John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church are once again taking up the issue of believer's baptism and church membership, questioning whether the door of the local church should be more narrow than the door of the universal body of Christ.
They addressed this not too long ago but dropped the issue when they received some pushback. Now, they are bringing it up again, with no recommendation to the body and no time frame.
At the heart of the issue is Piper's belief that believer's baptism should not be made a requirement for church membership.
In the first of three messages on the topic, Piper argues that his view is based on the fact that he takes membership so seriously. Essentially he says, we take membership in the local church so seriously that we need to open the membership to people who have not been scripturally baptized because their conscience is satisfied with their pedobaptism. (I say "scripturally baptized" because I understand that Piper thinks believer's immersion is scriptural baptism; I am not using that term prejudicially here.)
While there was much in the message worthy of interaction, I will simply pose two questions that come to my mind:
1. Are we really taking membership more seriously when we lower the standards for it?
2. What other matters of conscience will people be able to disagree on and still be members? The historicity of the gospels? The resurrection of Jesus? The Exodus? I think we could make the case that the objective* case for believer's baptism is more clear than an objective case for the historicity of any of the others, and I doubt that anyone doubts the others in "bad conscience." All of those things (and many more) have explanations that do not require historicity, but it seems difficult to deny the command and pattern of baptism in the NT as being believers baptism?
Or what if they disagree "in good conscience" on the necessity of baptism at all?
*By "objective" I mean provable. The scriptural teaching on believer's baptism are clear, it seems to me. The others are presented as fact, but the use of myth in ancient literature is well-established and someone "in good conscience" (as Piper seems to use the idea) could say that these are merely myths designed to teach a bigger story.