This September will mark the 25th year of my sojourn as an ordained Baptist elder. The route has been sometimes pleasant, sometimes arduous, and quite circuitous (I am once again preaching at the church that called for my ordination 25 years ago). In 1986 I started what would be a 12-year project -- editing a periodical called The Baptist Waymark. "Waymark" comes from Jeremiah 31:21 "Set thee up waymarks." The goal of that still wet-behind-the-ears preacher was to "mark the way" -- the way of the old paths, the way our fathers trod. Early on, I became concerned about the very issues that 11 Southern Baptist scholars would address in Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches -- regenerate church membership, baptism and the Lord's Supper (always issues of import for Landmarkers), church discipline, and the priesthood of believers. The latter I knew not how to approach as does Yarnell in Restoring Integrity. But it was obvious to me that historically Baptists had stood for free exercise of religion without giving license for church members to believe whatever they wanted. Research in Baptist church minutes made it apparent that church discipline had been jettisoned. The Baptist Waymark printed a series of L. S. Walker's church discipline. "Let the Redeemed say so" pressed the issue of returning to requiring a clear and credible profession of faith prior to baptism. And so on. These problems I endeavored to address to some extent in a small periodical that reached no more than 500 people (assuming they all read it). This year 11 men of influence produced a book that might potentially reach a hundred times that many people. May God bless it to be so.
As an introducation to my review of Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, I would like to introduce you to some of the thoughts of the writers. Michael Haykin called the book "a gold-mine of informed reflection." The quotes are placed in order and divided by the particular chapters in which they are found.
Regenerate church membership
"While Baptists have acknowledged that regeneration is an internal and invisible work, they have interpreted the Bible as assuming that regeneration will have visible results." -- John S. Hammett (p. 30) "If you love to read Wayne Grudem and John Piper but won't inconvenience yourself to go pick up an older person and give that person a ride to church, I don't know if you are a Christian." -- Mark Dever (p. 55)
"That there might be an unbaptized believer in Jesus Christ would be an oxymoron to Paul." -- Daniel Akin (p. 70) "In fact, in ancient Greek, Septuagint Greek, and first-century A.D. Greek, the word [baptizo] consistently meant 'to dip, dunk, or immerse'. It is a simple linguistic fact that rantizo ('to sprinkle') and eccheo ('to pour') both occur in the New Testament but never in connection with baptism." -- David Allen (p. 92) "When presenting the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip did so in such a way that the eunuch responded not with a prayer or by signing a card but by asking to be baptized." -- Thomas White (p. 111) "The local or visible church is a group that has covenanted with God and with each other." -- Jason Lee (p. 126)
The Lord's Supper
"The Baptist theologian must properly navigate this strait [transubstantiation, consubstantiation, Calvin's mystical view and the "mere symbol"] and present a view that results in a meaningful, symbolic celebration barren of needless mystical infusions." -- Thomas White (p. 161) "...many are guilty of espousing in the Lord's Supper the same faulty hermeneutic as those whom the ardently criticize regarding baptism." -- Emir Caner (p. 164)
"They [Baptists] believed that Christ commanded a specific church order and pledged to carry it out no matter how impractical or ineffective it appeared." -- Greg Wills (p. 181) "Contemporary Baptists seem instead to understand themselves as autonomous individuals casually associated together in loose-knit groupings called churches." -- Stan Norman (p. 199)
The royal priesthood
"The egalitarian nature of this communal concept [of the Christian royal priesthood] militates against the confinement of ecclesiastical authority to any single person or group of persons within the churches." -- Malcolm Yarnell (p. 239)
"...in Switzerland and South Germany in 1525 the distance between believer's baptism, the believer's church, the gospel, and death was short." -- Jason Duesing (p. 248)
I feel to draw the quotes out here rather than intersperse them into the review will break up better for a blog posting. Tomorrow (d.v.) I will post a review of the book quoted above. At least two online reviews have preceded mine: Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches: a Book Review by Michael A. G. Haykin and the review at Baptist Theology.com by Richard D. Piles of Camden, AR. I hope you will take the time to read them.