Wednesday, July 20, 2005
On Being Disingenuous
It seems like all I ever write about these days is baptism. Ugh! I hate that, but it is exactly at this point where Satan is doing his work.
I've been doing something interesting over the past few weeks. The Christian Standard article on "Statements of Faith" a few weeks ago picqued my curiosity. I wondered what all of our mega-churches were stating on their web sites so I did a search and visited the web sites of nearly all the churches listed in the Christian Standard as a mega-church. I'm in the process of analyzing what I found and categorizing the results after which I'll post the results.
In the process, I discovered something quite interesting. Since the Standard published an issue featuring an interview with Gene Appel and Mike Breaux, many in the movement think Willow Creek Community Church is virtually a Christian Church or Church of Christ. The Standard article asked, "What's going on at Willow Creek?" Well, I can tell you this! At this point they are not making a transition from a typical evangelical mega-church to a congregation that identifies with the principles of the Restoration Movement!
Appel and Breaux talked about how they had not changed their views on baptism and related, in the article, that there had been 40 immersions. Why Willow had even built a baptismal pool in the building. Well, I can say without reservation that I'm genuinely happy about the 40 immersions they reported. That's wonderful!
But ... that is not the church's "official position." A look at Willow Creek's online Statement of Faith reveals some interesting facts. First, Willow does insist on believer's baptism. They see biblical baptism as resulting from individual choice. Thus, infants are not consider candidates for baptism. Second, those who come to Christ are free to choose the mode of baptism. They may elect to be immersed or sprinkled.
Appel and Breaux mayreport 40 immersions, but how many others opted for sprinkling? They certainly, and for obvious reasons, don't tell us that! As many candidates that Willow receives, wouldn't you expect there may be as many who choose sprinkling as immersion? Even if there is only one that is one too many. The original language leaves nothing to even hint that sprinkling is an acceptable mode for baptism. The very fact that Appel and Breaux encourage immersion is irrelevant. They are both in a position where, if they are to follow the church's stated official position, must sprinkle those who choose to be sprinkled. Even if they do not do so themselves, they are giving tacit approval by continuing to work and teach within the church's stated position.
Furthermore, being in the traditional evangelical mindset, Willow sees baptism as symbolic of an inner change God has already worked. Although some of our best known preachers promote the idea that "we don't know when God saves," such statements run counter to all we've stood for in the effort to restore biblical authority and New Testament Christianity. Alexander Campbell came to the conclusion that baptism was "for the remission of sins." Although he is not our authority, the Bible is, and this is clear biblical teaching! Campbell stated again and again that the reason he and others we so boldly attacked by the Baptists is that they stood for "baptism for the remission of sins." To say we can't say when salvation occurs flies in the face of Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:25-27, and Colossians 2:11, 12. Of course, even these references assume that "faith works" in that it results in salvation at the time of baptism, the point at which God promises to bestow the Holy Spirit, wash us clean, and regenerate us. It is a step away from biblical authority and into the realm of Calvinistic Baptists rather than upholding biblical authority. It is a step toward antinomianism rather than the erection of a creed to deny that the Bible says salvation is assured at Baptism.
Many of our church's look to Willow for methodology. How many will follow Willow and Saddleback into their erroneous theology?