In the video above, Mark Driscoll says, “What does it mean to be a Baptist? We dunk adults. Anything else? Uhm, no.”
I am concerned at what I see happening to our Baptist distinctives in modern times. A loss of our distinctives can be seen in both the Emerging and the Emergent movements. Worse than that many Baptists do not see this as a problem and seek to promote these views. The same loss of Baptist distinctives can be seen in mainstreasm churches which begin to question whether believer’s baptism by immersion is necessary for church membership. In the past few years, John Piper’s church has debated this question and Henderson Hills in Oklahoma questioned requiring baptism for membership but stopped before the vote.
To me Baptist distinctives mean more than “dunking adults.” I believe the New Testament gives regulatory rules for how a church should operate. I believe a church should have regenerate church membership, believer’s Lord Supper, church discipline, congregational rule, meaningful membership, expository preaching, beleiver’s baptism by immersion, and be missional (evangelistic or missionary Baptist or whatever popular term you wish to use in order to say winning people to Christ).
I follow in a line of theology that has deemed believer’s baptism by immersion a hill on which to die. In fact many men have died on that hill throughout centuries of persecution from state churches. I am Baptist by conviction and I pray that we are raising a new generation who is also Baptist by conviction. I believe that Jesus was baptized by immersion after a long travel both ways just to be immersed by John the Baptist. If it was that important to Jesus, then it is important to me.
Jesus singled out “baptism” in the Great Commission. It immediately follows making disciples. Jesus could have mentioned a host of other items after “making disciples.” He could have said, “make them pray a prayer, sign a card, walk an aisle, or lift their hand.” He could have said, “Teach them about church disicpline.” He could have said, “Practice the Lord’s Supper.” He could have said any number of things. However, other important matters of theology fall under “teaching them all things that I have commanded you.” What does Jesus single out? Baptism. Listening to some popular modern speakers, I am shocked Jesus didn’t say, “as you go, make disciples and dunk adults if you want, or not, whatever…it’s not that important anyway.”
Then there is Peter in Acts. I seem to remember a verse known as Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Peter connected baptism so closely to salvation that many have erred by thinking it was essential for salvation. We have erred in the opposite way by minimizing the importance of baptism. While baptism is not essential for salvation, it is very important. Baptism is the public profession of faith. Baptism is the first step of obedience. Baptism is of believers by immersion.
Okay, perhaps you think that I am a little too passionate about this topic. You may be right. I do not wish to insult Mark Driscoll, John Piper or any other fellow believer. However, I do wish to passionately support the guideposts our Baptist fathers established known as Baptist distinctives. The trail of our fathers is long and strong in following the New Testament and Christ’s commands. I pray that the future of Baptist distinctives may be just as long and as strong.
Perhaps I have not discussed my scriptural support for baptism enough. If you want to know more of my beliefs, I have already written papers on this topic that are more elaborate. You can access my paper titled The Proper Subject of Baptism or you can read my paper titled What Makes Baptism Valid. These two documents do much more than what I can afford to do here. Here is a summary of the contents of “What Makes Baptism Valid.”
Six Necessary Categories of Discussing Baptism
- Subject: The subject of baptism must be a believer. Any other subject cannot make a profession of faith or identify with Christ or His church.
- Mode: Immersion is the proper mode of baptism. No other mode is supported by Scripture.
- Meaning: Baptism is not essential for salvation and does not grant an elevated status of sinlessness. Baptism is the profession of the believer placing his/her allegiance with Christ, and the initiatory ordinance into the local church. Baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Church: Proper baptism must be performed in connection with a true church. Baptism is a church ordinance and not a Christian ordinance. As this is perhaps the least understood view, a necessary discussion of the definition of a true church must also occur.
- Administrator: The administrator should be someone selected by the local church. Overemphasis on this can lead to problems, as it did with the Donatists.
- Formula: The traditional formula is baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost in older times). Valid baptism must at the very least be in Jesus’ name.
I believe the baptism of believer’s by immersion is biblical. I believe God’s truth is immortal, and baptism means more to me than dunking adults. That is why I believe in believer’s baptism by immersion.