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.