Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Baptist Catholicity. . .

Apparently there is a newly formed Center for Baptist Renewal, organized by two professors, Matthew Emerson of Oklahoma Baptist University and Lucas Stamps of California Baptist University, which is calling for “Baptist catholicity.”  It sounds like these Baptists are trying to find some way to engage the Great Tradition of Christian. They insist that they are not Anglican or Roman wannabes.  Rather, by Baptist catholicity, they hope to find a way to better situate Baptists "within the broader body of Christ and the historic Christian tradition.”

I have to admit that the Baptists are among those least likely, in my view, to either desire catholicity or to give it much of any importance to their overall identity.  Baptists dispute a couple of the most catholic of the catholic doctrines -- infant baptism (and baptismal regeneration) and the Real Presence (vs the real absence) of Christ's flesh and blood in the Sacrament.  But if Baptists want to find a better place within the catholic history, tradition, and identity, well, who am I to say "no way."

Apparently, they have made specific proposals regarding Baptist church life and the goal of catholicity. These proposals include the use of the classic creeds of the early church and the confessions of the Reformation (including Baptist confessions), the use of lectionary readings, the liturgical calendar, the biblical and historical prayers of the church (especially the Lord’s Prayer), corporate confession of sin, and the assurance of pardon, among other things. They also promote seeing Baptism and the Lord’s Supper less as ordinances and more as signs and seals of God’s grace, expressions of individual faith and bonds of the church’s covenantal unity in Christ.”  In other words, the Lord's Table is about more than mere memory.  But how much more?

What leaves me scratching my head is the fact that this is actually a movement for renewal within the Southern Baptist Convention -- in other words, the SBC, America’s largest Protestant denomination, has a group ready to temper its traditional revivalism and individualism with things liturgical, creedal, or ecumenical.  That is indeed a mouthful to say (even to write).

Whether or not this movement has legs, well, time will tell.  What is shocking is that the Baptists have been rather successful at promoting their individualist tradition which has eschewed the whole idea of the means of grace, liturgy, sacramentalism, and catholicity.   At least until now.  It seems adult baptisms are down, the evangelistic fervor that once characterized the Baptist churches is a bit on decline, and the Baptists are wondering if perhaps there is a way to be Baptist and to engage those more catholic inclined individuals who may be committed to an inerrant Scripture but not only that.  Hmmmm.  Could they really be talking about the WELS?  Okay, it was a bad joke.  These Baptists are not Wisconsin Synod folk in costume.  Well, at least not yet, anyway.


Anonymous said...

Who'da thunk it? Let's cheer them on!

Janis Williams said...

There have been liturgical Baptists (not Southern) for many years. When I was a child (under 12) I remember saying the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer in SBC church services. Having taken part in a Reformed Baptist church at one time, they had this "higher" (but not high enough) belief about the Lord's Supper. This is merely my experience, not statistical research.

The real fly in the ointment is paedobaptism and baptismal regeneration. Some Baptists are backward enough about it that they claim infant baptism is "human work" and credobaptism is the real work of the Lord. Again, this is from personal experience.

This seems to be a step in the right direction, but with no Sacraments, they will likely invent their own versions. Time will tell if anything comes of the intent of these men. However, until the last needed step is taken, they will still remain heterodox. If they take the final step into orthodoxy, why not just change their name to "Lutheran?"