Fisher Humphreys, professor of theology at the Beeson Divinity School of Sanford University, is speaking at our church this weekend. Last night he made a very astute comment about Baptist belief and practice vis-a-vis ecumenism. I’m paraphrasing, but his point was that Baptists are at our least ecumenical when it comes to our beliefs about baptism, but at our most ecumenical when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. Simply put, Baptists can go on to join just about any other church or denomination without having to be re-baptized, but we for our part largely deny the validity of the baptisms of the vast majority of Christians. At the same time, Baptists find it much easier (relatively speaking) to practice “open communion” and invite other Christians to share with us at the Lord’s Table.
I did a brief series about “open” versus “closed” communion a while back. Now I’m thinking I need to do a follow-up on baptism and see if I can outline a case for why Baptists ought to accept the baptisms of other Christians, even those that differ from our own practices or understandings.
If you’re interested, you can start reading here.
This should be an interesting series, and I look forward to reading what you have to say. Baptism, for whatever reason, is one of the theological topics that interests me most (along with Trinitarian thought).
I look forward to the series even though I probably fit Humphreys’ profile. I am very open communion, but I insist on believers’ baptism. In fact, I am queasy about the baptism of young children!
I’ve always been puzzled that the infant baptizers (my camp) take baptism very seriously theologically, but for some it is just done because grandma wants it, ie “fire insurance.” Yet my brothers and sisters in Christ who baptize older people only, view it as symbolic.
A friend attends the local adult-baptism church where he has been asked to teach a class. Since he is a Christian baptized as an infant, he can’t teach without a pastor in the classroom, yet his wife is allowed to because she was baptized at age 12. So you see why some of us are puzzled by this. And I suppose that others are puzzled by our openness to infant baptism.