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?


Paul said...

To offer a couple of things that I have noticed. First, I believe part of the problem is that baptism isn't be emphasised as it once was. The result is that many leave Restoration Movement Colleges and Seminaries without understanding the importance of baptism.

Second, the majority of books we read are written by people who do not see baptism in the same light as we do. I was shocked a couple of years ago, after a steady diet of Henry Blackaby and Rick Warren, that a lesson I had planned was very Calvinistic it is purpose. We are just not vigilant enough in what we read and listen to. Since our leaders have consumed so much Evangelical literature it has slowly moved us in that direction. So it is good to have a voice calling in the wilderness reminding us how things should be.

Anonymous said...

I think you forgot 1 Peter 3:21. One reason baptism is a necessary part of the salvation process is because that is when the covenant which God offers to us is accepted by us, and we pledge to be faithful to it. It is signed in the blood of Jesus & our own (Ro. 6:1-6). Oh, I know this is risky, but I have to say it, it sounds a little like a marriage ceremony. Keep fighting the good fight and keep your chin up--football season is just around the corner. --Hawkeye Gold

Anonymous said...

Maybe many are seeing the legalism in that theology and the isolationism of "old school" RM. Unity has a bigger and different meaning these matter how you feel about it.

Why don't you guys go start your own denomination if you don't like it where things are going....gesh.

Anonymous said...

How many will follow your archaic ways of doing church and see our great churches of the 60's and 70's continue to die off with their congregations?

i.e. see your old church in Canton. Why is Greg Nettles church growing in that same area and yours isn't??? Let's talk about that.

Anonymous said...

Run for the hills!!! here comes those evil evangelicals trying to change us!!!!

What should we do!?!

Come on, give me a break. Go read John 17.

Anonymous said...

No mention of Baptism at the Jerusalem Council in Acts. Paul said he came to preach the gospel to the church at Corinth, not baptize people...he separated the two. I go could go on, and on, and on, and on...

there are just 7 controversial verses in the Bible about baptism referring to salvation. Just 7. The abundance of scripture, thousands of verses, indicate that a relationship with God is iniated by a personal active decision of faith.

that's not calvinism, that's not evangelical...that's just plain biblical. You my friend are preaching what Paul called in Galatians 1, "a heteros gospel"...a gospel of another kind. Shame on you!

Dr. Mike McNamara said...

I appreciate your take and concern about the change in VIEW and PRACTICE regarding baptism. As Dr. Mont Smith taught me, baptism is "Essene" (hope I got the right spelling).

I believe Paul "bilbo" Steele is correct. Restoration Movement Colleges and Seminaries are NOT teaching the importance of baptism. They are trying to appeal to all kinds and denominational backgrounds and offend none. (I understand this is the new meaning of "evangelical".)

I am a Covenant and Restoration Movement theologian, though theology is not my "profession".

It disturbs me greatly that Calvinism has not "crept" into the Restoration Movement Church, it has FLOODED. Calvanistic thought and theology is now more of the norm. It is no wonder looking at the bios of William Jessup University and others. I looked at the bios of the staff at many Mega Christian Churches and found that many staffers were trained at Talbot and Westminster Theological Seminaries.

I shuddered and asked where things are going to end. I am encouraged that "bilbo" Steel discovered the Calvanistic purpose and doctrine of R. Warren. This is true for the work of Kay Arthur, who is also gaining a foot hold in the Restoration Movement Churches.

I am not disparaging those teachers! I believe that what they present needs to be scrutinized and supplemented and even compared and contrasted with what is presented in the NT. I do not believe these authors intend to leave out the NT, I think they do not see the Calvinism that they were taught and never looked beyond what they learned.

Keep up the good work Mike and "Bilbo"!
Blessings to you and your ministries.

Anonymous said...


Do you know William Jessup University's position on baptismal regeneration? Their doctrinal statement seems to indicate they believe it but it's not stated clearly -- as you have indicated is true of many churches.



Anonymous said...

Today Satan has deceived many individuals on this subject. From the form, to the purpose. Satan’s presence for deceiving people has been from the beginning and continues today. I know a minister, who says that he has the Holy Spirit and that God talks to him. I asked him to ask God a question in his prayer time. “Is water baptism required for salvation?” He came back to me and said that God has told him in the past and told him again this time as well, from my request, that baptism is not part of salvation.
My position on this is – how can the Holy Spirit who instructed Mark to write Mk 16:16; Luke to write Acts 2:38 and 22:16; Peter to write 1 Pet 3:21, John to write John 3:5, speak differently to a man 2000 years latter? I am convinced that this voice, this minister heard, was not the voice that instructed the writers of the Bible. Also, when one looks in Acts of the conversions that took place, there was always a believer present, presenting the Gospel to a non-believer. Today people say they are saved by themselves with no one present, just say this prayer and sign your name as many pamphlets state.
So when I talk to individuals who claim that they are saved and have the Holy Spirit, if water baptism is required for salvation they general say NO (95%+). They where saved without baptism is their statement.
I wonder if they really believe in Jesus and if they have the Holy Spirit. Because if they did, the Holy Spirit indwelling them, they would have said A-men to what Jesus said and what the Holy Spirit instructed to be written…… And not reject it, make reasons and justification to not believe Jesus’s Words..
Mark 16:16 is the simplest answer to the question – “Is water baptism required for salvation.” Jesus says YES. Do you believe His words? Or Satan’s?
2 Thess 2:9-12
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.


Anonymous said...

Even if v.16 is a genuine part of Mark's gospel, it does not teach that baptism saves, since the lost are condemned for unbelief, not for not being baptized.

Jeff Jacob said...

This blog quoted:
"Alexander Campbell came to the conclusion that baptism was 'for the remission of sins.'"
What is the biblical teaching about Jesus' baptism -"one who did not know sin"?

1 Corinthians 5.21 (NIV) says,
"God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that God's righteousness might come about in us."

I understand that Jesus' death was for the remission of our sins, not anything we do.