Old Doxoblogy

Monday, January 23, 2006

E-mail To A Friend Concerning The New IMB Policies

Over the weekend I received an email from a fellow blogger, asking me my position on the IMB policy changes that have taken place. Not that he wanted me to convince him, but he knew that we disagreed on this topic and requested a clarification. Here is the edited text of two emails that I sent him. These deal mainly with the Baptism policy. I have one issue with the tongues policy, but it, in my opinion, is nothing to be made a big deal of. The Baptism policy, however, I find to be a dangerous step for the following reasons.

NOTE: This is not going to be a big issue of contention for me. As Southern Baptists, we are one of, if not the largest missionary unions in the world. I am continuing to give through my local church to the Cooperative Program.

I am attaching a copy of the IMB Policies which were enacted by the trustees. You probably already have these policies, but just in case, there you go.
The opening statement on the policy regarding baptism should throw up some red flags. Each candidate's baptism should be examined in light of the BF&M and the points listed below.
Clearly, we should proceed with caution now. I'm ok with examining a person's baptism in the light of the BF&M, but what has been added in the statement in the points below?
There follows the article from the BF&M on Baptism. Fine. Then under point 2, The Church, letter a., Baptism is a Church Ordinance, we find this clause inserted at the end that states, "Baptism must take place in ... a church that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer." Then under letter b., the candidate who does not meet this requirement is expected to request rebaptism in a church that has already accepted him as a member.
This is extra-biblical and extra-confessional. There are a number of problems with the statement.

1. Southern Baptist churches are autonomous. If a Southern Baptist Church recognizes a believer's baptism as valid in light of Scripture and the BF&M, then that church has a final say in the validity of that baptism as regards any missions organizations that are supported by said church.

2. The policy does not merely affirm what we believe a valid baptism to be, it actually adds to that definition. It says that if a baptism is not performed by a church that affirms the doctrine of the security of the believer, then that baptism is not valid. This is a contradiction to what the BF&M states concerning the validity of baptism, and more importantly, what the Bible says about the validity of baptism.

3. Baptism is not made valid by a church, the church recognizes the validity of baptism. In other words, a particular church's stance on the security of the believer does not matter in the ordinance of baptism. Rather, Christian baptism is validated by God through His commands concerning baptism.

A. Baptism is by Immersion (not sprinkling)

B. Baptism is for Believers only (not infants)

C. Baptism is being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit (not oneness)

D. Baptism is an act of Obedience (not regenerative)

E. Baptism is a Symbol, or drama, of the Savior's death, burial, and
resurrection and our identification with Him in those acts. (not regenerative,

F. Baptism is a testimony of faith in the final resurrection of believers. (not soul salvation, gnosticism)

4. Nowhere in Scripture, or the BF&M, does the doctrine of security of the believer validate or invalidate baptism. Baptism is not valid because of the administrator, the church, or any other thing where these elements are present. It was validated by God, when He gave the command to baptize.

5. I take it to mean when the trustees say, 'the doctrine of the security of the believer', that they are referring to Eternal Security. If that is true, then it needs to be pointed out that Southern Baptists historically and confessionally do not believe Eternal Security. Rather, Southern Baptists have always affirmed the final perseverance of the saints. You do not need me to tell you the difference. If they do mean what is affirmed in the BF&M, then good. They should have used the language of the BF&M, but good. But I personally, (knowing the preaching of most Southern Baptists) do not think they do mean what the BF&M teaches.

6. Even if your scenario is the case, it is still a bad policy. There is no getting around that. In my opinion the IMB is accountable to the local churches. This policy makes local churches accountable to the IMB. It rejects that churches wisdom in discerning what a valid baptism is, and forces another interpretation that is not Scriptural on that church should they have a candidate for missionary service.


Joe said...

I agree with you completely. Every once in a while one of our agencies gets a wild hair in its throat and gets confused over who is accountable to whom.

Thanks for a clear discussion of the issue.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I am simply appalled at such regulations that have no foundation in Scripture.

bluecollar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Wes Kenney said...

I would agree with most of what you have said, but I wonder if the argument could not be made without the appeal to the autonomy of the local church.

I was once in an association where a church was denied membership in the association due to the types of baptisms they accepted (Church of Christ, Oneness, etc.). There were other issues involved, but this was a major one. So they went around the association altogether, and began sending CP money directly to the state convention. And they have the familiar cross, globe & open Bible logo on their sign now.

The letters "SBC" on the sign do not guarantee that a church is doctrinally sound. The IMB policies may not be ones we agree with, but they must apply some standard. We may disagree with that standard, and if it is unbiblical, we should. But to say, as you said in your original post, "If a Southern Baptist Church recognizes a believer's baptism as valid in light of Scripture and the BF&M, then that church has a final say in the validity of that baptism..." doesn't allow for examination of the baptism of someone who may have come from the C of C through the church I mentioned above.

Again, I'm not arguing in support of the IMB's policies, just that I think the appeal to church autonomy in opposition to them is flawed.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Tahnks for your comments, Wes. There is a lot here to think about, and I don't think that I have it all figured out.

You said:
"But to say, as you said in your original post, "If a Southern Baptist Church recognizes a believer's baptism as valid in light of Scripture and the BF&M, then that church has a final say in the validity of that baptism..." doesn't allow for examination of the baptism of someone who may have come from the C of C through the church I mentioned above."

I guess I should clarify that point. The IMB has every right to investigate an applicant's baptism, creed, background, and whatever else they wish. They even have the right to implement this policy. I have no problem with the IMB trustees rights and authorities to do this. What I do have a problem with is this. The policy is unbiblical. To examine an applicant's baptism in the light of whether or not the church they were baptized in (not into) believes the doctrine of the security of the believer simply misses the mark.
So, while I am for examining an applicant's baptism in light of Scripture and the BF&M, to impose something more than Scripture and the BF&M requires is an infringement upon a church's autonomy.
If a church, like the one you mentioned, sends an applicant, his baptism should be investigated on biblical and confessional grounds. We shouldn't settle for anything more or anything less than this.

Wes Kenney said...

My argument has nothing to do with the policy itself. One cannot argue that the IMB has the right to make the policy and then say it infringes on local church autonomy. They are not imposing their policies on churches, but on missionary candidates.

I have written elsewhere that I think the idea of baptism as identification not only with Christ but also with a church and it's teachings is defensible from scripture, though I grant that it isn't explicitly stated. But I wasn't trying to make that argument here. I only argued that the IMB does need some standards, and you seem to agree, just not with this standard. I understand that. But can your argument be made without appealing to local church autonomy?

By the way, I appreciate the debate.

Jeremy Weaver said...

I think we are looking at this from two different perspectives.
Just to be clear, let me state how I understand the relationship between the IMB and local SBC churches.
SBC churches cooperate together to make an agency (IMB) for sending missionaries overseas. SBC churches unite around a statement of faith, (BF&M). This does not mean that each church does not have their own distinctives. It means that although no two 'baptist' churches are exactly alike, they have chosen to unite around these cardinal doctrines which identify them as 'baptist'. In cooperating together for the advancement of missions, the churches hold the board (IMB), which they themselves have created, accountable.
The IMB is accountable to the church. To do what? To spread the gospel and baptist doctrine.
The IMB, on the other hand, in order to be accountable to the churches, enforces doctrinal, ethical, and moral guidelines which each missionary must adhere to. This is how the IMB is accountable to the churches.
The missionary, then is accountable to the IMB, to adhere to those doctrinal, ethical, and moral guidelines. This is how the missionaries are acountable to the IMB and the local churches.

Now, one part of the IMB's inherent responsibilties in being accountable to the churches that formed it is that they must not govern the church. Baptism is an ordinance of the church, not the IMB. The IMB does not function as a church. Churches do.
Basically, if you follow this line of thinking and apply it to the IMB policy concerning baptism, you find that the accountability issue is backwards. The IMB is taking a doctrinal guideline from the BF&M, which the churches of the SBC have united around, adding a clause which very few SBC churches (landmarkists) would affirm as a guideline for sending missionaries. In doing so, the IMB enforces a guideline that actually infringes upon the rights of the church who wants to send a missionary to the field.

As for being baptized into a church, I do not believe that to be biblical. We are baptized into Christ, but we join a church upon our desire to do so and affirmation of that church's statement of faith. But that is another issue.

Looking for your response...

Wes Kenney said...

I would like to pull one quote out of your long and very well thought out post and pick on it. This is much easier than doing the hard work of dealing with what you wrote in it's entirety, and I'm feeling lazy just now.

Baptism is an ordinance of the church, not the IMB.

True, but the IMB does need to look into it to some degree. Salvation is by the grace of God, not the church or the IMB, but we still measure a candidate's salvation experience by an objective standard.

I will respond to more of what you wrote, and I appreciate you taking the time to put up with my (sometimes) tortured logic. But I think the arguments can be made without appeals to church autonomy.

I believe that in reality the IMB is accountable to the churches, and for some reason the trustees feel free to enact the policies about which we now argue. Will they be held accountable in June, or will Greensboro be about the removal of a trustee. Personality or principle? If enough messengers believe these policies to be wrong, they will be overturned. If not, a noisy minority will defend one trustee and the rest of the trustees will have had the aforementioned freedom validated.

I really am short of time - I hope this makes sense.

Thanks for making me think. It hurts a little behind my eyes; is that bad?

Wes Kenney said...

...the IMB enforces a guideline that actually infringes upon the rights of the church who wants to send a missionary to the field.

Only if that church wants to send them through the IMB. Again, the IMB is accountable in that, if there is enough opposition, the policy will be overturned when the convention meets. If the policy is still in place after a convention or two, it's not because most SBC churches don't want it.

That made more sense in my head than it does when I re-read it. Such is life...