I have some questions for my Baptist/ic friends who welcome paedobaptists into membership. I am genuinely interested to know how you answer, its honestly not intended to be a trick question. I will outline toward the end what I understand might be the case, and thus why I am interested in the questions, but feel free to correct me if I have mischaracterised.
First, let me outline four different scenarios:
A Catholic, baptised as a child into the Roman Catholic Church, later becomes convicted of the gospel and converts. You have no qualms about affirming them as a genuine believer. They look to join your church in membership, which requires members to be baptised and practices credobaptism. The individual believes, whilst they have become convinced of the gospel and left the Catholic Church since, that their infant baptism is still valid, albeit they now view it differently to what they were initially taught it meant.
A Methodist was baptised as a child in a Methodist church. Their parents are not genuine believers and weren’t at the point they baptised their child. You are convinced, however, that the church which baptised him holds to the gospel. The person in question has since been through some Bible studies with your church and has clearly become a believer. They now want to join your church but believe that their previous baptism was valid.
An Anglican, who was not a child of believing parents and was baptised in a church that you are not convinced holds to the gospel. Through contact with another Bible-believing church, this individual became a believer and joined that church in which baptism is not a criteria for membership. You are convinced this person is a believer, and the church at which they were a member is a solid, Bible-believing church. They have now moved to your area and wish to join your church. Again, they insist their paedobaptism is valid.
An Anglican, who is the child of believing parents, and was baptised in a solid, Bible-believing church. You have no doubts about the gospel preached in that church, you are convinced the parents are genuine believers and you are sure the individual is a believer too. They have served in that Anglican church and left in good standing. Having moved out of the area, they find themselves looking to join your church as it belongs to the same gospel partnership as their previous Anglican Church. They are adamant that their paedobaptism is valid.
Now, here are my questions:
- Which, if any of these people, do you permit to join your church (presuming none of them are willing to be credobaptised)?
- If you do allow any of them to join – given your baptistic stance and membership criteria – on what grounds do you welcome them into membership?
- If you permit some of them into membership but not others, on what basis are you differentiating between them?
In my experience, most baptistic-but-open churches would be happy to accept the person in Scenario D as a member but would struggle to accept the person in Scenario A. The jury might be out on Scenarios B and C.
The person in Scenario A is typically rejected because the church in which they were baptised doesn’t teach the same gospel i.e. it doesn’t amount to a Biblical church and thus not a proper baptism. That would, however, also be true in Scenario C but fewer people would find that to necessarily a problem. Likewise, the person in Scenario D would typically be accepted even though – in the view of the church they are now trying to join – they are not baptised. But the person in Scenarios A – C are effectively rejected for exactly that reason.
So, if you believe that baptism is upon profession of faith by immersion, and baptism amounts to any sort of membership criteria for your church, which (if any) of these people do you welcome into membership? If you do welcome some and not others, on what ground do you differentiate consistently?