Best Confession for our reforming Church

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Particular Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
Brothers,

Perhaps some of you remember that a while back I asked what the best course of action was to reform the local congregation that I attend. I found the response both simple, and pround: preach Christ. Our pastor has simply been doing this, and I filled in for him the past two Sundays and covered the basic characteristics of the gospel. Throughout the past 2 or 3 months, many attendees (the church is progressing to formal membership, which my pastor and myself consider very important) have left due to the teaching that Christ alone is our salvation and it is the work of God alone. My pastor has asked me to assist him in drawing up a church covenant, confession, and constitution for those who decide to proceed as a congregation.

Here's where I've had some problems. Though I myself am credobaptistic, as well as my pastor, we believe that baptism should not divide Christians. What confession would you recommend that we adhere too? I personally like the Three Forms of Unity but couldn't adhere to the articles on infant baptism. What say ye?
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Spencer, you're going to have a problem straddling the fence on baptism. If you give equal credence to credo-only and paedobaptism then your problems are going to extend well beyond finding a suitable confession.
 

Particular Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
You are right that this is a tough issue. Perhaps I didn't state the issue well enough, though. As a congregation, we would only practice credo-baptism. However, paedo believers would be allowed lay membership, similiar to how credo believers are allowed to be lay members in presbyterian churches. To become an elder, however, they would have to affirm credo-baptism.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Without addressing the underlying merits of infant and believer's baptism verses believer's only baptism,

I think you need to carefully evaluate this and settle on a biblical position. This is too important to leave to individual interpretation, in a confessional church and even in a broadly evangelical one.

There are other important doctrines that flow from one's belief here, and you will want your leaders to be able to teach and preach with a clear conscience the confessed doctrine. Your view of covenant community will be shaped, in part, by this.

I would take an extended time to deliberately consider the Confessions, with prayer and fasting.

One ought be adopted after a major season of prayer and fasting, and only with an overwhelming majority, and without any significant exception.

The London Baptist, Westminster, and Three Forms of Unity are all excellent confessional documents.

I'm saying this as both a practical and philosophical matter. It's worth taking the time to get this right, for the generations.
 

MLCOPE2

Puritan Board Junior
The Westminster Standards. Even if you must take an exception on the issue of baptism I fully believe that it is the best reformed confession on the market. (not to knock all of the other ones, they are swell too :)) :2cents:
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Spencer, is your church a Baptist church? If so, why would you not consider the 1689 LBC?
 

Particular Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
Bill, yes we are all Baptists with some others from paedo backgrounds, but we are Baptists. I think the biggest problem for me is that my flesh wants to be accepted by other Reformed paedo brothers, and many times I've tried so hard to be convinced of paedo baptism but the more and more I've tried, the more I've become credo. I think that you're right that the 1689 is the best confession for our congregation. Is there a catechism that you would recommend? I've found Piper's 'A Baptist Catechism' and like it alot.
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
Bill, yes we are all Baptists with some others from paedo backgrounds, but we are Baptists. I think the biggest problem for me is that my flesh wants to be accepted by other Reformed paedo brothers, and many times I've tried so hard to be convinced of paedo baptism but the more and more I've tried, the more I've become credo. I think that you're right that the 1689 is the best confession for our congregation. Is there a catechism that you would recommend? I've found Piper's 'A Baptist Catechism' and like it alot.

If you still have some question about paedo-baptism, that is, if it is not entirely resolved for you whether or not it is the correct biblical doctrine, you might want to hold off a bit until it becomes more clear to you. You wouldn't want to change your mind on this issue after adopting a confession, and then have to switch confessions. This would be very confusing for people. Many credo-Baptists end up embracing the full Reformed view of the covenant of grace and the inclusion of the believers' children in the promises, and its concomitant practice of infant baptism. Sometimes it takes a while to get there, but it seems like that's usually where people end up if they keep drinking in Reformed theology. If I were you, I would go slowly on this.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Bill, yes we are all Baptists with some others from paedo backgrounds, but we are Baptists. I think the biggest problem for me is that my flesh wants to be accepted by other Reformed paedo brothers, and many times I've tried so hard to be convinced of paedo baptism but the more and more I've tried, the more I've become credo. I think that you're right that the 1689 is the best confession for our congregation. Is there a catechism that you would recommend? I've found Piper's 'A Baptist Catechism' and like it alot.

There are a few Baptist catechisms worth considering. Piper's catechism is a good choice. Also, Spurgeon's 1855 catechism and Keach's Baptist catechism are excellent works.

I battled with the paedo issue also a few years ago. Like you, I wanted so bad to be a paedo because I felt it would do two things for me: 1. Let me into the Reformed "club" 2. Settle the angst in my heart over the issue. I actually pleaded with God to give me a peace about the paedo position, but as I studied the scriptures I became more and more settled on the credo-only position. Amazing how that happened.

Don't allow your desire to be accepted by your paedo brethren influence what you know to be right (based on scripture). Neither paedos nor credos should adopt a position based on peer pressure. Eventually you'll have to confront the subject again at a later date. Stand firm on the truth. In the end truth trumps what others think about us.
 

Particular Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks, Bill. It's good to know that others have had this struggle. I know if my mind is to be completely captive to scripture, I have to be credo. Ok, another question, we've also been searching for a church covenant. I've found the Solemn Covenant and John Gill's church covenant, which would you suggest? Is there a basic church constitution that you would recommend?
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Spencer, send me a PM with your email and I will send you our church covenant later this evening. There are some excellent church covenants out there that you can build around. That's what we did when we re-wrote our church covenant last fall.
 

raekwon

Puritan Board Junior
I can't answer this as fully as I'd like to right now, but it might be worth the time to look at The Gospel Coalition's confessional statement. It's obviously not as detailed as a "full" confessional document, such as the WCF or the LBCF, but it's orthodox, reformed, and leaves latitude on the sacraments. Might be worth considering for your members, at least.
 

Grimmson

Puritan Board Sophomore
If your having a problem decide on choosing a confession then why not write your own church's confession that reflects reformed ideas? During the time of the reformation, it was not that uncommon for different regions to construct their own confession of faith.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Just as Keach adapted the Westminster Shorter Catechism for Baptists, there've been a few "Baptist versions" of the Heidelberg Catechism created. I saw one in print just a month or so ago. Since you're Baptist and like the Three Forms, I thought this might be of interest to you. I can try to find out the publisher, if you'd like. What I saw looked fairly new, so it may still be in print, and a nearby Reformed Baptist congregation was using it for teaching.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
Is there a catechism that you would recommend? I've found Piper's 'A Baptist Catechism' and like it alot.

It should be noted that Piper's catechism is modified with regard to the Law/Gospel relationship. Piper's position is not that of the historic Reformed understanding. This is why I don't recommend it. The Keach, Charleston, and Puritan are all good choices. There is also The Shorter Catechism: A Baptist Version published by Simpson Publishing.
 

beej6

Puritan Board Sophomore
Just to give you food for thought (smile): The Free Presbyterian Church of North America (formerly "Irish") subscribes to the Westminster Standards, yet allows for "both" baptism positions in its membership and its officers.
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
You are right that this is a tough issue. Perhaps I didn't state the issue well enough, though. As a congregation, we would only practice credo-baptism. However, paedo believers would be allowed lay membership, similiar to how credo believers are allowed to be lay members in presbyterian churches. To become an elder, however, they would have to affirm credo-baptism.

Spencer what you are advocating here is a two-tier church membership. A position like this is fraught with dangers.

On the one hand the ordained leadership would be insisting that credobaptism is the only position that is thoroughly scriptural, hence only those holding to it may be elders. This will eventually offend (otherwise) qualified men for the office.

On the other hand you will implicitly send the message that the doctrine of baptism is among the adiaphora and thus both views are valid. This has far reaching implications for your doctrine of the New Covenant, the Church, membership and more.

Do you really want to take the flock down that rocky road?
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Bill, yes we are all Baptists with some others from paedo backgrounds, but we are Baptists. I think the biggest problem for me is that my flesh wants to be accepted by other Reformed paedo brothers, and many times I've tried so hard to be convinced of paedo baptism but the more and more I've tried, the more I've become credo. I think that you're right that the 1689 is the best confession for our congregation. Is there a catechism that you would recommend? I've found Piper's 'A Baptist Catechism' and like it alot.

There are a few Baptist catechisms worth considering. Piper's catechism is a good choice. Also, Spurgeon's 1855 catechism and Keach's Baptist catechism are excellent works.

I battled with the paedo issue also a few years ago. Like you, I wanted so bad to be a paedo because I felt it would do two things for me: 1. Let me into the Reformed "club" 2. Settle the angst in my heart over the issue. I actually pleaded with God to give me a peace about the paedo position, but as I studied the scriptures I became more and more settled on the credo-only position. Amazing how that happened.

Don't allow your desire to be accepted by your paedo brethren influence what you know to be right (based on scripture). Neither paedos nor credos should adopt a position based on peer pressure. Eventually you'll have to confront the subject again at a later date. Stand firm on the truth. In the end truth trumps what others think about us.

I also like Spurgeon's
 

dudley

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I am a Presbyterian and adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith. However I also believe The London Baptist, Westminster, and Three Forms of Unity are all excellent confessional documents. Pray and and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
 

torstar

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am a Presbyterian and adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith. However I also believe The London Baptist, Westminster, and Three Forms of Unity are all excellent confessional documents. Pray and and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

As opposed to the churches adhering to the WCF (and small and large) and the 3 Forms, my experience with the 1689 is that not much is done with it beyond putting it on the statement of faith.

The Reformed Baptist churches I attended did not preach regularly from it, they did not catechize with it, they did not interview prospective members to any decent degree about their knowledge of its contents, nor was subscription to the confession required. Maybe I missed those moments or these places were the rare exception.

The Independent Baptist churches I attended basically condemned, mocked, or ignored the concept of confession for the use of regulating their church and their faith.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
The Reformed Baptist churches I attended did not preach regularly from it, they did not catechize with it, they did not interview prospective members to any decent degree about their knowledge of its contents, nor was subscription to the confession required.

Do other Reformed churches require subscription to the WCF or Three Forms?

The Independent Baptist churches I attended basically condemned, mocked, or ignored the concept of confession for the use of regulating their church and their faith.

I've been a member of an IFB for a while now and they would normally ignore the concept of confession unless pressed to take a stand, then condemn it. At this point I ask my brothers to explain a doctrine such as the Trinity to me, if they do a good job I then ask what's the difference between your verbal confession and a written one? The problem is...many IFB's can barely explain anything other then eschatology or some form of moral holiness.

I could be wrong and often am.

j
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
The Reformed Baptist churches I attended did not preach regularly from it, they did not catechize with it, they did not interview prospective members to any decent degree about their knowledge of its contents, nor was subscription to the confession required.

Do other Reformed churches require subscription to the WCF or Three Forms?

The Independent Baptist churches I attended basically condemned, mocked, or ignored the concept of confession for the use of regulating their church and their faith.

I've been a member of an IFB for a while now and they would normally ignore the concept of confession unless pressed to take a stand, then condemn it. At this point I ask my brothers to explain a doctrine such as the Trinity to me, if they do a good job I then ask what's the difference between your verbal confession and a written one? The problem is...many IFB's can barely explain anything other then eschatology or some form of moral holiness.

I could be wrong and often am.

j

The practice among Dutch or German Reformed churches tends to be confessional membership. That is, new members must subscribe to the Three forms.

In Presbyterianism, confessional church membership is not normally the practice. Instead, something like the 5 questions in the vow of church membership (OPC) is made the standard for membership, although the catechisms and confessions are often used to let prospective members know more fully what the church believes. And in principle all officers are required to subscribe to the Westminster Standards prior to ordination, and to step down, if they ever find themselves not in agreement with them.
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
I happen to be in a credo church, but the pastor went to WTS and so is fully familiar with the paedo position (and is covenantal and amil in doctrine) so paedos are not required to be rebaptized, nor is this doctrine considered essential, the way TULIP or the solas or basic creeds would be.

There are other paedo-credo churches out there, they are a minority, but there is no reason on earth why you can't "straddle the fence" as it were. Some churches do and it works fine. Everybody ends up baptized eventually!
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
I happen to be in a credo church, but the pastor went to WTS and so is fully familiar with the paedo position (and is covenantal and amil in doctrine) so paedos are not required to be rebaptized, nor is this doctrine considered essential, the way TULIP or the solas or basic creeds would be.

There are other paedo-credo churches out there, they are a minority, but there is no reason on earth why you can't "straddle the fence" as it were. Some churches do and it works fine. Everybody ends up baptized eventually!

Every paedo church is also credo. We don't just baptize infants. We baptize anyone who desires to join us, who has a credible profession of faith, and their children.
 

CovenantalBaptist

Puritan Board Freshman
As opposed to the churches adhering to the WCF (and small and large) and the 3 Forms, my experience with the 1689 is that not much is done with it beyond putting it on the statement of faith.

The Reformed Baptist churches I attended did not preach regularly from it, they did not catechize with it, they did not interview prospective members to any decent degree about their knowledge of its contents, nor was subscription to the confession required. Maybe I missed those moments or these places were the rare exception.

The Independent Baptist churches I attended basically condemned, mocked, or ignored the concept of confession for the use of regulating their church and their faith.

Hi Kent,

I'm not sure where your experience was, but, just for your information we are a confessional Reformed Baptist Church (I'm an ARBCA national pastor) in Toronto. Currently, we are teaching through the 1689 LCBF in our Wednesday evening study (after our prayer meeting) and our elders are teaching a new members class which also incorporates our confessional distinctives. If you would like more information, such as an outline of our New Members class, feel free to send me a PM or contact me through the church website.

Every blessing,
 

Glenn Ferrell

Puritan Board Junior
Paedos can admit Credos to church membership because they regard Credos as validly baptized.
More difficult for Credos to admit those baptized as Paedos, which they must regard as unbaptized.
To do so says baptism is not an essential.
As both sacraments are together one of the three essential marks of the church, this creates a question regarding the validity of any church saying baptism is unnecessary for church membership.
 

Austin

Puritan Board Freshman
Not necessarily. With an approach to your Confession & Catechisms along the lines of the American Presbyterian "Adopting Act of 1729" you could allow elders & deacons to state scruples/exceptions to the Confessional document(s) while promising submission to the brethren on those points on which they disagree. They would therefore be able to say "This is where our church/we/ stand, though I personally have some reservations."

Just a thought.

---------- Post added at 10:58 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:44 PM ----------

One additional thought: Would you all be open to ordaining a paedo-pabtist as an elder or minister? Depending upon how you answer that may just answer your question...
 

Particular Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
Honestly, I've had the discussion about who would be allowed to be ordained as elders or deacons. I guess we're too open on the issue of baptism, but we believe that it is best if a church has only one practice of baptism. However, I think that to say that because someone else disagrees with me on baptism, that therefore makes them inadmissable to the church community. Coming from a Baptist standpoint, or perhaps this is more congregational than baptist, I view those who should be members of the local church as those who are visible saints, who show signs of regeneration, regardless of their view of baptism. I would rather allow than exclude those who, though I don't believe have been biblically baptized, show clear signs of regeneration and visible sainthood.

Also, I've discussed the issue of church officers with my pastor, and we both believe that a paedo should be allowed to be an elder on the grounds that he doesn't baptize children, since this is the stance of the church, and that he doesn't create a schism with his belief. This has given me many headaches, but I have to say that if John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, or John Owen were to desire to join the local church that I attend, I could not disallow them to do so. And, I would have no problem with them being elders, if they subscribed to a similar policy such as you have laid our, Austin.
 
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