This week’s conversations with brethren from different parts of the Philippines have prompted me to write this post. One was about unbelievably legalistic rules in a fundamentalist Baptist college, which led to a ridiculous opposition to a Reformed student. Another conversation was about an out-of-order, untenable situation in which a young intern finds himself.
First, about the legalism-turned-anti-Reformed episode in the Bible school. A student was invited to the wedding of another former student, and she was so excited to go, along with her sister. But it turned out that many other students were invited, including a guy who is romantically associated with her, through gossip of course. And worse, the pastor officiating the wedding turns out to be one of the faculty. So the school prohibited her from attending the wedding. Then, the accusation turned into guilt by association. She was connected with a group of students who have been involved in Reformed and covenantal studies because her gossip lover boy was one of this group. Now, she waits for her interrogation if she still subscribes to the school’s Arminianism, credobaptism, dispensationalism, and other mainstream “evangelical” beliefs. And if she stands by her Reformed beliefs, she faces the consequence of not being allowed to finish the school year. Or worse, being expelled.
She now wonders how in the world did the wedding invitation turned into questions about her beliefs!
The school is of the Bob Jones type, where there’s all kinds of “dont’s”: don’t go to the movies (but you can watch DVD’s at home); a guy and a gal don’t ride public transportation together; don’t go anywhere without faculty permission; etc. There’s nothing wrong with imposing discipline in the students’ life. If the student is doing drugs, getting drunk, having sex with other students, etc., then by all means, disciplinary action is needed. But all these prohibitions are infringing upon the students’ personal life, and it reminds me of the Anabaptists whose communities were basically, well, communistic.
Second, about the young intern. After graduating from the same Bible college last year, he is now an intern in a Baptist church. He has been assigned Bible study and ministry duties among the youth, and once in a while is allowed to preach. But then he confessed to his pastor and elders that he might not have been saved until he was in his second or third year of Bible school. So the church officers have determined that he should be re-baptized, because his previous baptism was invalid since he was an unbeliever then.
But what about partaking of the Lord’s Supper? Now, it is even messier. Since he is “unbaptized,” then he should not be allowed to partake of the sacrament. But do they realize that the Bible says that those who are prohibited from participating in the Lord’s Supper are excluded because they are unbelievers? So if the young intern was “unbaptized” and banned from the sacraments, then he is an unbeliever. Then why is he, an unbeliever, still allowed to continue his ministry duties in his church?!
Like almost all evangelical churches, baptisms are done during their summer camps, particularly youth camps. So the church has told him that he should be ana-baptized this April or May. He could relent, even if it’s against his conscience, but according to Martin Luther, “to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” If he doesn’t, then he should be prepared to leave his church.
What would you do if you were in their shoes? (Notice, it’s not, “What would Jesus do?”)