Answers to "Ask Mike" Questions
26a. Could you explain the difference between the Baptist beliefs and the beliefs of the Christian Churches?
Details: I am in Florida, and have recently been asked to leave my duties at my Baptist church of 27 years , because of three visits to the local First Christian Church. My pastor told me that when I find out how the FCC believes, I will come back to them. Well, I have not heard any teachings other than what I already believe. The pastor at FCC ALWAYS preaches straight from the Bible. Could you help me and explain the difference between the Baptist beliefs and the beliefs of the First Christian Church?
Differences between Baptist beliefs and the Christian Church depend on the "flavor" of Baptist. It is difficult to summarize the differences in a coherent way and I, of course, want to put the best "spin" on things. Let me recommend a new book which Intervarsity Press recently published. It is a good book, especially if you are not "put off" by a more scholarly approach.
It is entitled Evangelicalism & the Stone-Campbell Movement. You can purchase it on Amazon.com. You need to also understand that Christian churches have no formal body of doctrinal believe except what is taught in Scripture. Many churches have a "Statement of Faith," but they are usually very general and unspecific in nature expressing what nearly all Christians affirm. As I understand it, here are the major differences between the two groups:
1. The nature of faith. Christian churches believe that faith is "believing that what God promises he will perform" (Rom. 4:19-20). Humans come to faith by hearing the Gospel (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, faith always precedes salvation. Some, but not all, Baptists believe God gives faith (citing Eph. 2:8-9) that enables individuals to believe. In my view, a correct understanding of Eph. 2:8-9 is that which is "not of yourselves" is salvation, not faith. For those of us in the Christian churches, faith saves you as opposed to human works of merit.
2. The nature and purpose of baptism. Baptists generally believe that baptism is an important step of obedience for the believer. Baptism, for the Baptists, is an "outward sign of an inward grace." It is the initiatory rite which unites the believer to a local church. For most of us in the Christian churches, baptism is the time (not the cause) when salvation is bestowed along with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Baptism provides a number of blessings. It unites the believer with Christ (Gal. 3:27). Because of one's faith, it washes away sin (Acts 22:16). It is a burial with Christ as well as a resurrection with Christ (Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 2:13-14). It places us into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20). It is even said "to save" (1 Pet. 3:21). I believe that baptism in Spirit takes place at the same time one is baptized in water. The Spirit cleanses and the water expresses that cleansing visibly. Baptism is not a work that earns merit, it has no value detached from faith.
3. The nature of assurance. Baptists, except for Free Will Baptists, generally teach the doctrine of the Preservation of the Saints (once saved always saved). Christian churches generally prefer the term assurance. A sincere and genuinely converted believer has the assurance of salvation. To say one can never be lost is to make a judgment about someone else's conversion, a step we prefer not to take. In my opinion, this is a war over words. The genuine believer will usually not fall away and thus has assurance. That is not to say, however, that one may be a genuine believer and later choose to reject and deny the Christ who saved him. The real issue is whether or not the believer may have assurance. One is not saved one minute and lost the next. A believer may know he is saved as long as he trusts Christ rather than his/her own ability therefore while I do not teach "eternal security," I do not teach "eternal jeopardy" either. A believer may have confidence in Christ. Only in the rare cases when a believer may walk away, never to return (which we sometimes call "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit") will an individual once a believer potentially lose what they gained (see Heb. 6:4-6, esp. footnote d in the NIV).
4. The frequency of the Lord's Supper. Baptists generally observe the Lord's Supper quarterly. Christian churches observe the Lord's Supper weekly believing (rightly, as supported by church history) the early church did so.
5. The doctrine of depravity. Many Baptists believe that humans are totally depraved by heredity. Christian churches tend to teach that humans are depraved (Rom. 3:23). Total Hereditary Depravity says all "parts" of a human are despitefully wicked. Christian churches agree with one exception. Christian churches teach that while the human will is damaged or marred (to mar is to damage without totally destroying), it is still possible to hear and respond to the Gospel in faith. No human can ever "earn" God's favor but an individual may respond to God in faith (Rom. 10:17 and Heb. 11:6).
While some Christian churches are intensely legalistic (as are some Baptist churches), most permit a wide variety of thought about the issues expressed above. For us, belief (faith) that Jesus is the Christ (without reservation) and a willingness to trust him in whatever he commands (including baptism) is all that is required. In Christian churches you will find a variety of views regarding Christ's second coming, but all believe he will visibly return to end the age. You may even find a variety of beliefs about how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relate to one another, but all believe in the full deity of Jesus and the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit. We tend to use biblical terms over the speculative terms adopted in many denominations. We may argue over what we think the Bible says, but we rarely make our conclusions on these issues tests of fellowship. We tend to use the name Christian to describe the believer and the name Christian church or church of Christ to designate the body of Christ as a whole.
I hope this helps in your understanding of the differences between two Christian movements. Baptists are my brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of areas where we might disagree. All of us are in error on one thing or another, but God accepts us because we accept him, not because we are always right.
Question #8: What, if any, differences are there between the Christian Church's view of the Lord's Table vs. for example the Baptist view? Do you believe in Consubstantiation -- Transubstantiation or anything similar?
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