Category Archives: Baptists

Baptist Distinctives Day 6: Two Offices

Independent Fundamental Baptists believe that instead of having a plurality of elders, the church leadership should consist of two basic offices: The Pastor and His Flunkies (note: I am totally using this name if I ever start a band). Seriously, though, the offices consist firstly of the Pastor who is the teacher, administrator, CEO, head chef, marketing director, and all-around Grand Poobah in charge of everything. There are also some deacons who are in charge of changing light bulbs and chewing gum removal.

The requirements for becoming a pastor are stringent in fundyland. You have to be male. You have to claim to have heard THE CALLâ„¢. You have to own at least one serviceable suit. You have to not be divorced. And you have to be in the good graces of a couple other pastors. Education, wisdom, gentleness, and professionalism are completely optional.

The requirements for a deacon is that he also be a male who is not divorced. Lord only knows what corruption a divorced man would bring upon the janitors closet. The role of the deacon actually varies from church to church, ranging from “sycophant” to “toady.” Strangely enough, though, the job description found in Acts of of making sure the poor are fed somehow rarely gets much priority. Deaconesses are simply never spoken of.

As for all that stuff in the Bible about bishops, elders, and whatnot…well those are obviously all talking about the same exact job: Divinely Appointed King.

Baptist Distinctives Day 5: Saved and Baptized Church Membership

For today’s distinction we sat down with Pastor Dr. Bro. Raymond Heller pastor emeritus of  Soulwinners Only Baptist Church in Houston, TX for a brief Q&A about the importance of having a saved and (then sometime later) baptized church membership.

SFL: Hello, Dr. Bro. Raymond Heller! Thanks for agreeing to talk to us today.

Dr. Bro. Heller: I’m always glad for the opportunity to tell apostates, heretics, and baby baptizers where to go. And by that, of course, I mean I like to tell them where to go in the Bible to see that I’m right and they’re headed straight to perdition.

SFL:  So let’s get right to it.  Why do Baptists believe in a saved and baptized church membership?

DBH: We believe that because the Bible says it in…well, a bunch of places. Also because all the other churches which are full of unsaved people have corrupts everybody’s manners with bad conversations. An unsaved membership is also what has lesbian, drum-playing, baby baptizing pastors taking over churches across America.

SFL:  So how do you know who in your church is actually saved? Isn’t God the only one who can see the heart?

DBH: Well we can’t be 100% sure of course that any individual person is actual born again. But after a person makes several professions and is baptized four or five times, we feel that it’s a pretty good indicator of their sincerity. I mean they wouldn’t keep coming back to make sure they really, really mean it unless they really, really meant it.

SFL: Can you list me some other ways that you can be reasonably sure a person is saved and safe to include in the church membership?

DBH:  Well, a few trips down to the altar during bible conference help to show a tender heart. Driving the bus for the missions trip to Mexico shows a willingness to serve. And of course we’re always looking out for people who give until it hurts and then give until it feels good and then give until it hurts again but in a way that strangely feels kind of good.

SFL: So what I’m hearing is that you really have no more idea whether your baptized church members are saved than the member of churches who baptize babies do?

DBH: Young man, this sort of evil questioning leads me to think that you sound to me like a person needs to get saved and baptized himself.

SFL: I appreciate your concern but I’m actually already a believer.

DBH: Well it can’t hurt to pray again just to make sure. Here let me show you a few verses…

Baptist Distinctives Day 4: Two Ordinances

Rather than having multiple sacraments Baptists hold to “ordinances” of which there are only two: baptism and communion. Both of these are held by Baptists to be purely symbolic in nature and contain no efficacy whatsoever. Just because they’re symbolic, however, doesn’t mean that they’re not worth spilling gallons of ink (and possibly blood) over.

The qualifications of a candidate for baptism are a pretty straightforward affair in fundyland. You have to be at least old enough to repeat the sinner’s prayer more or less intelligibly after a Sunday School teacher and you have to be willing to take the risk on getting water up your nose if the pastor’s handkerchief hand slips. Although baptism is considered an act of obedience, to a Baptist, getting dunked under water serves mainly as a testimony to the community that the person is publicly professing his faith. The fact that nobody in the Bible ever appears to have had this motivation for being baptized doesn’t bother them in the least.

Like baptism, the Lord’s Supper is also a completely symbolic affair — the only difference being that if you screw around with it, God may very well up and kill you. Seriously. Perhaps it’s this mortal danger (or perhaps it’s just that it takes away from the amount of time the pastor has to preach) but communion doesn’t happen all that frequently in fundyland. After all we wouldn’t want to remember Christ’s sacrifice too often. That kind of frequent ritual is reserved for things like praying a blessing over every Snickers bar and bag of potato chips.

In reality, the list of two ordinances is far from complete. There are a plethora of other observances in fundamentalism that may not make it onto the official list but are are required all the same. These include Church Attendance, Tithing, The Praising of The Pastor, and Sewing Your Own Jean Jumpers (with bedazzlers!) and so on.

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man.

Baptist Distinctives Day 3: Priesthood of the Believer & Individual Soul Liberty

We’ll come back and hit “Two Ordinances” tomorrow but I’m going to combine the discussion of Priesthood and Soul Liberty into one today.

The P and I of the BAPTIST acronym can most easily summed up as the “We Ain’t No Catholics” declarations.

For unlike the papists, every Baptist gets to be his very own priest and can directly access God to pray, confess his sins, and debate the efficacy of abstaining from meat on Fridays. The absence of a priest does not mean, however, that the penitent man gets a free pass. Penance will be exacted each Sunday morning after the second hymn while the organist plays Nothing Between.

Individual Soul Liberty, on the other hand, theoretically grants each individual person the right to decide for themselves what to believe and practice based on their understanding of what the Scriptures command. This is the reason why fundamentalist churches allow each person the freedom to set their own personal standards based on their convictions rather than exerting authoritarian rule. (Permit me a moment to wipe away the tears of mirth after writing that) No, but seriously though, there has never to my knowledge been a recorded case of a fundamentalist actually being caught practicing soul liberty and living to tell the tale.

Combine these two points together and they definitely prove that Baptists are not Roman Catholics. Yet, somehow, similarities remain. For all the lip service to liberty it seems that they are as dependent on the traditions of men as any person possibly could be.

“We already have our own local pope and household god, thanks. We don’t need to be bothered with yours.”

Baptist Distinctives Day 2: Autonomy of the Local Church

While most (although certainly not all) fundamentalists acknowledge that the universal church is composed of all believers in all places and times, on this side of eternity Independent Baptists are theoretically dedicated to staying as far away from most other Christians as possible. The fear is that if too many Christians get together, they’ll attempt to form a denominational unit and immediately set to dictating policy to individual churches, thereby grieving the consciences of members who have deep personal convictions about matters such as the correct way to pronounce “Johannine.”

Instead of having a denomination which binds churches together in matters of doctrine, fundamentalists instead have fellowships, conferences, and knitting circles wherein the members attempt dominate each other in pretty much every area except legitimate doctrinal concerns. By gum nobody is going to tell the preacher of an independent local church how orthodox his ecclesiology is but (unless he’s the son of a famous preacher or a regular contributor to conference news publication) they will spend four hours questioning him about his decision to move his services from Wednesday to Thursday. We’ll never tell you how to run your church…except for all the times we will.

As one might imagine, fundamentalist camps and conferences split, fracture, and fissure almost as frequently as the churches contained within them do. When you get that many men who fancy themselves as prophets, priests, and kings under one roof there’s bound to be trouble. But not to worry. No matter how much conflict may arise outside the gate, a pastor can always scurry back home to his personal empire where none shall say to him “what doest thou?” and where he’ll never have to justify his actions to anybody.

Autonomy means never having to say you’re sorry.