Monday, January 10, 2011

Baptism in the Theology of A. H. Strong - The Administrator of Baptism

As for the administrator, he "is simply the organ of the church."[34] Strong does claim that one of the "duties" of the pastor is to be the administrator of the ordinances, but curtails this statement when he writes that the church is not "absolutely dependent upon him in the matter. . . . In an emergency any other member appointed by the church may administer [the ordinances] with equal propriety, the church always determining who are fit subjects of the ordinances, and constituting him their organ in administering them."[35] Ultimately, for Strong,

baptism is primarily the act, not of the administrator, but of the person baptized. … Since baptism is primarily the act of the convert, no lack of qualification on the part of the administrator invalidates the baptism, so long as the proper outward act is performed, with intent on the part of the person baptized to express the fact of a preceding spiritual renewal.[36]

To which he adds that "nothing but the absence of immersion, or of an intent to profess faith in Christ, can invalidate the ordinance." Therefore, "we have no need to prove a Baptist apostolic succession. If we can derive our doctrine and practice from the New Testament, it is all we require."[36] This is why, in the context of the formation of a new church, Strong, pointing to the benefits of forming a council of churches for advisory purposes while insisting on the autonomy of this new church, states that if a group were "providentially precluded from access to existing churches, [they] might rightfully appoint one of their number to baptize the rest, and then might organize, de novo, a New Testament church."[37] It therefore comes as no surprise that Garrett claims that "Strong was not influenced by the Landmark rejection of 'alien' immersions."[38]

[34] Strong, Systematic Theology, 906.

[35] Ibid., 916-17.

[36] Ibid., 948-49.

[37] Ibid., 902.

[38] Garrett, Baptist Theology, 302.

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