Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Baptist Catholicity. . .
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.