A Baptism To Remember
“The whole world is like a drunken peasant.
They fall off one side of the horse or the other.” – Martin Luther
An Apology to Joel McDurmon – In Both Senses of the Word
“As Christians, an exhortation to ‘remember your baptism’ is a good one, but this begins with a baptism you can actually remember.”
Joel McDurmon of American Vision just wrote a post tracing back to their Arminian doctrine the deceit and manipulative tactics use by, and even marketed by, the Elevation Church to increase their baptism quota. He writes:
If “saving souls” is the main end-game of your Christian faith, and if the free will is the last hurdle of salvation, then why would you not what the help of an army of marketers, managers, assembly lines, pre-packaged directions, techniques, tools, processes, and networks of support farms and professionals who can claim “billions served”?
It’s only from the standpoint of the doctrines of grace that it makes sense to criticize these manipulative tactics. It is encouraging that some Christians seem naturally uneasy when a church like Elevation admits what it does. But Elevation is just a mote. Free will theology is the plank.
Well, my nickname is Bully and I saw red. A discussion ensued on facebook which did not end on very good terms. Of course, this is something that rarely ever happens (not). I believe what I wrote was entirely objective, and at least as gracious as Mr McDurmon’s opinion piece, however re-reading it, it was badly worded and Joel, a writer whose work and ministry I admire, took it personally. I wrote:
God is neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian. He is sovereign yet He very obviously holds each person accountable for their decisions. These truths are parallel lines that only meet at the throne of God. While the manipulation of Elevation Church is clearly a perversion of Arminianism, the cowardice, apathy, conceit, disengagement, bookishness and carnality of those who not only baptize the unregenerate and label them “Christians” but use Calvin as an excuse for a failure of personal witness, which is the premier task of the Church, makes me sick. Get off your high horse. Your “we are God’s people” Covenant construct is as much a manipulation as this is.
So, my sincere apology to Joel, who is certainly a faithful and courageous witness. What angered me was not simply his failure to see or deal with similar errors on the Calvinist side of things, but the snide attitude of many Calvinists in the subsequent facebook comments. If freewill theology is a plank in the eye of the Arminian, then a repentance-free “Christian” identity is a plank in the eye of the Calvinist.
Where Elevation has fallen off one side of the horse, Joel, with the well-meaning “Baptism Is Not Enough” Covenant construct he supports has already fallen off the other. Both methods muddy the crystal clear qualification of “Christian” by encouraging and honoring what is merely “natural.”
My point was that forcing God’s hand through deceit and manipulation in either direction is wrong. I don’t know if Elevation is actually preaching a Gospel of repentance and faith amongst their cultic stuff, but if they are, and those who, though manipulated, actually repented and believed, their baptism still has the required “ingredients” and is still valid in God’s eyes, unlike any paedobaptism, which is as much a “perfectly logical” outcome of a self-righteous one-eyed Calvinism. I’m not excusing Elevation’s tactics, but their baptism still submits to Scripture in a way that no sprinkling ever did.
Billy Graham visited Australia in 1959 and preached to crowds which were skeptical and yet had a “Sunday School” upbringing. The responses were huge, and emotional, and yet this country has benefited from the ministry of the thousands who were converted at those events ever since. (Video ckip here) So you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We know John was a Baptist because he preached like one. Ha!
In all cases, a tree is known by its fruits. It’s time we stopped pitting planting/watering and the harvest against each other. That’s the real problem. Sprinklers just want to plant and water and fools like Elevation just want a harvest every week.
“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41)
This verse is not an indication of a really busy day for the midwives. Your infant baptism was no more a work of God than an emotional manipulation is. Both are simply the work of men, at the will of a man.
Certainly, these are strong words, but I write them because I love baptism and hate to see it distorted into manipulation by either Arminians or Calvinists. As Christians, an exhortation to “remember your baptism” is a good one, but this begins with a baptism you can actually remember. If it doesn’t, then you are placing your confidence in something or someone other than the perfect work of Christ.
I’ll keep reading Joel’s books, articles and passionate opinion pieces. And I’ll try to keep calm. And both of us pale in comparison to the vitriol of Martin Luther.