Paul Williams' column in the Christian Standard for October 14, 2007 hit on a theme I've talked about a lot in this blog. If you haven't read his article, let me summarize his comments for you. If I miss Paul's point, I trust he will forgive me.
Williams told about visiting an influential Christian church where in a message he linked baptism with death and resurrection. Several asked him why he did so since it seemed to make it sound like baptism has something to do with salvation. Williams remarked that it wasn't his decision to do so, it was the Apostle Paul who did so in Romans 6. The usual challenges followed. After the interchange Williams noted, "The pendulum has swung." He then went on to trace the history of the pendulum swing. He noted that one young minister said he didn't preach about controversial subjects like baptism (my emphasis) or Hell. Then Williams basically said what I tell my Restoration History students each term: You have no right to preach anything but what the Bible teaches. God may do what He wishes, but we have no right not to draw lines where Jesus drew lines. Or as Williams put it, "There are terms to the New Covenant, and it is our responsibility to preach them."
Paul, what took you so long? The pendulum began swinging back in the 1980s. John Greenlee's several articles in the Christian Standard warned about the encroachment of evangelicalism and the compromise of biblical standards. In articles such as "Nose Under the Tent," "Silence at Yorktown," and "Tremors" he foresaw the rejection of clear New Testament thinking. Some of us recognized the pendulum swing for most of those years intervening. Thank goodness we only have one mega church (that I know of) that blatantly states "baptism is the first thing you do after being saved."
There is a ray of hope for us who only desire faithfulness to the Word. Williams points to Christ's Church of the Valley in the Philadelphia area as a congregation that does not compromise on the "tough stuff." I checked out the web site (see http://www.moviechurch.com/about-us/baptism/) to see the church does make a clear link between conversion and baptism. I might phrase it in stronger terms but I can't argue with it. In addition, the site focuses on biblical language rather than human terminology. Isn't that part of the genius of our movement? Oh, by the way, CCV - Philadelphia is, according to Williams, "one of the fastest-growing new churches in the nation." CCV - Philadelphia is a lot more sound biblically and doctrinally than CCV - Peoria, AZ which states that faith, repentance, and baptism have something to do with salvation and they hide that in a statement of faith no one sees except those on staff and in all the time I was there I never heard one message that dealt with any controversial biblical doctrine.
A few years ago Joe Carson Smith, retired minister of Camelback Christian Church in Scottsdale, AZ, started a group called "The Remnant." I suppose it was born out of the sense that only a few remained faithful to the plea and principles of the Restoration Movement. I never joined the group and I doubt I'd ever join any group like that, but I can certainly identify with the feelings that gave it birth. When I read Williams' column and found the CCV - Philadelphia web site it renewed my hope that maybe ... just maybe ... there are (pardon if I mix my metaphors) more than 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.