Just when I was beginning to like you, out of nowhere, you offer me a cup of sour wine. Like a crazy song stuck in one's brain, playing over and over endlessly, so this little exercise you've conjured up plays over again.

Know I do thank you. Though I've had conversations about separatism before, I cannot recall having it cast in this particular way. Thus, the two further thoughts I offer not as a case I've thought through and thus am making it. Rather, these two particular points should be seen as testing my current processing of this interesting potential dilemma I've unhappily found myself thinking about.

That conceded, Bart, the first thing I'd mention is, given the history of common Baptist practice in dealing with churches of other denominations, who are say, orthodox when it comes to the doctrine of God, Christ, justification by faith alone, etc., yet are nonimmersionists, may we legitimately conclude that Baptists generally cast them into the category of "Unrepentant sinners"? Though I'm sure you know more about this than do I, I am equally sure that at least some important Baptists most certainly did not.

I don't want to toot my site's whistle on your nickel, Bart, but if I may, the last two posts I've annied up actually comprise one sermon preached before the old West N.C. Baptist Convention in 1883 by James E. Carter. It's a sermon on Baptist Distinctives.

Note how Carter deals with those who criticize Baptists for 'close communion' & believer's immersion:

"These two ordinances [baptism & the Supper], according to our faith, have equal authority, are of equal benefit, and are both symbolical in their nature. Baptism, to us, preaches Christ's burial and resurrection, and the Supper "shows forth" the Lord's death "till he comes."

"We do not believe that a place together at the Lord's table is the test of Christian character, but that regeneration is that test. A *true Baptist believes* that there are thousands and tens of thousands of *converted men and women in all the various denominations*, *many of them, it may be, better men than he is*" (asterisks mine).

The point I make here is that, while separatism is boldly embraced, not one hint here or in the rest of the sermon is there an identifying of those who do not either baptize properly or partake properly are "Unrepentant sinners". If anything the benefit of the doubt is offered that they were "better than"--presumably morally speaking--many Baptists.

John Dagg argues in Section 4, Chapter 5 "Communion" that Baptists are definitively right in not allowing the unbaptized either a place on the Church roll or a place at the Lord's table. He takes pains to answer most of the objections of that day from English Baptists--particularly Robert Hall and Charles Spurgeon (though Dagg never mentions Spurgeon by name)--who argued for open communion.

What's interesting is, that, at least from what i can tell, Dagg never once cast pedobaptists as "Unrepentant sinners."

To the contrary, he argued positively from the responsibility of the Church to fulfill her duty and keep the Gospel order God gave in the NT. That is, the focus was not the nonimmersionist and his sin but the Church and her sin if she neglected Gospel order and received him. For me, I think Dagg's construct should cause us pause in casting the issue you have raised, Bart, in terms of "Unrepentant sinner."

Looking further in Dagg, he writes similarly in Chapter 10, Section 5 "On the Treatment of Unbaptized Ministers" what some would feel a blatant inconsistency--Dagg argued contra Pendleton's "Old Landmark Reset" that pedobaptized ministers need not be restricted from Baptist pulpits even though they were nonimmersionists. Dagg queries:

"Have all those offended Christ who have recognized as his ministers, Whitefield, Edwards, Davies, Payson, and other such men from whom they have supposed that they received the word of Christ, and by whose ministry they have thought they were brought to know Christ? If Baptists ought not to recognize such men as gospel ministers, no one ought; and the respect which they have received from men as ministers of the gospel, must be offensive to Christ." (MCO, p.288).

With interest, Dagg offers an anecdote before he's through pertaining to his own experience with pedobaptists in his pulpit:

"On various occasions I have invited Pedobaptist ministers to preach where I have been accustomed to officiate; and, in every case, I have been able to approve that doctrine which they preached. In a single case, it happened, that a minister invited to occupy the pulpit, preached doctrine so erroneous, that I deemed it my duty to correct it in a discourse subsequently delivered; but the preacher of this error was a Baptist." (Ibid, p.297).

As I'm thinking out loud--or as I type these silly, sticky keys--I wonder if, given the categories stated here, Dagg may have been grossly in error since he invited to his pulpit, numerous men to preach the Gospel, whom he fully understood to be a blatant, "Unrepentant sinner".

I don't know. I'm surely going to keep thinking about this. It is definitely a keeper, Bart. Great post.

Grace. With that, I am...

Peter

Alan Cross said...

First of all, the Saints got destroyed. Oh well. Fortunately there are 16 NFL games.

Steve,

Why are you so combative? You seem to assume that I am against you on this, or something. Of course, I would adamantely oppose any view that supported baptismal regeneration. There are quite a few Church of Christ people in my neck of the woods and I have debated them vigorously. When it comes to PRESBYTERIANS that I have met, I have not met any who believe that infant baptism saves. I have labored quite vigorously to show the ones that I have met that you must be baptized as a believer and not as an infant. I do not compromise on this, and I side with Grudem in the debate on this issue with Piper. I believe that it is a Baptist distinctive that must not be sacrificed. I am trying to follow Bart's line of thinking here instead of inserting another from your experience in Australia. If you are dealing with Presbyterians who believe in baptismal regeneration, I am sorry. That is a tough spot to be in and I am sure that you are handling it correctly. But, I don't see what baptismal regeneration has to do with this argument. We would all oppose that heresy, or at least I hope that we would.

As for Bart's perspective, I am very interested to see what he has to say in regard to the 1 John passage and my other questions re: the implications of unrepentant sin.

Bennett Willis said...

This post brings to mind an old Baptist joke (short version given here). The new person was getting a tour of heaven. There were the various churches represented and their behavior in heaven was "complimentary" to their behavior back on earth and thus they could be identified [numerous stereotypes go here]. Then the tour came past a small group over by themselves who were not really joining in the group praising of God. "Who is that?" was asked. "Why they are the Church of Christ--they think that they are the only ones here."

So either these things matter to God and you (and a few close friends) will be the only ones there or they don't matter. And if they don't matter to God...

Bennett Willis

Grosey's Messages said...

Alan, I am sorry that you perceived my comments as combative.
they weren't. They were more explicatory by example... and I prefaced it with a :)
to demonstrate I wasn't being combative but rather reflective.
The issue Bart raises is whether infant baptising ministers are acting sinfully.
I would agree that they are.
However, bye the way, Baptist ministers who speed are also acting sinfully. :)
Ministers of any denomination denying fundamental gospel doctrines are acting even more sinfully than those who hold to gospel doctrines but do practice infant baptism.
I guess I am stating that as the Lord deals with us about our sinful practices, we can expect Presbyterians to become Baptists, and Baptists to stop speeding :)
Steve

Bart Barber said...

Yet again, I call everyone back to the major assertion of this post and my question that only Sean has attempted to answer and that none have attempted to answer seriously...OK...Peter has engaged the issue, but none other:

This post is not about which items belong in which category: 1) Unrepentant sin, 2) Items of uncertainty, 3) Items of moral neutrality.

This post is about the pernicious evil of considering ANYTHING that you would put into categories 2 and 3 as a matter worthy of division in the Body of Christ.

Bart Barber said...

Scott,

A digression—but a worthy and valid one!

Bart Barber said...

Alan,

You wrote: "I have tended to side with the perspective that unrepentant sin throughout a person's life is a sign that they are not in Christ and that they are "of the devil" and beyond the influence of the Holy Spirit. In other words, they are actually going to Hell, or at the very least, they are believers who should be turned over to the devil (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:20) so that they would be disciplined. I am not here talking about someone who is struggling with sin. The struggle shows that they are fighting against the sin nature at least on some level. Surely, we all have and will continue to struggle with sin in one form or another. I am talking about unrepentant sin which leads to church discipline, banishment, and death. In some cases, it means that the person was never a believer to begin with."

I'm no subscriber to "Entire Sanctification." I believe that our sanctification, begun here, is accomplished in the eschaton. I submit myself to the truth of the Bible as revealed in 1 John, but also to its teachings in the self-testimony of Paul in Romans 7:14-25 ("Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?")

In practice, I must admit that I assign different levels of gravity to different sins (as, indeed, do the Scriptures). Some in our Baptist debates this past year have highlighted the sin of gluttony. A great many continue unrepentant in this sin, do they not? Then there are the unrepentant speeders, unrepentant gossips, unrepentant folks given to outbursts of anger.

These are sins—every last one of them. I would not count them as items worthy of questioning anyone's salvation. I would not count them as items worthy of exercising church discipline upon anyone. Neither would I count them as items worthy of splitting off another church and denomination. Therein lies the consistency.

Pedobaptism is a grave error with vast negative implications for the church. I would count it as an item worthy of exercising church discipline. Indeed, this principle lies at the heart of the reason why our congregation requires believer's immersion for membership. Is proper baptism, or is it not, our initial act of obedience upon coming to faith?

I do not think it necessary to question the salvation of every believer who will not submit to Christian baptism, but I do think it necessary to question the obedience of such a one.

Bart Barber said...

Debbie,

Piper, in the quote you gave, is being perfectly consistent with the principle that I have articulated here: He does not consider pedobaptism a sin; therefore, he is entirely unwilling to divide the Body of Christ over the issue of baptism.

Piper's inconsistency shows up when he then excludes these folks from church leadership on the basis of something that he has disregarded as unimportant when considering them for membership.

Bart Barber said...

Peter,

Loved your list at the end! :-)

I do not accept the dichotomy that would relegate sin to items of action. To reject the eternality of Christ, for example, is an item of biblically deficient belief rather than action, yet it is also a sin of such gravity as to consign one to perdition.

I would not assign such gravity to our question of baptism, nor to the case of gluttony that I gave to Alan, nor to many other things. My point is simply that things ought to rise to a certain level of importance—certainly well beyond the threshhold of "sin"—before we ought to divide the Body of Christ over them.

Bart Barber said...

Sean (the Milkman):

Die, heretic.

Bart Barber said...

David,

My brother, I think you have made the mistake of thinking that I am saying what Alan suggests that I am saying. :-)

All of us who are genuine believers will be repentant by the time we stand before the throne. But I have stood over many a casket of a believer who had not yet seen God's grace displace every unrepentant sin from his life. Haven't we all?

Bart Barber said...

Peter,

You said: "The point I make here is that, while separatism is boldly embraced, not one hint here or in the rest of the sermon is there an identifying of those who do not either baptize properly or partake properly are 'Unrepentant sinners'. If anything the benefit of the doubt is offered that they were 'better than'--presumably morally speaking--many Baptists."

I do not disagree with Carter, with Dagg, nor (as of your writings on this point so far) with Lumpkins as far as I can tell. I employ the term "unrepentant sinner" not to adjudge the entire "Christian character" of other believers, but to describe their faith and practice at one particular point.

Although I try to make it my practice to be ready to repent of sin (and have done so quite publicly on some past occasions), I could not be so bold as to declare with any certainty that I am not an "unrepentant sinner" at some point or another.

While I agree with you that Dagg and others did not flamboyantly prefer the phrase "unrepentant sinners" to refer to pedobaptists, neither did he deny its validity in regard to such. Prior to my earlier exchange with Paul, you would have met with equal difficulty finding such langauge in the writings of Bart Barber.

Mark Dever is the one who posited the phrase, as far as I can tell. I find it accurate, even if I had not asserted it before. Apart from pondering Dever's precedent for employing the language, perhaps we would do well to analyze its meaning and see whether the shoe does not fit?

Finally, I must protest in the most strenuous of terms that I have never offered wine (sour or sweet) to anyone. ;-)

Bart Barber said...

Bennett,

The joke applies not in the least. I am not at all speculating as to who will be in heaven. Those are Alan's words, not mine.

Bart Barber said...

Steve,

Have you been looking up my driving record? :-(

Well said.

Bart Barber said...

Finally, as a bookend to all of my comments this morning, I recall everyone to the point of the post:

How can one justify the sentiment: "This difference between us is not so serious as to regard it as a matter of sin…we just can't go to church together any more."

As for me, I submit that, if the cause of separation is not a sin, then the action of separation surely is.

peter lumpkins said...

Bart,

Thanks for the reply. With so many demanding "But Bart, what about the...?" I am flattered I am among the chosen :^)

I concede that some *beliefs* ares so severe that Hell awaits. I do not concede we usually speak of those beliefs in terms of *behavior*. Rather we normally we speak of them in terms of *heresy*. If I am correct, Dever only muddies the water by switching the categories. Similar to today's egalitarians who wish to boldly state they believe in complementarianism too--'complementarian without hierarchy.' Oh, the confusion this brings.

When the category "unrepentant sinner" is employed, I think of wicked behavior. Dr. Dever should repent of the confusion he's offered ;^) (I do concede I may fail in thinking that through properly).

As for asserting about Dagg: "I agree with you that Dagg and others did not flamboyantly prefer the phrase "unrepentant sinners" to refer to pedobaptists, neither did he deny its validity in regard to such." For me, I think that qualifies nicely as an argument from a stone-cold silence. Indeed I think it may not be fair to Dagg to interpret him as "not flamboyantly prefer[ing] the phrase "unrepentant sinners" to refer to pedobaptists." To the contrary, he invited them to preach for him! Would you invite one you darn well knew was an "unrepentant sinner" to fill your pulpit? I wouldn't.

I think the latter may be the Achilles heel here: Baptists--outside the world of 'Theodosia Ernest" anyway--have had good relationships with men of other Christian denominations, even inviting them to fill the pulpit and preaching and associating with them. From my view point, I do not see how clumping them into the category "unrepentant sinner" makes for healthy relationships.

Grace Bart. With that, I am...

Peter

Debbie Kaufman said...

Bart: Do you not do the same with those who are divorced for example? Divorced people are not excluded from joining the church but they cannot hold office in most Baptist churches. You could hold that same charge with them as well.

Anonymous said...

Bart

On another level, there are some interesting conversations going on in BGCT life - there are some who are acknowedging that the BGCT needs to tighten their relationship with the SBC - I say good for them.

Rick Davis is having a conversation with David Lowerie who is running for pres of the BGCT. I think his election would start a process of helping to renew the ties between the two conventions and would be a great step in the right direction. You can check out the conversation here:

http://aintsobad.typepad.com/aintsobad///

Anonymous said...

Forgot to sign my name to the previous

Jim Champion

Debbie Kaufman said...

All of us who are genuine believers will be repentant by the time we stand before the throne. But I have stood over many a casket of a believer who had not yet seen God's grace displace every unrepentant sin from his life. Haven't we all?

Are we going to be perfect before we enter heaven? Asking for clarification purposes.

R. Grannemann said...

I would be helpful if we could all agree on what a true church is. I believe it is fundamentally an assembly of people who have experienced the new birth and who under the leadership of the Holy Spirit attempt to follow Christ. This is consistent with the historic Baptist position that a true church is rightfully an assembly of the saved, not an organized ecclesiastical hierarchy.

Consider:

1) Adding doctrinal requirements as validating stamps for a New Testament church opens a Pandora's box which soon becomes legalistic thinking. In the end it makes tests of works rather than faith the ultimate conditions for religious righteousness, something which Paul called "another gospel."

2) Saying that a church's particular doctrinal position, one requiring believers baptism for membership, implies schism is a bit of a red herring. Every church (at least within the free church tradition) decides its conduct and what enterprises it will engage. Whether a Baptist church decides to engage in a missionary program with Pentecostal churches is a practical matter up to them. It may think the relationship unworkable because of a differing perspectives on tongues, for example. But to charge them with dividing the body of Christ is ridiculous. They just had good sense.

3) Similarly charging a believer with unrepentant sin over baptism when they have not felt the Holy Spirit's conviction in the matter is questionable position. They might be unrepentant at some point, but how do you know they are now?

4) Finally, we should not chase after Rome. The church ordinance of baptism is not a means to righteousness. It is something we wish to do to show the world we are followers of Christ. Let's don't get our kickers into knots.

Bart Barber said...

Peter,

I was not so much trying to advance my own argument from silence as I was seeking to interrupt yours. :-)

We have no opportunity to pose the direct question to Dagg, Carter, or anyone else. But we do have the sustained, unrelenting apologetic from Baptists that pedobaptism is contrary to Christ's institution.

If our actions contrary to Christ's institution are not sin, then what are they?

If you or I discover that we have been ministering contrary to Christ's commands, do we not refer to such a discovery as "conviction"? Do we not acknowledge the need to repent?

Let all beware, when they hear me employ the phrase "unrepentant sinner" of thinking that I am religating the person in view to some small category of the particularly depraved. That is a large category and those in it are (partially) in good company.

I think Dever would respond similarly, since he has attached the label to men who are, by all accounts, some of his dearest friends and closets colleagues.

Yet again, my dear Peter, if we are to conclude that pedobaptism is not a sin, then what grounds have we to refuse to admit those sprinkled as infants into our churches?

Bart Barber said...

Debbie,

The difference between my requiring that a candidate for the office of elder be "the husband of one wife" (and we ARE NOT opening that can of worms into this thread!) and Bro. Piper requiring a particular form of baptism is simply this: I have a scriptural basis for the former, while he has none for the latter. There is one baptism, not one sufficient for membership but another sufficient for leadership.

Bart Barber said...

Jim,

Have I sent you a copy of my advertising rates?

Bart Barber said...

Debbie,

Yes, I believe that we will be sanctified completely when we enter eternity.

Luke said...

Bart,

For what it is worth, your "bookend comment" to me is precisely clear as to what you are asking. I think the "inconsistency" in the actions of people who say one thing and yet do not act in accord with what they say is a relevant point, though I believe that is what many are missing that you are trying to bring and keep on the table. I have been thinking and thinking trying to come up with an example that would contradict your statement. Obviously, I offer none at this time. Your point, if we are not dividing over sin, then our division is in and of itself sinful. I reserve the right to keep trying to come up with an example where this would not be so but until then, I believe your question is valid and maybe just a little soul searching. May I offer as to why we divide when there is no sin being addressed in the division...PRIDE. And I believe that is your point, pride is sin so the division, though not over sin becomes sin and of itself.

I have tried to state a couple of times what I hear you saying and would simply like a confirmation if I am on the same page.

Thanks for the soul searching.

Bart Barber said...

Bro. Granneman,

Good Baptist that I am, I am not at all discussing the phenomenon of cooperative groups like the Southern Baptist Convention. I agree that the choices of individual congregations to form partnerships for gospel enterprises does not amount to schism if not all are included.

I am referring, instead, to the fact that the small community of Farmersville has (in the city limits alone) four Baptist churches, a Methodist church, a Church of Christ church, an Assembly of God church, an AME church, and a Pentecostal church. These groups have developed throughout history through the mechanism of schism, and we perpetuate the schism through our separate extistence as congregations.

We'd better have pretty good reason for doing so. That is NOT a "red herring." It is a taking seriously of the prayer of Christ for Christian unity.

I think that we do have a good reason for doing so, at least in many cases, because I believe that the practice of pedobaptism is sin. I believe that it is a sin of such gravity as to warrant separation.

I acknowledge that many people might not regard it as a sin of such gravity (John Bunyan, for example, did not). I acknowledge that some people might not even consider it a sin at all (as apparently many in this thread do not). What nobody seems ready to answer is this question: Then what good biblical reason do you have, in view of Christ's explicit desire that His Body remain united, not to merge with these groups into a unified Christian congregation? Bunyan was consistent here; are you?

Paul said...

Bart,

If you had an unrepentant speeder or glutton or gossip in your church who openly advocated speeding or openly advocated gluttony or gossip would you not discipline them? And let's keep in mind that they do not have to use words to openly advocate those things. Actions will do as well. If they continued to advocate speeding or gluttony or gossip would you not ultimately put them out of the church? If you would not then are you not at Piper's position? If you would then can you tell us the last time you did so?

Bart Barber said...

Luke,

You understand me precisely. THANK YOU!

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

Let's tally up how many of your question I have answered and whether you will answer my one.

I think it is your turn.

Paul said...

Bart,

I actually answered your question in the comments of my own blog, but I'll do it again just for the sake of repetition. I separate from those groups out of conviction and for the sake of a greater harmonious fellowship. Conviction does not have to call the other person's position sin. I have a conviction about the Lord's Supper that is different than yours, yet you do not separate from me nor I you. One of us is wrong and one of us is, to use your category, an unrepentant sinner. Yet we do not separate. We maintain good fellowship with our Presbyterian brethren, recognizing them as brothers and sisters in Christ but we worship separately for the sake of harmony on this earth understanding that in heaven we will be in one accord on baptism.

But you have now brought to a head the very point I was making in my own post: if "unrepentant sin" is so grave as to divide us in the body of Christ, how in the world can Mark Dever invite such an unrepentant sinner into his pulpit? Thankfully you agreed that it is inconsistent, though apparently not inconsistent enough to say more than a hand-full of words about, while you write entire posts on the inconsistency of not calling it unrepentant sin.

Paul said...

As I said, I answered your question on my own blog. Now I've done so here as well. Now it's your turn.

R. Grannemann said...

Bart,

The schism you talk about is that of a superstructure. That is not the church, unless your thinking is like that of Roman Catholics, which I doubt, but that is what you are actually saying. The superstructure has no authority from God and is not substance of Christian unity - unless you give the superstructure authority it does not rightly have.

The fact the churches in your community have different brands on the sign outside need not make they spiritually divided, unless you choose to make it that way. The important question is whether the people inside are truly saved. If they are, they are your brothers and sisters, a church of the living God, in spite of (in your view gross) imperfections they might have.

Wade Burleson said...

Bart,

I believe Paul's question is worthy of a detailed response. I also believe Paul has placed his finger on the inconsistency in your view - to push separatism by calling others 'unrepentant sinners' and then to read books written by 'unrepentant sinners,' share your pulpit with 'unrepentant sinners,' and quote from theologians who are 'unrepentant sinners' as if a Christian could learn from the words of 'unrepentant sinners' is extraordinarily inconsistent.

The only thing you can do, in practical fulfillment of our view, is to separate yourself totally from the evangelical world and act as if nobody else is truly 'holy,' 'righteous,' 'qualified,' or 'obedient' enough in the Kingom of Christ but you and those to hold your views.

But wait. Southern Baptists have already had those in that camp. The Landmark Baptists of the 1800's believed precisely what you are advocating and were furious that the 'liberal' Southern Baptists would even contemplate having 'unrepentant sinners' in their pulpits.

Bart, I do not wish to regress to that age of elite separatistic tendencies by our forefathers.

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

You have only answered my question if it is your contention that separation for the sake of "harmony on earth" is sound biblical grounds for dividing the Body of Christ. Is that what you are saying...that Christ is OK with this? If so, you have shown succinctly the point of my post—a willingness to divide the Body of Christ over what amounts to a mere difference in preference.

Now, to reply to you. You erroneously presume in your questions and comments that I am advocating division of the Body of Christ over any and all unrepentant sin. I find in the New Testament that biblical church discipline is exercised only over matters grave enough to warrant it. The book of 1 Corinthians itemizes a long list of offenses and problems in that church, yet only one man was subject to church discipline.

My position:

1. Any disregard and disobedience of Christ's command is a sin.

2. Not all sin rises to such a level as to command separation, nor do we have the same level of certainty about every moral question.

3. Only those matters that are sufficiently serious and sufficiently clear are matters worthy of sowing division in the Body of Christ.

4. To sow or perpetuate division over minor or unclear issues is, in and of itself, a grave and obvious sin.

Now, help me sort out what seem to me to be the implications of your position. How would you respond to these statements, by affirming or denying?

1. Sometimes Christians can contradict Christ's command in their beliefs and actions, and yet not be in sin, so long as they are sincerely mistaken—the word sin refers only to willful and knowing transgression of God's command.

...or...

2. Sometimes the loving thing to do upon discovering a brother in sin is to say nothing about it and just leave him in disobedience.

...or...

3. The God-ordained method for obtaining harmony on earth is to split our churches until we get to a small-enough group that we can get along with one another.

...or...

4. I, Paul Littleton, could personally sprinkle an infant for baptism and not be sinning.

...or...

5. Christ's command for me for baptism might be different from Christ's command for someone else for baptism.

...or...

6. I really think that pedobaptism is a sin; I just think it damages interdenominational relations to say so.

Wade Burleson said...

It should be obvious in the second paragraph above that the phrase "our view" should be "your view.'

Bart Barber said...

Bro. Granneman,

If you apply Christ's prayer for unity solely to the universal church, then what does it really mean? We're in unity if we are all believers? A local congregation in the midst of a horrible schismatic division is then, by this definition, in unity.

That's nonsensical. Local congregations are not "superstructures." Local congregations are the central core of what the churches are. Unity within local congregations is far more important than the equivalent of some transdenominational re-release of "We Are the World" with group hugs for everyone.

Bart Barber said...

Wade,

You say: "The only thing you can do, in practical fulfillment of our view, is to separate yourself totally from the evangelical world and act as if nobody else is truly 'holy,' 'righteous,' 'qualified,' or 'obedient' enough in the Kingom of Christ but you and those to hold your views."

Not at all. Rather, mine is a call for people to move beyond high-and-mighty meaningless platitudes of Christian unity to something substantive and authentic. You put your words into my mouth. Luckily, I'm alive and well enough to spew them out.

peter lumpkins said...

Dear R. Grannemann

I am sure you were attempting lite-heartedness with your appeal to not get our "knickers into knots" here. It does, though, offer occasion to simply say I appreciate this thread's tone and control which certainly possesses the deadly potential of getting way out of hand.

Heck, you've got those here *disagreeing* who *normally agree* on most other things, hardly a norm. Imagine, for a moment either Debbie, Alyce, Fox, Marty or a dozen others who are a part of Wade's community disagreeing with him. Or, the SBCOutpost team disagreeing with one another.

For my penny, Bart's atmosphere here is leap years beyond the environment found there.
Enough of that.

I did desire to offer an alternative to a couple of issues you raised, my brother R. Grannemann, if you don't mind.

You write of the Church: "[The Church] is fundamentally an assembly of people who have experienced the new birth and who under the leadership of the Holy Spirit attempt to follow Christ. This is consistent with the historic Baptist position that a true church is rightfully an assembly of the saved, not an organized ecclesiastical hierarchy."

Of course, it's not the first part I would question--that is, the Church is/ought to be made up of regenerate members and who attempt to Biblically live like it.

Rather, your second part troubles me: "This is consistent with the *historic Baptist position* that a true church is rightfully an assembly of the saved, *not an organized ecclesiastical hierarchy*." (asterisks mine for emphasis)

If you are saying it is the case that historic Baptist ecclesiology precludes say, a 'Roman' type organizational hierarchy, then I agree with you. On the other hand, if you are suggesting that historic Baptist ecclesiology precludes definitive organizational constructs that define Baptist *visibility* and/or *identity* I fear you're simply going to have to historically demonstrate that, of which, I remain confident, you will fail in doing.

Dagg's Church Order, which is Southern Baptist's first written ecclesiology, contains a robust, vigorous defense of organized, local, visible *Gospel Churches*. For Dagg, Gospel Order was Faith > Baptism > Church Membership > Discipline > Supper. At least, that's what I see. What do you see differently?

Finally, you record: "The church ordinance of baptism is not a means to righteousness. It is something we wish to do to show the world we are followers of Christ."

If one is talking about "baptism [not being] a means to righteousness" as far as possessing right *standing* with God or as a means to Heavenly entrance, I agree with you. But if one is suggesting it *makes no difference* whether or not one is baptized properly or even at all, I fear I must dissent and dissent vigorously.

Indeed, from what I gather, that's precisely what you are suggesting: "[Baptism] is something we wish to do..." To the contrary, my Brother R. Grannemann, Baptism is something we are *commanded* to do with God not caring squat whether or not we wish to do.

From my side of town, Baptism is about obedience to Christ's charge, both to every professing disciple and every Gospel Church. And if this is the direction to Rome about which you were speaking, historic Baptists have ever traveled that path.

Peace today, my Brother. With that, I am...

Peter

p.s. And, No; my knickers are not knotted. ;^)

Bart Barber said...

And, for the record, I think that there is a great deal to learn from "unrepentant sinners" in the Body of Christ. One of the better Baptist historians was a lifelong homosexual. John L. Dagg, quoted by you on occasion, publicly supported southern racial slavery. James P. Eagle, patriarch of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and former Governor of the State of Arkansas, was the instigator of Jim Crow legislation in my native state.

To write off the positive contributions of every "unrepentant sinner" is to make of ourselves illegitimate children spiritually, obliterating our own heritage. But to refuse to call sin sin when we see it is to repudiate our calling and dishonor our Lord. The more reasonable path is to acknowledge sin honestly without being so judgmental about it all. Some sins warrant division; many do not. But nothing that is not a sin warrants division.

To divide or restrict the Body of Christ over matters that are not sinful is an evil act contrary to Christ's own wishes.

Paul said...

Bart,

I'm unsure how I can erroneously "presume" anything in a question. They are questions, not assertions. You also make it sound as if we are out splitting churches over this matter. I am not. We have welcomed people into our church who were Nazarenes, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics and others. We did not separate ourselves from them. We baptized them by immersion and welcomed them into our church. We are not maintaining some split with them by simply existing as a Baptist church. We gather with them in community worship events. You can keep calling our differences preferences and I'll keep calling them convictions. You don't have to accept my description of the matter and I don't have to accept yours. I'm thinking you will only think you've gotten an answer when you get the answer you want rather than the one that is actually given. That's fine. It's your blog.

We do not see some push in the New Testament requiring every house church in Rome to unite into one gathering. In fact, the apostle Paul seemed to recognize the worth of each of the house churches there. We do not find Paul telling the Galatian churches that unity in Christ requires that they all worship in a building together. They maintained separate meeting places for a variety of reasons, some of which would be ours as well. If you want to call that "separation on earth" then call it whatever you want. At Faith Baptist church we view ourselves as being in harmony with the church of Christ, wherever she is, whatever label she wears on the sign, if she truly believes the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So now, back to you. How many habitual speeders, gossips and gluttons have you separated from?

R. Grannemann said...

Peter,

I was not suggesting Baptist ecclesiology precludes other organizational constructs. I was espousing the view that the local congregations are the "executors of the kingdom" so to speak (Landmark terminology), not beholden to other organizational constructs in conducting kingdom work. In saying this, I do not mean to deny that the Spirit of God works in individual lives, calling out men and women like prophets and prophetesses, to kingdom tasks.

I agree with Dagg's ecclesiology as you give it. My point would be that those failing in some aspect of this ecclesiology are not automatically "unchurched."

I also was not saying that being or not being baptized as a believer is an option. Christ instituted two ordinances. I believe the Spirit leads us to follow them "in fulfilling all righteousness," and when the Spirit speaks to our hearts it is something "we wish to do." My statement was meant to emphasize that we should view baptism as a symbol of faith, as something we rightly practice as the Christian church, but less than the sacrament with which it is viewed in the Catholic Church. We should practice it but not make it the sine qua non of the "Baptist faith." We practice it, but it is not the most important thing we have to say. I am saying keep it in proper perspective.

With that, my brother, I am ...

Me

peter lumpkins said...

Bart,

We really are not far apart, I don't think and it very well may be a matter of PR-language in dealing with inter-denominational relations.

Nor have I the slightest idea how to answer your pointed question except to say "I would not frame the issue in terms of 'Unrepentant sinner'"

At least, I am not yet convinced I ought to do so and am perfectly willing to presently live with perhaps the appropriate charge of inconsistency--albeit a happy inconsistency, but inconsistency nonetheless.

I offer one final thought before I retire to my corner and pout awhile because I've been pinched. More than once this has been mentioned about "dividing" the Body, etc. as well as this being a matter of Gospel "discipline."

Assuming such, it seems to me, the consequences of this position ultimately leads to what Dagg so vociferously argued against--The Visible Church Catholic of the theologians.

He writes:

"The opinion has been held, almost as a theological axiom, that baptism is the door into the church. It is not the door into the spiritual universal church; for men enter this by regeneration, and are, therefore, members of it before they are fit subjects for baptism. It is not the door into the local church; for though it is a prerequisite to membership, men may be baptized, and remain unconnected with any local church. But those who hold that there is a visible church catholic, commonly maintain that it receives and includes all the baptized. They differ among themselves respecting the extent and boundaries of the church, because they differ as to what constitutes valid baptism. Since Baptists admit nothing to be valid baptism but immersion on profession of faith, those of them who hold the doctrine of a visible church catholic, make this church substantially identical with the Baptist denomination."

This view Dagg rejected outright while thoroughly embracing a robust, Biblical local Church ecclesiology.

My point is this: if we place before us the pedobaptism of other Christian denominations and insist it is a matter of "church discipline" and "Unrepentant sinners" etc, such that we exercise discipline by "withdrawing fellowship," we commit grave error if we treat them in any other manner than our Lord instructed: "let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." (Mt 1.17).

In essence, we count them as lost people who are in need of the Gospel. De facto, we are the Church; they are the world, *not just another Christian denomination*. Am I missing something here?

Obviously, my doubts are still there--and, that, in the smiley face of my 'happy' inconsistency.

Peace and Grace. Thanks for an enlightening and challenging dialog. With that, I am...

Peter

peter lumpkins said...

My Brother R. Grannemann,

Thank you for your very good clarification. Peace.

With that, I am...

Peter

R. Grannemann said...

Bart,

"That's nonsensical. Local congregations are not "superstructures." Local congregations are the central core of what the churches are. Unity within local congregations is far more important than the equivalent of some transdenominational re-release of "We Are the World" with group hugs for everyone."

This makes me wonder if you followed me. Anyway, if unity is on a local level, as you seem to imply and what I think I was saying, then why don't you put your hand out across the aisle in your community when you can do so without compromising your beliefs?

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

Asked and answered already.

"I find in the New Testament that biblical church discipline is exercised only over matters grave enough to warrant it."

Speeding and gluttony are indeed sins, and those who practice them without repentance are, ipso facto, "unrepentant sinners." But these are not matters grave enough to warrant biblical church discipline.

So, to make my answer more obvious, none.

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

"We baptized them by immersion and welcomed them into our church."

They repented. You received them. Exactly. But what about those who refuse to be immersed?

Bart Barber said...

Peter,

Now you will deprive me of sleep...

"My point is this: if we place before us the pedobaptism of other Christian denominations and insist it is a matter of "church discipline" and "Unrepentant sinners" etc, such that we exercise discipline by "withdrawing fellowship," we commit grave error if we treat them in any other manner than our Lord instructed: "let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." (Mt 1.17). "

Salient points, and quite uncomfortable ones.

Bart Barber said...

Bro. Granneman,

I have, on occasion, done so where appropriate. With regard to a great many of the groups listed above, I find that the causes of separation are justified (i.e., are indeed matters of sin grave enough to warrant division).

I'm in the rare, happy position of pastoring a 142-year-old congregation that has never split. I think the positive application of what I'm saying would be exemplified by this. We need to see much, much more of that kind of reconciliation.

Contra Paul's assertion, I am not saying that only one congregation can exist in a given city. We are currently planting an Hispanic mission. Our services are in English, and therefore of little edification to Spanish-speaking believers. But, as he correctly notes, the mere existence of different local bodies does not always indicate division. Sometimes, it is the history of the congregation (did it arise out of a split) that marks it as schismatic. Also, when we will not exchange members with a congregation, will not exchange pastors with a congregation, etc., then we are clearly in division with them.

That's why, in the original discussion with Paul, I inquired as to whether Ligon Duncan would be welcome to pastor Faith Baptist Sapulpa. These are the things that mark denominational division—the ways that local congregations are aloof to one another.

Luke said...

Bart,
Whether agreeing with them or not, do you think that this was/is one of the gears that drove within the context of the Conservative Resurgence? Isn't that one of the points argued so much, whether liberals/moderates were unrepentant sinners as claimed by the conservatives OR whether the conservatives were unrepentant sinners as claimed by the liberal/moderates within the context of the CR?

By the way, I'm still trying to locate/come up with an illustration that would challenge your initial assertion. I still offer none that I feel would meet your criteria.

Thanks for your time.

Paul said...

Bart,

You do not see it as an inconsistency to separate from pedobaptists and yet not separate from unrepentant gluttons, gossips and speeders. Would you allow an unrepentant glutton, gossip or speeder to be the pastor of FBC Farmersville? If you say no then you are as inconsistent as you claim me to be.

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

To make it an even 100...I would only limit the pastorate based upon the biblical qualifications. I would not bar anyone from the pastorate for being a speeder, a glutton, or a gossip.

Paul said...

Bart,

Even if they were unrepentant? That's astonishing. Yet your second sentence flatly contradicts your first as self-control is a biblical qualification for a pastor. One simply cannot be an unrepentant glutton, gossip or speeder and be self-controlled at the same time. That is, if words mean anything.

Bart Barber said...

Well, Paul, I guess I'm just not the legalist that you are! :-)

Paul said...

Oh come on, Bart. You can't have it both ways. You can't say that a church must follow biblical guidelines for pastoral leadership and then when they do call them legalists. That's just crazy. You just want to have your cake and eat it too. Good luck with that.

Grosey's Messages said...

:)... man I'm in one the cake... :( ooops was that gluttony ?
Ohhh nooo.
Ahhhh :) I guess I repented...
:) I can't wait to tell every one.. :( uh oh ... gossipping!! I can't win!!! I'll just drive down the store for my morning bash of twinkies..
Steve

Colin McGahey said...

I apologize up front for not reading all the comments in the thread.

I do believe the term 'unrepentant sinner' is the correct term to use. However, many here seem not to be able to distinguish between a sinner in open (knowledgeable) rebellion against the Lord, and those in unrepentant sin yet seeking to be obedient. Most of those in the second category would qualify to teach in my pulpit, Lord willing, with the understanding they would NOT be preaching on their doctrinal divergence; those in the first would not. Dever's friends fit in the second.

During the 18th century, most General Baptists forbade (as a matter of church discipline) from so much as attending a paedobaptist church. Many of the evangelical Particular Baptists of Fullerism allowed and even encouraged people to receive evangelical preaching elsewhere when their own churches were not assembled. Yet, these same Particular Baptists were Baptists because they believed the doctrine and teachers of paedobaptism to be sin. They were Baptists when being Baptist wasn't cool.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Colin: John Bunyan was a particular Baptist and he would disagree with Bart.

Bart Barber said...

Colin,

I couldn't have said it better myself. Thank you so much.

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

Colin's answer is mine.

Bart Barber said...

Debbie,

Was Bunyan a Baptist? I'll let Bro. Bunyan answer for himself:

"You ask me next, 'How long is it since I was a Baptist?' and then add, 'It is an ill bird that bewrays his own nest."


Ans. I must tell you, avoiding your slovenly language, I know none to whom that title is so proper as to the disciples of John. And since you would know by what name I would be distinguished from others; I tell you, I would be, and hope I am, A CHRISTIAN; and choose, if God should count me worthy, to be called a Christian, a Believer, or other such name which is approved by the Holy Ghost (Acts 11:26). And as for those factious titles of Anabaptists, Independents, Presbyterians, or the like, I conclude, that they came neither from Jerusalem, nor Antioch, but rather from hell and Babylon; for they naturally tend to divisions, 'you may know them by their fruits.'"

Grosey's Messages said...

:) well said Bart, In fact my congregationalist bethren own Bunyan as their own as much as we baptists do, and possibly with better reason.
Steve

Debbie Kaufman said...

I know many Baptists(Southern even) who feel the same way when asked Bart. But point taken under advisement. :)

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Wonderful discussion here. I especially appreciated the comments of Bart, Peter, Steve, Colin, and all of those who are struggling through these important questions. However, the one statement that is perhaps the most memorable, perhaps because it is so evocative is by Bart Barber:

"Unity within local congregations is far more important than the equivalent of some transdenominational re-release of 'We Are the World' with group hugs for everyone."

You are severely biblical, my friend!

Paul said...

So Bart and Colin,

You would invite a Mormon to preach in your church providing he sincerely held his beliefs but did not preach any peculiarly Mormon doctrine? If he promised to preach a good message on, say, abstention from alcohol or sexual faithfulness or biblical parenting you would welcome him? After all, he is unrepentant, yet seeking (in the very same way a pedobaptist is seeking) to be obedient. Yet he is still in grave error.

I guess those questions are only relevant if definitions allow for a person to be in unrepentant sin and at the same time be seeking to be obedient. I'm not exactly sure how that works. I'm assuming you have no problems with Ed Young Jr. hosting T.D. Jakes.

You'll say, "Why no! Those people aren't even Christians. At least Ligon Duncan is a Christian." But they are "seeking" to be obedient, are they not? Ok. Just ignore those.

How about this: perhaps he is an adulterer, instead of a gossip, and he is seeking to be obedient. When can I come hear Rick Ousley preach at FBC Farmersville, and can he still have his girlfriend in Houston but be seeking obedience and still come? Or perhaps Ted Haggard could come. When will he be there? Come on. Be consistent guys.

R. L. Vaughn said...

I appreciate the post, brother.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bart, I have been thinking of your questions "If you apply Christ's prayer for unity solely to the universal church, then what does it really mean? We're in unity if we are all believers?"

Were S. A. Hayden and J. B. Cranfill in believers' unity during their gun fight on a train ride?

David Rogers said...

Bart,

Sorry for not getting to this post any sooner, since this is a discussion I would have liked to have participated in.

I think your question hinges on the definition of "division" or "separation." As I see it, I am essentially united with all other true believers, both "universally" and "locally." However, I do not necessarily cooperate with them in every single ministry project, nor meet together with them all on a regular basis.

I have another question for you, if you are inclined to still comment on this post...

Do you think there is any legitimate reason for denying someone membership in a local congregation other than "unrepentant sin"?