I have changed my mind today. Yes, beware.
In my recent booklet on Landmarkism, I say that “church history” are the two most feared words in the Baptist vocabulary. I was wrong. “Regenerate church membership” is, it seems, the most feared set of words. After reading Tom Ascol’s report on his resolution on church membership and church discipline’s failure for consideration today, I am convinced that the majority of Southern Baptists are ecclesiological Paedobaptists. How ironic, since just yesterday one of the trustees of the IMB stated that the new (unbiblical) policies on baptism and tongues at the IMB were necessary because the missionaries needed a "stronger Baptist identity."
Dr. French from the Resolutions Committtee’s excuse for rejecting the resolution from consideration was that we shouldn’t discharge those church members as they are some of our greatest prospects for evangelism. This comes, ironically, on the heels of a sermon by Dr. Edwin Young, who I know and under whom my grandfather was a deacon at Ardmore Baptist in Winston-Salem, NC when Dr. Young was a young pastor, in which Dr. Young pointed out that 6 out of every 8 (that’s 75 percent) of the young people in SBC churches fall away when they leave home. He also stated that there are church members in the SBC that not even the FBI could find. How then, pray tell, are these persons, “our best prospects for evangelism” if we can’t find them at all?
I do agree that these folks are very likely our best prospects for evangelism, but I have to ask, then, why are they members of your church? I believe, along with the Baptist Faith and Message, that we believe in a regenerate church membership. That is why I am a Baptist and not a Paedobaptist. Paedobaptists open the door to unregenerate church membership. In a Paedobaptist church, people that are on your membership roll and don’t show can be legitimately called evangelism prospects and church members. In a Baptist church, if you really believe that, then you are violating the cardinal principle of baptism: the baptism of believer’s only. Don’t dare call me a closet Presbyterian for being a Calvinist who believes in a church polity built on plural eldership while making comments like this:
Regarding Brother Tom’s resolution,
“And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.” (Matthew 13:27-29)
This comes from Charles, from the Calvinist Flyswatter, who apparently didn’t bother to read the rest of the passage. The world is the field, not the church! If this represents the thinking of anti-Calvinist Baptists who call us Reformed Baptists closet Presbyterians, what does it really say about them? It seems the shoe is really on the other foot.
Now, baptism of believers only is not foolproof, though it is very evident that there are fools practicing it in the SBC at the moment. It is merely a control measure. Some churches baptize very early after a profession of faith. Some wait for evidences to show. There are tradeoffs for each practice. In the former, your are more likely to baptize a spurious convert. In the latter, you violate a NT example by which they baptized very early after conversion, judging from the evidence we have. Churches have, for almost 2000 years, and even in the past 450 odd “Baptist years” varied in their actual practices leading up to baptism, with respect to its timing. Some people are bound to get through and into your church, but that’s why we have a Plan B called church discipline, and church discipline has one of two end results: (a) restoration or (b) excommunication.
So, pray tell, how is it that Dr. French can legitimately say that lapsed church members are some of our best prospects for evangelism? Were they not evangelized before they were baptized? If you are presuming them to be prospects of evangelism, then you must believe them to be unregenerate. If they are unregenerate, why are they members of your church? Who really needs a stronger sense of Baptist identity: the IMB missionaries or the 75 % of SBC messengers who voted not to consider Tom Ascol’s resolution.