Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Baptism in the Theology of A. H. Strong - An Analysis - Part II

The Administrator

To be fair to Strong, his primary view of the administrator is in harmony with the one presented by his contemporaries and by modern Baptist theologians, for he sees baptism as committed "to the charge of the whole church to observe and guard."[62] For Strong, therefore, it is the church that appoints the administrator, and the de facto administrator is the pastor.[63] It is only in the section on the subject of baptism that Strong, probably reacting to the impact of Landmarkism,[64] apparently diminishes the qualifications of the administrator to nil. It is also in this section where one sees a shift from Strong's consistent Christocentric ecclesiology to a more anthropocentric ecclesiology.

[62] Strong, Systematic Theology, 905.

[63] See: Garrett, Systematic Theology, 531; Hammett, Foundations for Baptist Churches, 261; White, Duesing, and Yarnell, eds., Restoring Integrity, 116; as well as Weston and even Dargan's concept of "under authority" and Carroll's understanding of baptism being committed to the church. Cf. Carroll's emphasis on the officer and Dargan's characterization of Strong's view as the liberal view. After quoting Strong's view, Dargan states three objections to it: "The first objection is that it goes against the two inferences from Scripture; that the agent should be himself immersed, and act under authority. So far as these inferences are entitled to any weight, they make directly against the liberal theory. A second difficulty is that this theory is denominationally inconsistent. . . . The third, and perhaps strongest objection is that this theory of the agent does not sufficiently safeguard the proper observance of the ordinance. It is too sacred and important a matter to leave to the conscience of the candidate alone, so that if he is satisfied with his immersion by an unbaptized person the Baptist churches ought to be" (Dargan, Ecclesiology, 390-91). To be fair to Strong, here Dargan misrepresents Strong's position and ignores the other statements made by Strong about the administrator.

[64] See Garrett's discussion on the rise of the issue of proper administrator among Southern Baptists (Garrett, Systematic Theology, 531-32), in parallel with Strong's de-emphasis on the qualifications of the administrator and the lack of need for a Baptist apostolic succession (Strong, Systematic Theology, 948-49).

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