Bill Kynes, Free Church pastor at Cornerstone Church, Anandale, VA, has written about being baptist with a small “b”: “Why I Am A ‘Baptist’ (with a small ‘b’)” Kynes explains that at this EFC church, like many other EFC churches, they practice the baptism of believers (importantly, it is not stated as adult, since children can also truly be born again and thus ought to be baptized). But they also receive into membership those who are truly born again and were baptized as infants (though the new birth was not in or through baptism).
This is the why he refers to himself, which is also true of many others in the EFCA, as a baptist with a small “b”. This hybrid position is rooted in the gospel, which, notes Kynes,
involves three dimensions: First the gospel has an objective dimension – it involves something outside of us. The gospel is first of all an objective declaration of what God has done in Jesus Christ. . . . Second, the gospel has a subjective dimension – it involves something in us. The gospel involves a (Spirit-empowered) subjective response to that good news. . . . But the gospel also has a social dimension – it involves something among us. The gospel creates a new community, united in Christ by the Spirit.
So how does this then apply in a visible and tangible way to the baptism of a believer?
Objectively, baptism is a declaration of the action of God in the gospel. When a person goes into the water, we see a picture of Christ’s death for us as he died for our sins and was put into the grave. And when a person is raised up out of the water, we see Jesus risen from the grave to new life—that person is washed clean of his sins by Christ and is now given new life in the Spirit.
Subjectively, in baptism believers make a personal profession of faith. They say “Yes” to this gospel truth in their own life. They confess that Christ died for them and that in him they have new life. And they pledge by God’s grace to follow him in faith.
No one baptizes him- or herself. You must “be baptized”—and that is done through the church. So baptism has a social dimension—in baptism the church affirms the faith of the one who is baptized and welcomes that person publicly as a fellow member of Christ’s visible body in the world, expressed in an ongoing manner through participation in the Lord’s Supper.
In sum, Kynes is a baptist (not a Baptist) because he “believe[s] that the New Testament is best understood to unite all three of these aspects of the gospel in the one act of baptism—the objective declaration of the gospel, the subjective response to it, and the social aspect of the church publicly recognizing and affirming that response of faith and welcoming that person as a fellow believer into the visible body of Christ.”
While affirming believer’s baptism and yet supporting membership in the local church for those who are born again and were baptized as an infant, Kynes lists three reasons for doing embracing this practice: humility, charity and theology. It is, concludes Kynes, not without its own difficulties, but it provides “a way of allowing our common grasp of the gospel to overcome our historical and theological differences with regard to baptism that prevent us from welcoming one another in the fellowship of the church.”
I appreciate that Kynes provided a rationale for and defense of our EFCA position. This is consistent with the view espoused under Article 7: The Church in Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America. There is much misunderstanding of our position on baptism, even among many EFCA folk!