baptist (with a small ‘b’)

Greg Strand – July 22, 2014 4 Comments

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!

 

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

4 responses to baptist (with a small ‘b’)

  1. Yes, Greg, there is misunderstanding about the EFCA position, but this also includes those who should know better. While I was a student at TEDS in the 1970s A. T. Olson, whose brother was an Orthodox Presbyterian minister 🙂 used to emphasize very strongly in EFCA history and polity class that the EFCA was very open to paedo-baptist positions such as those held by presbyterian and Reformed folk and such viewpoints would be fully acceptable. So when our Reformed student fellowship had Gleason Archer, an EFCA credentialed minister who held to the Reformed viewpoint, did a private seminar on infant baptism that we publicized and interestingly got a massive turnout for, one of the TEDS staff members, who had also been an EFCA district supt, I believe, very clearly declared that what GA taught in that seminar, was emphatically not what the EFCA believed. If old time leaders couldn’t agree, how can modern EFCA folks agree.

    I agree that Bill’s presentation, is helpful. I just wish the EFCA would actually clarify their position a bit more. I did do an infant baptism in an EFCA church for a former member who had moved and requested me to baptized their child with the full support of the leadership of that EFCA local congregation. The pastor was uncomfortable with doing himself, but recognized that it really did fit with the official stated policy of the EFCA.

    Just my $.20 worth from an Orthodox Presbyterian who was EFCA at one time.

    John

    • Thank you for your comment, John. As in the past, I appreciate your perspective as a former EFCAer. I also agree that it would be helpful if the EFCA spoke more clearly to the issue. We have attempted to do that. In Evangelical Convictions (p. 172, n. 52), we state the following: “Both baptism and church membership are important for every believer, and in normal circumstances baptism as the biblically prescribed act of Christian initiation (in whatever form regarding time or mode) ought to precede church membership.”

  2. Greg, thank you very much for letting me give my $.02 worth (sorry about that and the couple of other typos in the previous post– I hurried too much)

    I’m very grateful that the EFCA is trying to clarify. I would really love to see the EFCA embrace the truly open position on baptism that the history and confession states, not only because it would really allow paedo-baptists to find a genuine home in EFCA congregations where no confessional Reformed options are available, but also so that they could actually have their children baptized and thus feel that they are being treated as full members, not just as tolerated members with odd views.

    The EFCA congregation that I mentioned in myhprevious post truly treated the couple from my church with respsect and as full members and arranged for the baptism of their child in an official service– on a Sunday afternoon. I even preached on baptism, explaining exactly what I and the couple believed. If more EFCA pastors responded as their pastor did– arranging for a paedo-baptism if they couldn’t do it themselves– this would go a long way toward closing the gap on this issue, I believe and foster some genuine evangelical ecumenicity.

    • Better to comment, even with some typos, than not at all. That is the nature of blogs and comments. So, I appreciate your reading of the blog and your interaction.

      You will see that I included further thoughts on baptism on today’s post. Interestingly, Roger Olson mentioned the EFCA in his article on baptism in Christianity Today. And his reference was not as an example! Fair enough. I hear his concern. We now have it on two sides: from your perspective we are too baptistic; from his side, we have downplayed baptism so much that some don’t even include/require it for membership. Needless to say, it reflects the need to provide clarity to our position. As you will also read in the post, we are beginning to do that.

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