Monday, July 23, 2018

Joining a Church the Ancient Way

Joining a Church the Ancient Way: From Clement to Egeria – “As it was in the earliest days of the Christian faith, so it is again: entry into a local church should be by way of catechism, creed, and baptism—and in that order.”

Please see the above link for the full explanation beyond the snippet quote I give. “Joining a Church the Ancient Way: From Clement to Egeria” was written by Michael A. G. Haykin. Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. I enjoy his writings in the field of church history. Some of his book include: One Heart and One Soul: John Sutcliff of Olney, His Friends, and His Times; Kiffin, Knollys and Keach: Rediscovering Our English Baptist Heritage; ‘At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word’: Andrew Fuller as an Apologist; and Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church.

With those niceties out of the way, I must assert disagreement with Haykin’s premise that “entry into a local church should be by way of catechism, creed, and baptism” – especially the part “in that order.”

In his premise, Haykin falls back on ancient church practice to resolve a current problem in “many parts of a once-Christian West.” The “once-Christian West” is “rapidly being paganized.” For this reason, “the sort of biblical, doctrinal, and moral instruction” in the post-apostolic churches “is once more becoming necessary for us.”

Such a premise (1) denies that distinctive apostolic practice is normative, (2) sets the practice post-apostolic fathers above the inspired and commanded practice of the apostles, and (3) exalts pragmatism toward contemporary issues over timeless church truths. We have biblical examples of the sent-apostles teaching us how the first Christians entered into the first churches – and it was not “by way of catechism, creed, and baptism—and in that order!” The commands, precepts, and examples of the Bible all show baptism following profession of faith as soon as possible. With that – profession of faith and baptism – a person has met the initial biblical requirements of church fellowship. Church fellowship continues based on growing in the truth of the Bible, a Christian walk, etc., but these activities must be built on the foundation of belief and baptism. Perhaps churches want the catechism and creed “up front” because we are unwilling to practice church discipline “after the fact.”

Rather than emphasizing “Joining a Church the Ancient Way: From Clement to Egeria,” let’s prioritize “Joining a Church the Ancientest Way: From Matthew to Revelation.”

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