Maranatha is Baptist -- By: David Saxon

Journal: Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal
Volume: MBTJ 01:1 (Spring 2011)
Article: Maranatha is Baptist
Author: David Saxon

Maranatha is Baptist

David Saxon1

Shortly after arriving to teach at Maranatha Baptist Bible College in 1999, I heard from one of my colleagues that he was “first a Baptist, and second a fundamentalist.” I found that interesting because I had always formulated my identity in the opposite fashion: “first a fundamentalist, and second a Baptist.” My reasoning was that one must believe the fundamentals of the faith before the beliefs that make one a Baptist even matter. The fundamentals relate to the gospel, after all. What could be more foundational—fundamental—than the gospel?

After serving at Maranatha for a number of years now, I am beginning to understand my colleague’s formulation of the question. He is certainly not suggesting that the Baptist distinctives are more important, essential, or foundational than the fundamentals of the faith. They are, however, more defining. Affirming that one is a fundamentalist certainly links one with a great and historic tradition of belief in and defense of the gospel. The New Testament, however, clearly proclaims that the central institution in this dispensation for promulgating the

gospel is the local church. Saying that one is a fundamentalist says little about one’s understanding of the local church and its purposes. Once one affirms that he is a Baptist, understood historically, then he has said a great deal about how he believes God is working in this dispensation. For us at Maranatha, being a Baptist includes adherence to the fundamentals of the faith but adds additional clarifying information about where we stand and why we are here.

Maranatha is certainly a fundamentalist institution and has been throughout its history. Furthermore, Maranatha is committed to dispensational hermeneutics. But the designation that made its way into the very title of the institution is Baptist.

The Importance of Careful Definition

In an age characterized by ecumenical dialog, there is a prevailing tendency to identify core elements in one’s faith that other Christians share and to celebrate the unanimity that results from focusing on those doctrines. In the case of organizations like the World Council of Churches, such a process has led to the abnegation of doctrinal commitment and the relativizing of the very concept of truth. The result is a pluralistic, postmodern religion that rejects the Scriptures as the authoritative norm for theological reflection.

Among evangelicals who claim to accept the binding authority of God’s Word, the distillation

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