Friday, August 10, 2007

Grudem rethinks baptism compromise

There's a great deal I appreciate about Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. He's raving mad about revelatory/attesting gifts, of course; and not a whole lot better on prophecy. But hey — nobody's perfect.

He has revised his section on baptism. His first edition said that a compromise (between pedo- and credo-) within a church. Now he's not so sure.

Read Grudem'[s thoughts and questions at the indispensable Justin Taylor's site.

Read John Piper's response. Sounds to me as if any Christian should be allowed to local church membership, regardless of his beliefs. Re-read that one, and think it through.

And Wayne Grudem responds to Pipers response to, well, him.

I don't feel free to comment myself, much, since I am a baptist member of a Presbyterian church, and pledged (from the heart) to preserve the unity of that church. Maybe we'll revisit this in the future.

But you feel free.

[PS -- if this dialogue continues, I'm unlikely to update endlessly]


Connie said...

"He's raving mad about revelatory/attesting gifts..." Very funny! Several months ago I bought a VERY cheap (lightly damaged) copy of Grudem's Sys. Theo. so I could have it handy when my charismatic friends quote him--I just can't honestly see where he's coming from on that.

If it makes you feel any better we are dispensational in an eschatologically mixed congregation--keeps us all humble and on our toes!

Daniel said...

Grudem says, "We must be honest from some of the texts that point to the fact that God is doing something in baptism. Now we may not know exactly what that is, and as baptists we are often afraid to admit anything is really going on there, but we should at least acknowledge the aspect it has as a sign. God is saying something to us in baptism: you are mine..."

I don't see God as necessarily doing something when we are baptized into water. I -do- see Him very active in doing something when we are baptized into Christ the very moment we first believe with genuine saving faith.

I see water baptism as physically picturing what should have already happened to us spiritually - and that the act itself proclaims to the world the Lord's death, and more specifically, our union with Christ in that death - that is, our baptism is (or ought to be) a public profession that we are indeed "baptized into the crucified, buried, and now resurrected Christ".

To be sure, I believe we become joined to Christ through that spiritual circumcision made without hands - this "one time only" event that happens, as I mentioned above, the moment we turn to Christ in saving faith - at that very moment Christ Himself, through the Holy Spirit, places us within his own Person - we are literally baptized into Christ in a spiritual sense - that is, a spiritual union has taken place. At that moment, through this union, I believe we irrevocably become a "member" of Christ's body, which is just our clumsy way of describing our spiritual union to Christ. Our union with Christ hinges upon our "real" baptism (the only one that eternally matters and is pictured by our water baptism) - that baptism that happens the moment we believe - and in no conceivable way on the watery ritual that merely proclaims the union to the world by picturing the spiritual reality behind it.

It seems to me that if a person reads "baptized into water" in Romans six rather than "baptized into Christ" it starts you down a road that may well end in division over who can and who cannot be a member in the local church - a division that however made is always going to be derived, and not "clean" biblically speaking.

If however we understand key references to baptism as referencing not the water baptism, but the spiritual union it pictures then church membership is a no-brainer; If a person has been united with Christ in that spiritual baptism that the water baptism pictures, that is, if a person is a "member of Christ" then who are we to refuse them membership in our local bodies. Ignorance of doctrine is not a good reason to send a man away, it is a good reason to draw him close - how else will you influence him to the truth?

Anyway - I am no theologian, so my opinion may rub those who have a much better understanding of these things.

Keith B said...

Your morphing picture caught me off guard almost as much as Frank Turk's over at Pyro. Really cool.

I read your post and found a lot I need to think on when it comes to the subject of church membership.

It seems although you are arguing against a "Physical Baptismal Requirement" for church membership, in turn you would not agree with infant baptism as a valid representation of the ordinance. (sorry if that is not clear)

Keith B said...

*I read your comment and found a lot...(referring to Daniel)

To Dan I have lurked in your blog for a while and enjoy it much. Thanks for your work.

Porthos said...

I think your link to Justin Taylor's relevant post is wrong. Seems like this would be the right one, no?

DJP said...

Yes, sorry, thanks Porthos. Fixed.

Matthew Celestine said...

That is a real shame.

I believe that baptism is an area where we need to respect the consciences of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

God Bless


Steve Martin said...

Christ never commanded us to do anything where He wouldn't be present in it, for us.

He commanded baptism.

We believe that He is the One doing the Baptizing.