Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Southern Baptists

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First, note our new look at Between the Times–pretty snazzy, huh?

One of the ongoing debates in Southern Baptist life over the last four years or so is the relationship between baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Emphasizing the apparent New Testament pattern and ecclesiological consistency (among other things), some Southern Baptists argue that baptism is biblically prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper. Emphasizing Christian unity and ecclesiological charity (among other things), other Southern Baptists argue that any professing Christian who is not under church discipline may partake of communion. Position papers have been written, sermons have been preached, conference addresses have been given, and “bloguments” have been made in favor of each of these views and variations within these views. I have weighed in with my personal opinions on a number of occasions, including a 2006 white paper and a 2008 blog article.

In December 2008, this issue once again became the focus of prolonged blog debate. Southern Baptists on both sides seem genuinely concerned that some of the brethren are not following scriptural teaching in terms of how they administer communion. Southern Baptists on both sides have attempted to marshal either Southern Baptist precedent or wider Baptist history in defense of their respective position. Southern Baptists on both sides have attempted to parse just what exactly the Baptist Faith and Message says and does not say about this matter. I’m not saying all of these arguments have been of equal quality or accuracy–frankly, I don’t think they have. I just want to note that the arguments have been made.

In an effort to try and bring some clarity to this debate, I wrote a short position paper last December titled “Baptism, The Lord’s Supper, and Southern Baptists.” It is an honest attempt to accurately describe each position and sketch out some of the implications of this debate for Southern Baptists. Because the paper is around 4300 words, I decided to make it available as a full document for download rather than posting it as a blog article or series of articles. Please feel free to circulate the paper as widely as you would like and join me in praying that the Lord will lead us to find the right solution to this particular issue.