Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Southern Baptists and Baptism..Rejoinder to Dr. Ergun Mehmet Caner

HT: Steve McCoy for this.

Background: I have been reticent to draw this blog into the discussions on the Baptist blogs with respect to the Southern Baptist Convention and the Initernational Mission Board's new baptism policies. If any of you have read what I have posted elsewhere you will know I oppose it. The new policy states that a candidate for missionary must have been baptized by a local church that affirms the doctrine of "eternal security." (By this, they refer either to 'perseverance of the saints' or its antinomian cousin 'eternal security.").

Now, a missionary candidate must already affirm the BFM 2000, so one is left wondering why they indexed baptism to eternal security. No cogent answer has been offered, so I can't comment on that.

Hershael York at SBTS has decided to write in favor of this new policy. I would point out that when I ran into a local pastor tonight who graduated from SBTS his immediate and unsolicited response was "He's the only Landmarkist at Southern." I have no time to define Landmarkism for this audience. I am actually in the midst of writing a booklet for publication on Landmarkism for the Convention, so you will be hearing more about Landmarkism's history in the SBC in a few weeks, as I plan to publish exerpts here.

Dr. York has published an email from Dr Ergun Caner at Liberty Seminary.

Dear Dr York:

Having read the exchange above, I fear that we as a body of believers are suffering generally from a profound case of myopia- near-sightedness. Few know or understand Church History, and even fewer are willing to "fess up."Dr. York, you are exactly on target. The immediate cry of those who paint with a
broad brush forget that, until Augustine, baptism ALWAYS had a local-church-anchor. This is not a "Baptist" issue- it is a New Testament issue.

God gave the local church as the vox Christus on the earth. Consistent with the other issues such as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As all the gifts given by Him are acts of service, the working out of those gifts does not exist apart from the local church. This is not "Landmarkist."This is New Testament.

Without an accountability to a local assembly, or a trove to which we bring our tithes, Christians become unfettered. This violates the entire epistle of First John! Baptism by immersion in a local church is not essential for salvation.

Baptism by immersion in a local church IS essential for sanctification.

I am reminded of the story of RG Lee. A woman came to him and asked to sing a solo one Sunday. Not recognizing her, Dr. Lee asked, "Madam, where is your church membership?"She responded, "Oh, I am not a member of any local church. I am a member of the universal church as a Christian."Dr.
Lee firmly stated, "Well, then Madam, go sing for them."

The primacy of the local church is a hill on which to die. As men such as Dr. Piper negate the
biblical model in his church, and as other groups adopt a fuzzy, group-hug mentality of fellowship, intellectuals must become engaged in defending the local assembly. Stand in the line of Athanasius (contra mundum). I stand with Dr. York on this one- and with the IMB.

Truth is Immortal:

Dr. Ergun Mehmet Caner
Liberty Theological Seminary
(I have omitted his email from public view here--GB)

Steve Mccoy responds:

For everyone who has read Dr. York's first post and Ergun'scomments, this whole line of argument seems based on church/baptist history. I enjoy history and think we need to study and know it, but I
don't see much Scripture being discussed. Am I seeing this correctly?

Dr. York, I'm happy to put the "Landmark" label aside and discuss the Bible. But as long as we are at it, let's leave the "Baptist" label aside too lest that label and that history dictate the discussion more than

I don't have any problem carrying the "myopic" label as long as we realize it isn't because we don't know history, but because Scripture is a stronger guide.

These are good words from Steve, and I want to echo them. Originally, I was going to post this at Steve's blog. I realized this would be terribly lengthy, so I am electing to post it here instead.

Before I respond to Dr. Caner, I want to address Baptist Theologue on a few points:

For the Scriptural side see B. H. Carroll's "Ecclesia" at the following address:

I assume Baptist Theologue understands that Carroll denied the universal church and used Pendleton's Church Manual. I hope Theologue is not affirming Carroll's denial of the universal church. Since 1963, the BFM has delineated a doctrine of the universal church. The IMB policies exist now, not in the 19th century. I'd also point out that other Baptists of that day disagreed with the Landmarkers, including R.B.C. Howell and John L. Waller

He latter writes:

Immersion pictures eternal security. Notice what Spurgeon said about baptism
representing a permanent burial of the old life:

“The next thought in baptism is burial. Death comes first, and burial follows. Now, what is burial, brethren? Burial is, first of all, the seal of death; it is the certificate of decease. ‘Is such a man dead?’ say you. Another answers, ‘Why, dear sir, he was buried a year ago.’ There have been instances of persons being buried alive, and I am afraid that the thing happens with sad frequency in baptism, but it is
unnatural, and by no means the rule. I fear that many have been buried alive in baptism, and have therefore risen and walked out of the grave just as they were. But if burial is true, it is a certificate of death. If I am able to say in very truth, ‘I was buried with Christ thirty years ago,’ I must surely be dead.

Certainly the world thought so, for not long after my burial with Jesus I began to preach his name, and by that time the world thought me very far gone, and said, ‘He stinketh.’. . . I may sin, but sin can never have dominion over me; I may be a transgressor and wander much from my God, but never can I go back to the old death again. When my Lord's grace got hold of me, and buried me, he wrought in my soul the conviction that henceforth and for ever I was to the world a dead man. I am right glad that I made no compromise, but came right out. I have drawn the sword, and thrown away the scabbard. Tell the world they need not try to fetch us back, for we are spoiled for them as much as if we were
dead. All they could have would be our carcasses. Tell the world not to tempt us any longer, for our hearts are changed. Sin may charm the old man who hangs there upon the cross, and he may turn his leering eye that way, but he cannot follow up his glance, for he cannot get down from the cross: the Lord has taken care to use the mallet well, and he has fastened his hands and feet right firmly, so that the crucified flesh must still remain in the place of doom and death. Yet the true, the genuine life within us cannot die, for it is born of God; neither can it abide in the tombs, for its call is to purity and joy and
liberty; and to that call it yields itself.”

That's wonderful. Amen, and Amen! But would Spurgeon say you must be rebaptized if you come from an Arminian church? Did he not regard them as true Christians?

Now, for readers what will follow may seem strange, and I think it suffers from simplification at points, but I'm simpy trying to summarize Arminianism and apply the IMB policies to this sectarian type of credo-baptism.

I agree with Spurgeon here. Baptism does picture eternal security...but the BFM does not say so, and we are being told that indexing baptism to eternal security is a historic Southern Baptist belief.

Eternal security, I would argue is validly the majority's soteriological position both now and in the past. However, indexing baptism to the affirmation of eternal security in our own churches or in receiving members from other churches, I would argue is not a historic Southern Baptist belief that is believed by the majority.

Those that affirm this assert that if we accept persons baptized by said churches, we are accepting members of churches that are not of like faith and order, since Article V of the BFM spells out our position on eternal security.

a. Not all churches in the SBC ascribe to the BFM in any fashion. Some use other confessions. Others have none. Others have crafted their own.

b. Not all SBC churches ascribe to eternal security.The question at hand, specifically, is "Is belief in eternal security by the administrator of the ordinance, viz. the baptizing church itself, necessary for the baptism of a given individual for baptism to be valid?" For that matter does the baptismal candidate also have to affirm that doctrine in order to be baptized. It would seem strange to mandate the one but not the other affirm eternal security.

I answer "No." I agree with John L. Dagg. Regeneration, not baptism, is the entrance of the believer into the church, and conversion, not belief in a particular conceptual explanation of the phenomenology of salvation is in view. Baptism signifies entrance into local church membership, but the ordinance is not meant to reflect identification with the full range of doctrines in a church's covenant. Moreover, no board of Missions has the right to dictate to a local church with respect to the validity of the baptism of members whose baptism they themselves have recognized.

That is where the Landmarkist idea runs afoul of its own ecclesiology. They say that local church authority over the members of others does not extend beyond its own discipline, yet they implicitly exceed that belief if they wish to use a Missions Board in such a manner.

The logic required to sustain such a position on baptism is complex and, in my opinion quite oblique, and ultimately would lead to hyper-Calvinism.

The logic of saying eternal security is the doctrine to which to look to determine if John Smith Missions Candidate needs to be rebaptized looks something like this:

If a person believes he can lose his salvation, it follows he is denies Sola Fide.

Hence, he believes in "salvation by works."

Hence, he is unregenerate.

Hence any ecclesiastical body formed by such persons cannot, by definition, constitute a true church, since they are all unregenerate, since Baptist ecclesiology, at a minimum demands a regenerate membership.

Hence one or more of the following is true:

(a) when John Smith was first baptized, he affirmed this same doctrine and must therefore be re-baptized now if he affirms it (since he now affirms Sola Fide and is thus to be considered regenerate) or

(b) baptism, to be valid, must be performed by a regenerate Christian, an elder in a local church to be specific, so his baptism was invalid, even if John Smith himself, at that time, affirmed Sola Fide and perseverance of the saints or

(c) Even if the baptizing elder in the Arminian church had changed his doctrine and believed in eternal security when he baptized John Smith, his baptism is not valid for the same reason as (b) if he was baptized in an Arminian church, and thus, his eldership is invalid, since he was not validly baptized.
In response:

a. This overlooks the classic Reformation formula: Justified by faith, saved by grace (and those traditions, viz. Calvinism and Arminianism, having a doctrine of perseverance, so there is a sense in which we affirm we are “saved” by works, eg. God’s grace causes us to persevere in faith, sanctifies us, etc…thus the above statements are equivocating on justification and sanctification; and, unless you believe a person can apostatize from the faith completely and still be saved, you have a doctrine of perseverance as well as eternal security.); So the question here isn’t whether or not one must persevere, but what lies behind ones perseverance.

b. the nature of what Arminians affirm about justification itself. (e.g while one could say that, conceptually conditional perseverance/security could be construed as inconsistent with Sola Fide, it does not follow that, in practice that is the case). Sola Fide applies to JUSTIFICATION, not perseverance, so this individual has implicitly conflated justification with all of salvation.

c. not to mention the endless string of questions about baptism and its administration. If the baptizing elder wasn’t baptized validly, then his eldership is invalid, and so on and so on until you get to a validly baptized elder, and even then, all the persons that all those invalidly baptized elders/pastors in those churches are not validly baptized.

d. In fact, I would go so far to say that by tying affirmation of eternal security to the evidence of true salvation, the objector is mirror-reading. The one using this logic is the one assuming right doctrine, not God, saves, so he’s the one who believes in salvation by works, because one must believe a particular theological tenet in order to be saved. This is, by definition dogmatic faith. Saving faith has Christ as its object, not a soteriological construct.

e. The construction that denies that Arminians affrm Sola Fide is simply a lie. Arminians affirm the reality of apostasy for true believers. That is, a person must stop believing.

In addition, they subscribe to the exact same definition of apostasy as Reformed Christians. I used RBC Howell’s definition:

Apostasy encompasses 3 evils: a repudiation of evangelical doctrine; a loss of spirituality of mind (interest in spiritual things, conviction of sin) and a radical or gradual moral decay. In backsliding one or two, but not all three are present. All Christians backslide, no believer apostatizes.

This is built primarily on the doctrine of irresistible grace. Since the Spirit of God gives rise to faith and repentance via regeneration that faith in Christ alone will not cease. It may wax and wan but not disappear.

The Arminian says it can disappear. However, he does not believe in salvation by works any more than the Calvinist does. What he believes is that a believer can apostatize, and that all 3 of the evils listed above must be present in order for that to occur. That’s a conceptual, not a practical issue. Arminians do not affirm justification by works, and both Calvinists and Arminians affirm that perseverance is necessary for final salvation. They simply explain it differently at the conceptual level.

The Free Grace dispensationalists make this same argument about Calvnism itself. The only consistent position this person really has is first to deny regenerative faith produces works, which results in antinomianism and reduces saving faith to Sandemanian faith.


The writer of this policy would, if he was remotely consistent, deny that those who lack assurance are not regenerate either.

Notice also the implicit sacramentalism. We know that a person believes these things by his baptism in a church that agrees to eternal security. Uh-huh. Think about that. Just as the Lutheran looks to his baptism or the Eucharist for his assurance or the New Perspectivist looks to his baptism, we’re being told that we should look to our baptism as testimony of what we believe…so our baptism, not Christ is implicitly the ground of assurance. This is New Perspectivism. Will anybody seriously argue that all the persons baptized in SBC churches that affirm eternal security are truly regenerate? Even if the argument about Arminianism was valid, it proves nothing about the faith of the person joining our church; no more than the baptism of a person in one of our churches proves what is in his heart…we merely assume that, and given the problems in most of our churches, this is just specious logic.

In addition to this...Consider this:

What logically underwrites the doctrine of eternal security?

Well…a synergist who denies irresistible grace will say that man’s faith is a response to the Spirit’s “wooing” not His effacious work. This is an idea the rest of us have continually complained is illogical. Perseverance of the saints/ eternal security requires effacious grace, for it is because saving faith is the gift of God arising from effectual drawing that keeps our faith from dying and enables us to persevere to the end and bear fruit in sanctification until the end.Likewise, a consistent Calvinist will say that particular atonement underwrites effacious grace, and, even if we allow for an Amyradian view of the atonement here, irresistble grace must be underwritten, at a minimum, by unconditional election, which must logically be underwritten by total depravity…and only in the sense in the Reformed confessions and theologies for these, not in the Norman Geisler, Dave Hunt, Adrian Rogers, Paige Patterson, etc. soteriology so prevalent in this Convention.

My point here is that I, as a Reformed person, could point out with a laundry list of theology and exegesis behind me that one cannot hold to eternal security and Sola Fide consistently without these other constructs, using the same logic that this individual has offered us, because, if the final decision lies with man and faith arises from man in a state of unregeneracy (by definition synergistic), then I have implicitly treated faith as a work, not as a gift of God underwritten by effacious grace.

So, I say I affirm Sola Fide, but I have to deny Sola Gracia to get there, for, on this view, the work of God is limited to the cross. Arminianism puts election and regeneration after conversion itself and thus outside the work of a chain of grace. Neither the work of the Father (election), nor the work of the Spirit (regeneration) are links in a golden chain which effect a state of grace. Election and regeneration fall outside the grace of God, for they do not create or contribute to a state of grace. On this view, the grace of God is limited to the work of Christ. And it is up to man in a state of nature to respond to the Gospel of Christ.

If grace itself does not underwrite my faith, then, according to the logic that says what is true conceputally is necessarily true practically, then I have believed falsely for I have made my faith a work of merit at the conceptual level. This is, in fact, a classic Reformed objection to synergism, because even though it claims that prevenient grace helps us, it is still up to us, so faith still arises within us. Moreover, election is made contingent on what we have done, and this is implicitly salvation by merit, since God bases His election on foreseen faith.

Thus, even if I believe Sola Fide, on this view, I have treated faith as a work at least implicitly, even if I affirm eternal security. So, in the end, the only consistent position to hold would be that Calvinists and only 5 point Calvinists are Christians on this basis, because we and only we affirm all the necessary logical points to effectively underwrite Sola Fide and Sola Gracia. This means Paige Patterson isn’t saved and Adrian Rogers is in hell.

Now, the truth is that what is true at the conceptual level is not true practically for Arminians. You don’t see them arguing that they saved themselves nor implying that is the case. I do find it inconsistent at the conceptual level not to do so, but that’s not what I’ve found to be in their minds, nor is it in their preaching. In fact, consistent classical Arminians say that prevenient grace (a concept NOT consistently articulated in the 4 point Arminianism/moderate Calvinism of this convention) underwrites saving faith by enabling the potential convert to appropriate it if he wants to do so.

Now, does that still make it a matter of "self?" Yes, it does, but they are careful to state that it is grace that brings them to that point, and that, apart from the gospel and prevenient grace, men cannot believe. They apostatize in the same manner, just in reverse. The individual above simply doesn’t understand how prevenient grace functions within Arminian soteriology; he seems to only grasp what modern Arminians have said, but Arminianism is, itself, widely varied in its approach to these matters. Unless presumptive perseverance, ala Finney’s views, are in mind, then the person is not a Pelagian. If not a Pelagian, and I would argue a real semi-Pelagian (man’s effort is placed before grace) they are within the realm of orthodoxy, as Arminianism puts grace before man’s effort and says it depends on that grace. Its just not effacious grace.

Okay, so now we''re to Dr. Caner's post.

One comment on Steve's blog said:
Okay, so the air is clearing and it appears as though the strategy is going to be to paint those who disagree with the policies as having a low view of the "local" church. Anticipate more articles like this to come...
The fact is, historically, since we are discussing Baptist history, Baptists have looked at baptism as entrance into the local church. I wonder who Dr. Caner believes is disputing this. However, I'd point out that Dr. Caner is at Liberty Seminary. For the life of me, I can't help but wonder if he knows much about Southern Baptist history coming from a church affiliated university that serves a great many independents and whose affiliated church is quite new to the SBC. I'm quite sure that Timothy George, who's about as anti-Landmark as you can get, would have a lot to say to Dr. Caner about who knows history and who does not. I would also point out that Dr. York chastised Wade Burleson for appealing to John Gill on baptism. Why then does Dr. York consider non-Southern Baptists that Dr. Caner cites as valid appeals to authority?

However, Dr. Caner, though a seminary professor has made an obvious error and even boasts about it. Shame on Dr. Caner for making such an obviously specious argument.

He writes,

"Having read the exchange above, I fear that we as a body of believers are suffering generally from a profound case of myopia- near-sightedness. Few know or understand Church History, and even fewer are willing to "fess up."Dr. York, you are exactly on target. The immediate cry of those who paint with a broad brush forget that, until Augustine, baptism ALWAYS had a local-church-anchor.
This is not a "Baptist" issue- it is a New Testament issue.

God gave the local church as the vox Christus on the earth. Consistent with the other issues
such as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As all the gifts given by Him are acts of service, the working out of those gifts does not exist apart from the local church. This is not "Landmarkist." This is New Testament.
Without an accountability to a local assembly, or a trove to which we bring our tithes, Christians become unfettered. This violates the entire epistle of First John! Baptism by immersion in a local church is not essential for salvation.

Baptism by immersion in a local church IS essential for sanctification.

I am reminded of the story of RG Lee. A woman came to him and asked to sing a solo one Sunday. Not recognizing her, Dr. Lee asked, "Madam, where is your church membership?"She responded, "Oh, I am not a member of any local church. I am a member of the universal church as a Christian."Dr. Lee firmly stated, "Well, then Madam, go sing for them."

Does Dr. Caner deny the universal church? If so is Landmarkism in all its glory. I'd add he's at variance with the BFM on that too.
The New Testament speaks also of the church as the body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

Furthermore, who among us is arguing that believers should not be baptized after conversion? Answer: Nobody

He acts as if he's writing to paedobaptists. In fact, in citing Dr. Piper later on, he clearly is doing so. Maybe he needs to read what Dr. Piper has said about this issue as well. Had Bethlehem Baptist gone that direction, it would have been a reversion to the irenicism prior to the American Bible Society controversies and the derivative events of the early 19th century, and they would have set up a membership structure the way Presbyterians do. In Presbyterian churches, I can be a member but not an elder or leader of any kind. At Bethehem, that would have been the same for the paedobaptist members, but they would have been taught right doctrine and encouraged regularly to be baptized. Dr. Caner doesn't seem to understand that Reformed Baptist churches are few and far between, as are PCA and OPC churches, particularly in cities as liberal as Minneapolis. Bethehem was attempting to be more accomodating so that folks didn't feel obligated to stay in apostate churches or go to Arminian churches, where they might agree with the baptism but not the soteriology. Of the two, the latter, not the former is, in their view, more worthy of union. Dr. Caner, for all his bluster proves himself quite ignorant of the situation at Bethehem.

As to his citation of Augustine, would Dr. Caner also agree to what Augustine had to say about baptismal regeneration? What about his early views on Peter? I'd also ask Dr. Caner how many denominations existed at that time. There were at least 4 sees, each independent and each one holding the Chair of Saint Peter: Antioch, Jerusalem, Rome, and Alexandria. At that time, there was much more unanimity between the sees in general then, though they did differ on many things, and, yes they often equated the visible church and the universal church. So, Dr. Caner reads the text of Augustine like a Roman Catholic. He see "church, " figures that this is the visible church, then reads back "local church" into that, and come up with "baptism always had a local church anchor." The word "oversimplification" doesn't begin to state the problems with this. Is that what passes for exegesis in Dr. Caner's classes?

To the issue at hand for a little history lesson for Dr. Caner, one drawn from Southern Baptist history, we need look no further than John L. Dagg. If Dr. Caner wishes to discuss Baptist history, then let's discuss Baptist history. Let's take a look at some of Dagg's work. He addresses much of what Drs. Caner and York are asserting:


First, Dagg fully supports that baptism signifies entrance into the local church, however, he does this after a lengthy discourse in Chapter III on the universal church.

What does Dagg say about the requirement for baptism. Does he mention belief in a soteriological scheme or eternal security? No.

He writes:

Baptism was designed to be the ceremony of Christian profession. If, in the first baptism, the candidate believed himself to be a Christian, and received baptism on a credible profession of faith in Christ, no higher qualification can be obtained for a second baptism. They to whom the administration of the rite
has been committed, do not possess the power to search the heart. A credible profession of faith, sincerely made, is all that fallible men can expect; and, since the ordinance has been committed to
fallible men, it is duly administered on sincere and credible profession.

Some confirmation of this view may be derived from the case of Simon the sorcerer. Though baptized on profession of faith, it was afterwards discovered that his heart was not right in the sight of God. On making the discovery, Peter did not command him to repent and be baptized, as he commanded the unbaptized on the day of Pentecost: but his address was, "Repent, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee."

ONLY A CREDIBLE PROFESSION OF FAITH IN CHRIST is necessary. The administrator has no power to search the heart. That profession and that ALONE is what the believer being baptized is to provide, and that, and that alone, is what the administrator must ascertain.

One looks in vain to see him cite eternal security constituting a credible profession of faith. Will Dr. Cruner or Professor York seriously argue that affirming eternal security is necessary for a credible profession of faith in Christ. Are they willing to state that the Assemblies of God or General Baptists and others cannot give them a credible profession of faith? This would put those bodies on a par with Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox!

Dagg rightly says:

A believer who has, at some time, received sprinkling for baptism, is not freed from the obligation to be immersed, in obedience to Christ's command. In this case the immersion cannot, with propriety, be called rebaptism. But if an individual should be immersed in infancy, according to the usage of the Greek Church, this fact would not release him from the obligation to be re-immersed, on his becoming a believer in Christ. On the cases which have been mentioned, no doubt or diversity of practice exists among those who adhere strictly to the precepts of Christ.

AMEN! I believe all us Southern Baptists are in agreement here.

Now, Dagg will go on to address a particular question:

But other cases occasionally present themselves, the decision of which is attended with difficulty. The most common are the following: 1. Men who were once baptized on profession of faith, and afterwards turned away from Christ, sometimes return with proofs of recent conversion. 2. Men who have been immersed by Pedobaptist ministers, or by unworthy Baptist ministers, sometimes present themselves for rebaptism, or for admission into a church. On these two cases, the question arises, is rebaptism necessary according to the Holy Scriptures.

So, Dagg is addressing these questions about rebaptism. He says:

In deciding the question, the first responsibility devolves on the candidate. He is bound to make a baptismal profession of faith, according to the revealed will of Christ; and if he has not properly complied with his duty, the obligation to obey rests on him.

A responsibility is brought on the administrator, to whom the candidate may apply for rebaptism. It is clear from the Scriptures, that, in ordinary cases, baptism was designed to be administered but once; and the administrator, as a servant of Christ, is bound to decide, in the fear of God, whether the case
before him justifies a repetition of the rite. Besides the two parties that have been named, and that have the immediate responsibility in the case, the church to which an individual of doubtful baptism may apply for membership, has the responsibility of judging whether his baptism has fulfilled the divine
command. If baptism is a prerequisite to membership, the church is not at liberty to throw the entire responsibility of the question on the candidate or the administrator.

It has sometimes happened, that ministers have differed in their views; and a candidate, whom one minister has refused to rebaptize, has been rebaptized by another. In such cases, no breach of fellowship between the ministers occurs; nor ought it to be allowed. In like manner, a difference of opinion may exist between churches; and one church may admit without rebaptism, when another church would require it. This difference should not disturb the kind intercourse between the churches. But if the individual who has been received without rebaptism, should seek to remove his membership to the church that deems rebaptism necessary, the latter church has authority, as an independent body, to
reject him.

A local church is make the evaluation. The church cannot throw the question fully on the candidate or the administrator. Ministers have differed in their views on this. Ergo, there is variance in how this is done. The differences should not disturb the "kind intercourse" between the churches. One church can reject the member not rebaptized and require them to do so if they wish to join with them. However, they are not OBLIGATED, to do so.

Notice the appeal to the local church itself. One looks in vain for anything that says that an ecclesiastical committee like a board of trustees can dictate baptismal practice and who to accept and not accept or baptize and rebaptized to a local church.

Since when does the IMB board constitute a local church? Can the IMB reject the baptism of a local church that is recommending a baptized candidate for missions if the church has already declared their baptism valid? Can it dictate rebaptism to a local church?

I think not, for they are deciding who can and cannot serve as a missionary, discharging the work of the ministry. Dagg will later argue that a Paedobaptist's authority to preach the gospel and discharge the duties thereof is not bound to baptism. It is bound to REGENERATION!

By inference, if you tie the authority to minister the gospel to baptism and local church membership, that is the begining of a sarcedotal priesthood of sorts. Baptism must be properly administered by a "proper' administrator for a person to go do the work of you're indexing baptism to missions, not just to belief in eternal security. Ergo, you have set up a sarcedotal order.

Though some difference of opinion on these questions does exist, and ought to be tolerated, yet every one should strive to learn his duty respecting them, by a diligent study of the Holy Scriptures. The directions of the inspired word are clear, so long as men keep in the prescribed way; but when they have wandered from it, no surprise should be felt if the method of return is not so clearly pointed out. Hence it arises that men who interpret the express precepts of Christ alike, may, in applying them to perplexing cases, differ in their judgment. In what follows I shall give my views, with deference to those whose
investigations have led them to a different conclusion.

---Differences of opinion should be what, Class? T O L E R A T E D.

As to the administrator of baptism, remember he wishes to address the question "Should a person credo-baptized" by a Paedobaptist minister be rebaptized.

He has already said it is up to each local church. Now he will draw some basic distinctions with respect to the administration of baptism:

From the investigations in the preceding part of this work, we have learned that a candidate has no right to baptize himself, or select his own administrator, without regard to his being duly qualified according to the divine will. The proper administrators are persons called of God to the ministerial office, and introduced into it according to the order established by the apostles. To such persons the candidate was bound to apply; and, if he received the ordinance from any other, it was as if he had selected the administrator at his own will, or had immersed himself.

Amen. I'm a in 1646 LCBF church, and I heartily agree!

Dagg makes some observations about Paedobaptist ministers and what they themselves believe about baptism and notes that they were sometimes baptizing folks begrudingly. He also notes that the Paedobaptist, by looking at baptism as a sign of the covenant and a promise to the parents that God might call that child (though not always) to repentance and faith, he looks at baptism differently than we. For us, baptism is a sign of the new covenant, a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and our identification with Him (not, it seems identificaiton with every point of a church covenant or confessional documents.

He concludes:

So, when an administrator mistakes the design of baptism, and overlooks its chief symbolical signification, every enlightened and conscientious candidate, who understands the nature and design of the ceremony, may well doubt the propriety of uniting with such a minister in a service about which they are so little agreed.

Notice, he does not say that the candidate MUST be rebaptized for this reason. It is up to him and his local church.

Moving on... Look at what he says in conclusion of his examination of these cases:

The holy book furnishes satisfactory proof that when the rite has been once duly performed, there is no necessity to repeat it; but it furnishes no proof that God will be displeased, if one who has failed to come up to the full measure of his duty, should seek another opportunity to obey the divine command with
scrupulous exactness.

He stops short of saying the candidate MUST be rebaptized. He says that it is up to the local church to decide. He would advise them to do so, from the look of his statements, but he would not mandate that a man be rebaptized. I certainly don't believe he would rebaptize a man who came from a general Baptist church. I'd ask where there is ever any writing to that effect within Southern Baptist history and theology? Can Dr. Crumer or Prof. York produce evidence that there is unianimity among the Founders or modern day Southern Baptists on this? I don't think so.

Just to note for Dr. York and Dr. Caner. This is John L. Dagg, and he said addressing these very issues that if a local church has deemed the baptism of another valid that is the end of the matter. He is specifically addressing the Landmark ecclesiology. It might seem that his work so far supports the IMB policy....but local church membership is not the issue with the IMB policies, gentlemen. All these missionary candidates are already baptized members of the local church. The issue in Dagg that is the most relevant here is his section on the discharging of the duties of the gospel ministry by Paedobaptist ministers.

Dagg now looks at the authority of Paedobaptist ministers to do the work of the ministry itself. This is important. I believe this intersects quite nicely with the IMB policy issue that would have us rebaptize folks coming from Arminian churches. Do they, if we have deemed their baptism valid already, need to be rebaptized in order to be SBC missionaries. I believe that Dagg would emphatically answer NO! NO! NO!

In Chapter III. we have investigated the Scripture doctrine concerning the church universal. If we have not mistaken the divine teaching on the subject, every man who is born of the Spirit is a member of this church. Regeneration, not baptism, introduces him into it. The dogma that baptism initiates into the
church, and that those who are not baptized are not church-members, even if they are Christians, denies the existence of this spiritual church, and substitutes for it the visible church catholic of theologians. The evils resulting from this unscriptural substitution, have been shown on pp. 132, 133. They are sufficient to deter us from an inconsiderate admission of the dogma from which they

Notice there what Dagg says is iniates entrance into the unversal church and what he says about baptism as introducuction to the local church. In what follows, look at how Dagg would deal with Dr. Caner's appeal to Augustine:

Dr. Gill called infant baptism "a part and pillar of popery," and we may justly call the dogma of Dr. Griffin a part and pillar of infant baptism. If the true universal church is spiritual, comprising all the regenerate and no others; and if local churches are temporary associations of persons belonging to the
universal church, no place is found in either for unregenerate infants. But when baptism is made the door of entrance, instead of regeneration, a way of entrance is opened for infants. Pedobaptism began in the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, and this doctrine, in some form, is necessary to its support. The
regenerating power first attributed to baptism; appears to have been understood to be the conferring of the new relation constituting membership in the church. A spiritual church, with a spiritual door of entrance, did not suit the carnal tendency which was rapidly leading men to Romanism. The substitution of the visible church catholic for the spiritual church of Christ, and of baptism for
regeneration, led to infant baptism, a corrupt church-membership, and all the evils of popery.

Notice that Dr. York chastized Wade Burleson for appealing to John Gill in his work on baptism. However, in so doing York would deny this appeal by John L. Dagg. So, to deny the validity of Gill's work, he must then deny John L. Dagg! How ironic! But I digress. Dagg continues:....

This dogma now efficiently sustains the cause of Pedobaptism. That Dr. Mason considered it a chief pillar of infant baptism, fully appears in his Essays on the Church. Its practical effect is clearly exemplified in the case of the late Dr. Alexander. That excellent man, with two other distinguished Presbyterian ministers of Virginia, became dissatisfied with the proofs of infant baptism on which they had relied. One of them for a time became a Baptist, and the others were strongly inclined to follow him. But all these men settled down at last in the belief of Pedobaptism: and the process of reasoning which satisfied Dr. Alexander's mind, and probably the minds of the rest, is given in his biography. Two considerations kept him back from joining the Baptists. The first was, that the prevalence of infant baptism as early as the fourth and fifth centuries, appeared to him unaccountable on the supposition that no such practice existed in the time of the apostles. The other was his inference that if the Baptists are right, they are the only Christian church on earth, and all other denominations are out of the visible church. He had perceived the corrupting tendency of infant baptism: but the dogma of a visible church catholic with a baptismal boundary, assisted to hold his noble mind fast fettered in error. Shall Baptists receive this dogma with all its consequences?

How thoroughly this Pedobaptist doctrine enters into the reasonings of the Landmark, appears in
such passages as the following: "Who can be a minister of Christ according to the gospel, without belonging to the church?"(19) "Now, if Pedobaptist preachers do not belong to the church of Christ, they ought not to be recognised as ministers of Christ."(20) "Our refusal to commune with the Pedobaptists grows out of the fact that they are unbaptized, and out of the church."(21) In these passages, the Landmark uses the phrase, "the church," in apparent conformity to the common doctrine of the visible church catholic; since none are members of it, but baptized persons. But another passage in the pamphlet sets forth a different doctrine: "There is no universal visible church; and if the universal
invisible church, composed of all the saved, has what Dr. E. calls 'form,' it is impossible to know what it is. We have no idea of 'form' apart from visibility."(22) According to this, the true and only universal church is "composed of all the saved." How can this be reconciled with the preceding quotations, which represent all unbaptized persons as out of "the church?" How can it be reconciled with the premises adopted from Dr. Griffin, that "those who are not baptized are not church-members, even if we regard them as Christians?" A church composed of "all the saved," must contain some unbaptized persons, unless all the unbaptized are unsaved; and if we may account any unbaptized persons members of "the church," we abandon the premises of the Landmark. I do not find evidence, that the pamphlet adopts Mr. Courtney's theory of the church generic; but whether it uses the phrase "the church" generically or
collectively, the result is the same. In some way, its signification extends beyond the bounds of a single local church; and yet it is not the true universal church, "composed of all the saved." But "the church" which appears in the premises and reasonings of the Landmark is, at best, only a Baptist modification
of the visible church catholic, the church that has given Pedobaptism and Popery to the world. Many able Baptist writers have fallen into this Pedobaptist error respecting the church; but the discussions to which the Landmark has given occasion, will tend, we may hope, to establish a sounder theology.

The Landmark inquires for the authority on which Pedobaptist preachers act. "If Pedobaptist societies are not churches of Christ, whence do their ministers derive their authority to preach? Is there any scriptural authority to preach which does not come through a church of Christ? And if Pedobaptist
ministers are not in Christian churches, have they any right to preach? that is to say, have they any authority according to the gospel? They are doubtless authorized by the forms and regulations of their respective societies. But do they act under evangelical authority? It is perfectly evident to the writer,
that they do not."(23) We answer, that, if the Holy Spirit has qualified men to preach the gospel, they preach it with divine authority. The Holy Spirit, who divides to every man severally as he will, does not give the necessary qualifications for the gospel ministry, without designing that they shall be used; and since he only can give these qualifications, we are sure that every man who possesses them, is bound, by the authority of God, to use them to the end for which they are bestowed. We arrive at this conclusion, aside from all reasoning about ceremonies and churches; and the proof brings irresistible conviction. Here is a landmark of truth, which must not be deserted, however much we may be perplexed with reasonings about outward forms.

He discusses the inferences drawn from closed communion with respect to Paedobaptist ministers for a few paragraphs then writes about this issue of authority to minister. Now, you need to understand here that the conflict he is addressing here is the decision by some (Landmarks) to exclude Presbyterians from their pulpits. You could substitute "those baptized in churches disaffirming eternal security" for "Paedobaptist preachers" and get the same effect:


The lawfulness of inviting Pedobaptist preachers into the pulpit, has been defended on the ground that any Christian has the right to talk of Christ and his great salvation. Our Landmark brethren admit that all have a right to make known the gospel privately, but deny that any have the right to proclaim it publicly, except those who have been regularly inducted into the ministerial office. The distinction between talking of Christ privately and proclaiming his gospel publicly, appears to me to respect obligation rather than right. If a Christian has a right to tell of Christ to a fellow man who sits by his side, or walks in the highway with him, he has the same right to address two in like manner, and, so far as I can see, he has an equal right to address ten, a hundred, or a thousand. The obligation to exercise this right is limited only by his ability to do good, and the opportunity which Providence presents of using such talents as he possesses to the glory of God and the benefit of immortal souls. A divine call to the work of the ministry being always accompanied with qualifications for public usefulness, creates obligation rather than confers right, as wealth creates obligation rather than confers right, to relieve the poor. Now, to defend the lawfulness of inviting a Pedobaptist preacher into the pulpit, it has been deemed sufficient to maintain that the person so invited has a right to talk of Christ to perishing men, and recommend his salvation to their acceptance. The argument appears to me to be valid; but I have chosen to take higher ground, and to maintain that many Pedobaptist ministers give convincing
proof that the Holy Spirit has called and qualified them to preach the gospel, and that it is therefore not only their right, but their duty, to fulfil the ministry which God has committed to them.

We have supposed that an undoubted divine call of any one to the gospel ministry, would command the respect of all who revere the authority of the Most High; but on this point the Landmark holds the following remarkable language:--"I go farther and say, that if God were, with an audible voice, as
loud as heaven's mightiest thunder, to call a Pedobaptist to preach, we would not be justified in departing from the Scriptures, unless we were divinely told the utterances of that voice were intended to supersede the teachings of the New Testament. Such information would intimate the beginning of a new economy, and I am writing of the present dispensation."(25)

To this we know not what to say. We have no argument to offer. If God's voice from heaven cannot prevail, all our arguments must be ineffectual, for we have nothing more forcible to urge than the word of the King Supreme. For ourselves, were the undoubted voice of God from heaven to fall on our ears, we have nothing to oppose to his authority. We reverence the Scriptures, but all our reasonings from the Scriptures are as nothing when God speaks. We claim no right to demand explanations respecting his
dispensations as a condition of receiving his word. What if God's voice from heaven ushers in a new economy, we want no higher authority than his mere announcement, even if unaccompanied with any explanation; and we may be well assured that all our reasonings about economies, church order, and similar topics, are erroneous, if they lead us to reject the voice of God speaking from heaven.

But how does a divine call of the unbaptized to preach the gospel, constitute a new economy? John the Baptist, who preached by divine authority, at the beginning of the present dispensation, was unbaptized; and, after the dispensation had been established by the exaltation of Christ, and the gift of
the Holy Spirit, Saul of Tarsus was called to preach the gospel while unbaptized. Cases now occur in which persons who undergo examination in order to ordination, refer their convictions of duty with reference to the ministry, to a period anterior to their baptism; and no ordaining presbytery would be justified in denying the possibility of a call by the Holy Spirit, while the subject of it was unbaptized. He who calls the unbaptized to repentance and faith, has the power and right to call them to the ministry also, if it is his pleasure. God has never bound himself in any manner to require none but baptized persons to reach his word; and we have no right to limit the Holy One of Israel. In our view, the bestowment of ministerial grace and qualifications by the Holy Spirit, indicates the divine will: if not as certainly as it would be indicated by a voice from heaven, yet we cannot resist the conviction which it brings to our minds. When God speaks from heaven, or otherwise clearly indicates his will, we
know nothing but reverence and submission.

I think this is a marvelous observation. Look at the examples Dagg calls upon here. Who baptized John the Baptist, Dr. Caner? He would have received a Jewish mikvah! So, if you're one to trace Baptist succession to John, you have a real problem. A mikvah is hardly NT baptism, and any argument you make about who baptized John would be an argument from silence. If you wish to die the commission of an missionary to his baptism by a church affirming a particular doctrine, Dr. Caner, then you deny Paul's baptism, for he was commissioned prior to his baptism, not after.

If we are going to discuss Baptist history in order to substantiate our beliefs with respect to the IMB policy, why are we to appeal to Graves, Carroll, Pendleton, or Hayden and not John L. Dagg? Since when did a board of trustees take on the role of a local church? Where does the BFM index baptism to the doctrine of eternal security? From whence does a man's obligation to God to discharge His service in promulgating the gospel derive itself? Baptism? Is that what Dagg says? No.

Please do not condescend in the future, Dr. Caner or Dr. York to lecture us on Baptist history while claiming a uniformity of thought when it simply does not exist. You're acting as if there is some sort of "unanimous consent" of the Baptist Fathers that supports you. I beg to differ. In fact, the last time I checked, that was the standard of Vatican I and The Council of Trent. Dagg was quite correct: The substitution of the visible church catholic for the spiritual church of Christ, and of baptism for regeneration, led to infant baptism, a corrupt church-membership, and all the evils of popery. Ultimately are repeating the same error without the regenerative quality and putting it into a credo-baptist form and now you're using the same kind of argumentation they used. You both my deny the label "Landmark," but you speak the language fluently.


  1. I have done some research on Landmarkism. Here is an article a Baptist pastor wrote .. I think it sums up Landmarkism very well.


  2. Good work, Gene. Though he wasn't as verbose as Dagg, another more recent icon of Baptist theology, W.T. Connor doesn't go where they go on this issue either. And even W.A. Criswell, in his Guidebook for Pastors says that even if the baptizer turns out to be unregenerate himself that does not invalidate the person's baptism.

    How these guys so condescendingly voice their view of Baptist history as if it were a single voice is beyond me.

  3. I'm posting as "Theo" but I'm actually "Baptist Theologue" mentioned in the blog, and I'll respond to the following quote in the blog:

    "Since 1963, the BFM has delineated a doctrine of the universal church."

    Wrong. Article VI of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message mentions a local church and the church that "includes all of the redeemed of all the ages." This second group will only exist in glory. Carroll emphasized that the word "ecclesia" in the New Testament always referred to an assembly: the local assembly, the assembly in glory, and an assembly in the sense of a general institution as in Matthew 16:18. Read Carroll's article by clicking on the link in the blog.

  4. Gene, you wrote, "The writer of this policy would, if he was remotely consistent, deny that those who lack assurance are not regenerate either."

    For your research, you might want to consider the theology of M. T. Martin and "Martinism" in relation to rebaptism and assurance.