Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Baptism in the Theology of A. H. Strong - Looking at Strong's Contemporaries - Part II

B.H. Carroll (1843-1914)

For Carroll,[46] "baptism is a profession or declaration, public and visible, of our faith in Jesus, as the Sent of the Father and the Anointed of the Spirit, to be our Prophet, Priest, and King." As such, "it is a monument or memorial of [Christ's] resurrection, and a pledge and prophecy of our own."[47] For Carroll, as for Strong, baptism is the immersion of a child of God who has shown evidence of "personal discipleship–personal repentance and personal faith."[48] Also, like Strong, Carroll is "not surprised to find baptism so closely associated in time with the faith which it professes. In apostolic days there was nothing like the modern interval between them. Baptism was at the threshold of religious life. It preceded every other obligation enjoined on the converted." As Carroll continues, though, there begins to be a slight divergence from Strong's position, for this close association of profession and baptism leads him to conclude: "We can thus understand why some called it the 'initiatory' ordinance, and others 'the door' into the church, so interpreting 1 Cor. 12:13."[49]

The greatest difference between Carroll and Strong on the topic of baptism is seen in their view of the administrator of baptism and the intent of the recipient of baptism. For Carroll:

The law of baptism was committed to his church, to be administered by officers of its own appointment … An official act must be performed by an officer. An officer must have been put in office by the organization under which he holds office and to which he is responsible for the exercise of official function.[50]
Therefore "baptism is null and void unless administered by legal authority, no matter what the intent or act of the subject or administrator."[51]

Carroll did not elaborate on the baptism of John, with the exception of his use of it as an example of the correct mode and order of baptism. His view of the inception of the church, though, could be of interest to the discussion at hand. For Carroll, Jesus "instituted his ecclesia on earth. . . . But though the new house was built, it was empty until our Lord ascended into heaven, and fulfilled his promise to send the Holy Spirit as the indweller of this new habitation."[52] This is different from Strong's 'germ' idea that leaves room for John's baptism to be Christian baptism. Carroll also did not opine on 're-baptism'.

[46] During his life, B. H. Carroll was the pastor of First Baptist Church, Waco, organized Baylor Theological Seminary, and founded Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. At the latter, he served as the first president until his death in Fort Worth, on November 11, 1914. See: Carroll, Ecclesia, 171-73. McBeth, in McBeth, Baptist Heritage, 676, lists B. H. Carroll in the Pastor-Theologians section of his chapter on Southern Baptists, noting that he "proved one of the most influential thinkers, as well as doers, of his day."

[47] Carroll, Ecclesia, 93-94; 98.

[48] Ibid., 91; 87.

[49] Ibid., 94. Carroll also would claim that "the conditions of membership in the church on earth are regeneration and baptism. But for the church in glory the conditions of membership are justification, regeneration and sanctification of soul and glorification of body" (23). Cf. Strong, Systematic Theology, 949.

[50] Carroll, Ecclesia, 83. Carroll's use of a civil analogy here is not convincing.

[51] Ibid., 84.

[52] Ibid., 25.

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