I was going to post on this earlier in the week and am just getting to it. The elders of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, led by pastor John Piper, announced a proposed change in the church constitution and bylaws which would allow believers who have not been baptized to become members of the church. In other words, a believing Christian who had been sprinkled as an infant, could be received into the membership of the church without being baptized. The announcement will certainly make waves because, obviously, believer’s baptism is, as the name “baptist church” suggests, traditionally a prerequisite for membership.
(To explain why this is controversial: A Greek note – the very word “baptism” is a transliteration of the Greek “baptizo,” which would be literally translated “immersion.” That is why we technically ought not even use the term “baptism” to describe the sprinkling of infants. Beyond that is the New Testament precedent of baptism taking place after repentance. But I digress…)
Piper explains the change by saying that the elders decided that they did not want to make the requirements for membership in their local church different than the requirements for membership in the universal church – a sentiment which I understand. They have also been clear that, while the requirements for membership in the church do not include believer’s baptism, they do include fruits of repentance (in other words, “regenerate chuch membership.”) Additionally, the requirements for an elder are more stringent and do include agreement with the theological teachings of the church, including believer’s baptism as the biblical teaching.
It’s an interesting argument. What do you think?
UPDATE: Matt Hall has posted a helpful response on his blog.