Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Illustration of the Hypothetical "Common Loaf Denomination"

Update: Although I had originally intended this post as independent from the Rogers-Yarnell Dialogue on the Great Commission, upon consultation with Malcolm Yarnell, I have decided to include this as Letter #15. This is because the content is related to our on-going discussion, and Malcolm's Letter #16 responds to this content, as well as that of Letters #13 and #14.

Please understand that what I am writing here is just an illustration to prove a point. I am emphatically NOT suggesting the founding of a new "Common Loaf Denomination." I have already written about this on a previous post. At that time, I was using essentially the same illustration to make a slightly different, though related, point, on the difference between planting "baptistic" and "Baptist" churches. Here, I am pulling out the same illustration again, because I believe it forcefully and poignantly drives home a point I have been trying to make on the last couple of posts in my on-going dialogue with Malcolm Yarnell on the Great Commission. I am not writing this as a separate letter in that series, but rather as a sort of detached addendum to the actual letters.

The illustration is the following:

Many Baptists in the past, as well as some in the present, have made such a major issue of the timing and mode of water baptism that it has led them to effectively separate, both in church fellowship, as well as in partnership in obedience to the Great Commission, with other authentic born-again disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me make perfectly clear that my own views regarding the timing and mode of baptism are totally "baptistic," and in line with the Baptist Faith & Message.

As "baptistic" Christians, we believe in baptism by immersion, as I understand it, on the basis of three primary reasons:

  • Linguistically, the greek term baptizein, translated "to baptize" in the majority of our translations of the Bible in English, means literally "to immerse."
  • Symbolically, we believe, on the basis of Romans 6:3-5 and Colossians 2:12, that baptism is a physical and visual representation of our identification with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.
  • Historically, in the examples we read in the New Testament (Matthew 3:16; John 3:23; Acts 8:36-38), baptism seems to have been administered by immersion.

In addition to believing in believers baptism by immersion, I also happen to believe in celebrating the Lord’s Supper with a "common loaf" of bread. The reasons for my belief in "common loaf" communion are essentially the same as my reasons for believing in baptism by immersion:

  • Linguistically, the term "breaking bread," generally accepted as referring to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, directly implies the use of a "common loaf."
  • Symbolically, on the basis of 1 Corinthians 10.16-17, the use of a "common loaf" represents physically and visually an important spiritual truth: the essential unity of the Body of Christ ("For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread").
  • Historically, in the examples we read in the New Testament (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19, 24:30, 35; Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11; 27:35; 1 Corinthians 11:23-24), it is apparent that the Lord’s Supper was celebrated with a "common loaf."

*I will leave aside, at this time, the evidence that the Lord’s Supper was also apparently celebrated with a "common cup", as part of a complete meal, with unleavened bread, and with fermented wine.

Much has been made of the point that those who practice baptism by any mode other than by immersion are effectively disobeying the command of Jesus regarding baptism. By the same token, however, I cannot avoid the conclusion that those who celebrate the Lord’s Supper with individual wafers, or crackers, or pieces of bread, are not truly being obedient to the command of Jesus to "do this in remembrance of me." Yet, for some reason, as Baptists, we are much more tolerant with those who celebrate the Lord’s Supper in a defective manner than we are with those who are sincerely mistaken in their practice of baptism.

What is the solution to this dilemma? Should those of us who are convinced of the biblical truth concerning "common loaf" celebration of the Lord’s Supper separate from those who still insist on celebrating the Lord’s Supper with individual wafers or their equivalent? Should we form our own denomination that ensures that the missionaries we send out will only teach the churches they plant to practice "common loaf" communion? Or, should we take it to the extreme of refusing to even cooperate on the mission field with those in other groups who are mistaken in their interpretation of this "clear biblical truth"?

I hope, by now, the absurdity of what I am suggesting is obvious. Even though I am totally convinced of the accuracy of my biblical interpretation regarding "common loaf communion," it would be "nit-picking" for me to separate with other authentic disciples of the Lord Jesus, who are sincerely doing their best to submit to his commands in their own life, over something as secondary as this. Much more important than our differences on this point is our essential unity as joint members of the Body of Christ, who have been given a joint task to fulfill, and should work hand in hand, as brothers and sisters in Christ, to obey together the commands of Christ, to the degree each one of us is able to understand them.

Introduction

Letter #1, Two Requirements for a Universal Fulfillment of the Great Commission, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #2, A Steward must be Found Faithful, by David Rogers

Letter #3, Centripetal and Centrifugal, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #4, To Whom is the Great Commission Given?, by David Rogers

Letter #5, The Great Commission is Given to the Gathered Church, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #6, The End-Vision of the Great Commission, by David Rogers

Letter #7, Both the End and the Means are Established by the Lord, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #8, A Matter of Emphasis?, by David Rogers

Letter #9, Complete Obedience versus Hesitant Discipleship, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #10, The Universal Scope of the Great Commission, by David Rogers

Letter #11, Freedom, Power and Authority in the Great Commission, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #12, Enduring Submission to the Great Commission, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #13, Obeying the Commands of Jesus, by David Rogers

Letter #14, John Gill on Romans 14 and 15:1-7, by David Rogers

Letter #15, The Illustration of the Hypothetical "Common Loaf Denomination", by David Rogers

Letter #16, A Condensed Response to Your Last Three Letters, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #17, Further Discussion on Cooperation and Obedience, by David Rogers

Letter #18 (Part I), Faith and Faithfulness: Truth, Love, and the Limits of Fellowship, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #18 (Part II), Faith and Faithfulness: Truth, Love, and the Limits of Fellowship, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #18 (Part III), Faith and Faithfulness: Truth, Love, and the Limits of Fellowship, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #19, A Deep Division?, by David Rogers

29 comments:

Paul Burleson said...

David,

An absolutely brilliant logical word picture of the the weakness of categorizing someone as being in unrepentent sin if they don't hold to the exactness of my understanding of biblical baptism.

This is a great post and I like it even better because of the "early" read I'm getting. Here I am reading it on September 12th and you writing it on September 13th. You've always seemed to me to be a forward thinking kind of guy. Now it is proven to be so. :)

Paul Burleson said...

David,

I've looked at my previous statement and I think it would have been far better for me to have used a different phrase. My reference to "unrepentent sin" was a bit too relfectively on another's post [not one you've written] and I don't like the taste it has left in my mouth.

I really mean__ you have shown to me the wisdom in not judging someone to be in sin when they believe differently than do I concerning biblical baptism.

If someone reading this comment doesn't know to what I'm refering__thank the Lord. Sorry David.

David Rogers said...

Paul,

Thanks for your encouragement.

I think, if I am reading correctly into your comment, that the conversation between Grudem & Piper, and ensuing comments by Dever (on "unrepentant sin"), Storms, etc. are indeed somewhere in the backdrop of all of this. It is indeed a tricky issue to sort through. But I believe what I have written here to be relevant to that discussion.

By the way, the "timestamp" for Love Each Stone is still set for Spain time, thus, the apparent incongruency of dates.

Gary Snowden said...

David,

Thanks so much for sharing this post. I encountered it first over on Micah Fries' blog where I left a comment as well, commending you for being the consummate Christian gentleman in your patience with those who differ with you and in your strong use of Scripture rather than simply appealing to Baptist tradition. Thanks again for a well-written post.

Paul Burleson said...

David,

Your post is totally relevant and exceptionally enlightening to the entire discussion that you've mentioned. What I didn't like about my previous comment was that I was making a less than complimentary inference to a "specific" post and I think I was being judgmental to do so. I don't like that in myself or anyone else.

By the way, I say "amen" to what Gary said.

GuyMuse said...

Simply, a great post! Thanks for putting into words what many of us would like to say about these things but don't have the "gift of words" to say them as well as you do. Keep it coming.

Rod Ford said...

I've been thinking about the things that can separate denominations lately. Your post here presents some good food for thought (pun intended).

I wanted to ask if you believe there to be tendencies toward "landmarkism" behind the thinking your article addresses?

Bryan Riley said...

Key statement: Historically, in the examples we read in the New Testament (Matthew 3:16; John 3:23; Acts 8:36-38), baptism seems to have been administered by immersion.

"Seems to"

Another key statement you make, for which I have a question is this:

"disobeying the command of Jesus regarding baptism"

What command?

Great post, David, as always, and I really don't think there is an answer to your point other than to agree. We keep wanting to promote religion and idolatry over relationship and the Body of Christ and it is a sad reflection of our sinfulness. I'm not pointing the finger at any but myself as I write that.

Having said all that... back to my qustion above...

David Rogers said...

Gary & Guy,

Thanks for the encouragement.

Rod,

I am not sure exactly what your background with the SBC is, and how much you are up on current developments. Depending on all that, your question is potentially a "loaded question." The term "landmarkism" has actually been the object of quite a bit of debate on Southern Baptist blogs as of late, with some accusing others of using the term indiscriminately.

My answer to you would be that true "landmarkers" (and there are some today in the SBC) would very much be in sympathy with the type of thinking my post addresses. However, there are, no doubt, others, who would be reluctant to accept the "landmarker" label, but who would still want to make a big deal about such things as "closed communion" and not cooperating with other evangelicals in our efforts to obey the Great Commission. I personally would call this "landmark tendencies," but, it would seem many of them would "plead innocent" to this charge, from what I read.

David Rogers said...

Bryan,

Welcome back from the Philippines! It has been exciting to see how God has used you during this time, and I pray He will continue to guide you and your family in the days ahead.

In regards to your comment:

I said "seems to" because Matthew 3:16 says Jesus, after being baptized "went up out of the water", and Acts 8:38 says Philip and the eunuch both "went down into the water." I guess it is possible that, as some pictures show it, they went down into the water, and then the baptizer (John/Philip) reached down and cupped some water in his hands and poured it on the baptizees head. But I think that is highly unlikely. Also John 3:23 says John baptized at a particular spot because there was "much water" there. That would seem to be an irrelevant point, if John baptized by pouring or sprinkling. But, I guess it is not lock-tite proven that he immersed, just because it says there was "much water."

The "command" is the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 to make disciples, by way of "baptizing" them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To me, the linguistic argument is probably the strongest of all. When Jesus said to "baptize" (baptizein), linguistically (at least as I understand it) it could not have meant pour or sprinkle.

Peter also "commanded" those who asked what they should do, at the day of Pentecost, to repent and be "baptized" (baptizein).

Even though I myself am totally convinced of the correctness of my interpretation on this question, I recognize, at the same time, however, that other sincere disciples, for some reason or another, see this a bit differently. That is the bottom-line point I am trying to make.

Bryan Riley said...

I did assume that you were referring to Matthew 28, David. I suppose I just wonder if He was simply saying to immerse all nations and all peoples in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In other words, teach them. Immerse them. Cover them. Totally baptize them.

In still yet other words, did Jesus say go dip them in the water and say something about the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, or did He mean completely immerse them in the name and reputation and glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit when He gave that "Great Commission."

Finally, I find it frightening that we divide and promote disunity and discord over immersion based on one verse that says "much" water when we don't have any concept of what much meant. Much in the middle of the desert might mean a trickle. Much in Florida normally would mean plenty to fully immerse.

That's why I was asking. Thank you for a great post and a quick response. I don't think we have a monopoly on an absolute understanding of what baptism is or should be. I have done immersion baptisms and was immersion baptized (all as we say "believers"), but I really don't think I know the "Truth" on the matter and wish more people would be willing to unify over Jesus and not divide over the amount of water. Do I think immersion is a beautiful symbol of what is going on? Absolutely. But do I think we should form denominations around? Absolutely not.

Steve Sensenig said...

Bryan,

I like the way you articulated your points there. It is the type of humility in interpretation that is oh, so needed in today's theological climate (especially here in the US).

It is one thing to say that I believe my interpretation is the most consistent, or the most literal, or whatever. But at bottom, it still requires making some assumptions somewhere along the line, putting weight on certain words over others, etc.

You have captured that essence beautifully, I think.

Having said that, I would like to give a bit of input into how we interpret Jesus' command to make disciples, including the act of baptism.

While your suggestion of immersing in the teaching is a good one, I think seeing how baptism carried into the book of Acts is helpful. In other words, the disciples that were given this command of Jesus did seem to interpret it as water baptism, not a figurative baptism of teaching.

On a side note, it is the carrying out of Jesus' command in the book of Acts that leads to some disagreement in some circles over "the name of Jesus" vs. "the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit". I'm not trying to get into that debate here, but just to say that I think even that debate begins to miss the point. I don't believe Jesus was telling his disciples what to say when they baptized someone, but rather in whose authority and on behalf of whom they were to baptize.

David Rogers said...

Thanks Steve,

I totally agree with your response to Bryan here.

Bryan,

What Steve said.

Alan Knox said...

David,

This is a great hypothetical illustration! I've linked to this article in hopes of continuing this discussion on my blog. You know, there are many commands of Scripture that we do not divide over. Why baptism? Why not the holy kiss (as someone suggested on my blog)? Why not making disciples? (If you don't make disciples, then you can't be part of us - that actually seems even more scriptural.)

Thanks again for this topic and for the illustration!

-Alan

Bryan Riley said...

And, I like what both of you said, but I still have more questions... What if someone used that argument as a basis of saying we absolutely had to speak in tongues or to develop a theology of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, something that many who would argue what you just did would completely discount by saying that Acts is not a good book upon which to base doctrine...

I'm not saying I agree with such a statement; I'm simply seeing some incongruity.

David Rogers said...

Bryan,

Many others have written extensively on the biblical doctrine of baptism, based not only on Matthew 28 and Acts, but various other passages as well. I personally think the evidence in favor of Jesus commanding water baptism is quite conclusive. But, I guess, each one must study it out, and weigh the evidence for him/herself.

My main point (which I understand you to agree with), though, is we should not let differing interpretations of secondary doctrines get in the way of our fellowship together in the Body of Christ.

Bryan Riley said...

I do agree. I just wish someone would teach me all those other passages that people say are out there but don't ever get specific with. :)

David Rogers said...

Bryan,

I don't know for sure yet. But I have a pretty good hunch Dr. Yarnell may be willing to take you up on your offer, perhaps even in his next "letter" in our series. :)

Bob Cleveland said...

David:

Love it love it LOVE IT!

It takes big heap of insight to see something so obvious. Thanks for seeing it. And writing.
This is a whole lot easier to see when you've been a Methodist or Presbyterian or .... shudder ... both. We Babdists don't seem to think folks have any biblical basis for doing what they do or believing what they do (in a Christian context) if they don't do it like we do it. I have BTDT and trust me, they do.

Steve Sensenig said...

Bryan,

I'm not entirely sure I follow your follow-up using tongues as an example.

Jesus said to baptize, and we can see evidence from Acts that water baptism was carried out.

With regard to tongues, we don't actually have a command to speak in tongues. We have examples of it happening, and Paul says not to forbid it, so it's something that we really shouldn't be avoiding if it happens, ya know? :)

But it's in a different category than baptism, which is part of a command issued and example given.

(I realize that tongues is a "hot" issue in the SBC, but I believe it should not be so. I only mention it here because you brought it up! hehe)

Bryan Riley said...

That doesn't address baptism in the Holy Spirit. :)

Great point, though.

And, part of the point of all of this is that analytical humans like ourselves can hem and haw and distinguish on issues ad infinitum, which is probably part of the reason all this kind of stuff doesn't need to be done. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus and be Jesus.

David Rogers said...

Bob,

I'm beginning to think you may be nice guy, after all. I may even be able to forgive you one day for beating me in Kevin Bussey's "Who's Now" contest. :)

David Rogers said...

Bob,

BTW... what's BTDT?

Bryan Riley said...

Since he hasn't been back by, I think it's "been there, done that."

Wayne Smith said...

David,

You are very much like Our David in the Bible, taking on the Giants of the world who try to Divide God’s People. Christ’s Church will not be divided and you have Preached Unity for God’s people. You have the Spirit that Reflect the Face of Jesus Christ and that is reflected in your writing and sharing on your Blog. I know both of your Father’s in Heaven are sharing,
Look at Our Son of Whom We are Well Pleased, a Good and Faithful Servant.

Bob and Bryan,
I agree with what you both have said and about the covering of All, in Jesus's Command.

In His Name

Anonymous said...

David

I am a Christian Man, Called to preach and teach God's Holy Word, I have recieved the Gift of Baptism by the Holy Spirit, and Have been ordained by a Southern Baptist Church in good standing. Please know that I am praying for your election to first VP and pray that you will be a strong leader to refocus our convention of believers toward evangelism and missionary church planting. It is with a very heavy heart that I have viewed the abundance of division that we have seen amoung our leadership.

I have never spoken in tongues, but I have been empowered by an overwhelming brokeness and repentance that allowed the Holy Spirit to fall fresh with love on me again.

I would be interested to hear your comments on RA Torrey and DL Moodys description of what I experienced as well.

brotherjames

Bart Barber said...

David,

You strike an analogy between the mode of baptism and the "mode" of the Lord's Supper. You suggest that, to be consistent, we ought to treat one as we would treat the other.

Yet you do not apply them consistently. You do not divide over the "common loaf" concept, but you are a part of a schismatic denomination that has separated over the mode and timing of baptism.

Why so?

David Rogers said...

Wayne,

I am humbled by your comment.

Brother James,

I am vaguely familiar with the teaching of Torrey and Moody on the Holy Spirit. I think that as long as we don't fall into the error of saying those who don't have certain emotional experiences or supernatural manifestations do not have the Holy Spirit, or are not as spiritual as others, then it is good and biblical to desire and pray for experiences of spiritual refreshing, anointing, brokenness, and repentance, as you describe. Would to God He would fall upon us in power more and more!

David Rogers said...

Bart,

I do not consider myself to be a part of a "schismatic denomination." If you do, then it sounds like we have a different understanding of what cooperating together with like-minded believers for the advance of the Kingdom of God is all about.

For a further explanation of what I think on this topic, please consult again this post from a little more than a year ago, on which you commented as well.