Thursday, January 6, 2011

Baptism in the Theology of A. H. Strong - Baptism, Not Primarily the Entrance into the Church

The concept of baptism as the entrance into the individual church is not central to Strong, as evidenced by the fact that one does not find a section dedicated to the topic but only a few references to it scattered throughout the text. Due to his Christocentric stance, he finds a flaw in adopting this concept as the main meaning of baptism. He states:

Baptism is sometimes figuratively described as "the door into the church." The phrase is unfortunate, since if by the church is meant the spiritual kingdom of God, then Christ is its only door; if the local body of believers is meant, then the faith of the candidate, the credible evidence of regeneration which he gives, the vote of the church itself, are all, equally with baptism, the door through which he enters. The door in this sense, is a double door, one part of which is his confession of faith, and the other his baptism.[30]

In the same vein, Strong points out that his definition of the church is not "a body of 'baptized believers,' because baptism is but one of 'Christ's laws,' in accordance with which believers unite themselves."[31] So, baptism, as an outward representation of an inward regeneration, is a qualification for membership,[32] but to make this the central or only meaning of baptism probably would be too anthropocentric for Strong.

[30] Strong, Systematic Theology, 949.

[31] Ibid., 890.

[32] Ibid., 900. Regeneration and baptism: "i.e., spiritual new birth and ritual new birth; the surrender of the inward and of the outward life to Christ; the spiritual entrance into communion with Christ's death and resurrection, and the formal profession of this to the world by being buried with Christ and rising with him in baptism."

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