Friday, March 10, 2006

Malcolm Yarnell's "The Heart of a Baptist"

I have removed the text to Malcolm Yarnell's "The Heart of a Baptist".

I need to publicly apologize to Dr. Yarnell. I misunderstood his permission to "publish our discourse" to include permission to publish "The Heart of a Baptist" here on the blog. He has just written me indicating that was not the case. It is copyrighted material. Once again, Dr. Yarnell, I am very sorry. Please forgive me.



Update: I just received the following acknowledgement from Dr. Yarnell


Thank you for removing the text. You meant no harm. But please do remove it quickly. By the way, please note that I was not one of the "ideologues" "behind" the new policies at IMB, so there is no grand conspiracy of which I am a part. I first became aware of the new policies through an article in Southern Baptist Texan. David, my motivation is that I really care about Southern Baptists and that is why I am interested in these issues.

I perceive that you are a good man, David. I believe that you are wrong in your position on believers baptism, and I do wish that you would change your mind.

In Christ,Malcolm


New update: Dr. Yarnell did give permission to link to the pdf document. I have just been made aware of that link. Click below to go to it.

The Heart of a Baptist


David Rogers said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joseph Patrick said...


I must be considered a liberal as I cannot quite accept Dr. Yarnell's first premise of 20 continuous centuries of Baptist Movement...

stepchild said...

I'm can't speak on behalf of all Baptists, as Dr. Yarnell does, or even on behalf of the Baptists who, like me, don't hear form God in ancient Greek. I would, however, like to say that I find it difficult to take seriously a person who decries the lack of objectivity in the reading and interpreting of scripture, and then proceeds to bring to it all sorts of presuppositions.

I believe in the importance of the local church, but why must all who support the new IMB policies fall back on tradition to support them? Where is the biblical basis for the claim?:

"Apart from baptism into the local church in the name of the Triune God, the Great Commission is unfulfilled."

steve w said...

According to Dr. Yarnell, the majority of the IMB BoT are apparently breaking his heart because they teach legalistic heresy. He says, "Requiring anything more than that which the Bible requires is, by basic Baptist definition, a legalistic heresy." The new policies require more than the Bible teaches, and in fact, contradict the Bible. In that regard, I have to agree with Dr. Yarnell. The majority trustees are promoting legalistic heresy, and they are breaking my Baptist heart.

But I absolutely disagree with Dr. Yarnell when he says that "arguing for multiple elders" is a threat to Baptist ecclesiology. William B. Johnson, the first president of the SBC, preached a sermon entitled "A Church of Christ, With Her Offices, Laws, Duties, and Form of Government" on Sept. 22, 1844, at Gilead Meeting House, Union District, SC. In this sermon he says each church in the days of the apostles had elders, and "That these elders were styled bishops, overseers, pastors and notwithstanding there were in each church more elders than one, they were all equal in rank and authority, no one having a pre-eminence over the other." A few paragraphs later he says, "Of these bishops or overseers, the primitive churches had a plurality, that is, more than one to each church. And this we apprehend, is practicable now."

I find it interesting that our first SBC president advocates the very thing Dr. Yarnell says is a threat to Baptist ecclesiology. There are other flaws with Dr. Yarnell’s assertions about the threats to Baptist ecclesiology, but suffice it to say, he comes across as more having an axe to grind than accurately applying biblical truth. Thankfully Baptist dollars bought the books in the SWBTS library so that I could read the sermon of William Johnson, and learn that Dr. Yarnell doesn’t have all his facts straight.

Baptist Theologue said...


This statement by Dr. Yarnell resonated well with me:

"The third chamber of the Baptist heart is the chamber through which the Baptist heart begins to join itself with the beat of other Baptist hearts: regenerate church membership evidenced by baptism for believers only."

You may have used William Lumpkin's book on Baptist confessions of faith when you were a student at Southwestern Seminary. Lumpkin, who was a professor at Southern Seminary, wrote another very good book entitled "Baptist Foundations in the South." Lumpkin included some of the history of Baptist thought in America regarding immersion as opposed to infant baptism. I think the following quotes are relevant because of Dr. Yarnell's statement and because of your belief that those believers who have received only infant baptism should be permitted at the Lord's Supper at a baptistic church.

In regard to Baptists in New England (approx. 1740-1750):

"They were not slow to point out a position which some Separates were already beginning to take--that the surest safeguard of the pure or regenerate church concept was the practice of believers' baptism. This alone would keep the church distinct from the world. . . . Baptist members shunned sitting at the Lord's Supper with those only sprinkled in infancy; they could not regard these friends as baptized Christians." (page 17-18)

One of the terms of union for Regular and Separate Baptists in North Carolina in 1786:

"We think that none but believers in Christ have a right to the ordinance of baptism; therefore, we will not hold communion with those who plead for the validity of baptism in unbelief." (page 142)

Regarding the revival which swept Kentucky from 1800 to 1803:

"Methodists and Baptists joined heartily with the Presbyterians in the preaching. . . . Neither would the Baptists join the others in their open communion services. When time came for observance of the Lord's Supper at the camp meetings, the Baptists would retire to limit the ordinance to believers baptized upon profession of their faith." (page 145)

One of the terms of union for Separate and Regular Baptists in Kentucky in 1801:

"That Believers' baptism by immersion is necessary to receiving the Lord's Supper." (page 146)

Lumpkin, Baptist Foundations in the South: Tracing through the Separates the Influence of the Great Awakening, 1754-1787 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1961)

David, I think your position has a number of problems. If people who have received only infant baptism show up at a Baptist church to partake of the Lord's Supper, how would you know whether they are Christians or not? If you have never met them, you would have to take a lot of time at the service to individually ask them diagnostic questions to hopefully determine their status as Christians or non-Christians. If you determine that they are Christians, then you would need to tell them that they should become obedient by being immersed before they partake of the Lord's Supper. If you had already developed a relationship with them prior to the service, discussed their salvation with them, and concluded that they are Christians, then hopefully you also discussed with them the meaning and mode of biblical baptism. The proper mode--immersion--is very clear in the Bible. If they refuse to submit to immersion, they are disobedient and should not be permitted to partake of the Lord's Supper. If you failed to talk to them about the meaning and mode of biblical baptism, then you would need to counsel them at the service and suggest that they be obedient in the matter of immersion before partaking of the Lord's Supper.

David Rogers said...

Baptist Theologue,

I have never tried to argue that there have not been people down through history who have practiced "closed communion". Landmarkism is also a historical reality.

As far as the "problems" you mention, if I felt someone was becoming a regular attendee, I would definitely talk to them about baptism, and try to discern if their real issue was plain old disobedience to the Lord's command.

But if, for instance, my fellow Presbyterian pastor from across town who I know to have good testimony happens to visit our meeting while we are celebrating the Lord's Supper, to deny him a place at the Lord's table would be tantamount, in my opinion, to saying I question his salvation, and causing a division in Christ's Body which otherwise did not exist.
Yes, I believe he is wrong in his interpretation. But he is just as convinced he is right. And he has a clean conscience about being obedient to the Lord.

That's what I'm talking about.

Baptist Theologue said...

David, you said,

"To deny him a place at the Lord's table would be tantamount, in my opinion, to saying I question his salvation, and causing a division in Christ's Body which otherwise did not exist."

I don't think it's tantamount to questioning his salvation; rather, you are questioning his baptism. The division in doctrine over baptism already exists. Baptists hold tenaciously to believers' baptism through immersion. The same principle applies to church membership. If your Presbyterian friend wants to join your Baptist church without being immersed, your refusal to admit him as a member without immersion doesn't mean you are questioning his salvation. You are merely refusing to accept his unbiblical "baptism."

David Rogers said...

Baptist Theologue,

It seems to me our difference here stems from a different understanding the Lord's Supper. For me, 1 Cor. 10.17 "For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread", as well as other Scripture, indicates that the Lord's Supper, along with other things, is a celebration of the communion of the Body of Christ, which is made up of all the saved. Thus, for me, to deny someone a place at the Lord's Table is tantamount to saying he, in my opinion, is not saved.

I can understand, however, if you have a different view of the significance of the Lord's Supper how you may have a different view of who may participate.

Todd Buck said...

Wow. I see now that if you disagree with the "narrow" view of cooperation as evidenced in the Yarnell sermon, you are "out of line" with the BF&M. I didn't know we had voted on Dr. Yarnell's sermon as being synonymous with the BF&M 2000. Perhaps it was in a footnote the years I joined with thousands of other messengers to adopt the document.!?

Seriously, Dr. Yarnell's passion and commitment to our Lord are shining through in the white paper. What is distressing is his narrow view that only Baptists (should I now read that only Southern Baptists!?) are actually fulfilling the Great Commission.

My NT/Greek professor in Seminary (Kendall Easley. . .Mid-America) made a helpful distinction which has served me throughout my pastoring and teaching. He suggested what would help most debates would be a clear demarcation between heresy and error. Many times we throw mud at brothers with whom we disagree, and actually go across the line into calling them heretics, when in actuality what they are believing/practicing is error.

Without pretending to speak verbatim for David, Wade Burleson, Joel Rainey, et al; I would say that we believe that one can be absolutely committed to Southern Baptist theology, ecclesiology, and polity without viewing our Christian brothers (may I say Great Commission Christian brothers!) as being so out-of-touch with the Savior that we could not evangelize, pray, take communion, and worship alongside of them.

In this regard, we view the Billy Graham style of cooperation as the more proper model, as against a more militant (a.k.a. fundamentalist) seperation model.

I will diligently and vigorously defend my Baptist position with my paedobaptist friends, and with my Wesleyan buddies as well. But I will not accuse them, either to their face, or behind their back as being either unsaved or in disobedience to the Great Commission because of their equally cherished (and, in their hearts, Biblical) beliefs.

Interestingly, under Part II, D, (Baptizing) in defining the heart of a Baptist, Yarnell states 10 reasons for baptism:

1) baptism for believers only
2) baptism by immersion alone;
3)baptism based upon one’s profession of faith;
4)baptism as a meaningful symbolic representation of personal conversion;
5)baptism as a faith commitment;
6)baptism as an ethical commitment;
7)baptism into a local congregation;
8)baptism as participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ;
9)baptism as identification with the one God who is yet three—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
10)baptism as a public testimony to regeneration.

How does this decalogue on baptism relate the the FOUR beliefs necessary for IMB appointment by the majority trustees? Interestingly, nowhere in Yarnell's list is eternal security mentioned. So if one should adopt even Yarnell's expanded list (again, endulge me to affirm that David, Wade, et al strongly support each of the 10)---that still does not get you over the hurdle of exluding so-called "alien immersion" because of eternal security as the policy does.

Under II, E (Teaching), Yarnell states that "The sufficiency of Scripture states that our “doctrines”–that is, our teachings–need to be drawn from the Bible, and that we may never go beyond the Bible for our authority. Scripture, in other words, is sufficient for the message and practice of Baptist churches and their people."

One couldn't possibly write a better critique of the IMB policy than what Yarnell has done in these two sentences! Baptists will seperate only when the Bible demands such. . .and those who oppose the new policy are saying that Scripture nowhere demands a rejection of baptism solely upon a lack of belief in eternal security.

Interestingly, while challenging the reader/listener to avoid the extremes of Hyper-Calvinism and Hyper-Arminianism, Yarnell fails to highlight the irony that in warning of the dangers of Hyper Calvinism & Arminianism, he neglects to mention the equally dangerous notion of theological reductionism.

Reductionism is the idea that all of important theology may be summarized around one key idea. In the classic SBC layperson, this would be evidenced by thinking that all one must believe is "once-saved-always-saved." How, theologically, is one to maintian this "one point Calvinism?" It doesn't matter---we all, in the words of Rodney King, need to just get along. (By the way, I am not accusing Yarnell of believing this point).

In Yarnell's paper, Baptist theology shares the disease of theological reductionism by filtering out all other distinctives as secondary to the Great Commission. I know of thousands of pastors, teachers, and missionaries of other denominations who could affirm what he has written along these lines.

Thankfully, in most of the rest of the white paper Yarnell positions true Baptist theology as being deeper and broader than this. But in searching for a "Key" to tie Baptist theology down, (a somewhat needless exercise, I would suggest---why do we need such a so-called distinctive, just because the Reformers or Anabaptists had one?!) Yarnell appears to slip for a moment into this morass.

I look forward to hearing from others in this continuing debate.

Stephen Pruett said...

Baptist Theologue, By what biblical reference(s) do you conclude that it is necessary to be baptized before partaking of the Lord's supper?

David Rogers said...

Dr. Yarnell just sent me the following message as well:


Thank you for removing the text. You meant no harm. But please do remove it quickly.

By the way, please note that I was not one of the "ideologues" "behind" the new policies at IMB, so there is no grand conspiracy of which I am a part. I first became aware of the new policies through an article in Southern Baptist Texan. David, my motivation is that I really care about Southern Baptists and that is why I am interested in these issues.

I perceive that you are a good man, David. I believe that you are wrong in your position on believers baptism, and I do wish that you would change your mind.

In Christ,

GeneMBridges said...

Theological reductionism indeed.

I'd like to correct something he said about John Piper.

Recently, the most prominent Reformed Baptist, John Piper, has begun to move his church toward open membership. In other words, you won’t have to be baptized to join his church. Of course, Piper’s movement away from Baptist ecclesiology did not begin with open membership. There were earlier signs of a relentless move towards Presbyterianism, including the adoption of multiple elders and open communion. Piper fails to understand that regenerate church membership is best served by fidelity to the commands of Jesus Christ. Christ commanded baptism for believers only, the Lord’s Supper as the continuing sign of fellowship with the church, and intentional church discipline.

If we go by the last sentence, I believe Christ affirmed the 9th commandment. I couldn't help but notice that he used an October document that was very brief to arrive at this conclusion.

I have a later document that is some 80 pages long from December that details exactly what would have happened. If one hunts on the internet for it, one can find it. Alternatively, one can write the church. To be perfectly blunt, Piper in no way is violating the concept of a regenerate church membership. In fact, just the opposite is true, given the fact that a person must demonstrate faith in Christ to join that church.

Moreover, in the Reformed Baptist churches, like the one in which I currently serve, the membership process is quite lengthy. We do not let people walk and aisle and transfer their letter in the same day. There is a long orientation and interview process. They have to learn the church covenant and evidence a credible profession of faith. We have to get to know them. Typically, Reformed Baptist churches have a low residivism rate and we know where our delinquent members are on any given Sunday. I fear the same can't be said of a great many on the other side of the theological aisle in the SBC, judging by the ACP's I've seen.

These are the exact changes that would have been made effective at BBC:

One looks in vain for:

(a) *Anything* affirming that infant baptism is a *valid* mode of baptism within Baptist ecclesiology of the local church.

(b) *Any* affirmation that the church would have baptized infants at any point in time or accepted the baptism of infants.

What one does find is that for *adults* coming from paedobaptist, viz *paedobaptizing ecclesial bodies* who agreed with the terms of the church covenant, they would have been allowed membership into the church. Notice the conditions under which this would have taken place.

1. The teaching and practice of baptism at Bethlehem Baptist Church is defined in Section 12 of the Bethlehem Baptist Church Elder Affirmation of Faith. The keyparagraph states:

We believe that baptism is an ordinance of the Lord by which those who have repented and come to faith express their union with Christ in His death andresurrection, by being immersed in water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is a sign of belonging to the new people of God, the true Israel, and an emblem of burial and cleansing, signifying death to the old life of unbelief, and purification from the pollution of sin.

2. Thus the official position of Bethlehem Baptist Church is that only baptism by immersion of believers will be taught and practiced by the church. Customarily,therefore, all members of the church will have been baptized by immersion as believers.

3. However, we believe it is fitting that membership in the local church (distinct from leadership in the local church) should have prerequisites similar to the prerequisites formembership in the universal church. In other words, we believe it is unfitting to deny membership to a person who, by faith in Christ, gives evidence of regeneration...

4. Therefore, our aim is not to elevate beliefs and practices that are non-essential to the level of prerequisites for church membership. This implies that Christians who have not been baptized by immersion as believers, but, as they believe, by some other method or before they believed, may under some circumstances be members of this church.

5. Since we believe that the New Testament teaches and demonstrates that the mode of baptism is only the immersion of a believer in water, we therefore regard all other practices of baptism as misguided, defective, and illegitimate. Yet, while not taking these differences lightly, we would not elevate them to the level of what is essential. Thus, we will welcome into membership candidates who, after a time of study, discussion, and prayer, prescribed by the Elders, retain a conviction that it would be a violation of their conscience to be baptized by immersion as believers. This conviction of conscience must be based on a plausible, intelligible, Scripturally-based argument rather than on mere adherence to a tradition or family expectations. The elders will make all such judgments in presenting candidates for membership to the congregation. All candidates for membership, even when holding firmly to views different from the official position of the elders, must demonstrate a humble and teachable disposition with respect to the church leadership, as expressed in the Church Covenant.

6. We will not admit into membership persons who refuse to practice any form of baptism at all, or who believe that their water baptism caused their regeneration. The former is a serious rejection of the Lord’s commandment, and the latter is a serious misunderstanding of the work of the Holy Spirit. Our MEMBERSHIP AFFIRMATION OF FAITH states, “We believe that [the Holy Spirit’s work in regeneration is not the result of water baptism or any outward ritual.”

7. In the words of our CHURCH COVENANT, the members shall all be committed to “welcome, and test biblically, instruction from the Scriptures by the elders of the church which accords with the Elder Affirmation of Faith, seeking to grow toward Biblical unity in the truth”

In a church organized after the manner of BBC, these individuals could *not* serve as elders or leaders in the church, and anybody preaching or administering the ordinances would have to pass doctrinal muster. This would mean they would have to be baptized by immersion and affirm 12.3 of that portion of the covenant. Essentially, BBC would have adopted the policy similar to the PCA's policy on church membership that allows Reformed Baptists, indeed Arminian Baptists to join as *members* but not as *deacons or elders*. In short, the membership requirement for admission to BBC would have mirrored the membership requirements for entrance into the Body of Christ universal, a doctrine, I might add, Landmarks have historically *denied*.

In order for a member to become an elder (a lay elder or vocational) they have to affirm the Elder portion of the church confession as well as the member portion. Others (deacons and lay workers) are appointed through the board of elders and its committees and those involved in any teaching would also have to affirm that same portion of their confession, since the duty of the Council of Elders at BBC is to maintain the doctrinal integrity of the church and its confession above all else.

On baptism that portion of their statement of faith is abundantly clear:

12.3 We believe that baptism is an ordinance of the Lord by which those who have repented and come to faith express their union with Christ in His death and resurrection, by being immersed in water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is a sign of belonging to the new people of God, the true Israel, and an emblem of burial and cleansing, signifying death to the old life of unbelief, and purification from the pollution of sin.

On this matter of the way BBC structures and executes its government, I can't help but notice, their Church Constitution and Bylaws reads almost exactly like the church constitution of my home church, a 5000 + member SBC church that was pastored by a very distinguished Baptist and leader in the Conservative Resurgence until his health failed and he was forced to retire, a church on which I was once on staff. So, I am left wondering exactly what the Dr. Yarnell's problem with the elder model is, if we used BBC's bylaws as a model, since they are nearly identical in practice, if not structure, to that of the large SBC churches some of which I have served.

Now this isn't to say that even I agree with what BBC would have done, but the documentation in my possession is extensive, and it is far from what Dr. Yarnell has portrayed of Dr. Piper and his church and his position on baptism and church membership.

a. They practice open communion...and many Baptists do this. There are seveal reasons. First, they fence the Table. One of the drawbacks to closed communion to non-Baptists like Presbyterians is that unless you are going to interview every person gathered about the sins in their lives as you would for the "disobedient" Presbyterian (for not being baptized as a believer), you have no way of ensuring everybody is taking the elements validly anyway. Another agument proceeds from the institution of the supper. It was instituted prior to the Great Commission. Ergo, it appars to be a place of unity in the body of Christ not exclusion. If a person is regenerate and walking with the Lord, they may partake of the Supper. The irony here is that I know some closed communion churches that allow converts who have not yet been baptized to take of the meal but disallow non-Baptists. Let's not forget the number of false professors in Baptist churches who are not fenced from the table. Lastly, an argument proceedss from the qualifications on this in 1 Corinthians. Baptism is not in view. Drukenness, gluttony, and moral sins are in view here. If a man is convinced in his conscience that his baptism is valid, then let him take the elements, as the sins Paul has in mind here are in view, not baptism.

b. This is not a violation of the concept of a regenerate church membership. The members of BBC have to hold to a particular covenant. They are interviewed and screened heavily before joining. Yarnell is playing on the idea that a person can just ask to be a member and join. False, they must show evidence of regeneration. They recognize that baptism is a control on a regenerate church membership, but that baptism is not a guarantee of it.

c. Apropos b, they cannot hold any teaching position in the church, nor can they administer the elements of the Lord's Table. About the only thing they can do if they join is help mentor folks coming through a personal evangelism class.

d. Apropos b and c, this applies to adults only, not their children. If their children are converted, they are to be rebaptized upon profession of faith if they were baptized as infants.

e. They would also have to submit to the teaching of the elders on this issue. They are not free to propagate paedobaptist views.

f. If they desire the office of an elder or deacon, etc., they would have to be baptized accordingly and agree to the elders covenant (which is highly restrictive in this matter), and only teach credo-baptism.

One fails to see how this is a rejection of believer's baptism or a regenerate church membership. Why could Dr. Yarnell not contact the church to get this? It continues to amaze me how people can continue to misrepresent a church and its pastor so blatantly. It's not as if they can't get extensive documentation on this issue from them. Let's not trade on innuendo.

Hyper-Calvinism is becoming a real problem in the Southern Baptist Convention. When a Calvinist allows his own reason to draw lines where Scripture does not draw them, he becomes a hyper-Calvinist.

Really? Who are they? Where are they located? What are they teaching? If exegesis is not logical and rational what is it? How is Scripture intelligible without these faculties? Is Dr. Yarnell following Cheung's Scripturalism?

Some Baptists have been toying with Presbyterian structures in their churches, arguing for multiple elders, or for a forced distinction between teaching and ruling elders. These are minor concerns, but a problem really occurs when they allow eldership to limit congregational oversight.

Wow. This is a-historical.

To quote from Mark Dever's site:

Throughout the 17th century in England, Baptists had affirmed the office of elder. In 1697, Benjamin Keach wrote of “Bishops, Overseers, or Elders” clearly implying that these New Testament offices were one. Keach presents it as essential that a church has one or more pastors, but not that it have a plurality of them. He rejects the Presbyterian practice of having a separate group of ruling elders who do not teach, saying that if that practice was in the Apostolic church, it was only temporary, because we have neither their qualifications nor their duties laid out in the New Testament.

In the 18th century, Benjamin Griffith wrote in favor of ruling elders distinct from the pastors or teaching elders. He cited Exodus 18, Deut. 1, I Tim. 5:17, I Cor. 12:28 and Rom. 12:8 as his basis for this. The ruling elder’s distinction from the teaching elder’s position is shown by the fact that he would have to be ordained should he shift to becoming a teaching elder. Griffith’s practice of having such ruling elders was common in the Philadelphia Baptist Association in the eighteenth century. In this practice, however, Griffith and his contemporaries were disagreeing with their English counterparts of the previous decades. The Charleston Association’s 1774 Summary of Church Discipline ignores any idea of a separate group of ruling elders, but affirms the fact that in the New Testament, ministers of the gospel are “frequently called elders, bishops, pastors and teachers.” The Summary also implies that there is sometimes within one local congregation a “presbytery.”

In the 19th century, Samuel Jones of the Philadelphia Association wrote that “Concerning the divine right of the office of ruling elders there has been considerable doubt and much disputation.” Jones then goes on to summarize the arguments for and against, essentially conceding that Benjamin Griffith’s defense of ruling elders was weak, but arguing that the office is beneficial and not forbidden, and therefore that congregations are free to keep it if they find it a useful office to assist the pastor.

Turning to the South, W. B. Johnson of South Carolina, and the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention wrote of the New Testament churches that “each church had a plurality of elders.” “A plurality in the bishopric is of great importance for mutual counsel and aid, that the government and edification of the flock may be promoted in the best manner.” For several pages of his book, The Gospel Developed, Johnson goes on delineating the duties and benefits of a plurality of elders in a local congregation.

J. L. Reynolds, pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia, wrote in 1849 that “the apostolic churches seem, in general, to have had a plurality of elders as well as deacons.” Nevertheless, he maintained that “the number of officers, whether elders or deacons, necessary to the completeness of a church, is not determined in Scripture. This must be decided by the circumstances of the case, of which the party interested is the most competent judge.”

Reynolds competently and carefully dissected the arguments in favor of a distinct class of ruling elders. And Reynolds has a whole chapter defending the interchangeability of the terms “bishop” and “elder”.
William Williams, one of the founding faculty of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote in 1874 that “In most, if not all the apostolic churches, there was a plurality of elders."

Williams went on to speculate that this was perhaps the case because Christians could only meet in small groups and therefore each smaller group needed an elder to instruct them. He suggests that such a plurality of elders was only due to the circumstances of the time, and need not be a continuing requirement for churches. Williams also disagrees with any idea of a separate office of ruling elder. He places the plurality of elders in the same category as deaconesses, the holy kiss, the frequency of the Lord’s Supper—all now to be left up to the “pious discretion of the churches.”

I could go on. C. H. Spurgeon had a plurality of elders at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

J. L. Burrows, (pastor of FBC Richmond for 20 years, and chairman of the Foreign Mission Board for 6 years) in his book What Baptists Believe [1888] (p. 12, 16) wrote that “Elders and deacons are the only officers [Christ] has instituted,” (p. 14). It is indisputable that by the beginning of the twentieth century, Baptists had either had or at least advocated elders—and often even a plurality of elders—in local churches, and that they had done so for centuries.
A. H. Strong, president of Rochester Theological Seminary, and author of his influential 1907 Systematic Theology perhaps summarizes the positions most Baptists in America seemed to hold at the beginning of the twentieth century: “In certain of the N.T. churches there appears to have been a plurality of elders . . . . There is, however, no evidence that the number of elders was uniform, or that the plurality which frequently existed was due to any other cause than the size of the churches for which these elders cared. The N. T. example, while it permits the multiplication of assistant pastors according to need, does not require a plural eldership in every case. . . . There are indications, moreover, that, at least in certain churches, the pastor was one, while the deacons were more than one, in number.”

If Yarnell wants to really speak on church government this way, he needs to discuss churches that adopt a corporate model, where the Deacons are a board of directors, the Senior Pastor is the President; he has 2 or three Associate pastors under him; and these oversee a range of Assistant Pastors who have a specialized ministry. This is unbiblical church government and far more of a danger than a plurality of elders.

Today, the pendulum swings again, now away from Quakerism and towards Presbyterianism.

Okay, if you really believe that, then please explain this in the rationale for the policies at the IMB:

After all, these special leaders will be representing Southern Baptists while they are starting churches in the field that are also distinctively Baptist. They will be financially supported by Southern Baptists. Therefore, we are right to expect their ministries to be more in line with our heritage and doctrinal core than those of other denominations or belief systems. We are not an ecumenical movement, determined to send anyone who wants to go to the field. We are Baptists, and therefore we are only sending Baptists.

1. Notice the equivocations in this one paragraph between Baptist and Southern Baptist. We are planting Baptist churches...but we are only sending Baptists. Well "Duh." (as if those who disagree with the policies are not Baptists).

2. The line abt. financial support is just a clever way of saying, "We are establishing SBC churches abroad." Where in the IMB mission is this ever stated?

3. Apropos 2. These letters included a definition of "church." This called local churches autonomous. Ergo, those churches are autonomous bodies. They are supported by the SBC, but this does not give the SBC control over those churches. No, that would be a violation of local church autonomy per Hatley's own definition. So, which is it? Are these churches connected or autonomous?

Therefore, we are right to expect their ministries to be more in line with our heritage and doctrinal core than those of other denominations or belief systems.

This is a non-sequitar based on the premises offered. This would only be true if financial support = ownership. It does not. This is what happens when you treat church planting like running Coca Cola Corporation. "SBC" is now a brand name being propagated abroad. That's what's really going on here. If that church wants to become a bunch of 5 Point Calvnists and the IMB doesn't like that, they can sever support for the church. Ditto if they become amill or post-mill or Arminian or whatever. If the church is congregational and autonomous, then on what basis can the SBC impose its will?

So, which is it? Are these autonomous, congregational churches or not? This rationale reads like they are connected and the denomination has oversight of them and can make demands of them. This is Presbyterianism masquerading as a missions policy on Dr. Yarnell's own yardstick.
Before he discusses Presbyterian ecclesiology among the ranks of Reformed Baptists, perhaps he should take a closer look at the inner logic of the new policies.

He also insinuates that Calvin did not affirm the Great Commission. It's telling what he cites compared with what he doesn't bother to cite.

I noticed he had to cite a commentary. Why not the Institutes? In the Institutes, IV,iii he wrote at length on this, and he identifies apostles and those who laid the foundation of the church itself. He does say the Great Commission was for the Apostles, because it was for the laying of the foundation of the church, not because it's duties are not to be discharged in this day as well. He makes this quite clear. Calvin discusses Apostles as a unique office in the church. Since the commission was given to them, Calvin discusses it as such.

Those who preside over the government of the Church, according to the institution of Christ,are named by Paul, first, Apostles; secondly, Prophets; thirdly, Evangelists; fourthly, Pastors; and, lastly, Teachers (Eph. 4:11). Of these, only the two last have an ordinary office in the Church. The Lord raised up the other three at the beginning of his kingdom, and still occasionally raises them up when the necessity of the times requires. The nature of the apostolic function is clear from the command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). No fixed limits are given them, but the whole world is assigned to be reduced under the obedience of Christ, that by spreading the Gospel as widely as they could, they might everywhere erect his kingdom. Accordingly, Paul, when he would approve his apostleship, does not say that he had acquired some one city for Christ, but had propagated the Gospel far and wide—had not built on another man’s foundation, but planted churches where the name of his Lord was unheard. The apostles, therefore, were sent forth to bring back the world from its revolt to the true obedience of God, and everywhere establish his kingdom by the preaching of the Gospel; or, if you choose, they were like the first architects of the Church, to lay its foundations throughout the world.

By Prophets, he means not all interpreters of the divine will, but those who excelled by special revelation; none such now exist, or they are less manifest. By Evangelists, I mean those who, while inferior in rank to the apostles, were next them in office, and even acted as their substitutes. Such were Luke, Timothy, Titus, and the like; perhaps, also, the seventy disciples whom our Saviour appointed in the second place to the apostles (Luke 10:1). According to this interpretation, which appears to me consonant both to the words and the meaning of Paul, those three functions were not instituted in the Church to be perpetual, but only to endure so long as churches were to be formed where none previously existed, or at least where churches were to be transferred from Moses to Christ; although I deny not, that afterward God occasionally raised up Apostles, or at least Evangelists, in their stead, as has been done in our time. For such were needed to bring back the Church from the revolt of Antichrist. The office I nevertheless call extraordinary, because it has no place in churches duly constituted. Next come Pastors and Teachers, with whom the Church never can dispense, and between whom, I think, there is this difference, that teachers preside not over discipline, or the administration of the sacraments, or admonitions, or exhortations, but the interpretation of Scripture only, in order that pure and sound doctrine may be maintained among believers. But all these are embraced in the pastoral office.

5. This largly summarizes what came before. There's nothing much there.

6. When our Lord sent forth the apostles, he gave them a commission (as has been lately said) to preach the Gospel, and baptise those who believed for the remission of sins. He had previously commanded that they should distribute the sacred symbols of his body and blood after his example(Mt. 28:19; Luke 22:19). Such is the sacred, inviolable, and perpetual law, enjoined on those who succeed to the place of the apostles,—they receive a commission to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. Whence we infer that those who neglect both of these falsely pretend to the office of apostles. But what shall we say of pastors? Paul speaks not of himself only but of all pastors, when he says, “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (I Cor. 4:1). Again, in another passage, he describes a bishop as one “holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers” (Tit. 1:9). From these and similar passages which everywhere occur, we may infer that the two principal parts of the office of pastors are to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. But the method of teaching consists not merely in public addresses, it extends also to private admonitions. Thus Paul takes the Ephesians to witness, “I kept back nothing that was profitable to you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” A little after he says, “Remember, that, for the space of three years, I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:20, 31). Our present purpose, however, is not to enumerate the separate qualities of a good pastor, but only to indicate what those profess who call themselves pastors—viz. that in presiding over the Church they have not an indolent dignity, but must train the people to true piety by the doctrine of Christ, administer the sacred mysteries, preserve and exercise right discipline. To those who are set as watchmen in the Church the Lord declares, “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand” (Ezek. 3:18). What Paul says of himself is applicable to all pastors: “For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel” (1 Cor. 4:16). In short, what the apostles did to the whole world, every pastor should do to the flock over which he is appointed.

The reason Calvin discusses this here is that he sees apostleship as tied to a specific, non-repeatable office. However, pastors are to carry out the same duties as the Apostles, but they do not hold the office. The reason, he doesn't apply the Great Commission to "the modern church" is because he sees apostleship as a first century office. This is just a backhanded way of saying "Calvin didn't believe in the extension of the GC to the laity."

a. Calvin lived at the turn of the 16th century. There was no pressing need for foreign missions outside of Europe at that time, because Europe was just discovering the Far East and West, and the Near East was under Muslim control, so why would Calvin see the GC in a missional manner? Ditto for any other Reformer. Why would expect them to jump fully into a missional emphasis that is global at this stage of European history?

b. At that time, Europe was undergoing a reformation. Why on earth would you assign the GC to the whole church in your theology when all of them would be, by our own standards, either unregenerate or, alternatively, biblically illiterate? This was the age of catechisms and public reading of Scripture. The printing press was new. People looked to their educated ministers for guidance, because they were concerned with survival. Calvin is focusing on pastors and teachers precisely because that's where the greatest change could be affected in his day.

c. Geneva sent out many hundreds of missionaries to Italy, France, Holland, and Scotland, many of whom were martyred. They came to Geneva to be trained.

When Dr. Yarnell says this, "Calvin did not consider the apostolic commission as extending to the visible church!" he simply isn't telling the whole story. He viewed it this way, because the apostolic office as such terminated in the First Century. However, pastors and teachers still carried out those duties, which he spells out quite clearly in Institutes IV. There are reasons he doesn't apply the GC to the whole church at his particular point in history, given the condition of the churches at the time. He lived during a time of restoration, not a normative time. You shouldn't expect a fully orbed missiology from such a person.

His conclusion is a non-sequitar. All Calvin's views mean is that Calvin addressed what he said to the issues most important to him. This is nothing new in historical theology. According to this logic, since the early AnteNicene Fathers didn't articulate a fully orbed Christology, they didn't believe in an orthodox Christology.

Baptist Theologue said...

Stephen, the Lord’s Supper, like baptism, is a local church ordinance. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul was addressing his comments about the proper observance of the Lord’s Supper to a local church. He mentioned specific problems in the church at Corinth that adversely affected the observance of the supper there: divisions (verse 18) and drunkenness (verse 21). Paul mentioned that the Corinthian Christians “come together as a church” (verse 18) and “when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first” (verses 20-21). The Greek scholar A. T. Robertson commented on verse 18:

“Here ekklhsia has the literal meaning of assembly. . . . Not yet formal cleavages into two or more organizations, but partisan divisions that showed in the love-feasts and at the Lord's Supper.”

If the Lord’s Supper is a local church ordinance, then only people qualified to be local church members should partake of it. What are the qualifications for baptistic church membership? Qualified people are Christians that have been biblically immersed. Why do baptistic churches require biblical immersion? Jesus commanded it in Matthew 28:19. What about sincere Christians who do not believe that immersion was commanded by Jesus? They are not accepted as members of baptistic churches.

Jesus commanded that both ordinances occur. Immersion logically precedes observance of the Lord’s Supper. Immersion symbolizes the beginning of the Christian life. The Lord’s Supper is a remembrance and marks the continuation of the Christian life. If a Christian is disobedient in the matter of the first ordinance, he should “examine himself” (1 Cor. 11:28) and correct the problem before partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

Another problem is that some non-baptistic groups view the meaning the Lord’s Supper differently than do baptistic groups. For example, if a person who thinks he is receiving salvific grace by partaking of the Lord’s Supper does partake of it in a baptistic church, and if this becomes a regular occurrence, then some participants may become confused about what is really happening during observances of the Lord’s Supper. The baptistic church’s witness will suffer.

Doctrinal differences sometimes cause divisions among Christians. In spite of such divisions, however, Baptists can love their Christian friends from other groups. They can lovingly cooperate with them when possible, and when doctrinal differences prevent joint participation in an event such as the observance of the Lord’s Supper, Baptists can graciously and lovingly explain to their friends why their doctrinal distinctives won’t allow joint participation.