Spurgeon: Liberal or Landmarker?

Does who you serve the Lord’s Supper with make you either a Landmarker or a liberal?  I suppose it depends on who you ask.  Maybe the answer would be more along the lines that one might lean one way or the other without actually being either.  In other words, if, as a Southern Baptist, you have no trouble serving communion to a Presbyterian you have liberal leanings.  Or, if you think that only those baptized by immersion should be served communion you have Landmark leanings.  If we use the slippery slope argument then we should probably abandon both practices.  Of course, we’d then be left with never serving the Lord’s Supper.  Must we chose one side or the other?

Bro. Les, a conservative, non-Landmark baptist with no liberal leanings, recently posted his understanding of Landmarkism in six points.  On the Lord’s Supper Les says as I’ve mentioned above.

Only a true church can set the Lord’s table, said the Landmarkers, and only church members can validly approach that table. This resulted in “closed communion” by which non-Baptists were not eligible to partake of the Lord’s Supper in Baptist churches, nor Baptists in non-Baptist churches.

He concludes with the following.

This is my understanding of Landmarkism. If you’re wondering where I stand on these six-points of Landmarkism, I reject all of them. Every point is built off of the first point: Baptist churches are the only true churches in the world. Without believing in the first point, the remaining points crumble. I find these beliefs to be arrogant and unbiblical. Anyone who holds to these beliefs is, in my opinion a religious elitist.

I agree with Les in so far as all of the points are built in the first.  I don’t think you must hold to all of the points to also hold to a closed or close communion.  On a side note.  If you do hold to all six points and believe this is proper practice for Southern Baptists, then some in the SBC, outside of the blogging world, should be called on their ministry partnering.

Then we have Bro. Ben, a Southern Baptist Landmarker.  He expressed that to hold to closed communion is not just a Landmark position.  I tend to agree as I’ve mentioned above.  But does this make you a liberal if you don’t practice closed communion?

But someone will ask, if this is true, how did so many Southern Baptist churches in the twentieth-first century come to practice open communion? The answer lies in the liberalization of the Southern Baptist Convention during the decades surrounding World War II.

How about just being liberalized?  I don’t think this is the case either.  There are plenty of conservative Southern Baptists who would agree.

I wonder what camp Spurgeon fall into.  Not because he was a Southern Baptist, he wasn’t.  I wonder because he always seems to be the go between guy when it comes to Calvinism which is what seems to have started the talk about these current discussions.  Would he be a Landmarker or a liberal?  You decide.

But let us pass on. Heaven is a place of communion with all the people of God. I am sure that in Heaven they know each other. I could not perhaps just now prove it in so many words but I feel that a Heaven of people who did not know each other and had no fellowship could not be Heaven.  God has so constituted the human heart that it loves society and especially the renewed heart is so made that it cannot help communing with all the people of God.

I always say to my Strict Baptist Brethren who think it a dreadful thing for baptized believers to commune with the unbaptized.  “But you cannot help it. If you are the people of God you must commune with all saints, baptized or not.  You may deny them the outward and visible sign, but you cannot keep from them the inward and spiritual grace.”  If a man is a child of God I do not care what I may think about him-if I be a child of God I do commune with him and I must.  We are all parts of the same body, all knit to Christ and it is not possible that one part of Christ’s body should ever be in any state but that of communion with all the rest of the body. (Source: Charles Spurgeon, The Earnest of Heaven)

Not only would Spurgeon not be welcome among some Southern Baptists for his above stance, but he probably would not be welcomed for partnering in ministry with paedobaptists.  Some of this partnering took place with George Rogers at the pastors’ college and Vernon J. Charlesworth at the orphanage.

For what it’s worth…

Mark

p.s. For the record, I would never take communion in a Roman Catholic church if for some reason I ever happened to be at a mass.  It is the Gospel which unites us and I don’t believe Rome officially preaches the Gospel.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Les Puryear December 9, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Mark,

I agree with your P. S.

Les

2 abclay December 10, 2008 at 12:04 am

I think I understand…

“When the Caners debate that SBC Calvinist, this reformation of the SBC will finally be stopped!”

Dr. Caner…anyone…anyone?

“When we present our arguments against Calvinism at “building bridges” they will have to leave the SBC!”

Really?

“Vines will fix the seminary with his John 3:16 Sermon!”

Uh huh.

“Woodstock will be the Calvinist’s Waterloo!”

Still here…..

“Okay, let’s try a flanking maneuver…how bout closed communion? They will never be able to defend sharing the table with a baby sprinkler”

I am sure I’m missing something…

If an SBC church shares communion with a professing Presbyterian, that automatically means that they will share with a roman catholic? I’m getting Hay Fever….

johnMark, If this is too “over the top” feel free to delete but doesn’t this issue of closed communion have its most recent origins because of alleged table sharing at a church down in Florida?

3 Jacob December 10, 2008 at 11:19 am

I am trying to figure out what the issue is with Christians who agree on the nature of salvation taking communion together? Or is it that some of these old angry arminians (Thanks Greg) realize that unless they start kicking tires and lighting fires, their hatred dies with them?

I would be a lot more worried about sharing communion with Methodists or Pentacostals than I would Presbyterians. We have far to much in common to let disagreements on Baptism stop us from partnering in the work of the gospel. I am not saying it is not important, because it is, the nature of Baptism is very important, its important enough that we do not worship as one church on Sunday Morning, but it is not important enough for me to treat them as an unbeliever.

4 Ben Stratton December 10, 2008 at 11:08 pm

Mark,

Let me try and explain that I meant when I wrote: “how did so many Southern Baptist churches in the twentieth-first century come to practice open communion? The answer lies in the liberalization of the Southern Baptist Convention during the decades surrounding World War II.”

From the 1930’s to the 1950’s the various Southern Baptist Seminaries began to hire men as professors who were very liberal in their overall theology. I am referring to men such as Eric Rust, Dale Moody, Frank Stagg, and a host of other professors. These men were not only liberal in their understanding of the inspiration of the Scriptures, but also in their view of the participants of the Lord’s Supper. Soon their views where spread throughout the SBC. What is interesting is that during this time (1930’s – 1950’s and beforehand) there were no conservative Southern Baptists who believed in open communion. All of the champions of open communion were liberal in their theology. These are the historical facts.

As to Spurgeon, here is what he said about closed communion at the end of his life:

“I have not one word of unfriendly criticism to utter against my Baptist brethren beyond the Atlantic. On the contrary, I believe that the Baptists of America are the best Baptists in the world, and that the best Baptists in America are the Baptists of the South. Moreover, if I were to come to America to live, I would join a close communion church and conform myself to its practices on the Communion question.” Conversation with William E. Hatcher, quoted in the Religious Herald, March 3rd, 1892

“Have you made up your mind on the communion question? You are going to a country where the majority of Baptists are close communionists. Really, if I had to begin my ministry again, I should certainly commence with a close-communion church. I am led to believe the American Baptists are right, but I cannot alter the usages of my church, which have been so long standing.” An interview with W.A. Perrins, in 1891, quoted in the Journal and the Messenger.

– quotes from John T. Christian’s book Close Communion, pgs 243-244

5 johnMark December 11, 2008 at 12:40 pm

Ben,

Thanks for stopping by. On August 5, 1892, the New York Times published a very small answer by Spurgeon on close communion.

I judge it wise to abstain from fomenting an controversy on the matter of strict communion. It is easier to destroy what communion there is than to create more. Excuse me, therefore, and form your own judgment. Yours truly, C.H. SPURGEON

However, in William E. Hatcher, D. D., LL. D., L. H. D. A Biography by his son Eldridge Burwell Hatcher there is more light in Spurgeon’s position. On pages 285-286 we read the following.

“Mr. Spurgeon” said Dr. Hatcher to him one day “why is it that you invite people to your Communion table who have not been baptized?” By baptism, Dr. Hatcher, of course, meant immersion—just as all Baptists mean in their use of the word.

“I take no unbaptized people into my church” Mr. Spurgeon replied. “I urge them to be baptized and there my authority ends. The Communion is a mere matter of church hospitality and seems to give me a better opportunity of urging the duty of immersion and when I get at people in this way I generally baptize them. If they come to our table once, or twice, and still refuse to join my church, then they are refused admittance to the table. You see I have throngs of Christian people visiting my church from all parts of the world and I do not shut the door against them; but” said he “if I lived in America and in the South where the Baptists practice strict communion, I should practice it also.”

It seems that even to Hatcher Spurgeon’s view was a bit nuanced.

“I fail to see” said Dr. Hatcher “just how you can reduce it to a simple question of geography.”

But then again even the practice in the America may not have been as strict as possible.

Dr. Hatcher, with nearly all Southern Baptists, believed in what was termed “strict”, or “close communion”,—that is, he held that un-immersed christians ought not to be invited to the Lord’s Table; they might come if they desired; he did not employ force to keep them away; the responsibility was with them…

Spurgeon seemed to not want to disrupt what was already in place. Given my quote of his sermon above and the one in this biography, I’m not sure what to make of Spurgeon’s position exactly. I also don’t know what to make of the two paedobaptists that worked with Spurgeon in the pastor’s college and orphanage. It just seems that his position was as clear cut across the board on this issue. Unless, maybe he limited it solely to corporate worship and not other ministerial work. Then, were would the pastor’s college fit in all of this?

I suppose it comes down to just how strictly one might want to fence the table. I understand and am a bit torn on the issue.

Mark

6 Ben Stratton December 11, 2008 at 9:52 pm

Mark,

I think you are correct in saying, “Spurgeon seemed to not want to disrupt what was already in place.” Putting all the quotes together, it seems that Spurgeon felt restricted communion was right, but he didn’t want to cause trouble at his church by trying to get the Metropolitan Tabernacle to move from open to close communion. Since the days of Robert Hall, open communion had been gaining ground in England and it probably would have been very difficult for even Spurgeon to get his church to go back to its original position.

7 Thomas Twitchell December 12, 2008 at 11:30 am

“the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life”

Isn’t it interesting that the BFM really doesn’t give one reference in support of this statement. Now if it would have said: It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, FOR the believer’s death to sin, FOR the burial of the old life, and FOR the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus… that would be a different story.

But the reality is, the BFM’s description of the meaning of Baptism is simply not sufficiently Scriptural. Even Romans 6 is stuck between two chapters dealing with the opposite conclusion made by the BFM, namely that legalistic Judaism is no longer binding upon the Christian such that he is required to apply actions to receive the benefits of Christ. The Chapter deals with what Christ did, not what the believer does. Though it does indicate what the believer will do because of what has been done for him and to him. It is not WWJD as a quaint moralist example typical in the SBC, but WJHD to provide regeneration leading to faith and repentance and sanctification by the Spirit, that is symbolized in baptism.

So the appeal to the BFM for the righteous baptismal formula for the taking of the table is disputable anyway and thereby is without warrant as authoritative (at least for everyone). The BFM’s understanding of baptism is deficient and should not, and really cannot be used as defining baptism for the means of exclusion from the table. What should I say to any who brings this deficient understanding of the work of Christ as symbolized by baptism to the table. Is not the understanding necessary for both the authorized baptizer and the candidate to legitimize the baptism? Or, according to the BI guys, is there only the BFM’s shallow view of baptism? Or, is there liberty for the weak brother’s understanding? The first is the ideal we should exemplify, and the last what we should practice. The second is mere formalism having no significance, Biblically.

Beyond that, the BFM is self-negating. Against the BI guys who like to sacramentalize it, it contains in its introduction: (2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.(3) That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.

In these statements, the BFM relieves any of conscience to agree with statements of faith in the BFM to begin with, the keeping of them or their rejection. IOW, though it makes certain definite statements none have any authority: “we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility.” And vest the final authority with whatever any group wants to make of them: “whenever they may think it advisable to do so.” In the end, anyone might sign on to the BFM no matter their beliefs and be fully assured by it that any defection from it is amenable to the whole.

By any stretch of imagination, to make the BFM a magisterial sceptre, is ludicrous. Those trying to do so either have not read it, or cannot comprehend it, or only acknowledge those parts that their bigotry allows them to see.

Such is this statement: But what is definitely out of bounds for the BF&M is open communion that denigrates what the SBC defines as or altogether obliterates baptism, as a prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper. -found at SBC Today

Question is, what’s baptism? For my money the BFM holds such a low view of baptism as to make baptism, no baptism at all.

As to the liberalization of the SBC, I think you need to go back much farther than the 50’s and look at the milieu that lead up to the Hobbsian paradigmatic shift. Today’s appeal to older confessions is telling. Because the confessions from the New Hampshire forward show a diminutive slide into a more liberal, more open interpretive, view of Biblical doctrine. The affects of Mullins’ latitudinarianism is what lead to truncated confessions like the BFMs. It is interesting that the BI guys are trumpeting the small tent mentality when the premise of the BFMs is big tent.

If an appeal to earlier confessions is made, to a more conservative Southern Baptistism, as I asked at SBC Today, will the BI guys also encourage a return to the Calvinism that is so clearly displayed in them and herald the fact that the more Calvinistic confession held a much higher view of Biblical doctrines including baptism, than the BFMs. It is an interesting fact too, that the 1689 removed the signatory of visible membership associated with Baptism. One wonders why? Is it perhaps that the communion of the saints transcends mere symbol? That those who formulated the 1689 were more open? Which begs another question. Is the appeal to specific form and mode in reality a move backwards towards the instrumentalism of the Roman church?

When we look at Spurgeon, what was he suggesting? That it would be proper to join an Arminian church who practiced closed communion? I think not. He had in mind that the church was presupposedly a 5-point Calvinist Church. Still, it is the conscience of the individual, and not the machinations of the church that qualifies one for the table.

We could turn this around on the BI guys. Let’s propose that Arminians are excluded from taking communion in a Calvinistic church, because they do not rightly discern the body and blood of Christ. What hubris and outcry would there be even if other parameters set by the BI guys we held to? And I think that this is where Spurgeon might have been coming down. That the proper confession, the right understanding of Baptism is really the qualifier. Which is why, if one is free of conscience to take the Supper, then it is open to them. But, a church with a proper confession will lay the burden on heavier than one that does not have such a thing. Which is the case in most SBC churches? I don’t think that Spurgeon would have held such shallows view of doctrine, including the doctrine of Baptism as emaciated as the BFM as qualifying one for the table, and would not have aligned himself with such, closed or open. To make proper baptism simply a matter of modality, by certain SBC ecclesium, with nearly no understanding of its significance is not what I think he had in mind when speaking of closed communion. Here’s the thing, while he would have preferred a closed communion it would not have been upon so shallow a faith. He was speaking in a time when catechesis was the norm. And the baptized, and those confirmed for the table, would have had a deep understanding of the ordinance. And when you think, that by Baptist Spurgeon would not have been thinking non-Calvinistic, his form of closed communion would necessitate that the communicants believed in the Biblical texts with that understanding. Todays typical SBCer does not have the depth of understanding that would have been required in earlier times to be baptized, let alone for admission to the table. And it makes a mockery of baptism to not require it. What we think of as communion today is a shadow of it former substance.

In short, the appeal to external practices as circumcisional tokens of admission to the supper, betrays the fact that the SBC that is today has nearly, fully up ended the protestant reformation which insisted on an informed congregant. They might hold to a form of godliness, but they deny the power there of by denying the necessity of truly making disciples.

8 Greg Alford December 12, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Mark,

Believing in closed communion does not make you a Landmarker…

What makes you a Landmarker is when you suggest that those who do not believe in closed communion are not “Orthodox” Southern Baptist… Now that makes you a Landmarker!

Jacob,

“old angry Arminians”

Now, what ever do you mean?

Grace Always,

9 Ben Stratton December 12, 2008 at 9:28 pm

Greg

You wrote:
” What makes you a Landmarker is when you suggest that those who do not believe in closed communion are not “Orthodox” Southern Baptist… Now that makes you a Landmarker!”

Let me ask you a question. Can you name a single Southern Baptist before WWII, who believed that someone who held to open communion could be considered an “Orthodox” Southern Baptist? I don’t believe you can. If you can’t that means one of two things. Either:

1. All Southern Baptists before WWII were Landmarkers. (or)

2. Your definition of landmarkism is wrong.

I’ll be waiting for your answer.

10 Greg Alford December 13, 2008 at 1:00 am

Ben,

Did I say I supported “Open” Communion? You need not answer; I will answer for you… “No Brother Greg in fact you did not say that.”

Did I say “Closed” Communion was not an historical Southern Baptist doctrine? Again, you need not answer; I will answer for you… “No Brother Greg in fact you did not say that either.”

Ben, do not assume that you know my views on Communion due to my strong opposition to Landmark Ideology.

You ask “Can you name a single Southern Baptist before WWII, who believed that someone who held to open communion could be considered an “Orthodox” Southern Baptist?”

If you think that was a “got ya” question, then I hate to disappoint you Ben. Those same Southern Baptist before WWII you refer to, along with holding mostly to closed communion, also defeated the Cooperation Killing influence of Landmark/Cambellite Ideology in the SBC.

Can you point me to the time in our Southern Baptist history when these same men you refer to were very much alarmed by the “dangerous” influence of open communion?

I’ll be waiting for your answer.

Grace Always,

11 Greg Alford December 13, 2008 at 1:25 am

Ben,

I hate to double post you, but I am up late so I will add one last thing that I forgot to mention in my first response.

Can you produce one document adopted by the “Convention” over the last 150 years that says churches that practice open communion are not “Orthodox” Southern Baptist Churches?

Why do you think that is Brother Ben? Perhaps could it be that, unlike the modern Landmark movement, the Southern Baptist before WWII respected the autonomy of the local church concerning communion? Hmmm… if open communion was really a threat to the convention and, dare I say, our Baptist Identity one would think it would have been addressed sometime over the last 150 years.

Ben in my final assessment the reason why my original statement, that you take exception to, is absolutely true is that the Southern Baptist before WWII never used closed communion as a “TEST” of Baptist Orthodoxy as a few Landmark Baptist are trying to do today.

Man, I got to get some sleep…

Grace Always,

12 Thomas Twitchell December 13, 2008 at 11:40 am

Greg-

Your assessment is correct. It does not matter what the systematicians taught or what many held. The fact remains that the BFMs are not prescriptive, nor proscriptive- they are a voluntary consensus having no binding quality. That is what was intended by them, i.e., to make the way a broad a possible. It is counter intuitive to the intent of the BFMs to assert that they serve as a Papal Bull.

The attempts to use the BFM as a tool of exclusion simply works at cross currents with the intent and spirit with which it was adopted: “Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.” In other words, even if the sense of Scripture regards only one form and mode, one authority or apostolic tradition, the BFM does not recognize it as binding on any body of Baptists and allows any within the SBC to adopt the BFM with the freedom to completely overthrow it with their own confession at any time. Effectively, it saps any authority that it ostensibly expresses.

If anyone wants to place blame for the “liberalization” of baptist identity, the blame can be assigned squarely on the BFMs themselves.

As I posted at SBCToday, if the appeal to founders views of Baptism is going to be the standard, then what of their other beliefs? Their concept of Baptism was not just an appeal to form or mode, but to the other doctrines that they held as true, also. Does that mean then that the BI guys are willing to revert to the Calvinistic foundations of the SBC as the standard of beliefs to be promulgated among the several SBC churches?

And what of baptism? When I stated what the Lord’s Supper was referenced to, “the night he was betrayed” and asked was the disciples baptism a Christian baptism, it was called a convoluted argument. But, their appeals go exactly to the Biblical texts when arguing that only a certain form, mode, and understanding, is a legitimate baptism. Well, if the Biblical example that Paul puts forth is the night of betrayal, it throws the whole discussion into dispute, because the Lord himself did not deny the Table to the disciples even though they had not undergone Baptistic baptism. Then, Paul is less concerned with baptisms than the right understanding of the meaning of the Supper. It is quite possible that non-baptized persons were taking communion, and certainly, those who were at Corinth we lacking in spiritual understandin anyway. The question then becomes, if Paul was critical of the “authority” by which some were baptizing, why doesn’t he command a rebaptism and recommend the proper form, mode and understanding at the time? He doesn’t, because the outward acts of ordinances is not what makes one a member of the body. As he later explains, it is into Christ by one Spirit, that qualifies a believer for the table, and not baptism.

What men want to do as means of governance of the local assembly is another matter, and the tradition among SB has always been the autonomy of the local congregation and their freedom to manage their own affairs. To try to place the requirement of a certifiable SBC formulistic baptism upon the local churches is contrary to such an ethic.

13 Ben Stratton December 15, 2008 at 9:30 am

Greg,

I’ve had a busy weekend. Let me try and respond to you.

You wrote: “Those same Southern Baptist before WWII you refer to, along with holding mostly to closed communion, also defeated the Cooperation Killing influence of Landmark/Cambellite Ideology in the SBC.”

First, It is not “holding MOSTLY to closed communion.” Until a single Southern Baptist pastor or church from 1845 to 1945 can be shown that held to open communion it is unanimous. While this topic has been very hot on the blogs this past week, not a single blogger has named one person or church in the first hundred years of the SBC that held to open communion. This is very telling.

Second, in referring to those who “defeated the Cooperation Killing influence of Landmark/Cambellite Ideology,” I would suggest you need to go back and reread your Baptist history. I can only assume you are referring to the Ben Bogard / T.P. Crawford controversies in SBC history. This involved the landmarkers who would leave the SBC in 1905 to form what is now known as the ABA and BMA. But this is totally irrelevant to our discussion as these controversies were NOT over baptism or the Lord’s Supper. They were over gospel missions and mission boards. This would be like someone confusing the Calvinism of Primitive Baptists with the Calvinistic theology of some in the SBC.

You also wrote:
“Can you point me to the time in our Southern Baptist history when these same men you refer to were very much alarmed by the “dangerous” influence of open communion? . . . Can you produce one document adopted by the “Convention” over the last 150 years that says churches that practice open communion are not “Orthodox” Southern Baptist Churches?”

Yes. Let me list some books for you:
1. B.H. Carroll, “Distinctive Baptist Principles.”
2. John T. Christian, “Close Communion, or Baptism as a Prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper.”
3. T.F. Curtis, “Communion: The Distinction Between Christian and Church Fellowship and Between Communion and Its Symbols.”
4. John L. Dagg, “A Treatise On Church Order.”
5. H.E. Dana, “A Manual of Ecclesiology.”
6. E.C. Dargan, “Ecclesiology: A Study of the Churches.” .
7. Richard Fuller, “Baptism and the Terms of Communion: An Argument.”
8. W.W. Gardner, “Church Communion as Practiced by the Baptists: Explained and Defended.”
9. R.B.C. Howell, “Terms of Communion At The Lord’s Table.”
10. J.B. Jeter, “Baptist Principles Reset.”

There is 10 Southern Baptists authors and I am not even half way through the alphabet yet. I could easily list 30 more leading authors, not counting Northern Baptists, English Baptists, and National Baptists authors. I could also post dozens of circular letters on the subjects.

If you have any of these books in your library go and read what they say about open communion. They are basically responding to the pedobaptists and John Bunyan and Robert Hall in England. They refer to open communion as irregular, unbiblical, and even a “sin”. If that’s not calling it dangerous and unorthodox, I don’t know what is.

14 Thomas Twitchell December 15, 2008 at 12:21 pm

“Across the saved man’s path runs a river, called baptism. Up through its waters he comes to a door in another circle. This circle is the church, Christ’s executive and judiciary. In the center of this circle is the Lord’s table. Here is church fellowship and communion. This church is a single congregation, a spiritual body, a pure democracy.”

I have read some of these, Ben. I know your conversation here has been skipping over what I have written, and I do apologize for the wind. However, do you see anything in this statement that would make you want to magisterialize the BFM? Is it the heart of the effort of the BI guys to strengthen the BFM to an exclusivistic creedal statement?

Like the BFMs, Carroll viewed the “church” as a local congregation. I would dispute that, for it effectively cuts off any transient from approaching the table within the SBC even if they hold similar standards. (note his chart). He segregated even local churches. And, he makes the convention not of cooperating churches but of individuals not having any “court” authority over any of the locals. In one sense, at the convention level, they would not have the authority to offer the table among themselves.

He, I think, would be sickened at any attempt to codify the BFM as a religious goad to control the local church: “Our general bodies are purely voluntary, and composed of individuals, not churches. They are solely for counsel and co-operation. They cannot have trials, seeing they possess no ecclesiastical powers. Their sessions have no time for trials, lasting only three or four days. In considering the one question of eligibility for membership in the body they must necessarily act in a summary way on account of time.
Their declining to seat any man thus no way affects his ecclesiastical status. To ask for regular trial before a Baptist general body, or to claim all the legal forms of procedure in regular courts, whether ecclesiastical or civil, is an absurdity on its face and betrays ignorance of fundamental Baptist principles.” IOW, even at the convention level (Carroll’s “body” here), the status of an individual, however they were admitted to the local churches, is out of bounds for the convention to question. Then how much less the convention’s ability to question the locals about their affairs, or of any man who is a member of it?

John L. Dagg: “On the night which preceded the Saviour’s crucifixion, he ate the passover with his disciples. At the close of the meal, the ceremony called the Lord’s Supper was instituted.”

Dagg ties the Supper as Paul did to the night of betrayal. But becomes inconsistent in insisting that duely baptised confessional communicants are the only allowed persons at the table. But, the Supper of the Lord was not offered to such. Dagg wants proof: “If it be denied that John’s baptism, and the baptism administered under the immediate direction of Christ during his personal ministry were Christian baptism, we call for proof. Until the distinction is established, the argument has no foundation.” This is too simple. No authority had been give yet to baptized in the Name, a requirement that even Dagg puts forth as the propriety: “Since the ascension of Christ, no change of dispensation has occurred by which the commission could be revoked…Such baptism as they had been accustomed to administer, in the presence and by the authority of Christ, the commission required them to administer…A public profession of Christ was, in the view of Paul, the design of this ceremony, involving an acknowledged obligation to be his, and to walk in newness of life. All that Paul taught, like his own example, tends to establish the perpetuity of Christian baptism…”

The point is that I do not disagree with Dagg that John’s baptism was sufficient, it just was not what we know as that which came later. The shoe was retroactively fitted. This tells us something profound about the legitimacy of form and designs, signatories that some would say have the weight of the authority of the thing signified. Dagg rejected such instrumentalism. At the same time he would reject infant baptism. And I say, on what grounds if he has legitimized baptisms that in their application at the time in Scripture were not what was established later? Both understanding and authoritative office is now indicated, but that did not stop the Lord, nor the apostles from recognizing that the reality of baptism is not captured in form, but in what it signifies. As Dagg rightly points out, it is into Christ’s death given to us by the power of the resurrection. The point being, it is not the form, but the thing signified. Whether sprinkling, pouring or dunking, it is what it means to be baptized, not the lexigraphical definition of baptism and the mode most closely resembling it. Then also, baptism is into Christ, not the local church. A mistake that is all to often made. To thrust a meaning of local on to the biblical texts is without warrent. Just what local church was the eunuch baptized into anyway, or the disciples, or the countless thousands later? In many cases, as it is inferred in Titus, there were no “local” churches, if what that means is that a true church is one that has as its head pastor/elders. In the end, requiring a certain form, or a local authority, or anything other thing than the candidates understanding of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for legitimizing baptism exalts tradition over Scripture. All believers have already taken communion, having eaten and drunk of the Lord, a requirement that all agree, must precede baptism in water. Baptism, more Scripturally as typical, comes after, communion with the Lord.

Further Dagg suggests that the Supper should always be public, which would end any discussion of a “membership” only gathering.

Finally, and again, if the appeal is going to be made to these Cavinists as authoritative for practice, shouldn’t the BI sect be moving in the direction of renewal of Calvinism as the base doctrines of the SBC? Oh, it was a fear of Calvinism as a drift toward paedobaptism the prompted the discussion, wasn’t it? Seems like something just isn’t right here, seeing that it was mostly Calvinistic Baptists that opposed openness in communion. Hmmm. Perhaps the open communion scare is just a fear tactic being used by the anti-calvinsit sect.

15 Greg Alford December 15, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Ben,

Sorry brother, the burden of proof falls upon the one who makes the claim. So, if you do not actually have evidence that every single Southern Baptist pastor and church from 1845-1945 held to closed communion, you simply cannot make an absolute statement. So I chose to use the statement “MOSTLY”… Perhaps you would feel more comfortable with the words “Vast, Overwhelming Majority”? Ok, that’s fine with me, however knowing how intensely these man believed in the doctrines of Religious Liberty and the Autonomy of the Local Church, I have learned that it is near impossible to say that they “all” agreed on anything.

Ben you say; Second, in referring to those who “defeated the Cooperation Killing influence of Landmark/Cambellite Ideology,” I would suggest you need to go back and reread your Baptist history. Ben, I “really’ appreciate you concern for my education. Thank you Brother! 🙂 So all those “Church of Christ” Churches throughout the South are cooperating churches with the SBC? Wow, brother I never know that! 🙂 My point Ben is that we have been down this Landmark road before and the results were churches left the SBC over it. What makes you think the result will be any different this time?

I agree that all the Authors you list expressed clear opposition to open communion and support for closed communion. There is “NO” arguing this “FACT” of Baptist history and I am not attempting to do so. However these men clearly saw communion as a local Church matter and not a “TEST” of cooperation within the Convention.

It appears that you are well acquainted with our Baptist History, so I will ask you this question again; Is there any record of the Baptist pastors and churches from 1845-1945 ever addressing the issue of communion as a “TEST” of cooperation or service in the convention?

Now Ben, I have graciously conceded to you that closed communion was absolutely the norm among our Founders, are you willing to do the same and concede that they never made one’s views on communion a “TEST” of cooperation or service in the convention?

Grace Always,

16 Ben Stratton December 15, 2008 at 10:34 pm

Greg,

You wrote: “I agree that all the Authors you list expressed clear opposition to open communion and support for closed communion. There is “NO” arguing this “FACT” of Baptist history.”

I am glad that you agree that the “Vast, Overwhelming Majority” of Southern Baptists historically supported closed communion. Here’s why I have tried to stress this. Many, if not most, of the Southern Baptist calvinists who are associated with the Founders Ministries believe in open communion. That’s why all of this controversy started with Malcolm Yarnell and Tom Ascol. Many of these Founders Ministries calvinists believe there is nothing wrong with Presbyterians and other pedobaptists taking the Lord’s Supper with a Baptist church. This amazes me. Founders Ministries claims to hold the theology of the founders of the SBC. This may be true as to soteriology, but it is NOT true as to ecclesiology.

You also wrote: “Is there any record of the Baptist pastors and churches from 1845-1945 ever addressing the issue of communion as a “TEST” of cooperation or service in the convention . . . are you willing to do the same and concede that they never made one’s views on communion a “TEST” of cooperation or service in the convention?

The problem is there were no Southern Baptists during the time of 1845 – 1945 practicing open communion, so there was no one around to make it a test of cooperation. Think about the theological controversies in the SBC during this time. Crawford Toy, William Whitsitt, J. Frank Norris, William Poteat, etc. None of these controversies involved open communion because all of the people involved followed the traditional Baptist practice in regard to the Lord’s Supper.

However one example we do have is the Northern Baptist Convention. After the Civil War, there were talks about reunion between the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptists in the north. Yet by the 1870’s some of the Baptists in the north had fallen in theological liberalism including open communion. This was one of the main hindrances to reunion with northern Baptists.

Let me ask you. What do you think would have happen if a Southern Baptist pastor in 1890 had started to champion open communion? Would he have been tolerated? Ignored? Rebuked?

Thomas – Your post raises far too many issues for me to try and respond to. I’ll just say we disagree on many things.

– Ben

17 Greg Alford December 16, 2008 at 11:53 am

Ben,

Your points are well taken… I was going to say “Air Tight”, but then you might think I was being nice and Calvinist can’t be seen as nice guys in the convention…it’s a sign of weakness. (wink)

I would however challenge you on your comment that “Many, if not most, of the Southern Baptist Calvinists who are associated with the Founders Ministries believe in open communion. I think you are making an unsupported assumption here based on the comments of Tom Ascol that cannot be applied to all Founders friendly churches.

The Founders friendly churches do not get our doctrine handed down to us from Tom Ascol, or anyone else associated with the Founders Ministries. We are autonomous Southern Baptist Churches that are simply heading in the same direction and have chosen to walk this road together. Tom is not our infallible leader nor is their any one man who can speak for the churches that identify themselves as “friends” of the Founders Ministries. If Tom walks off a cliff, (theologically) I do not think many will follow, nor do I think that would derail the “Reformed Movement” in the SBC.

Actually I think if you ask the churches you would find that, just like most of the churches in the SBC, most of those associated with the Founders Ministries practice “close” communion, and restrict the Lord’s Table to only those present on that occasion who have been baptized by immersion upon profession of faith.

Two things Ben:

1st – I think that (should a survey be done) you would not find any higher number of churches that practice open communion among Founders friendly churches than among those that are not Founders friendly. In fact you might just find the opposite to be true.

2nd – I do not think the Southern Baptist Convention is going to address communion in our lifetimes. Nor should it be addressed at the convention level… but that is my personal opinion. Do you think this issue needs to be addressed by the convention?

Grace Always,

18 Ben Stratton December 16, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Greg,

You wrote:
“1st – I think that (should a survey be done) you would not find any higher number of churches that practice open communion among Founders friendly churches than among those that are not Founders friendly. In fact you might just find the opposite to be true.”

You may be correct about this. I know there are many, many non-calvinist Southern Baptist churches that practice open communion. I was basing my statement on the reactions that Malcolm Yarnell received from Southern Baptist calvinists. I hope many of the founders churches are teaching and practicing restricted communion.

You also wrote:
“2nd – I do not think the Southern Baptist Convention is going to address communion in our lifetimes. Nor should it be addressed at the convention level… but that is my personal opinion. Do you think this issue needs to be addressed by the convention?”

I think you are correct about this as well. It would probably cause the convention to self-destruct if the SBC took a very strong stand against open communion. What I desire is to see seminary professors, leading Southern Baptist pastors, and authors begin to teach, preach, and write about this and other similar subjects. We are beginning to see some of this, for which I am thankful.

19 johnMark December 17, 2008 at 9:19 am

Ben,

I don’t believe this is a Calvinist issue. I’ve only been in non-Calvinist SBC churches and none have practiced closed communion.

I think there is a tension for many folks not unlike it seems Spurgeon had. You consider those non-baptists who are Christians to be brothers so you don’t want to exclude them.

Recently, I documented some SBCer’s having ministry partnerships with non-SBC folks. Is this acceptable through the lens of closed communion? How far does the fencing extend? The pulpit? Outside ministry activities? Etc., etc…

Mark

20 Greg Alford December 17, 2008 at 10:34 am

Ben,

You bring up something that I feel very strongly about when you say; “What I desire is to see seminary professors, leading Southern Baptist pastors, and authors begin to teach, preach, and write about this and other similar subjects.”

One should always, and with great patience, “Promote” (or Teach) his doctrine; trusting the Holy Spirit to reject our errors and apply His truth to the lives and understanding of His people.

One should never, even with the best of motives, attempt to “Impose” his doctrine upon those he has at disadvantage due to his own position or temporary power in the SBC. Doing so is to place one’s self in the position and office of the Holy Spirit, and does not take into consideration that very soon someone else will occupy their position of temporary power in the SBC and might very well “Impose” doctrine upon themselves that are most un-agreeable.

In a nutshell doctrine should be “Promoted” and never “Imposed”.
—————

Mark,

You ask a great question “How far does the fencing extend?” Regrettably we only need look at the new IMB policies, that have fenced out fellow Southern Baptist, to answer that question.

Grace Always,

21 Jack Brooks January 3, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Hi! I used to list this blog on my old blog, and would like to do so again on my current one; so here I find myself.

And having read this post, I feel like I must ask, Does the SBC consider itself the only true church? A lot of its people sure seem to talk like it.

Baptist thinking often throws me for a loop. I attended a CBA Bible college, and half the time I couldn’t figure out the insider jokes the Baptist guys all told each other, and the attitudes toward other evangelicals baffled me. Now here, 25 years later, I find myself feeling the same bafflement. The very ideas behind Landmarkism and Baptist Bride-ism still make me facepalm.

It’s this sort of peculiar in-house thinking that keeps me from taking D.Min classes at SBTS just down the highway, even though I support the Calvinistic perspective there. What is it about Baptists that everything is treated as “crucial”? At least it seems that way. And what makes Baptist lift baptism by immersion up to almost an equivalent level of importance to the Gospel? I’m not talking about the content of the doctrine; I mean the ferocity. I remember Frank Turk going on about this last year, and I couldn’t relate, or sympathise with, anything he had to say over there.

22 Thomas Twitchell January 3, 2009 at 7:02 pm

“What is it about Baptists that everything is treated as “crucial”? At least it seems that way. And what makes Baptist lift baptism by immersion up to almost an equivalent level of importance to the Gospel?”

To the first question: It is a political move. Crisis politics is a power move, typical among liberals. If there is not a crisis, create one, propose a solution, blame the current conditions on a boogyman, implement the proposal when critical support mass is achieved, blame the failure of the new program on the boogyman, perpetuate crisis, mantain power.

To the second: I have asked this same question. I even asked why it was the case that if traditions and history were the standard, then why not adopt the doctrines prevalent among the men who are quoted as being the backbone of Baptist distinctives in the SBC historically. The response that I got at SBC Today is deletion. The rather think that soteriology is a secondary or tertiary doctrinal concern and exalt method and mode, form and fabrications concerning the doctrine of baptism to a salfivic sacrament. Fundamentally, it is not about doctrine at all, it is about question #1. Discussion is ended when it is suggested that there might have been more pride than perfection in the ecclesiology past. The “good ole boys” of the past are enshrined, but only the doctrinal distinctives that are a matter of pride for the “good new ole guys.”

I think the heresy of Molinism is of far greater concern than BI purity. But then, the names of those who hold to Molinism or support it, tend to show up among the BI cult. The quasi-open theists don’t really have to worry that their Roman Catholicisms might be noticed, especially if attention can be deflected by an appeal to ego attachment to traditionlisms and condemnations hurled at Calvinists. Interesting parallel in that the RCC defended itself also by an appeal to traditions and not according to Scripture, while trumpeting the crisis created by Calvinistic claims. At the same time, they didn’t attack the Arminian movement with the same vehemence. Cause why you suppose?

23 jocelynverna November 21, 2012 at 5:57 am

How can one be a good testimony of being a christian when you won’t let others partake in a Lord’s supper. Though we may say not to be equally yolk with an unbeliever but still how can you win soul when you elicit discrimination (sort of) with other religious belief.

24 Mark November 21, 2012 at 8:26 am

Jocelyn, are you asking about not letting other Christians partake of the Supper or anyone present including unbelievers?

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