Credo-Baptism Answers Does Your Baptist Church Acknowledge Paedobaptism as Valid for Membership?

Discussion in 'Credo-Baptism Answers' started by B.L. McDonald, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. B.L. McDonald

    B.L. McDonald Puritan Board Freshman

    Morning Credo-PBers,

    I was reading an article posted today on Building Jerusalem by Stephen Kneale, which poses questions to open-membership credos on church membership using four different scenarios of individuals baptized as infants. I thought it might make for an interesting discussion here. The comments are 'off' on the site, so I couldn't pingback showing the discussions here. I'll contact Mr. Kneale separately to let him know I cited the article here.

    The author's questions are:

    • Which, if any of these people, do you permit to join your church (presuming none of them are willing to be credobaptised)?
    • If you do allow any of them to join – given your baptistic stance and membership criteria – on what grounds do you welcome them into membership?
    • If you permit some of them into membership but not others, on what basis are you differentiating between them?

    Scenario A
    A Catholic, baptised as a child into the Roman Catholic Church, later becomes convicted of the gospel and converts. You have no qualms about affirming them as a genuine believer. They look to join your church in membership, which requires members to be baptised and practices credobaptism. The individual believes, whilst they have become convinced of the gospel and left the Catholic Church since, that their infant baptism is still valid, albeit they now view it differently to what they were initially taught it meant.

    Scenario B
    A Methodist was baptised as a child in a Methodist church. Their parents are not genuine believers and weren’t at the point they baptised their child. You are convinced, however, that the church which baptised him holds to the gospel. The person in question has since been through some Bible studies with your church and has clearly become a believer. They now want to join your church but believe that their previous baptism was valid.

    Scenario C
    An Anglican, who was not a child of believing parents and was baptised in a church that you are not convinced holds to the gospel. Through contact with another Bible-believing church, this individual became a believer and joined that church in which baptism is not a criteria for membership. You are convinced this person is a believer, and the church at which they were a member is a solid, Bible-believing church. They have now moved to your area and wish to join your church. Again, they insist their paedobaptism is valid.

    Scenario D
    An Anglican, who is the child of believing parents, and was baptised in a solid, Bible-believing church. You have no doubts about the gospel preached in that church, you are convinced the parents are genuine believers and you are sure the individual is a believer too. They have served in that Anglican church and left in good standing. Having moved out of the area, they find themselves looking to join your church as it belongs to the same gospel partnership as their previous Anglican Church. They are adamant that their paedobaptism is valid.


    The article on Building Jerusalem can be read in its entirety here. At the end are additional musings by the author on considerations wrestled with.
  2. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not a church officer, but I'll offer my personal opinion. I think in most cases the person should be instructed as to the church's beliefs on baptism, but at the end of the day if they remain amicably convinced their paedobaptism is valid, I think they should be treated as members. I know this puts me at odds with most Baptists, and I am aware of some pitfalls such a position may potentially create. My stance is based on 1 Pet. 3:21 ESV, which I believe indicates baptism is ultimately a matter of conscience and faith over strict procedure. [...ducking now for incoming...]
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2019
  3. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    We would require immersion as adult if becoming a member, as prior one was not scriptural .
  4. Timotheos

    Timotheos Puritan Board Freshman

    It depends if your church is confessional and such a distinction is made and thus required.
  5. Josh Williamson

    Josh Williamson Puritan Board Freshman

    I wouldn't support any of them becoming members of the church, nor participating in the Lord's Table, until they were baptised in a biblical manner, but then again I'm one of those strict and particular types.
  6. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    What I'm asking is not accusative:
    So you would not allow a Presbyterian to join in the Lord's supper if they visit your church?
  7. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    My church practices open communion, as requires one to be saved and walking in the light. All fellow Christian's welcomed.
  8. B.L. McDonald

    B.L. McDonald Puritan Board Freshman

    So your church would forbid those outlined in Scenarios A - D from joining as members of the congregation, but they could partake in the Lord's Supper? Hmm. I'm scratching my head thinking about how this would play out.

    Out of curiosity, if you had to reckon a guess what percentage of those at your church take communion, but are ineligible to join in full fellowship as members?

    Is your church affiliated with an association of other Baptist churches?
  9. B.L. McDonald

    B.L. McDonald Puritan Board Freshman


    Are these distinctions made and thus required at your church?
  10. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Yes, North American Baptists, Great Lakes District.
  11. SeanPatrickCornell

    SeanPatrickCornell Puritan Board Freshman

    To the very best of my knowledge, the Elders of my church require those who were infant sprinkled to be credo immersed for church membership.

    However, we do generally allow those who were infant sprinkled to eat the Lord's Supper.

    I support the baptism requirement, but I do not personally support this kind of communion. I would prefer that we practiced closed communion (members only may eat the Supper).
  12. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I was sprinkled upon a profession of faith in the Methodist Church when I was 12 years old.

    My current church requested my immersion for membership in the spirit of Acts 16:3.
  13. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    My church requires baptism by immersion upon a credible profession of faith for membership. I agree with that requirement.
  14. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    The Baptists I grew up among (which were not particularly strict Southern Baptists) made clear that Baptism by immersion was required to take communion or join the church. In fact, I have a family member who was baptized as an infant in the Dutch Reformed Church (modern RCA) who was required to be baptized by immersion (though he didn't agree it was necessary) to join a church (which I'll add, leans moderate to liberal on the Baptist spectrum locally, being a part of the CBF now).
  15. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Are we not though all part of the Church who have been redeemed?
  16. B.L. McDonald

    B.L. McDonald Puritan Board Freshman

    My experience has been within the context of the SBC and the churches I have been a member of would require baptism by immersion upon a credible profession of faith to join the fellowship.

    On the issue of communion I've primarily seen the elders take a 'guarded' approach (as opposed to 'open' or 'closed') whereby those who are a member of a particular sort of congregation may come to the table.

    As a general observation, I believe an increasing number of churches across the evangelical spectrum are moving towards open membership and open communion. To me this is a sign of the times where doctrinal distinctives are viewed as unimportant, are forgotten, or perhaps never even understood.
  17. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Think some Baptists see a difference between one bring admitted into local church by taking water baptism, and one able to partake of Communion due to being part of the true Church proper.
  18. B.L. McDonald

    B.L. McDonald Puritan Board Freshman

    In my view churches that practice closed membership and open communion, like yours (assuming I've understood you correctly), introduce an inconsistency that does damage to the Church. If your Baptist church only admits those who have been baptized by immersion upon a credible profession of faith to be communicant members should it not also only admit those who are in communion with it to the Lord's table? In other words, if your church does not consider the infant baptism of those outlined in Scenarios A-D to be valid then they are not in communion with your church until they have been baptized...and if they are not in communion with your church then why would they be allowed to partake in the very thing that is meant, in part, to signify the fellowship of the communicants with one another? Do you see the inconsistency with this?

    1 Corinthians 10:16-17 King James Version (KJV)
    16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

    17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
  19. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    We see the Communion as referring to the Body of Christ as in Church proper.
  20. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    These are good discussion points, and open up a broader array of questions that I want and have tried to deal with appropriately. I fully get and support the perspective of needing to guard against a downgrade in essential beliefs and practices. Often the question is just were such lines need to be drawn.

    With respect to baptism, I have already stated my general position above. Nonetheless I am convinced that baptism by immersion upon a credible profession of faith is the intended practice. One thing I'm probably fairly well-known here on the PB for is my in-depth critiques of non-immersion (no pun intended). And I am indeed convinced that was the purposeful apostolic practice, and as such I am certainly going to advocate it. (Plus, I am quite intrigued by many modern arguments for sprinkling that in in my opinion seem to range from knee-jerk recitations of historically uninformed polemics to uncharitable assessments of various biblical information and symbolisms that unwittingly end up throwing most pre-19th century Reformed church leaders under the theological bus alongside the targeted immersionists - but I digress.)

    Yet I am also convinced that the externals involved in the ordinances are secondary to their spiritual aspects. I for one am not willing to pronounce the absolute invalidity of my non-Baptist brethren's baptism. If baptism extends beyond a mere external expression, and into the realm of being a means of grace to strengthen one's faith, then the implications of this has to be carefully considered in one's final evaluation. Clearly, not every genuine, Bible believing, Blood-bought Christian is going to agree on every particular.

    A related principle regarding the Lord's Supper is that I believe the best practice is to eat unleavened bread and drink wine, and so I will, as charitably and appropriately as possible, advocate such. Yet if a believer, having sincerely considered the matter, remains genuinely convinced and believes that using leavened bread and grape juice - or even practicing intinction - is proper, I will refrain from dogmatically pushing my viewpoint. More importantly, if a believer attests that such means facilitate the spiritual intent of the ordinances, namely, strengthening their faith, then who am I to deny it?

    Having said this, we of course all draw the line somewhere. Personally I would not regularly participate in something like intinction, or submit a non-professing child in my keeping to baptism. But I don't believe that everything done with regard to sacramental externals that is irregular or less than ideal necessarily constitutes outright invalidation. If it does, then God help us all. So absent a willful disregard of biblical teaching, I believe good conscience and a pure faith are paramount.

    I think the most practical concern in these things comes down to church unity. But this issues has both a local and universal application. I don't fault churches that may deem maintaining strict uniformity in congregants' beliefs on sacramental issues as essential to fruitful unity and proper function. Yet I don't think this is necessarily a universal prerequisite. I have been a member of a solid Presbyterian church despite my admitted beliefs concerning baptism, and am aware of Baptist churches that succeed in amicably accommodating some with paedobaptist convictions.

    Many will undoubtedly see my position as lacking conviction or being too broad. And I know it is not beyond criticism. But, in finding the standard Reformed position on baptism to have a measure of plausibility, and knowing the deep sincerity and conviction with which many fellow believers have in past generations, as now, held it, while I may disagree, I will refrain from making ultimate pronouncements and refuse to disfellowship them to whatever extent may be possible. I will most gladly partake of the Lord's Supper with any evident believer who is relying on the finished and all-sufficient work of Jesus Christ on Calvary, and who is actively seeking to keep all of God's commandments. To me, striving to extend this manner of grace and deferential brothership is part of properly discerning the Lord's body.

    In summary, I see the outward aspects of the sacraments as secondary compared to being faithful in the proclamation of the salvific essentials of the Gospel. There can be no compromise or mistaking of these. Again, I know my position represents a very small minority, and that does give me some pause. But so does the prospect of being too focused on external differences in my dealings with any of God's redeemed people.

    Rather ironically, despite it's inclusivity, it seems my position has probably gained me more suspicion than friends. Yet for me it is an outworking of trying to humbly recognize that despite my desire to get every detail of being a true and faithful Christian right, including in many externals, I don't.
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  21. B.L. McDonald

    B.L. McDonald Puritan Board Freshman


    I appreciate what you have written above. That's a very thoughtful response!

    This isn't in response to your post, but to further elaborate on the general observation I noted earlier, I think when Baptist churches lose the distinctives that have historically made them Baptist what you're left with is essentially a non-denominational church that isn't anchored at all to a common set of beliefs and practices. "First Baptist Church" all of a sudden becomes "The Sanctuary" or "Real Life Church" and doctrine is ditched altogether to make room for anyone/everyone. While the same can ostensibly happen to a non-confessional Presbyterian church that drops "Presbyterian" from its name and opts for something inclusive like "community church", I think Baptist ecclesiology makes it easier for Baptists to become unmoored from their traditional beliefs whereas the Presbyterian church is in a Presbytery and has other denominational structures that *should* reduce the chance it'll go rogue.

    I can see a day when the number of solid churches so dwindles that it'll be increasingly common for Reformed of all stripes and flavors to flock together for fellowship. Now that will present some interesting pastoral challenges! I often feel like I have much more in common with my Presbyterian brothers and sisters than I do my Baptist relatives. At any rate...

    Thanks and have a joyful evening!
  22. Josh Williamson

    Josh Williamson Puritan Board Freshman

    The church where I'm serving as Pastor until the end of the year would allow a Presbyterian, but the church I've accepted a call to in the UK would not. My personal conviction is one of strict communion, which means the Lord's Supper is only open to those who have been baptised; as such those who have never been baptised by immersion after professing faith would not be permitted to the table.
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  23. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    A woman in a "doctrines of grace" Baptist church I was formerly a member of had been baptized as an infant in a Greek Orthodox Church and she and her husband believed her baptism as an infant was valid (as were Calvin's and Luther's). The Baptist church was appropriately strict in its credo requirements. The woman and her husband's position was that, although they considered her initial baptism true, were willing she be baptized again for the sake of the consciences of those in the church so they would allow her to become a member.

    She was then baptized by immersion in the Atlantic Ocean.
  24. SeanPatrickCornell

    SeanPatrickCornell Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes. Utterly irrelevant to the question at hand, though.
  25. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Communion though is to be done with Jesus and those He has redeemed, so why would we withhold communion towards those already in a relationship with Christ?
  26. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

  27. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Baptists would not call this open communion, but fenced or guarded communion. The idea is that agreement on the topic of baptism is necessary to fellowship together as members of the same local church, but not required to call someone a brother in Christ. Therefore if a Presbyterian for example we’re visiting, we wouldn’t feel the need to exclude them from the table even though we would exclude them from membership.
  28. B.L. McDonald

    B.L. McDonald Puritan Board Freshman

    Pastor Bill,

    Thank you for participating in this thread.

    In your first sentence are you referring to Dachaser's characterization of who his church admits to the Lord's table (open communion)? I wasn't entirely sure where to trace this comment back to.

    With regards to baptism being necessary to fellowship in the same church, but not required to call someone a brother in Christ, I couldn't agree more with you. However, when talking about admitting someone to the Lord's table baptism is considered a prerequisite (Baptist Faith & Message 2000, Art. 7).

    In the scenario you provided of not excluding a visiting Presbyterian from participating in communion would your view change if that one-time visitor became a regular attendee at your church and held fast to the validity of his/her infant baptism?
  29. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Our church is similar to many here in that we would require immersion before membership, but gladly extend the Table to visiting Presbyterians. The Table is fenced by the statement that if one is born again, and a member in good standing at another Bible-believing church, they are welcome to partake. It is laid on the conscience, then, of the paedobaptized person to examine himself whether he be in the faith. If he lies, he does not lie to men, but to the Holy Spirit. Externally we can accept that his church, which watches over his soul, regards him a member there.
    There is no inconsistency in allowing visitors to partake with less examination than it takes to have members--the elders have a charge to watch for the souls of members, and to fence the membership by knowing the members and seeing their testimony--but they have less responsibility with visitors who are under care elsewhere, and perhaps only passing through that day never to be seen again. I have partaken, while travelling, of the Lord's Supper at many paedobaptistic churches (OPC, RCUS, CRC, etc) who accepted my membership elsewhere, and I was most glad to commune with them, so it would be churlish in the extreme to have them barred from the communion at my church when they were passing through.
  30. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Speaking with no intention to debate. My church in TX required a Baptist baptism both for membership and before admittance to the Lord's Supper. The one before that (RB) had no such requirement for the Supper.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2019

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