At least once a year, one can depend on someone within the Reformed church, calling out Reformed Baptists in an attempt to exclude them from the “Reformed” community. I have largely ignored these types of squabbles; not feeling that they are worth my time or attention. Indeed, I have stayed away, until that is, Thursday night when a blog post from Dr. James R. White, from Alpha and Omega Ministries caught my eye. Within this post Dr. White stated the following;
A couple of days ago someone in Twitter dropped me a link to a Southern California Reformed radio program. I am not sure why I followed the link, but I did. I encountered a video that contained the audio portion of a radio program where in some reformed pastors were responding to comments made by Dr. John MacArthur. As I looked through the comments box on the video I found a number of very interesting statements. This prompted me to ask the basic question of the pastors as to whether they felt that Baptists are their brothers in Christ and co-laborers in the gospel. The responses I have received grieve my heart, but they likewise give an opportunity for me to address the issue of what “Reformed” really means. I know that my views on this are not shared by many. In fact, there seem to still be many in the “Reformed” camp who would support the actions of their forefathers who, for many generations, used the sword, the prison, and the practice of the “third baptism” (death by drowning) to persecute Baptists.
Now, without getting into all of the details of this topic (you can do it yourself, here, here and here), I would like to proclaim that I largely agree with Dr. White on this issue. I, as a Presbyterian do consider Baptists as “brothers” and “co-laborers in the gospel.” Point-in-fact, I received my degree from a Baptist University and am in grad school at a Baptist seminary. To take this even further, Dr. White has been one of the largest shapers in my theology, ranking second only to Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen in influence. So, I see the differences that I as a Presbyterian have with those in the Baptist denomination as secondary and “non-essential,” just as Dr. White proclaims. Now I grant that these differences are very important, with the Baptist denying paedobaptism, covenant succession and presumptive regeneration (all views the Reformed fathers held to until the Great Awakening – Dr. White seemingly takes a jab at presumptive regeneration in his latest post, a view held by Calvin, Knox, Warfield, Hodge and many great Reformed theologians). But, despite the rejection of these Biblical doctrines, the Baptist is still my brother in the Lord.
This is where it gets interesting, because Dr. White questioned the pastors of “Sinners and Saints Radio” (the show that sparked the latest episode in the Presby v. Baptist debate) and asked the following questions;
…do you consider Baptists of any type to be your fellow believers and co-laborers in the gospel? Do you think it is wrong that someone like Bill Shishko, a Presbyterian pastor, and I can stand side by side in defense of the gospel and yet debate, fully, the issue of baptism? Just wondering, as I have very close paedobaptist friends and I am always grieved when I see either side turn the matter into one that brings ultimate and final division.
Alpha and Omega Ministries
Now, I again proclaim that I do in fact, as a Presbyterian, consider Dr. White, a Reformed Baptist, as a fellow co-laborer in the gospel and would be honored to stand side by side with him to defend the faith. But, when push come to shove, I’m not so sure that Dr. White would point-in-fact consider me, or other Presbyterians as “brothers” in Christ. I say this because of other comments made within this same discussion. In response to Dr. White on his questions, a person named “Vic” posed the following question to Dr. White;
Dr. White, the church you tend to states the following on their website:
SECTION 1. REQUIREMENTS FOR MEMBERSHIP
Any person who professes repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, who has been baptized upon profession of his faith, and who expresses substantial agreement with the doctrines, aims, and government of this church shall be eligible for membership. If the applicant has been a member of another evangelical church, a letter of inquiry into his or her standing with that church will be sent before final acceptance is made.
Those eligible to commune at the Lord’s Table are believers who have been baptized by immersion and who evidence a consistent life. While no un-baptized person can be a regular communicant, the Elders can admit to the Lord’s Table an un-baptized visitor who is a consistent member of a properly constituted gospel church. No one may be invited to the Table without the knowledge of the Elders.
I’m curious Mr. White, would one of the “very close paedobaptists friends” you have be “eligible for membership” at your church? Would your friends be allowed to partake of the Supper under the “un-baptized visitor” badge? In light of these questions, do you consider Paedobaptists of any type to be your fellow believers and co-laborers in the gospel? If so, why not allow them to be part of your church brotherhood?
To which Dr. White responded;
James White says:
Thank you for quoting our Constitution.
I do not see how it changes, however, my statement that I have close paedobaptist brethren who stand with me in defense of the gospel. Nor can I see how it answers the question I have asked.
Our differences in understanding on the nature of baptism, its relationship to the New Covenant, and its proper objects, leads to ecclesiastical division (not even mentioning the church polity differences). Thankfully, that division, as grievous as it might be, does not circumscribe the extent of the kingdom of God nor its membership.
Dr. White stated; “I do not see how it changes, however, my statement that I have close paedobaptist brethren who stand with me in defense of the gospel.” Notice again the question posed to Dr. White; a question that was largely ignored. Dr. White proclaims that he has close paedobaptist brothers, yet, his very own church would not allow these “brothers” to partake in the family meal of the Lord’s Supper. What kind of “brother” is excluded from the family meal, I ask? How in the world can Dr. White justify his use of “brethren,” when his local body excludes certain “brethren” from partaking in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ? Despite the great amount of respect I have for Dr. White, this seems nonsensical to me, and I hope to you as well, despite your theological position.
Dr. White is famous for saying in his debates, “Inconsistency is a sign of a failed argument.” I agree with Dr. White and on this issue, I see Dr. White and his local body as extremely inconsistent. In a sense, Dr. White is proclaiming that he has many paedobaptist brothers, but, they are not the type of brothers that can partake in the Lord’s Supper in his local church (at least not without having special permission via his local church standards). Inconsistent indeed!
I hope the nonsense ceases on both sides of this issue because it is not helpful in advancing the Gospel.