Throwing Baptists under the bus is one of the easiest things to do. Baptists do not fit in any neat category. History of the movement is quite messy, like many other things. The movie Footloose was a reaction to some flavors of Baptists. Then there is the joke that holy Baptists do not drink while holy presbyterians do. While legalism is an issue for many Baptists, it often is an overplayed argument. Then there is the Baptist in the name thing, or not mentioning it. The picture that comes to mind is the Joker asking “Why so serious?”
Bashing the rapture minded and Baptists is easy points
This post is a second in a series about why I am a rapture minded Baptist, why I stayed in church, and why I have not given up on ministry. This post will focus mainly on the Baptist aspect, the next series will be on why I stayed. The reason for the series is being tired of hearing straw man arguments and mischaracterizations. I also see both rapture minded and Baptist theology being a better answer to what is going on in our world than other viewpoints.
What on earth is a Baptist?!
The late Dr. Collin Smith said Baptists need to throw out the acrostic. His assertion, and I agree, is being Baptist focuses on three critical things: Biblical authority, priesthood of the believer, and individual soul liberty. From these is how Baptists came to be. While other denominations hold to some of these tenants, the flavor mix is distinct. In short, Baptist movement is about sticking as close to the Bible as we can. For example, when we see in Scripture that people got baptized after they accepted Christ, that is what we do.
The proper way to eat an Oreo
The best way to eat an Oreo cookie is to dunk it in milk. Sprinkling, pouring, or ignoring milk just does not cut it. The greek word for Baptist, better translated, is to dunk. To not cause controversy, modern translations stuck with the word baptism verses its actual meaning of “to dunk.” In Scripture, the pattern we see is dunking after getting saved. In Acts, those who had received the Word, were then dunked. Peter illustrates this point also. Noah and his family received the Word, demonstrated by building the Arch, which saved them. Dunking corresponds to this: reception of the word followed by action. Often those who critique this view of dunking use verses that still demonstrate the receive the Word and then get dunked pattern. To close this particular thought, their are no examples of infants getting dunked. But, getting dunked is clearly connected to getting saved, much like a wedding ring after the vows in a wedding.
Not all Israel is Israel
Faith, not parentage, is what makes us a part of God’s family. When church and state were unified, to be baptized as an infant is to be a part of that nation. The reformation continued this. The idea was to reform the universal aka catholic church. Baptists were persecuted by both protestants and catholics for questioning this practice, among other things. Hence, saved then dunked membership for Baptist churches, not nationality of a Christian nation, is a requirement for church membership. When a friend asked why I reject infant baptism, it is because of Paul’s statement in Romans that not all Israel is Israel. Faith is the marker. What we see in Scripture is the requirement of each generation to choose whom they will serve. This is Joshua’s famous call “as for me an my house, we will serve the Lord.” Getting dunked after accepting Christ solemnizes this call to serve Jesus.
Priesthood AND an individual soul liberty
That Christians are also priests is not unique to Baptists, but combined strongly with individual sou liberty is. What that means is each one of us gives an account for our lives to God. It also means we do not hold to persecution as a mode of evangelism. Both protestants and catholics have done that. (In fairness, to quote seminary professor Dr. King, “the reason Baptists have not persecuted others is we have never been in power. Given human condition, we would have likely done the same.) It is not Baptist to evangelize by force, but rather to teach the Word. And given liberty, to teach the word regardless of government permission. Many Baptists were jailed in the south for preaching without a license. Much of the first amendment is influenced by Baptist thought and practice. Our duty as priests is to assemble and teach God’s Word regardless of consequence, because God grants us the liberty to do so.
The Bible is the B in Baptist
What does the Bible say, and not turning to the right or the left of what it says should be the driver of the church, not tradition. We do not call pastors father because Jesus, the head of the church, said “and call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” If our theology does not match the Bible, the Bible is not the problem, but we are. The idea is to study and stick to the Scriptures as much as possible. Do we Baptists get things wrong at times, yes. Jesus, according to Saint Paul, is still in the process of making “His bride ready through the washing of the Word.” This is why preaching and teaching the Bible is essential to public and private worship. This is not to ignore tradition or history, but those are helpful tools evaluated by what Scripture says. Scripture is the authority for faith and living.
Separation of Church and state
Because the Bible is the authority, the government is not. I would argue that the history of the Catholic Church, and some aspects of protestant church, demonstrate the failure of church AND state. Anything plus Christian is that thing, and not Jesus. Church AND state essentially is just the state. Because we have direct access to God (priesthood), because we answer to God for ourselves (individual soul liberty), and because the Bible is the authority, we answer directly to God, and not the Government. The failure of this practice, however, is the misunderstanding that government should then be secular, a significant conversation for another post.
Responsibility is the Baptist answer
We are responsible for our own actions and deeds. This means we are accountable to God. This is why holiness is vitally important to Baptists, and why many Baptists fail into the sin of legalism. Legalism being additional rules to the Bible. Legalism violates biblical authority. What is lacking in our society is personal responsibility and the loss of accountability. While not to be done by force, what should be shouted by conviction, is the call for all people to repent and be dunked for the forgiveness of their sins. To accept the incredible gift of what Jesus did by dying once and in our place for all sin. To then be dunked in Christ’s death and brought out of the water in the likeness of Christ’s resurrection. To then work with all our might for the Christianization of our family, community, and nation. Because each one of us will give an account of ourselves to God. The only acceptable provision is what Jesus did. Our reward based what we do because of what Jesus did.
The Gospel makes us responsible because we have direct access to God (priesthood of the believer), knowledge of God (biblical authority), and the ability to live for God with a clear conscience (individual soul liberty).