Should Reformed Baptists accept the baptisms of Methodist members as valid?

Discussion in 'Credo-Baptism Answers' started by Pergamum, Sep 30, 2014.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    My aunt traces her conversion to age 14 after a summer of religious instruction by the Methodist church. At the end of that summer she was baptized by immersion after she professed her faith.

    Now she wants to join a local independent, fundamental baptist church. They have stated that they believe the Methodists are not a true New Testament church and therefore would require a "true baptism" (baptized again...this time for real) prior to granting her church membership. This church would accept the baptism of other baptists, baptistic or evangelical churches, but reject baptisms done by the Church of Christ due to their error of baptismal regeneration and they reject baptisms by Methodists due to their error of believing that one can fall from grace.

    What are your thoughts?
  2. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I think most "Reformed Baptists" i.e. 1689ers would accept it, but I know of a few Sovereign Grace Landmarkers who claim to b 1689ers who would not. (You would know some of the ones I'm thinking of.)

    A good many Calvinistic Southern Baptists would not accept it. (I don't know how many would subscribe ot the 1689 but some probably do.) Most of them would strongly deny that they are Landmarkers. But to me it would be more consistent if they were and would accept the implications of their position. Perhaps some shy away from the label because today it is associated with things like "chain link succession" and "essential mother daughter authority" that the original Landmarkers didn't teach.

    I was baptized by immersion in a Wesleyan church and have yet to be persuaded that it is not biblical. Were I called to the mission field, I would be disqualified from serving with the IMB unless I submitted to baptism in a SBC church.

    Methodist and similar Protestant baptisms by immersion (the old term for it is "alien immersion") are rejected on some or all of the following grounds:

    1. They teach conditional security/falling from grace
    2. They administer infant baptism
    3. They baptize by sprinkling and pouring as well as immersion

    Most Baptists teach that for baptism to be valid you have to have the following elements:

    1. Right candidate (Professing believer)
    2. Right mode (immersion)
    3. Right reason (i.e. not baptismal regeneration)

    Some add:

    4. Valid administrator, which must be a Baptist church or one of like faith and order whether or not it calls itself Baptist.

    (In)famously, several years ago Dr. James Hamilton of SBTS argued on the Gospel Coalition site that Baptists should not admit those into membership who want to join the church and will submit to baptism but do not do it wholeheartedly e.g. they think their Presbyterian sprinkling was valid, etc. In a journal article several years ago, Russell Moore says all someone like me did was take a quick bath because my Wesleyan congregation accepted infant baptism and sprinkling and pouring even though infant baptism was not practiced.

    At least this church would accept other Baptist baptisms. Some Landmark Baptist churches reject Southern Baptist baptism. I've even heard of one Southern Baptist church that only accepts baptism from other Southern Baptist Churches. Could anything be more nonsensical? What if the SBC congregation was liberal, etc?
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2014
  3. whirlingmerc

    whirlingmerc Puritan Board Sophomore

    Agreeing with the apostle's creed was a baptism requirement for converts in ancient history. She probably met that requirement.

    The ancient church also had a donatist crisis where some people were probably baptized by people who fell into theological eccentrism or heresy and
    it was not felt they needed a new baptism

    I would go with conscience on that.
  4. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member


    This is the "Credo-Baptism Answers" Forum.

    Please, only those subscribing to a Baptist confession should answer.
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    What are your opinions about that fourth point (right administrator)? Baptism was given to the Church and therefore must be administered by the Church.

    Can a Wesleyan or a Methodist qualify as a right administrator? We would both probably reject that a Catholic priest or a Jehovah's Witness or Mormon could rightly administer baptism, but what of a semi-pelagian or Arminian in a church that holds to these errant doctrines of salvation as part of their official doctrine? How far "off the reservation" do we allow one to be until we deem them a non-church and their baptisms as non-baptisms?
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    p.s. I do value the insights of paedos on this issue, but the question was designed for RBs. It does seem that some Presbyterians (though not all) do not accept baptisms administered by the cults or by the Catholics, and I would be curious to hear how their positions are similar to the questions I am wrestling with.
  7. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    If you want PBs to respond then you might start a twin thread under PB only or we can move this one to the general baptism forum.
  8. chuckd

    chuckd Puritan Board Sophomore

    Imagine having to repeat the sign of the old testament because it was not administered correctly the first time. :chained:
  9. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member


    As long as this is in the "Credo-Baptism Answers" Forum, only those identifying themselves as "Baptist" should answer.

    That isn't my rule--that's the forum rule.
  10. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I think this really gets into the definition of a church and it is something I have been wrestling with for a while. Can you have a church without baptism? Is proper administration of baptism of the essence (esse) of the church or merely the well being (de bene esse) of the church? (You may be privy to arguments about the validity of certain baptisms on the mission field as well with regard to whether or not they are under the auspices of a "church" even if it is a Baptist missionary.)

    If a Baptist accepts the Reformation formulation of the three marks of the church (The Word preached, the Sacraments properly administered, and discipline faithfully administered) then it seems to me that to be consistent he MUST reject pedobaptist Protestant churches as being true churches since they do not administer the sacraments or ordinances properly. (Thus their baptisms should be rejected as well.) In his Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, a fairly thorough contemporary Baptist ecclesiology, Dr. John Hammett of SEBTS ultimately rejects this idea and says that the gospel is the sine qua non of a church, not the three marks. (I have no idea how he would come down on the question at hand as I don't know if it was specifically addressed.) To me this is also not completely unrelated to the terms of communion. If I recall correctly, after much wrestling, Hammett affirms close communion while also saying that gospel preaching churches are nevertheless true churches despite their improper administration of baptism.

    My recollection is that what was first at issue with the Landmark controversy was whether or not a gospel preaching pedobaptist minister could be allowed to preach in a Baptist pulpit. Dagg, who was not a Landmarker, argued against the Landmarkers on this issue at some length. But I think both sides were probably agreed that pedobaptist churches were not true churches. At least that's what seems to have come down to us in written form. So to many today in an age largely characterized by loose ecclesiology, the "Founders" along with a great many of the English Particular Baptists would pretty much all look like "Landmarkers." If someone says that a church is a "body of baptized believers" or something similar, then doesn't that necessarily rule out pedobaptist churches as being true churches?

    Interestingly I posed my question (the validity of my Wesleyan immersion) to a staunch Baptist minister of some note who I thought might say it was invalid (and if so, advance a compelling argument) but he actually said that he thought it is valid, which surprised me a little. I suggested the terminology "irregular but not invalid", (which I actually borrowed from the Presbyterian F.N. Lee, who employed it in affirming the validity of RC baptism) and he liked it. My current thinking is that there can be a distinction between "Who should baptize" and "What constitutes valid baptism". I'm not convinced that they are essentially the same question. What if an unordained man (with the approval of his church) baptizes a convert? Other alleged irregularities may come to mind.

    With regard to Methodists and their progeny (or other denominations such as Presbyterians, Anglicans, etc.) you get into the question of denominational beliefs as a whole and not simply the issue of what that particular pastor (who in my case is sort of a "bad" Wesleyan who rejects some core Wesleyan beliefs) or congregation taught or practiced. In a denomination, the denomination as a whole is really considered "the church", not the individual congregation as is the case with Baptists and other independents. in my opinion that Wesleyan pastor was preferable to a lot of Baptists, which in that area were either somewhat liberal or else rather shallow or legalistic and very church growth oriented. Although I was raised Methodist, I didn't hold to Wesleyan views at the time but attended there because it was the best option in the area with which I was familiar. For what it's worth, we've had at least one United Methodist minister post here who is a 5 point Calvinist. But some Baptists will reject those baptisms due to the (in their view) erroneous stated beliefs of the church bodies, along with the reasons discussed previously. Those who harp on valid administrator would typically say that I'm not baptized because of the stated beliefs of the denomination and that what I or the minister thought about the baptism ultimately doesn't really matter.

    Due to the much different ecclesiastical scene, I think the issue is more complicated today than in the 19th century. There are many groups that are essentially baptistic that basically didn't exist then, including various Trinitarian Pentecostals (e.g. Assembly of God) and charismatics. And there has been a proliferation of cults. Back then, it was pretty much pedobaptist Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Campbellites. Back in 1855, I don't think it would have been very likely that any kind of Methodist would have said to a new convert (who had previously made what was evidently a false profession at 12 at his confirmation and had been sprinkled in the mainline church at that time) "I think you should be immersed following your conversion because that's what the Bible teaches even though I can't reject your application for membership if you disagree" which was the case with my Wesleyan pastor. "Alien immersion" then was probably confined almost exclusively to people requesting it, not the Methodist or Presbyterian minister (who was a pedobaptist and not an immersionist) suggesting it. With the apostasy among Protestants, the question among Presbyterians who reject the validity of RC baptism is more complicated too, it seems to me. Shouldn't they reject apostate Protestant baptism as well? They often cannot even seriously affirm the ecumenical creeds. What if it was a woman minister?

    I hope that helps even if it is not exactly yes or no. My apologies if I've thrown in some things that may appear to be unnecessary.
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2014
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    I think the Reformation definition of a church is imperfect. Just common sense tells us that Presbyterian churches are actual churches though we would state that they do not properly administer the sacraments.
  12. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    And even then, the Reformers did not reject RC baptism. One can have a helpful formulation and then press it too far or apply it outside of its historical context when a more thorough or nuanced formulation might be called for today.
  13. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Each Baptist church should administer baptism according to their own bylaws. A discussion board on the internet has no authority to tell a Baptist church how to run their church. That said, I think a good argument could be made for acceptance of pre-conversion baptisms, especially in rural or remote areas.
  14. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Mr. Bottomly, if I may answer this as one who joined an Independent Baptist church when none other was available?

    While Independent Baptists are, as the name suggests, fiercely independent, most churches will generally come into alignment on several points including what is an acceptable baptism by an acceptable preacher. Certainly my mainline Presbyterian baptism was not acceptable, and probably would not have been even if I had been immersed. It wasn't Biblical (fill in a credo-Baptism definition performed by anyone the local church deems OK). In such a situation, no-one is going to persuade a local church to reconsider. This would not, in many ways, be a healthy place for a person to go who does not already have a thorough grasp on doctrine, particularly soteriology and ecclesiology. For all their independence, they are remarkably consistent in believing the sovereignty of the local church and the non-sovereignty of God. The members can be dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and should be loved on that basis.
  15. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    Seeing as she was baptized by immersion upon a profession of her faith, we would accept her baptism as valid. Now, if she was baptized in this manner and proves herself to be wholly ignorant of the gospel or is walking in ungodliness, that's another matter. But at that point, it wouldn't matter if she was immersed in the Jordan River by Spurgeon himself.
  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    You would not accept the baptism administered by Catholics or by the cults, right? There is also the matter of church authority in baptism.
  17. JonathanHunt

    JonathanHunt Puritan Board Senior

  18. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    Correct. We would not accept as valid the baptism of those we deem to be false churches. And I say that believing we should be very careful in applying this term to any group so as not to become too quick in condemning those as synagogues of Satan with whom we have some secondary or tertiary disagreements. This should be avoided. Charity, waling hand-in-hand with Truth, should govern in our dealings with those professing the faith of Christ.

    I also fully grant that it is the province of every local church to determine what they will accept or reject. That is not to say that every local church's view is necessarily right and biblical, but that it is their responsibility, in the fear of God, to determine what their policy will be and no other's.
  19. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Is it consistent then to count the Methodists as a false church (and thus NOT count those baptisms), seeing their denial of eternal security and their affirmation that men can lose their salvation?
  20. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    No. It is a grave error, but I do not believe it be an error "everting the foundation" to use the language of the Confession.

    And I could wish that these were the greatest errors of the Methodist churches today. I am much more concerned with the liberalism that is leading the UMC into outright apostasy.
  21. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thanks. That is the struggle I am having..... is the UMC heading towards apostasy...or are they already there? That makes a huge difference as to how we treat their baptisms.

    I plan to go back and search out PB links in order to figure out why some of the Reformed would count RC baptisms as valid after the Council of Trent. If you have any links or info I'd love to read their reasoning.
  22. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    While I grew up in a liberal Methodist church where we were told from the pulpit 30 years ago that there is no literal hell, I've heard of Methodists who are more or less conservative evangelical. (I'm not sure if I've met any, however. But I think a few members here from that background have reported it.) Some of them would look somewhat "liberal" to many Baptists, for example. But some in more rural areas are reportedly more conservative. The UMC is overall less apostate than most of the other mainline NCC affiliated denominations like the UCC, the ECUSA and the PCUSA if only because of their African contingent that has held the line on things like sexual ethics.

    The simplest reason for Reformed pedobaptists counting RC baptism is that it is Trinitarian, and that baptism (like circumcision) is only to be administered once. If the Trent argument were some kind of trump card, then why don't we see Reformers after that being rebaptized? I'm not aware of any. Rejecting it opens up a big can of worms since, as I noted previously, they tend to accept baptisms from liberals, etc. that are as bad or worse than Rome. A lot of the Baptists had a field day when the Presbyterians rejected RC baptism in the 19th century, arguing that they had unchurched themselves.

    As you know, many Baptist churches have very poor theology. I'd say some are arguably as bad or worse than Methodist (or maybe Free Will Baptist) errors. Many are more Semi-Pelagian than classical Arminians, etc. with regard to the necessity (or lack thereof) of the Holy Spirit's work in conversion. (Since many effectively deny original sin, they reject even the need for the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace.) They are definitely moreso than the Wesleyan pastor I had. That's one reason why I didn't join a Baptist church at that time.

    With regard to falling away, is it worse to teach that those who don't persevere or "fall away" may face hellfire, or to teach the common view of "Once Saved, Always Saved" where a man is considered saved (and assurance is pressed upon him) simply for walking the aisle or saying a prayer no matter what he does following that? I think both conditional security and Charles Stanley type OSAS (where you can become an atheist and still be saved because of a prior decision) are both very problematic and I'm not sure if the latter isn't a bit worse. Some of the "free grace" camp, such as the Grace Evangelical Society, (Hodges and Wilkin) now teach that all you have to believe is something like "Jesus saves" and that you don't even have to believe or have knowledge of very basic facts of the gospel, such as the crucifixion and the resurrection. (Some of their more orthodox opponents in the free grace camp refer to this as the "Crossless gospel.")

    Now, conditional security takes several different forms. Some teach that you "lose your salvation" any time you commit a "big sin" (what basically amounts to mortal sin.) Others teach that it involves a conscious denial or repudiation of the faith i.e. outright apostasy. We would say the person was never saved to begin with. They would say he may have been saved (tasting the heavenly gift and partaking of the Holy Ghost) but shrank back to perdition. My Wesleyan pastor friend couldn't get past those warning passages. I think that's basically what kept him from being a Calvinist. When I told him I was a Calvinist he said "I sort of lean that way too, but don't tell anybody!"
  23. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    Having been baptized in an Assemblies Of God congregation in the '80s I never felt comfortable with the validity/efficacy of it. Due to their theology and subsequent events that it would take too long to relate. Some years later, after discussing it with the pastor of the SBC congregation, I was a member of, I was baptized once again, this time in the SBC. A couple of years following that I moved to membership in an OPC congregation where I currently attend. Session accepted the SBC baptism.

    For me the unease I had with the AOG baptism was a problem, though the SBC pastor accepted it as valid. Say all this to say, if your Aunt is unsure about her first baptism the simplest thing might be to allow this subsequent baptism to take place.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2014
  24. Reformed Roman

    Reformed Roman Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't see what the problem would be. If someone confesses Christ, gives their testimony, and it seems that they are very sure that they were saved before their baptism, I think that should be accepted.

    I was baptized when I was 8 to avoid hell. I then got re-baptized at a non denominational church that believed in was required for salvation. When they announced my baptism to the congregation they basically announced I got baptized and got saved. It was in the flow of service for a response so I said that I as saved a couple years earlier. The person leading service eventually told them that I "re-dedicated my life". Once again, I daily was dedicating my life, I think he was softening things and trying to say I just got saved. Admittedly getting baptized there does indeed making me feel a little bit bad even thinking about it. However I believe the man who baptized me was a Christian and a man of God. With that being said, I think the baptism was valid.

    To be honest I don't have the answers. I always questioned whether I should get re-baptized in the first place. After I got re-baptized, years later I still feel like I did it "just in case". So either way I don't even have full closure myself.

    I do think it's valid to question who was baptizing her. I think that holds more weight than the church that person was apart of. (I understand in certain situations the church can matter too, but I don't think Methodists are at that point)
  25. Beau Michel

    Beau Michel Puritan Board Freshman

    Any Reformed Baptist church would or should accept her baptism. She was baptized by immersion after a profession of faith, therefore she would have met their qualification for membership. Only Fundamentalist and Landmark Baptists would have a problem with it I think.
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