Friday, June 2, 2017

The Hardshell Re-Baptism Difficulty

A few years ago my father, God rest his soul, told me that my ex father-in-law, Elder Newell Helms, called him to ask help in dealing with a man who had joined Union Grove church. He had come from the Sovereign Grace Baptists and could not understand why he needed to be baptized again, as the Hardshells were requiring of him. I was amused at how both father and Newell could not give good scriptural reasons for requiring this of him. The only thing that they could find fault with about the man's former baptism was that it was, in their view, performed by an unauthorized administrator. In their view, only ordained ministers of a valid church could be administrators. The problems with this view are several.

First, is baptism a church ordinance, under the control of the church, or a ministerial ordinance, under the control of the minister? If the Hardshells say that it is a church ordinance, then they contradict themselves in denying that the great commission was given to the church. The authority for baptizing was given in the great commission. But, if this commission was not given to the church, then why argue that baptism is a church ordinance? If it is not a church ordinance but a ministerial ordinance, then ministers have the sole judgment as to who to baptize.

Second, the authority to baptize, in the great commission, was delegated to all who teach, and surely this is not limited to ordained ministers. Do Hardshell parents not teach their children the gospel? Do "licentiates" not teach the gospel? Our Baptist forefathers who published the 1644 London Confession, for these reasons, taught that any disciple who teaches, or makes converts, may baptize those converts. This clearly is the teaching of Scripture. They reasoned that if a disciple can be a means in giving sinners the gospel and salvation, the reality, then they certainly can give them the symbol of that reality.

Third, though the scriptures define baptism in terms of immersion, and limit the ordinance to those who have believed, they do not make the administrator of the ordinance to be integral to it. There is no scripture that says "only ordained ministers can administer baptism." To demand that the brother desiring membership in the Hardshell church renounce his former baptism, though he sees nothing wrong with it, requires the Hardshells to give clear scriptural reasons for it. If they cannot, then they are committing serious sin in getting this brother to renounce it.

Fourth, if the administrator must meet validity requirements, then who decides his case? Further, if an administrator be immoral or guilty of a heresy, and this invalidates all his baptisms, then it can be argued that there are not valid baptisms today in the Hardshell church, seeing, as Elder Sylvester Hassell confesses in his history of the Hardshell church, that the Hardshells came out of Arminian churches! In other words, if we trace the baptismal lineage of administrators, and we find one administrator that was not qualified, then every baptism in the chain of baptisms since that administrator must be judged as invalid.

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