During our special business meeting this Sunday, we’ll be discussing the new Statement of Core Beliefs that has been prepared by the Diaconate.
I appreciate all those who’ve been studying & thinking about the document. I’ve received several comments and they’ve all been helpful.
One question had to do with the subject of baptism. This person was wondering why the proposed Statement does not specify baptism BY IMMERSION (to distinguish us from baptism by SPRINKLING.)
It’s possible the membership may want to add the words BY IMMERSION; for now, let me explain why it wasn’t included in the original proposal.
Distinctive versus Core Belief
First, the Diaconate tried to distinguish between so-called Baptist Distinctives and Core Beliefs.
Baptism by immersion is a Baptist distinctive. In other words, it is a belief or practice that distinguishes First Baptist Harlan from other Christian churches or denominations. Other Baptist distinctives include such things as what we believe about the Lord’s Supper, as well as our particular form of church governance.
In contrast, Core Beliefs are those beliefs or practices intended to distinguish Christianity from other religions. They include such things as what we believe about God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, sin, salvation, the role of the church and future things. All these things distinguish us from other religions. Moreover, they are generally agreed upon by the global Church.
With regard now to baptism, there is 100% agreement within the global Church that Christians ought to be baptized. However, the global Church DISAGREES as to the appropriate method of baptism.
As you know, a large segment of the Church baptizes infants (via sprinkling), while another large segment restricts baptism to believers by immersion. Baptists have historically practiced the latter. (There’s actually a 3rd practice, but for our purposes today, we needn’t get into that.)
Agreeing to Disagree
So, who’s right? Both sides present a strong case. I am personally persuaded that baptism by immersion is the form or manner of baptism which most fully preserves & accomplishes the meaning of baptism.
But (and this is a big “but”), I don’t think I can be dogmatic on the issue insofar as the Bible does not speak with crystal-clarity concerning it.
The appropriate manner of baptism appears to be an issue about which well-meaning, sincere Christians can agree to disagree. For this reason, the words BY IMMERSION were not included in the proposed Statement of Core Beliefs.
I should mention that baptism by immersion IS (and remains) in our church Bylaws. This means that, in order to become a member of First Baptist Harlan, the person needs to have been baptized by immersion. The Diaconate believes that the Bylaws is the appropriate place for setting out our distinctives.