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Thursday, January 11, 2007



My theory was that way back when, the very act of adult baptism marked you out as distinct from the state church paedobaptists, so it was odds on you also subscribed to the other distinctives.

Of course in a post-Christendom world, you have many people recieving adult baptism and with Baptists in most places making concessions towards non-full immersion, the lines get blurred.

I've seen this get pretty messy back in Australia where a lot of diaconates have people with unreconstructed charismatic and reformed outlooks which naturally lead them to fairly un-Baptist ideas about church goverance etc.

For me personally, the fact of my fully dunked adult baptism is one of the least interesting aspects of the remaining shreds of my Baptist identity


I still don't know what the "baptist distinctives" are and until Mr B's posts had no idea there really were any. In fact, I remain to be convinced that they are distinctive. I wonder though. If a baptist is often not a "baptist" anymore, the word has really lost it's original meaning. I might say lost it's distinctiveness :-)

Glenn Innes

Is this not the same in all denominations. (Pentecostals could (and do) argue that many of their distinctives are being "eroded", Anglicans will surely also feel the same way) If Post modernism, is post anything it is post-demominational. People care less about the distinctives between churches, denominations and movements and more about the life of Christ they find in a particular congregation. Be that Baptist, Pentecostal, Anglican or whatever.


Glenn - while in the main I'm thinking about those churches that would take the name Baptist (i.e. denominationally) I think baptist distinctives are also found elsewhere.

For example there's a church plant in the west end of glasgow that has no connections with the baptist denomination, indeed most people in this denomination would never have heard of it. If you were to describe this church you may want to stick the emerging tag at the front. (PS - I'm not thinking of emergent as a denomination). Yet I'd see this church as an expression of the body of Christ that embraces many of the Baptist destinctive - indeed this is something I observe in many EC churches.

My point for those within the Baptist movement is why do we reduce inclusion to one issue, i.e. baptisim, when being a baptist is about so much more?

(PS hope your well and enjoying life as a Dad).


But what's the "so much more..."? Is it to do with governance, history/tradition, theology? How they select pastors? Which particular (!) areas they are strict on, where they differ with regards to Rome, Canterbury or 121 George Street?



For a whole variety of reasons I continue to be fascinated by this discussion about baptist and its meaning and at least have invited some leaders from the Baptist Union of Scotland to look in (lurk) I guess.

Re. Fernando - here we are different - I don't see baptism as a kind of meaningless person being dunked thing. Rather in such an act, something happens, something is proclaimed, something is done - of spiritual, biblical, social, and political significance. It is a public performance moment of public choice and freedom that marks the intentionality of ones association and destiny in the way of Christ. That to me is important. When I attend now other peoples 'baptism' I see it as a remembering act of my own and the significance of that, I see it as a communal act - we all share actually in the one baptism, I see it as a proclamation act - now will we continue to walk in this way.

Re: talkrhubarb - what is the 'original meaning' or distinctiveness that you think has been lost or is no longer present - and is this good or bad?

Re: Nodrog - the 'so much more' is indeed a matter of governance, history, tradition (and how we understand it) the nature of biblical authority, understandings of freedom of religion, nature of ministry etc. etc.

Re; Me - I'll shut up, get lurking, and/or get my tail back to my own blog.


Stuart - 'original meaning' was shorthand for all these other things talked about as being the 'so much more'. I think it only matters if you want to be distinct. I'm wondering what is the point of being distinct and what we're being distinct from? When people told Richard Wurmbrand they were from an independent church he'd ask "independent of what?". Brodie's post here just proves to me that to all intents and purposes there are no distinctives for most people attending baptist churches these days. We can't start from where we'd like to be, where we once were, or where we think should be. We have to start from where we are. By our practice we've determined that these days to be a baptist IS all about believers baptism. Therefore, when you talk about being baptist it doesn't mean what you want it to mean.
It makes no sense to me to talk about baptist distinctives that Baptists don't display but are demonstrated elsewhere. Surely that means that they're not baptist distinctives? They're distinctive of something else.


Hi talkrhubard: Me I want to be distinct because of the 'so much more' implied in 'baptist'. Is such an aspiration of working out the rule of Christ in that way a bad thing?

Me I would tell Wurmbrand that with the anabaptists I want to be distinct in my practice from the areas of the main stream Reformation churches and their descendants where they did not go far enough in allowing the rule of Christ to shape their understanding of discipleship not least because of the primarily Constantinian understanding of the relationship between Church and State they adopted.

That is just where I am at.

That many Baptist Churches do not display 'baptist' distinctives is not denied here or in my own blog. I agree with you. Indeed in that they do not display or practice these I am sure that there is little difference between them and other mainstream evangelical Churches. I am sure that many people in Baptist churches have no idea of what it means to be Baptist other than that we practice believers baptism (as do many other groups). I agree that this is where we are at.This was Brodie's initial concern here I think. For me though, rather than a gain I think that this is a shame precisely because the 'so much more' is lost.

If the 'so much more' is lost from Baptist churches that raises questions of 'Baptist' identity not 'baptist' identity as I am using the terms and as I think Brodie is.

Indeed I guess overall as a 'baptist' Baptist, my own concern is that if Baptist does not contain the distinctiveness of 'baptist' (this term indicating the historic distinctiveness you talk about) then there really is little point in claiming a 'Baptist' distinctiveness and the term 'Baptist' as meaning anything distinct does as you say make little sense.

I guess however, through all the polemic I think that Baptist churches would be the richer (having the so much more) with greater attention to the possibilities of the tradition ('baptist)to which by their name they claim to adhere. We may not be there but hey I have aspirations, and visions, or maybe am just a dreamer.

I am not trying to be annoying or insulting and sorry if it is coming across that way.


Stuart - I'm not annoyed or insulted - sorry if I came across that way. I'm all for vision, dreams and working out the rule of Christ. Clearly you see the tradition as liberating, challenging and inspiring. But I think there's a "so much more" beyond the tradition that I'm wary of being locked in to it. The more I'm talking about it, the less I believe in baptist principles as being foundational to my faith. I guess that's where I diifer from you and Brodie.


Actually baptist principles are not foundational to my faith, the Lordship of Jesus Christ as expressed in and through the authority of the Scriptures are. baptist principles/practices are simply one historic and contemporary expression of that which if lost I think is to the deteriment of the larger Christian community. I don't have a Jesus/Scripture AND tradition authority but a rule of Christ authority but am interested in working out that Rule in a particular way. We actually all work it out in one way or another and this is mine but no-one else is or need be compelled to chose it nor should they be.


Sorry Stuart, my bad. I in no way meant to imply that you were more baptist than Christian! I apologise for being particularly dense about all this.


Stuart & Talkrhubarb - I've been away so not able to contribute to this. Hey great discussion - it's live having some friends round, popping out to do something and coming back to find they've gone to the kitchen got a coffee and made themselves at home.

what more can I or should I add? Well a couple of thoughts spring to mind.

Mr T - many of the priactices that Stuart and I would see as baptist disctintives are as you point out practiced by other churches. Two comments on this (1) thus some churches are baptistic with a small b! (2) what is distinctive about baptist identity is not one practice / distinctive, but the way these practices are blended and understood. It's very much a case of the whole being greater than the sum of it's parts.


I didn't say Baptism was " a kind of meaningless person being dunked thing." It is neither meaningless to me, nor meaningless in principle.

But, on a biographical level; if you want to know about my individual Baptist Identity - then the historical circumstances around the event of my Baptism won't tell you much. In that sense it is not interesting.

ON another level it also not that revealing because I share full imersion Adult Baptism with a number of non-Baptist friends. Again this does not make meaningless, but it does mean that the Baptism we share doesn't tell us much about why I'm a Baptist and my friends are Anglicans/Pentecostals/non-Denoms.

andy goodliff

Fernando I think you are right to say that believer's baptism is not unique to baptists. In fact many of the other distinctives we share are present in other church traditions. Is the unique thing about baptists is that we share all our distinctives together? I think the danger of baptists is of reducing baptists to merely their view on baptism. See my post 'what's baptist about baptists' on my blog for some further thoughts


Fernando - your experiance gets to the heart of the issue that I'm trying to raise in this post, namely there's a lot more to baptist identiy than the act of Baptism. Yes the act of Baptism is part of it, but for me and I think historocally baptist identity has flown from the synergy of different practices that are not unique to baptists but that baptists blend in perhaps a unique way. I therefore come back to my original question - if this is the case then why in many baptist churches do we elevate the practice of Baptisim above the other practices. I'm not wanting an exclusivism here whereby there are loads of hurdles to jump to "join" a baptist church, but it would be nice if someone wanted to jion that they had some concept of baptist identity that went beyond the act of baptisim.

andy goodliff

Brodie - you've said exactly what i was trying to say. i like the phrase 'baptist identity has flown from the synergy of different practices that are not unique to baptists but that baptists blend in perhaps a unique way'


Andy, I agree that it is the blend/comingling of elements that is distinctive. We can euolgise FIBB all we want but that won't get us to the heart of being Baptist.


Brodie, all I can offer to your question is really in the first paragraph of my first comment. I wish I had a better thought out answer, but I don't.


Fernando - I guess what your first comment shows is that certain acts or practices of the church carry more significance in different contexts.

Many years ago I spent a few weeks in Nepal and had the joy of meeting some Nepalese Christians. What struck me was that it was at the point of Baptism that incredible opposition to their new found Christian faith really started. Reflecting on this and your comments I suppose one reason for this was that Baptism was a visible act which declared to their communities that now subscribed not only to a set of beliefs but practices which were other than the rest of society and which could bring them at odds with that society.

I must admit that I'm a bit amazed that there have been so many comments here, but I'm also encouraged to see that there's been something of a conversation take place, a mutual sharing and learning together.



Yes, I think you are probably right. The act of Baptism was a signifier of a whole bunch of other commitments, including radical discipleship, vision of church life, etc.


Fernando - you are quite right you did not say what I implied you did. Sorry. This is actually like many a conversation I am in over things that matter - I spend a good bit of my time apologising.

Me - I agree that JUST to understand baptist identity in terms of believers Baptism is reductionist. But I don't want us to respond to that by having a reductionist view of believers Baptism. Not to do that I guess is to put it in the context of... well as Fernando puts it - 'a whole bunch of other commitments, including radical discipleship, vision of church life etc.' Have we nearly come to the same place here?


Nothing to do with Baptists, baptists or Baptism - really like the new look site - Show off.


stuart - just thought it was time for a change


If I can be permitted a late-entry to the conversation...

Stuart said:
"Actually baptist principles are not foundational to my faith, the Lordship of Jesus Christ as expressed in and through the authority of the Scriptures are."

In my understanding, this foundational focus on the Lordship of Christ is itself a baptist principle, isn't it?


In that we all interpret God's revelation in Scripture from a position...

In that within the broad reformed tradition we look to that position itself to be formed and corrected by God's revelation in Scripture...

Yes you are right - the position I adopt towards Scripture is a 'baptist' position but that does not make 'baptist' principles foundational (foundational itself is a tricky word) but rather an interpretative perspective, one which itself is open to critique...

Is this a hermeneutical circle - to be sure - but one which I think every position ultimately has, has to acknowledge, and in turn seek to respond to, with integrity and humilty before the self- revealling God with the purpose of living a life of discipleship. Through all my rants and biogs this latter end is the goal.

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