Shall (Can) We Gather At The River?: A Response To Lemke’s Nine Marks Of Baptist Identity -- By: Mark Rathel

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 05:2 (Fall 2008)
Article: Shall (Can) We Gather At The River?: A Response To Lemke’s Nine Marks Of Baptist Identity
Author: Mark Rathel


Shall (Can) We Gather At The River?: A Response To Lemke’s Nine Marks Of Baptist Identity

Mark Rathel

Baptist College of Florida

Personal Points Of Appreciation

First, I appreciate Dr. Lemke’s concern for Baptist identity. Legendary Yale church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette claimed: “I am a Baptist by heritage, by inertia, and by conviction.”1 I am a Baptist by heritage only in the sense that a young Christian Baptist lady, now my wife of nearly thirty years explained the gospel to me. I remain a Baptist partially by inertia. I received three educational degrees from Baptist schools; the majority of my close friends are Baptists; and even though I try to be a catalyst for change, I live my life in a Baptist comfort zone. Yet, I remain a Baptist because of personal conviction. I see a close correlation between the New Testament and Baptist teachings. Being a Christian entails convictions and a commitment to distinctive Christian principles. Likewise, being a Christian Baptist ought to involve convictions and a commitment to distinctive Christian Baptist principles. In the midst of our Baptist self-identity crisis, I hope we can rediscover the joy of being Christian Baptists by conviction.

Second, I appreciate Dr. Lemke’s emphasis upon the importance of baptism.2 Like Dr. Lemke, I affirm that New Testament baptism entails the right subject (believer), right mode (immersion) and right meaning (union with Christ through immersion as a symbol of death and resurrection). Further, I concur with Dr. Lemke that some Baptists disregard or ignore the distinctive of believer’s baptism. Unlike Dr. Lemke, I do not understand Calvinistic Baptists within the Southern Baptist Convention as the source of this threat to baptistic theology and practice of the ordinance. Rather, I perceive churches in which biblical authority is an issue as threatening this distinctive. A generation of leaders within the Southern Baptist Convention lack knowledge of the concept of “alien immersion.” Yet, in Baptist history, Baptist associations disfellowshiped churches that recognized “alien baptism.” Perhaps the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry could undertake a research project related to the practice of “alien immersion.”

Third, I appreciate Dr. Lemke’s recognition of Calvinist Baptists as a “valid expression of the Christian faith.” Caustic, emotional, vitriolic language, from both sides, has accompanied the resurgence of Calvinism with the Southern Baptist Convention. In his sesquicentennial history, Jesse Fletcher commented that the theological issue of ...

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