So far in this series I’ve hovered in the years 2004-2007, because so much of what happened in those years led me to where I am today.
And where am I today, spiritually and doctrinally? (I want to keep within eyesight where this series is going so you can follow along better).
I’m a catholic, orthodox Protestant, but with a very troubled faith in some regards. I have been looking for the Church catholic for 15 years now, and am feeling a bit lost in the woods. The reason this prompted my writing is because I can’t seem to find where I am, spiritually and ecclesially (that would mean in reference to the Church catholic). I know I am in the Body of Christ; I know I am a part of the universal Church, but translating that into concrete worship and service in a local church has proven frustrating.
And what am I?
I know I’m catholic, little c, because I believe the things Christians have always believed regarding the rulings of the first 500+ years of ecumenical councils, I hold to the early creeds without reservation.
I know I’m orthodox, little o, because I believe the things the Apostles and prophets wrote in the Scriptures.
I know I believe the Scriptures because I am a Reformation Protestant, and allow the weight of the Lutheran and Reformed confessions to outweigh my own exegetical prejudices. The Lutheran and Reformed confessions of faith are the closest any confessions/catechisms are to the inerrant doctrine of the Scriptures. But what do I mean that I allow the weight of these confessions to outweigh my own exegetical prejudices?
Scripture, Tradition, and Water
What I mean is most clearly illustrated in the question of baptism. In my own exegesis of the Scriptures, I am just barely, barely persuaded by credobaptism, that is, that only professing believers should be baptized. When I read and interpret the Scriptures on my own, I find the case for credobaptism to be ever so slightly stronger. So I’m being clear, infants are excluded from baptism in this credobaptist reading of Scripture.
I must, however, take note of the fact that the clear majority of Christians throughout the past 2,000 years have practiced paedobaptism, even though not all for the same reason. Credobaptism may have had very early adherents, but paedobaptism is the norm in catholic, orthodox Christianity. In heterodox bodies such as Rome and the Eastern churches, paedobaptism is the norm as well, and their baptismal traditions reflect the instincts of the early Church consensus from which we all spring.
So you see, if I am to be in submission to the Church catholic, looking to find her and fellowship with her as a servant to the Body of Christ, I must look for a paedobaptist congregation. My very serious dilemma is that I belong to a tremendously loving credobaptist church. The people and pastoral staff at Webster Bible Church are gifted with a family love like nowhere else I have gone in church life. To leave would be devastating for my wife, for me, and perhaps for some of our church family who know and care for us. This dilemma is a daily crisis for me. I am not exaggerating.
The crisis became a thousand times more acute recently when my daughter was born, now almost 4 months old. I am under no unsure conviction to have her baptized as soon as possible. Now how on earth can I have this done for her, to initiate her as a disciple in the Church catholic, to bring her under the means of grace by which our gracious God does His saving work? How?
I don’t know, and I am torn right in pieces.
To add to this dilemma, I recently helped to teach and convince a wonderful young Christian sister in Germany of the credobaptist position, mere weeks before I myself became fully convinced of the paedobaptist position. She deferred the baptism of her newborn upon the teaching I had published on this very blog, and through our interactions on Twitter. Our friendship has been mutually encouraging and fruitful, and so how do I face her knowing I have changed my convictions on such a critical matter of importance?
I am torn right in pieces.
If you were me, would you try to change Webster Bible Church to see things your way? Of course not. I wouldn’t even begin to imagine such a massive shift in doctrine could come from the natterings of one differently-convinced member.
So I pinch my eyes closed during the “ordinances”–(I put that in quotes to indicate I am using a stipulative definition; I don’t mean to be rude)–in my church, just praying for God’s help and grace in what to do. In Baptist churches like mine, baptism and communion are seen as merely outward symbols of an inward reality. Baptism is your show of commitment to Christ, and communion is our remembering Christ until He comes. There is little or no acceptance of these “ordinances” as means of grace, whereby God does something for us (gospel)–instead they are seen as purely law (all these things you must do), reminding us of the gospel (what God has done). By that I don’t mean Baptists don’t see and experience the gospel in the sacraments, but rather, that their power and meaning is veiled and truncated. Sadly, communion is only celebrated once per month, and that without wine or unleavened bread. With all love and concern I say this: Baptist sacramentology is schismatic and separatist.
And that’s just a brief preview of where this series is going.
But before I get there, i.e. here, to the present, I must continue to map out the past. It may not be riveting writing, but I need to see it in black and white to make sense of it for myself and my family.
Next few posts I will write about my time in a fundamentalist, Bible Baptist, King James Only church, my time in a Calvary Chapel who quit being Calvary Chapel, and my shift to a Reformed-ish Evangelical church.
In future posts, I will talk about the Monday night prayer meetings which transformed my religious faith and practice forever, my encounter with the teaching of Paul Washer, and the light of the Reformed faith which dawned on my life 11 years ago.
Your comments are welcome below.