How David and Terri Wegener have blessed us...

Pastor David Wegener and his wife Terri have been a great gift to the ministry of Clearnote Church, Bloomington while on home assignment under the Presbyterian Church in America's Mission to the World this past year. Terri has taught women's Bible studes and David has attended session meetings, taught in Clearnote Pastors College, sat on the Pastors Council of Clearnote Fellowship, and preached. So watching them prepare to return to Ndola, Zambia, I've been thinking about when David and I first met at a presbytery meeting of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

David and I served as teaching elders in the same PCA presbytery for almost twenty years, now. Time has flown. God is good.

The rest of this page is a discussion of whether or not Reformed credo and paedobaptists should ever acknowledge one another's existence or worship together.

Meanwhile, I've taken the former text of this post, updated it, and posted it under the title, Looking for a church in Bloomington or Indianapolis?

(TB)

Comments

"First, we believe churches should be accountable to one another."

Dear brother,
this is precisely why, after reciting all the benefit, blessing and association these dear churches have, they ought be accountable (in) the denomination you mention.

Living out an overcoming of sectarianism, which is and always has been, always will be unto our Lord returns, a call of the church. All the attributes you mention go both ways.

Blessings.

Say, I don't mind if I do!

Dear PCA Friend,

We would have to split our church in order to join the PCA. Clearnote is blessed to have both credo-baptistic and paedo-baptistic officers. Sadly, the PCA's constitution will not accept this generous commitment to internal catholicity.

Warmly,

Actually for a Calvinist true catholicity would allow for Lutherans before Baptists. The PCA has a number of failings but thankfully permitting credo-baptism is not one of them.

Jody Killingsworth
"We would have to split our church in order to join the PCA. Clearnote is blessed to have both credo-baptistic and paedo-baptistic officers. Sadly, the PCA's constitution will not accept this generous commitment to internal catholicity."

You are correct.
In a confessional denomination, the doctrine confessed would need to be a unified one on that point. A lot of biblical truth flows from that. Officers, in particular, would need to receive and protect that doctrine.

For example, the Westminster Standards would not fit the situation you describe.

In reformed theology, the unity of the church must be based on doctrinal agreement, which is its "confession."

Reformed theology recognizes the universality of the church, but not of "confession." (That's why we have denominations)

Blessings.

Dear Friend,

If reformed theology does not recognize the universality of confession, and if denominations are divided on the basis of confession, why are there so many "reformed" denominations that recognize the Westminster as their confession?

Warmly,
Max

"For example, the Westminster Standards would not fit the situation you describe."

As the post says, "Clearnote Church, Bloomington is PCA in our doctrine (or maybe I should say the PCA is Clearnote Fellowship in her doctrine) since both the PCA and Clearnote Fellowship require our officers to subscribe to the Westminster Standards (while allowing certain limited exceptions to those standards)."

It seems to have been working pretty well for the past 12 years or so.

Miss you all a whole bunch!

Dear David Gray: Is it more important to be united on election and the atonement and sanctification and perseverance or on the timing of baptism?

Presbyterians and Lutherans disagree on election and the atonement and sanctification and perseverance. They agree on the timing of infant baptism but disagree on the meaning of baptism. So what do we really have in common?

RBs and Presbyterians agree on election and the atonement and sanctification and perseverance. We disagree on the timing of baptism.

With which group do I have the most in common? It's not even a question, is it?

Warmly,

>Is it more important to be united on election and the atonement and sanctification and perseverance or on the timing of baptism?

Baptists don't understand the covenant so we don't agree on the nature of salvation.

>Presbyterians and Lutherans disagree on election and the atonement and sanctification and perseverance. They agree on the timing of infant baptism but disagree on the meaning of baptism. So what do we really have in common?

Calvin would differ. We agree on election (save the occasional hyper-Calvinist). We agree on the atonement and santification. We don't agree on perseverance. Their understanding of baptism is much closer to the Calvinist and Westminsterian understanding than is that of the Baptist.

That's why Calvin could sign off on the original Augsburg Confession and Luther could give a thumbs up to Calvin's reply to Sadoleto and his treatise on the Lord's Supper. And why he wrote against the re-baptizers.

I'm afraid we're miles apart, David. Though I didn't expect you to agree with me, it's probably of no use to continue to discuss.

I have little in common with the Lutherans I have read. You seem pretty close to them. I can read John Piper and can come away affirming (for all practical purposes) every jot and tittle. You think he doesn't understand salvation. Not much common ground, eh?

Warmly,

Not as much common ground as might be desired. I've spent the last seven months in an LCMS Bible study, led by their pastor, including a discussion of election and that is a primary source of my understanding of where they stand.

I've met John Piper, worshiped in his church and listened to his sermons. There's a lot to admire (although I hated having a sermon video in an actual church service) but his unreformed/unreformational elements can't so easily be separated from the other bits. Theology and doctrine don't strike me as a situation where you just take one from column A, two from column B and one from column C until you have a nice mix that makes you comfortable. Westminster says Piper's position on baptism is sin. I believe Westminster is right.

Dear Pastor,

Jody in post#3 asserts that the church has "credo-baptist" officers, that's the only basis for the response, because I am not familiar with the church.

The point being that that doctrine (only baptize adults) is not consistent with the Westminster Standards, which would, as her post asserts, not make it a PCA congregation.

While I greatly respect and admire the general work I understand you to be doing, it's not enough to say just like PCA but not submit to the government and discipline of the church (e.g. the presbytery). That's part of the doctrine also. Granted, there may be reasons for not wanting to do that.

Yet, I do believe it would be far better to be in that, imperfections and all, working with and through the Presbyterian system within the PCA, not independent.

God uses accountability, both directions, church to presbytery and presbytery to church for the mutual edification and protection of His people.

Blessings.

It may be difficult to follow in the back-and-forth.

The assertion by Jody Killingsworth (post #3)
"Sadly, the PCA's constitution will not accept this generous commitment to internal catholicity."

is what the post responded to. The point was that the Westminster Confession summarizes the doctrine of Scripture to include the infant children of believers as members of the visible church, with promises and baptizes them.

So, there is not a basis for unity there.

One could not have a church that disagreed with that and share the Westminster Standards, let alone other doctrine confessed, such as in the PCA.

That's not even to debate the point of infant baptism, not to say the communion is not biblical, only that there is an honest, major difference which prevents unity of confessed doctrine. The response is to the assertion made in post #3, and specific to it.

>>One could not have a church that disagreed with that and share the Westminster Standards, let alone other doctrine confessed, such as in the PCA.

Wrong. This is precisely the situation at Clearnote, or didn't you read the post? The WCF is our joint confession, allowing for an exception on time and mode of Baptism for the sake of our Reformed Baptist brothers. You seem to think such a union is impossible. But here we are, living proof. The PCA makes this exception all the time, too. Her membership rolls are littered with Baptists. The only difference is Clearnote Fellowship allows RBs who are Biblically qualified to be officers. You tell us to break fellowship in order to join the PCA. Having known the blessing of this internal unity, I can't think of anything more repugnant. Sad the PCA wouldn't have our otherwise happy and healthy WCF confessing congregations.

Someone really ought to research what percentage of PCA officers have been allowed to take exception to a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 (WCF IV.I). I'm guessing that number would be remarkable. Yet not one of them would be allowed to take exception to the time and mode of Baptism. Can somebody say "shibboleth?"

May I ask my paedobaptist brothers who think Baptists are the ones who don't understand the covenant to read Stephen Wellum's chapter in 'Believer's Baptism' - 'Baptism and the Relationship between the Covenants'.

It really is worth the read.

Jody,

I'm not sure about being referred to as "litter".

:)

Love you.

Dear Friend,

I am aware of the Westminster's doctrine on the baptism of the infant children of believers, its particular designation for the pope, and its doctrine of 'not even a thought of recreations on the Sabbath'.

My point was not made to determine who subscribes to it most purely. I was pointing out that at least one denomination issuing from the Westminster came into existence not for the purpose of ensuring pure subscription-ism, but rather to escape/combat/answer the liberal trajectory of the PCUSA on many issues, especially the anthropological.

The PCA was an escape pod from which it is nearly time again (in the cyclical decline of institutions) for men to escape. Her members are showing no evidence of a willingness to discipline her wayward trendsetters.

But hey, at least you'll keep those anarchistic baptists in their place.

Jody Killingsworth said,
"Wrong. This is precisely the situation at Clearnote, or didn't you read the post? The WCF is our joint confession, allowing for an exception on time and mode of Baptism for the sake of our Reformed Baptist brothers. You seem to think such a union is impossible. But here we are, living proof. The PCA makes this exception all the time, too. Her membership rolls are littered with Baptists."

Not sure where you are coming from, brother.

The Westminster Standards do not teach adult-only baptism. (The London Baptist Confession does).

The PCA does not allow officers who believe in adult-only baptism, because that is inconsistent with the Westminster Standards.

Believing in adult only-baptism is not merely about the "time and mode of baptism," it goes to the substance of the covenant theology of the Westminster Standards, and the inclusion of the children of believers in the promises evidenced by baptism.

Your post #3 seemed to acknowledge those points correctly.

>>The Westminster Standards do not teach adult-only baptism. (The London Baptist Confession does).

I couldn't agree more.

>>The PCA does not allow officers who believe in adult-only baptism, because that is inconsistent with the Westminster Standards.

And yet they allow officers to deny six literal days, break the Sabbath, sing hymns, and go soft on Rome. All inconsistent with the WCF. But the proper recipients of Baptism, that one's out of the question.

>>Believing in adult only-baptism is not merely about the "time and mode of baptism," it goes to the substance of the covenant theology of the Westminster Standards, and the inclusion of the children of believers in the promises evidenced by baptism.

The reformed Baptists among us happily affirm the WCF formulation of the covenant (WCF VII) excepting only the question of time and mode (WCF XXVIII.III-IV). This is an exception we charitably allow and the PCA will not.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm of the paedo persuasion.

Jody Killingsworth
"The reformed Baptists among us happily affirm the WCF formulation of the covenant (WCF VII) excepting only the question of time and mode (WCF XXVIII.III-IV). This is an exception we charitably allow and the PCA will not."

You are correct, the PCA would not allow this.

It's not about charity.

It's about confession, accountability and the government and discipline of the church.

Blessings.

As a Baptist father of several baptized children, I disagree with your characterization of the Baptist position as "adult-only baptism." That simply is not true, and it changes the flavor of things considerably to represent it that way.

Having attended both ClearNote and a PCA church, I do like the fact that the PCA church has one stance on baptism. In my own limited experience, having this standard seems to result in less confusion on baptism with congregants and more time can be spent developing what that baptism means rather than differentiating between the two allowable positions. Moreover, while the PCA does allow officers to have exceptions on other things, allowing a difference on opinion over the sacrament makes it clearly obvious every time there is a baptism that the church is not united in doctrine on this point.
Regarding the PCA's allowing various views on Genesis, it is my hope (perhaps unfounded) that this exception be disallowed in the future as it is injurious to the faith.

>It's not about charity. It's about confession, accountability and the government and discipline of the church.

He said to an ordained minister of the Word and sacrament, while writing under an assumed name.

It's time to stop taking you seriously, I'm afraid sir/madame. Try again when you're ready to disclose your true identity.

It is worth noting that the PCA does allow Reformed Baptists as members, just not as officers. I entered the PCA as a Reformed Baptist. I was glad that under its teaching I grew to be Reformed in the rest of my doctrine.

>>> He said to an ordained minister of the Word and sacrament, while writing under an assumed name.

Thank you for saying this. The world will bridle at any use of authority for good, but without it everything begins to fall into confusion.

Dear Brandon,

I couldn't disagree more. While we wouldn't avoid requiring officers to take one specific position just for the sake of generating discussion, my observation is that our allowance of two different positions on time and mode of baptism leads people at ClearNote to spend an above average amount of time "developing what baptism means". Instead of just mindlessly going with the flow of that particular congregation (not saying you do that, but plenty of people do) when a baby is born at ClearNote (on average every three weeks), every parent here has to wrestle with the questions of time and mode, with the help of their elders. That wrestling often requires very valuable study of the sacrament. As a result, I'm convinced we have far fewer members who believe in baptismal regeneration than many Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Campbellite-Christian churches.

Some readers will say, "But Lutherans and Presbyterians don't believe in baptismal regeneration!" To which I reply, "You don't know your elders and fellow congregants." One of the most disappointing things about this thread is the continual parading of the PCA's supposed unity on paedo-baptism. It's like saying all Roman Catholic priests are against birth control and believe in celibacy for priests. That is to say, it's a joke. Not only does the PCA have many officers who don't agree with the WCF on creation, it has plenty of officers who don't really agree with the WCF when it comes to baptism. Having been both in the PCA and at ClearNote, I'm left concerned that this isn't simply a blind spot for the PCA but that the denomination as a whole is losing its capacity for self-awareness and self-criticism. When that happens, losing the capacity for repentance isn't far behind.

(By the way, I too am a paedo-baptist.)

With love,

>my observation is that our allowance of two different positions on time and mode of baptism leads people at ClearNote to spend an above average amount of time "developing what baptism means".

But that isn't particularly a good thing if the position they come to leads them to sin.

Why is it that Reformed congregations, in general, do not flourish in middle class or lower class towns or neighborhoods?

Mr. Gray,

What part of John Piper's position on baptism would be considered sin, according to the WCF?

I ask this legitimately, since we are a family that is, at the moment, sitting on the fence between the paedo and credo views -- and extremely perplexed.

We went from ClearNote (where we became of the paedo persuasion) to a PCA church (where we became members and our first two babies were baptized), to now attending a reformed Baptist church that would describe themselves as "anabaptists" -- they won't allow me to become a member since I was baptized as a baby in a Lutheran church, unless I am re-batized. We also welcomed our third child recently (who they will obviously not baptize). We have remained at this church vs. attending one of the PCA churches we visited in our new area for a long list of reasons that I won't go into right now.

From what I understand of John Piper's church is that they would allow me to become a member, correct? If our current church hypothetically let me become a member without being re-baptized, how would that be sin?

Jody,

I have heard about many families going from credo views to paedo views
(your being one of them if I am not mistaken?), but I was wondering how often it is, at ClearNote, that families are convicted in the opposite direction?.

Or perhaps Pastor Bayly, Baker, or Curell could better answer that?

Looking forward to seeing you all in July!

Warmly,

>From what I understand of John Piper's church is that they would allow me to become a member, correct?

Unless something has changed very recently the answer is no. They proposed such a thing, which would allow these semi-Calvinists to allow John Calvin to be a member of their church, but such a howl arose that they backed down. Still credit them with at least initially intending well.

The part of the WCF which explicitly identifies this as sin would be this:

"IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized."

"V. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated."

Failing to baptize your infants would certainly be to neglect this ordinance.

It is also interesting to note that when we read the WCF it is reasonable to conclude that grace and salvation are ordinarily annexed unto baptism but not inseparably so nor is it tied to the moment of administration.

And let me make this clear, I like John Piper. There is a great deal to like about the man. When I say something is sin it isn't as if I'm not a sinner and don't have grounds for daily repentance.

>>I have heard about many families going from credo views to paedo views (your being one of them if I am not mistaken?), but I was wondering how often it is, at ClearNote, that families are convicted in the opposite direction?

It happens (or has happened). How frequently, I really can't say. But the movement seems to be more often in the paedo direction, yes.

Ah, but David, "don't agree on the nature of salvation" and "sinner" are two very different things, aren't they?

>>Ah, but David, "don't agree on the nature of salvation" and "sinner" are two very different things, aren't they?

Absolutely but read the part of the WCF I quoted which clearly delineates Baptist doctrine on baptism as sin.

It would probably be more accurate to state that Baptist practice regarding baptism is sin.

And technically the WCF says it is a "great sin."

Come on David, you're smart. Surely you see that you've evaded Joseph's question. You don't want to say that to commit the "great sin" of neglecting infant baptism is tantamount to denying the very "nature of salvation," do you?

Do you?

>It would probably be more accurate to state that Baptist practice regarding baptism is sin.

Yet the WCF warns against the sin of "neglect" here. We can fault RB practice in a number of ways, but to say they "neglect" infant baptism isn't at all fair.

>>Come on David, you're smart.

I'm glad you're rushing to judgment.

>>Surely you see that you've evaded Joseph's question.

No. You're equating two things that I didn't say were the same, which I thought clear if you look at the original context. The sin of condemning and neglecting baptism wasn't what I referred to when I said we differed on the nature of salvation. Baptists generally don't have a covenantal view of salvation the way the Reformed do. I know, I was one for a great many years.

>>Yet the WCF warns against the sin of "neglect" here. We can fault RB practice in a number of ways, but to say they "neglect" infant baptism isn't at all fair.

Now I'm going to remind you that you are also a smart fellow. A failure to baptize one's infants is to neglect the sacrament. And to say that baptizing one's infants is wrong is to condemn it. You do see that, right?

Mr. Gray,

The WCF passage you quoted condemns as sin the neglect of baptism, not the neglect of infant baptism.

But let's follow your position to its logical extreme:

According to the WCF, the neglect of infant baptism is a sin. In fact, it is a "great sin." If so, it is a sin that many congregants at ClearNote are guilty of. That being the case, it is also a sin that they are unlikely to repent of. To have any member of the congregation clearly living in great sin without repentance would require church discipline of some sort. So it seems that your disagreement with ClearNote is not just one of doctrine, but also a dispute over the application of church discipline. If that's the case, your future responses ought to address that issue as well.

This appears to be the logical conclusion of your position. If I've misrepresented you, please correct me.

Sincerely,

>>The WCF passage you quoted condemns as sin the neglect of baptism, not the neglect of infant baptism.

Gee whiz. The WCF understanding of baptism specifically requires infant baptism.

>> That being the case, it is also a sin that they are unlikely to repent of.

Don't underestimate the Holy Spirit.

>>So it seems that your disagreement with ClearNote is not just one of doctrine, but also a dispute over the application of church discipline.

How often should a Christian repent?

Why is it that in normative corporate worship we include corporate confession of sin and generally include our confession for sins of which we are unaware?

I would argue that the kind of accommodation that ClearNote's elders make in this regard is problematic, particularly if they don't all take an exception to the WCF teaching on baptism.

>>If that's the case, your future responses ought to address that issue as well.

Not necessarily, my ambitions are not infinite.

>>Baptists generally don't have a covenantal view of salvation the way the Reformed do.

Baptists "in general" don't have a lot of things, David. Let's compare apples to apples, please. The English Particular Baptists did (see LBC Ch. 7 and Nehemiah Coxe's "Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ"), as do their spiritual decedents, the Reformed Baptists.

What does a PCA church do when an adult is converted to the faith (not previously baptized as an infant). Is he sprinkled in front of the congregation? And at ClearNote, he would be immersed, correct (regardless of whether he becomes a paedo or credo baptist with his own family or not)?

Jody,

I was a Reformed Baptist attending church in East Anglia for several years in a church which was overtly Reformed and held to the London Baptists Confession. I never heard the covenant, as understood by the Reformed, preached from the pulpit once. Read chapter 7 of the LBC. That is not covenant theology. Which makes sense as if you did have a covenant ordered understanding of salvation you would baptize infants. After bear in mind we baptize infants because they are born into the covenant, not because we want them to join the covenant.

And it is my experience in the states that genuinely Reformed Baptist churches are relatively light on the ground. That's why I wound up in the PCA when I was still a RB and I'm fairly certain I don't have a RB Church anywhere near me at present. If I want election in my church the only alternative to the mission church I attend are local LCMS churches.

To be clear we baptize infants of believers because they are already members of the covenant. That is probably a better way to phrase it.

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