Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Historical Documents: Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation in World Missions, Part 2

Before moving on to non-biblical and more recent texts, I think there is one more key text, this time from the Apostle Paul, I would be remiss to pass over...
1 Corinthians 1.10-17 (NIV)

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
My comments...

While some might want to argue that all the believers at the time of Paul were essentially "Baptists", I have a hard time swallowing that if Paul were to write this today that he would direct it only to Baptists. And yes, he is talking most directly about divisions in the local church, but I don't think it is a far stretch to apply the principles to the universal church as well.

The vicissitudes of church history have left us with the sobering reality of denominations. I cannot accept, from what I read in this passage, that this is God's perfect will. However, I think we are much better off with denominations than we would be if we were all subject to the Pope and Rome. If my recollection of church history doesn't fail me, a good many, if not most, of the major church reformers never intended to start new denominations. I think the original Anabaptists or English Baptists (whatever your read on history might be) would have been quite surprised (and not necessarily pleasantly so) if they could look down the telescope of time and see something like the SBC today claiming them as their spiritual forefathers. However, the stands that many of these spiritual heroes took were absolutely necessary for their time and religious context.

I also think D. G. Tinder is probably right when he says:

One response has been to oppose denominations and urge all true Christians to leave them and meet simply as churches of Christ, Christian churches, churches of God, disciples, brethren, Bible churches, evangelical churches, and similar inclusive names. Despite obvious appeal in times of denominational confusion, strife, and declension, the reality is that no such movement has anywhere attracted most Christians to itself. Instead this has been just another way of increasing the number of denominations, and sects, usually with the group's reluctance to admit it.
Where does that leave us? Number one, I think we never need to shrink back from believing and teaching what we understand to be Bible doctrine. Number two, we need to avoid being overly idealistic and dogmatic about the supposed evils of our present denominational system. Given the various choices before us now, it is probably the "lesser of the evils". And, number three, we need to be generous in our acceptance of and cooperation with other true, born-again believers who may not answer to the name "Baptist". We need to look for every opportunity, whenever it does not at the same time mean compromising on biblical truth, to minimize "Baptist" distinctives, and maximize evangelical unity.

I also think it is quite interesting, given the current issues in the IMB, that apparently one of the causes of the divisions in Corinth had to do with differing criteria regarding who baptized who.

Still more to come...


James Hunt said...

Good points! I was just reading your referenced passage and musing on what Paul said about his not baptizing many...and thanking God for it!

David Rogers said...


Great to see you back 'round the blogosphere. I was afraid all that Cruising had led you to give up blogging or something. :)

Kiki Cherry said...

I find it fascinating that you are posting on this subject right now.

Just today, after our Interfaith council meeting, I talked with the leaders of three other Christian groups on campus.

Everyone had the same thing to say. "We have been hit hard this semester. We feel like we are under attack. Can we all just get together to pray and encourage one another?"

I am so looking forward to actually doing that.

Sometimes we feel so isolated. No one else in our denomination can fully understand what it is like to try to work on our campus. Sometimes it is so lonely that we want to give up.

But these other campus ministers, who are also brothers and sisters in Christ (although not SBC) FULLY understand. We desperately need each other!!!

So this Summer we are going to meet together regularly to pray for, by name, the many, many students we love but who are lost.

We are going to shelve all of our methodology and ask God how HE wants to reach the students on our campus. We all desperately want the same thing: to see students come to Christ. And we are willing to fall on our faces and do whatever it takes.

Reading your blog is just a confirmation that we are heading in the right direction. I've had to personally do some serious repenting for "judging my neighbor". Just three years ago I would have refused to cooperate with some of these other campus ministers, on the grounds of "doctrinal differences."

It's interesting how fighting in the trenches together can change one's perspective and eliminate a lot of prejudices.