Wednesday, January 16, 2008

When to Baptize And A Note on the "Altar Call."

From time to time, I and my fellow Baptist brethren like to discuss the timing of baptism among ourselves. Of particular concern these days is the fact that many of our churches, particularly IFBx and SBC churches have become de facto Paedobaptist churches. The SBC statistics last year showed that 70 percent of young adults ages 23-30 stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between ages 18-22. It went on to say

In most cases, the decision to leave was not planned far in advance. Only 20 percent of these "church dropouts" agree that while they were attending church regularly in high school they "planned on taking a break from church once [they] finished high school."

This is alarming for a number of reasons.

1. It demonstrates that these churches have some serious problems. Many of our churches are de facto Paedobaptist institutions. A dropout rate this high says something about what is going on in the churches. It should be of particular concern to Baptists who criticize Paedobaptist churches. In my personal experience visiting the local PCA church here regularly, they do a very good job of retaining their students compared to the average Baptist church. Maybe this is because they are highly involved with RUF, but I think there is much more to it.

2. To a certain extent, I agree that it is a product of the gospel to which many of these are "won," eg. the gospel of semi-Arminianism, decisionism, and revivalism.

On the last of these, Fide-O and Founders are both hosting discussions at this time. I refer the reader there.

3. However, I also think, based on past interactions with some folks on the net and in person that there is a tension within Baptist circles relative to the simple question, "When should we baptize?" I have at times commented on that issue in comboxes, and I'd like to develop my comments further here. I will not deal at all with the issue of Paedobaptism.

Simply put, I agree with Mark Dever on the timing of baptism.

We live in an age where folks, particularly my brothers in TX, are talking more and more about "Baptist tradition." Well, if we followed "Baptist tradition" a bit more closely, we wouldn't be a de facto Paedobaptist institution.

It is sometimes argued that we should baptize a person (of any age) relatively close to the time of their conversion,because that is the pattern we find in Acts.

1. That's true, this is the pattern we find in Acts.

2. However, I would argue that the Bible actually contains no command or example intended to direct our answer to this question.

3. Indeed, we don't choose our deacons by lot and we don't run around with holy handkerchiefs. Not every example in Acts is an example for the church to follow in its normative state. As one of my former professors, Dr. James Peterson, once said, "Some examples in the Bible are there to tell us what not to do." Others are there to show us what they did then, but not necessarily for us to do today.

4. There are those who don't want to baptize quickly and "on the spot" because they feel that it would be giving too much to the Campbellites who affirm a form of baptismal regeneration,whereby baptism is an instrumental cause. The same can be said of the Oneness crowd. Typically, these folks affirm Zwinglian view of baptism in credobaptist form, that is, baptism is a symbol, not a means of grace. Benjamin Keach, of course, would disagree. On occasion, I have encountered those who will say we should do this quickly so that those persons can be communicants and partake of the Lord's Table.

5. We all agree it is an essential part of Christian discipleship.

What are we to make of all this?

First, when I read Scriptures like Acts 2, I see that their baptism was not the instrumental cause of their regeneration/salvation. Rather it was their profession of faith. Dr. Kostenberger, I believe, notes that John's baptism was "prospective," that is to say, it's purpose was, according to Scripture itself, intended to reveal the Messiah to Israel (John 1.31). It was Christological in orientation, not an end to itself.

In Acts 2, Peter tells them to repent and be baptized? Why would this be important? Simply, baptism - an act that was Christological in orientation under John the Baptist's ministry - now took on a retrospective orientation. Baptism still has a Christological orientation. It is, in essence, depicted as their public profession of faith.

When Paul speaks of people "confessing with their mouth 'Jesus is Lord'" this would be a typical baptismal creed. The accent here is not on baptism as an instrumental cause but on their faith in publicly professing Christ - in Acts 2 - in the heart of the very city in which Jesus had just weeks beforehand been crucified, in full view of the religious authorities who immediately begin trying to persecute them.

However, the next baptismal narrative takes place in Samaria. What happens? A group is baptized, and the first false professor, Simon Magus, is included. Later, he is put out of the church by Peter, the first example of church discipline. I would also note that the subapostolic church, which was already dealing with the rise of false teachers from the previous generation (which we read about in the New Testament itself and now in their own, came to separate baptism from a profession of faith often for this very reason. They also withheld the Lord's Table from the catechumenate.

The next narrative concerns the Ethiopian Eunuch. He is baptized upon profession too. I would say this is not normative, since there was nobody else to baptize him and he was heading far from the reach of the new Way at that time.

Then we have the baptism of Cornelius and his household. Note that here, the sign of the Spirit is given prior to their baptism, a thing which did not occur in Samaria.

From these four main narratives, then what can we say about the timing of baptism?

1. Baptism is a public profession of faith in Christ alone. It signifies, for the person baptized, their own experience and their public repudiation of their past way of life and of all false gospels and systems, in their case Second Temple Judaism, the Old Covenant administration, in favor of the New Covenant.

2. Professor baptism does not always weed out false professors. Of course, we already know this.

3. Professor baptism should be done after, and not before, we can properly discern whether or not a person's profession of faith in credible. Here, by profession of faith, I do not mean full and complete or for that matter basic understanding of a standard confession of faith, though those do supply the basis of such a profession. Rather, I have in mind a very general idea of "credible profession" of faith, one that includes an understanding of basic doctrine, including justification by faith alone - particularly an understanding that their personal faith is in Christ and his merits alone, not their merits, a ecclesiastical community, etc.

4. There are some exceptions to this rule, for example, if there is no way to baptize a person except very quickly. This should not be normative, even on the mission field.

Within the trajectory of Baptist history, it is true that our forefathers often practiced close or closed communion. Why? Because they lived in a time of declension in the churches at large. Professor baptism was, therefore, for them, what it was for those gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost. However, today, I would argue that such baptism is commonplace, so commonplace that it no longer has that significance. Rather, it's significance is more like the Paedobaptism that my Baptist forefathers witnessed.

Given that we know they view church attendance is highly indicative of the state of the heart, surely they would have much to say about the recidivism rate among the young people in SBC churches, not to mention the fact that less than half the "membership" of the SBC shows up to church on Sunday.

1. What then of the Lord's Table? Should we keep those making professions of faith but unbaptized from the Table? Baptist tradition says "Yes." I disagree. Why?

a. The accent of the NT is not on baptism - but the profession of faith itself, even in Acts 2.

b. I disagree that baptism is "the" sign of the covenant. It is, at most, "a" sign of the covenant. The Lord gave the sign of the covenant to the Lord's Table, not baptism. The proper requirement for the Lord's Table is, at a minimum, a (credible) profession of faith. Nobody in the New Testament partook of the Table and was unbaptized, but, again, the accent is on the meaning of baptism, not the act of baptism.

c. One can so fence the table that it results in little more than control freakery. I have in my library a history of the Charleston Presbytery of the Southern Presbyterians detailing the giving of communion tokens in the Antebellum period in lurid detail. This flies in the face of Scripture that, while I would agree licenses the elders of the church to fence the table by warning, does not license them to give out "communion tokens" of any kind. The Table, when we gather, is self-selecting. Scripture says "let each man..." It does not say, "You shall keep those making a credible profession but not baptized by immersion" away. That said, I believe that each local church should have its own say; it should not, in this matter, force its opinion on another. I'll also add here that the best way to fence the Table is to know your members and visitors and practice church discipline. No one should be cut off from the means of grace who is not under discipline, unless they are an unbeliever and have no way to say, "I know Christ died for me and I have appropriated His benefits by faith in Him alone." The job of the elder is to warn the people and equip the people, not hand out passes to the meal like tickets or, worse, put them under house arrest. Such actions make the eldership a paternalistic institution that varies little from that of Roman Catholic priests who hand out the wafer and keep the host, literally, under lock and key. As Steve said in August,and I second,

Since communion is a covenant sign, the only communicants should (ideally) be members of the covenant community. It would therefore be wrong for a pastor to knowingly administer communion to an open unbeliever.

However, one can easily get carried away with policing the communion rail. Various denominations begin to practice closed communion, as if each denomination held the patent to the Lord’s Supper.

And some of them become so petrified at the prospect of administering communion to the wrong person that they rarely perform communion, and put members through a screening process every time communion is scheduled. The pastor has to interview every member and issue a communion token to show that this member is preapproved to partake of communion.

All of this is well-intentioned, but it’s also an exercise in control-freakery. An otherwise valid principle as been overrefined to the point of absurdity, under the assumption that it’s better if no one rightly takes communion for fear one person will slip through the barricade and wrongly take communion.

It also assumes a very paternalistic polity, in which the elders are the official grown-ups while the laity is reduced to the rank of perpetual minors, in a state of diminished responsibility. The laity is no longer answerable for its actions. Rather, laymen are kept under curfew. They can only go outside with an ecclesiastical chaperon to escort them and keep them out of trouble.

Yet the true job of pastors is to equip the laity, and not to keep them under house arrest. Not only does this attitude keep the laity in a state of arrested spiritual and intellectual development, but it also has a corrupting influence on the clergy, for the clergy are by no means impeccable or infallible. Accountability is a two-way street.

The question may arise, "If that's how you feel about the Lord's Table, then why not baptize early since you are saying that a person should be allowed to the table who has made a credible profession of faith?" Don't those propositions pull in opposiing directions?

No, they do not.

1. Again, the Table is ultimately self-selecting. It requires a warning, not communion tokens. Also, visitors from Paedobaptist churches aren't generally there to be members of your church.

2. Baptism requires an adminstrator and is also viewed by us as "the" door, or at least "a" door to local church membership. It's requirements would seem more stringent. It is also possible to "police" baptism in a way that most Baptist churches cannot because of the way they celebrate communion.

Leaving aside any issues relative to administrator baptism and baptisms on the mission field and their relation to local church membership or sponsorship (Wade Burleson has addressed these already), I would argue that, in our present situation, because of the way we Baptists in places where the churches are already established, index baptism to church membership, we should baptize later, rather than sooner.

What does Baptist tradition,therefore, say about this? First, in the modern period, delaying baptism is common on the mission field, while Tony Hemphill (Practice of Infantile Baptism), noted that between 1977-97 there was a 250 % increase in SBC baptisms of churches under the age of six. Baptists in England tend to disapprove of baptisms at young ages in comparison to Southern Baptists.

What of the older Baptists?

According to Mark Dever ("Baptism in the Context of the Local Church" in Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, ed. by Thomas Schriener and Shawn D.Wright, p.246, footnote 24):

John Gill was brought up in a Baptist home and baptized at age 19.

Samuel Medley, was brought up in a Baptist home and baptized @ age 22.

Richard Furman was brought up in a Christian home, baptized at age 17.

J. Newton Brown, baptized age 14.

J.M. Pendleton (a name known to my Landmark brethren), baptized aged 18.

P. H. Mell, brought up in a strong Christian home, baptized @ age 18.

J.R.Graves, also brought up in a Christian home, baptized age 18.

Sylvanus D. Phelps, also brought up in a Christian home, baptized @ 18.

John A. Broadus, former SBC President and President of SBTS, baptized age 16.

Charles Fenton James, baptized @ 20 while a Confederate soldier.

Charles Spurgeon baptized his 2 sons when they were 18.

John R. Sampey, age 13.

Frank Stagg, age 11.

Dale Moody, age 12.

E.Y. Mullins, reared a Baptist in a minister's home, baptized @ age 20.

H. Wheeler Robinson, brought up by a Christian mother, baptized @ age 16.

I humbly submit that we should baptize, at this point in Baptist history, prudently, given the current state of the churches. Each church should decide this matter for itself. Just be certain you are not conflating a biblical example with a biblical command. Those who are de facto Paedobaptist churches should repent immediately. It is no shameful thing to put off baptism from a profession of faith for some time, for persons of any age, as long as it is recognized that baptism is an essential part of Christian discipleship. I think the Lord would rather us be careful than careless. We have been careless far too long. Let us not, however, run to the absolute polar opposite and put it off as if it is not at all important,for that would be even more careless.

One more thing - a suggestion. Many of us Reformed/Sovereign Grace Baptists are often chided for not practicing an "inviation," to wit,the altar call. I would suggest that your gathering around the Lord's Table on Sunday is a perfect time to do this, if your church is of a size that allows for it. I've seen this done with up what appeared to be about a hundred people. It could easily be done in larger churches if you had more than one aisle.

Brother David Rogers will like this idea. Practice, if you do not already, for a change, common cup communion. Segue from your sermon to, ideally, a baptism if you have folks who need to be baptized. So, you'll need to do whatever it is you do before baptism to schedule that event. If there is no baptism, segue to the Lord's Table. Fence your table through your explanation of the elements. Tie your sermon into your hosting of the Table too. Then, have all those who are believers walk the aisle if they are able (take the elements to those who are physically unable). Ask unbelievers to remain seated. If you choose to close your Table to the unbaptized, then do so. As I said, each church should make its own decisions in that regard. If you practice close communion proper, ask the non-members to remain seated. This will be your "altar call."

Notice that it turns the idea of the altar call on its head, so to speak. Typically, the altar call is made to those who need to "make a decision." It is used for everything from receiving new members to making professions of faith, to asking the elders to pray for you.

Folks, the Lord's Table, like baptism, is also a public testimony. We sometimes forget that. The churches have gathered around a table since the beginning of their common worship. This table is what is often called the "altar." Indeed, do we not already place the elements upon it when we gather around the Table? Put it to good use. Instead of passing round some crackers and little cups, have your people actually walk the aisle and do a proper altar call. Make their walking the aisle a testimony to the unbelievers (or any others if you so choose) present. Paul said this was a testimony of the Lord's death, burial, and resurrection, and His coming, for it is to be done until he returns.

Won't this make the unbelievers feel uncomfortable? Yes, it probably will. It should make them ask questions. It should "provoke them to jealousy" as it were. We are accused of not practicing the altar call. True enough for many of us, but maybe the real problem is the already improper use of the altar call, not simply its abuse. I would suggest that it is for the members of the church, and the most proper way to practice it as a tool for evangelism is this way, not be having the unbeliever take a stroll to the front as if walking the aisle or making a decision constitutes conversion, but having your members do so to testify to the unbelievers around them. Note, if you choose to have only the properly baptized participate, not simply those who are professing believers, then you can also use this as a testimony with respect to Christian discipleship in baptism (be sure to include this in your explanation of the Table if you do so). The choice is yours and your church's to make.


  1. I was baptized by immersion at age 11 in the Church of the Brethren after recognizing the truth of my salvation in Christ. My mom died later that same year and my dad remarried a Lutheran. In the Lutheran Church I was not properly discipled and went through a period of rebellion against God. God was faithful to bring me back and in that same church I met my wife. As we've be faithful to be fruitful and multiply we left the Lutheran church and joined a local Baptist church for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we don't agree with the Lutheran paedobaptism.

    That said, the difficulty with raising children in a strong Christian environment is discerning where the line is for allowing them to be baptized. My 9-year-old daughter has claimed faith in Christ for two or three years. We haven't allowed her to be baptized (and she hasn't pushed the issue) in an effort to discern when she is mature enough. The big question I have regards the signs of Christian maturity one must exhibit in order to be considered genuinely Christian as though there is a checklist somewhere that would make us certain. I would say that this is impossible, but we as parents should have a heart to properly disciple our children to ensure that the faith instilled in them from a young age is made sure as they grow and become increasingly responsible for their faith.

  2. Great post. I agree with you that the book of Acts demonstrates that the early Church baptised disciples as a part of the conversion process. In most third world nations and "closed" nations such as in the Middle East, baptism is taken very seriously and most churches don't consider someone a Christian until they are baptised and the reason for this is twofold. First, they believe that if someone is truly saved they will want to obey Jesus and be baptised (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6). Second, most "closed" nations forbid baptism and thus baptism seals the deal of discipleship (Luke 14:25-35). It is the cross they bear.

    In the United States and other Western nations, baptism is not taken serious enough and people are told that it nothing more than a token expression of faith. The NT seems to put baptism closely related to regeneration (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21-22). While I don't believe that baptism by itself saves (baptismal regeneration), I do believe that baptism has been greatly undermined by many evangelicals teachings.

    I also agree with you on altar calls of which I do not practise nor do I believe they are biblical. Not one person in the NT is found praying for salvation (altar calls) but is called to faith and obedience to Jesus.

  3. >"In Acts 2, Peter tells them to repent and be baptized?"

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but does not Peter actually say in Acts 2:39-39:

    "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

    Peter is very clear that baptism forgives sins and imparts the gift of the Holy Spirit. The baptismal promise is also for children. Why someone would knowingly withold two immense gifts of God as those from their own children is beyond me.

  4. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but does not Peter actually say..."

    Yes he does.

    "Peter is very clear that baptism forgives sins and imparts the gift of the Holy Spirit."

    Peter's not saying this at all. Run the race and come in first place and you will receive the gold medal. Neither the running nor the winning will produce the gold medal - only the bestowing of it by the judges.

    And yet my example is imperfect. What precisely is the gift of the Holy Spirit? Does this mean that the Holy Spirit has not been at work already?

    "The baptismal promise is also for children."

    ...children old enough to repent. This is the question at hand. How old is old enough?

  5. My 9-year-old daughter has claimed faith in Christ for two or three years. We haven't allowed her to be baptized (and she hasn't pushed the issue) in an effort to discern when she is mature enough. The big question I have regards the signs of Christian maturity one must exhibit in order to be considered genuinely Christian as though there is a checklist somewhere that would make us certain.

    Not trying to be rude here...I promise. I came from a baptistic home and am now Presbyterian.

    I wonder if in many cases (especially independent fundy baptist churches) children are raised to and interest in Christ at an early age aren't taken seriously enough, so the children, in turn, don't take their faith seriously enough.

    There's also lots more to it...the fact that discipline and instruction are a rareity in any home, let alone particularizing about one being baptist or paedobaptist.

  6. I think that's a very practical - and necessary - approach, antipelagian. We often leave it up to the hired ministers and Sunday School teachers to instill faith in our kids all the while demonstrating how we can avoid being faithful at home.

    My own approach has been to develop my relationship with my kids so that I can better disciple them. This means demonstrating how to conduct life before them in many ways transparently so they can see my own sanctification taking place. It also means taking them out and showing them what it means to minister. They've been on the mission field as often as I can take them and we try to minster here at home as well. It also means opening the scriptures with them most nights to show them as we read through the Bible how to ask the right questions of scripture (basic hermeneutics) and discover what it really says (exegesis). We look for what it teaches us about the nature and character of our Creator, what He has promised us, what we can be thankful for and what we need to ask forgiveness for. Then we pray through these things and intercede for others in prayer.

    This is what I call actual baptism. While I look forward to each of them being immersed in water, I daily try to immerse them in a Christian walk where they can grow spiritually.


    “Peter is very clear that baptism forgives sins and imparts the gift of the Holy Spirit. The baptismal promise is also for children. Why someone would knowingly withold two immense gifts of God as those from their own children is beyond me.”

    1.You’d do well to read Darrell Block’s new commentary on Acts 2:38.

    2.Regarding v39, the promise is a contingent on divine calling.

  8. jim pemberton said...

    “It also means taking them out and showing them what it means to minister. They've been on the mission field as often as I can take them and we try to minister here at home as well.”

    We sometimes wonder why some kids who were raised in a loving, caring Christian home leave the faith. Now, I should hasten to say that you can do all the right things, and still see your kids go off the rails. You have no ultimate control over the outcome.

    However, I think some grown children leave the faith because they had it too easy. They were too sheltered.

    This creates a disconnect between the preaching they hear and the world they know. They’ve led such a charmed existence that when they hear the pastor preach on total depravity, it has an air of unreality to them. Ironically, their Christian upbringing renders Christian theology implausible. They’ve been so swaddled and swathed in their sanctified environment that it’s hard to take evil seriously. The jeremiad bears precious resemblance to their rosy childhood. For they have seen humanity at its best rather than its worst. Thus the blessings of the gospel inure them to the message of the gospel.

    Jim is giving his kids some hands-on exposure to what a godless, graceless existence is really like. This is not to deny that young kids need to be shielded from various evils, but on the other hand, children shouldn’t be raised in a bubble. They need to see the difference that God makes.

  9. Peter is very clear that baptism forgives sins and imparts the gift of the Holy Spirit. The baptismal promise is also for children. Why someone would knowingly withold two immense gifts of God as those from their own children is beyond me.

    1. This, of course, overlooks the thrust of the text. Peter telling them to be baptized recalls John's baptism, and act that the religious authorities refused to undertake.

    2. As I pointed out, that baptism was prospective, according to John's gospel, to reveal the Christ. Baptism is Christological in orientation.

    3. So, the baptism that Peter calls them to is retrospective. Why tell them to be baptized? Why would Jesus command them to baptize disciples?

    Because baptism was an act of rejection of the meritocracy that had built up in Second Temple Judaism (and by extension all attempts at salvation by our own merits and not faith alone in Christ alone, for both Jew and Gentile), and the apostasy that had resulted. It was a public expression of their rejection of the sins of their fathers, for which Peter is telling them, if you follow the narrative closely, they will be held responsible for agreeing to if they refuse to repent. This is important to the narrative, for, in the narrative, Peter invokes images of OT justice, covenantal vengeance for apostasy due the people on the Day of the Lord, and the murder of the Lord, an event just weeks beforehand, was fresh in their minds. He blends these OT texts and images together in his sermon which culminates in what amounts to an indictment of their apostasy: Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified."

    In other words, this same Jesus that you, as a people, have put to death, is your Lord, Master, and King. You should have welcomed Him. God has vindicated Him and given Him the right of rulership, and what is the first act of an OT king throughout the OT? He does away with his enemies. This is the reason that the people cry out, "What shall we do?"

    Peter says "Repent and be baptized?" Why, because baptism signified publicly that they repented of this act and all agreement with it. It also would certainly mean they would be persecuted by their authorities for this testimony. As I pointed out above, then, Peter is not teaching that baptism is a necessary instrumental cause of the forgiveness of sins and justification, rather, baptism was their public profession of faith itself. It was not a mystical sacrament that instrumentally caused their regeneration. Rather their participation in the rite is contingent on their calling.

    As a footnote, I'll also say this. It is important to understand that at the time of speaking Jesus had ended the Old Covenant and brought a new adminstration of grace, the New Covenant, under which we now stand. That said, for the Jews living under Second Temple Judaism, they were not actually turning their back on the Old Covenant itself by being baptized (indeed, Jesus ministry and that of John had revealed not only the Christ but a state of general, radical, and national apostasy through legalism, merit mongering, etc.), rather they were acting as consistent Jews under the Old Covenant who were, as it were, being called to renew the covenant, but, due to the work of Christ in fulfilling all types and shadows, this "renewal" for the Jews meant not renewing the Old Covenant itself, but leaving the sacrifices, circumcision, etc. as types and shadows for the blessings, promises, and "rest" of the New Covenant. That's the thrust of Hebrews.

    What of the promise to children in this text?

    I strongly, of course, disbelieve that literal children are in mind here. Why? Because they are "afar off." The thrust of Luke's gospel is about the fulfilment of this promise. The Way was to spread to from Jerusalem, to Judea to places "afar off" (Samaria and the ends of the earth). The term "afar off" recalls what Jesus said at the start of the narrative in chapter 1. Those in mind in this promise are not literal children of those baptized, rather they are the spiritual descendents of the baptized, eg. "the children of God scattered abroad," (in John's language) those who are also to be rightly called children of Abraham - by faith. T. E. Watson has also demonstrated via an examination of what Paedobaptists have stated themselves on this text that this is not at all an exegetical conclusion unique to Baptists. (See Should Babies Be Baptized?). Watson, by the way, was an Anglican and Paedobaptist before he reached his conclusions regarding baptism. I refer readers there.

    Now, as to the questions raised about the age of children here, I'd point to a couple of things:

    1. As demonstrated in the list of ages, some of these men were relatively young, 12, 13, etc.

    2. That said, what of younger children?

    a. I would say that the important thing is not the literal age of the child but the relative maturity of the child in Christ. You need to detemine, as a parent, along with the eldership of your church and godly counsel of the members, when that child has manifested a credible profession of faith that you deem is trustworthy for baptism. This will vary from child to child.

    b. Note carefully, this involves not only you but the local church body, the community itself. After all, we do index baptism, in established churches here, to church membership - rightly or wrongly, that's the reality. So, yes, the elders, deacons, and members should have a say. They can be a control on the parents who wait too long and those who wait too short. This issue is an issue the church itself must undertake. So, the position I am advocating is one that upholds the community aspect of the church as well as your duties and rights as a parent.I highly commend Jim for what he is doing; I would counsel him to be sure he works in tandem with the people in his local church, which, knowing Jim, he is doing.

    c. For those interested, I believe Jonathan Edwards on children's conversion is a useful standard:


  10. in for a dime, in for a dollar: "train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it"....yes, i know, iknow, but then again, do we really know? I think the Bible is right, they come home, they really do, allow me a pastoral observation though I be a humble academic, and medical missionary. they come home.

  11. I agree. God does tend to honor the faithfulness of parents who rear their children in a godly home. Many of them do "come home" as you say. On the other hand, the churches are in a state of great declension at present. Baptists are actually talking about regenerate church membership, and worse, some don't seem to agree or understand. What was once commonly accepted is now questioned. What was once commonly believed is now thought to be "for preachers." We live in the age of Joel Osteen.

    That said, a helpful note, Brother. In the words of Dean L. Russ Bush, who taught from that passage in a class I took with him @ SEBTS, that text doesn't refer to rearing your children in a godly home. It refers to teaching them a vocation. Train your child to be a blacksmith, for example, and that's what he will grow up to be.

    Also, thank you for you faithfulness to the Lord as a medical missionary. May God bless your work!