July 01, 2006

On Donatism and Anonymous Comments

Donatism was the error taught by Donatus, bishop of Casae Nigrae that the effectiveness of the sacraments depends on the moral character of the minister. In other words, if a minister who was involved in a serious enough sin were to baptize a person, that baptism would be considered invalid.
from CARM

It has been alleged that the Baptist practice of extending church membership only to those who have been baptised as believers is Donatism. Anyone who has followed the debate can see that it has nothing to do with the person who administers the baptism; rather, it has to do with the appropriate subject for baptism.

The question was raised as to whether Dr. Al Mohler's stance on baptism as a requisite of church membership makes him a Donatist. Ironically, the commentor who disputed this defines Donatism much as CARM does: "donatism was concerned with the validity of the sacraments administered by people who supposedly did not have the right to administer them. It viewed the sacraments not in an objective way, but as intrinsically dependent upon the qualities of the one administering them. It did not necessarily question the Christianity of those whom they denied could administer it, and it certainly did not question the Christianity of those receiving the sacrament." Compare this to Dr. Mohler's actual statement:

baptism has been understood by all major branches of Christianity, throughout the centuries of Christian experience, to be a requirement for church membership and the fellowship of the LordÂ’s table. Thus, for Baptists to receive into the membership of a Baptist church (or to invite to the LordÂ’s Supper) any believer who lacks such baptism, is to receive non-baptized persons as if they were baptized.

Any compromise of Baptist conviction concerning the requirement of believerÂ’s baptism by immersion amounts to a redefinition of Baptist identity. More importantly, it raises the most basic questions of ecclesiology. We must give those questions intent attention in these days. Otherwise, will there be any Baptists in the next generation?

Baptist ecclesiology defines the proper subject for baptism as one who has been regenerated -- thus, believer's baptism. Anything else is thus not considered scriptural baptism. The conflict we have, then, is whether scriptural baptism is required before someone is admitted into the fellowship of a local church. As the pastor of Henderson Hills reminds us, Baptist churches are autonomous, so the decision is made by that church. And the rest of us can agree, or disagree.

I happen to disagree.

Now, on anonymous comments. I don't allow them here. I don't care if you don't leave your name, but you have to leave a valid email address. Why? The main reason is accountability. The Internet is a place where we can shoot our mouths off without a thought of the implications of what we're saying. If a name is attached, the post or comment becomes our thoughts, and we have to face the consequences. Without that name, we can say whatever we want, portray ourselves however we want, and behave however we want without having to be concerned about what our actions say about ourselves.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 12:06 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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