The IMB and Baptism
Also on Nov. 15, IMB trustees elaborated on their policy for the forms of baptism acceptable for missionary candidates. The new policy declares that candidates must have been baptized in SBC-affiliated churches or have received believer's baptism by immersion in another denomination or non-denominational church. If the candidate received baptism in another tradition, it must be viewed as symbolic rather than sacramental or regenerative. Also, the church or denomination in which the baptism took place must adhere to the doctrine of the "security of the believer," or the belief that one cannot lose one's salvation.
I am concerned with the final sentence. In an email I sent to some friends of mine earlier tonight, here are my thoughts on this issue:
Regarding the IMB's stance on baptismal qualifications, I think, for the most part, this is fine. In fact, for the most part, this seems consistent with what the BFM2000 states (trusting that it is a faithful guide to what Baptists believe and not a creedal formula of incantation, as if Baptists would ever spend the time to memorize it if they had to). As representatives of the SBC, IMB appointed missionaries should, I believe, submit to BFM guidelines for baptism. I think baptisms located outside the SBC are valid, so long as they are baptistic (as the BFM describes baptism as an act of obedience symbolizing identification with Christ, for believers by immersion).
However, I am troubled with the last statement of the paragraph. I find no link between the validity of one’s baptism as being performed upon a right recipient (a regenerate believer) in a scriptural manner (by immersion) with the statement that the church/denomination must believe in the eternal security of all believers. While the doctrine of eternal security has been an historical part of our baptistic confession, I do not ever remember it being linked to the validity of one’s baptism. I do not mean to misrepresent the article, and hopefully the article accurately represents the IMB trustee’s position. However, I read this to mean that one being baptized in a Free Will Baptist church (for example), as a regenerate believer, by immersion, as a symbol of his/her union with Christ, still constitutes an invalid baptism in the eyes of the IMB. Even if a person was baptized in non-“eternal security” church, how does this impact his understanding of baptism? And even more, if he/she is applying to serve as IMB missionaries, there is a very high probability that he/she does believe in the eternal security of all believers.
If there was a change in a person’s theology regarding this issue, I see no reason to rebaptize them. I don’t think Calvinistic churches rebaptize people who become Reformed Baptists if they came from more of a General Baptist background (or vise versa). Churches do not rebaptize those who come out of a deacon led church into an elder led church (or vise versa). My point is that a change in a person’s understanding of security, as far as I’m concerned, should not dictate the need for another baptism so as to be seen legitimate in the eyes of the IMB. It is altogether a separate issue to be appointing those who do not hold to eternal security as missionaries by the IMB, but this does not seem to be the point. Simply because baptism is performed by a church not endorsing eternal security, the IMB deems such a baptism unqualified for missional appointment. This seems to go too far for me.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you see baptism as a legitimate link to service in the IMB? Do you see any link between baptism and eternal security?
posted by Jason Sampler at 9:57 PM