Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Did Decisionistic Revivalism Marginalize Baptism?

Ardel Caneday argues that it did in his thought-provoking article, "Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement," in this book. Here's his case:
Ironically, since the Great Awakening, [zeal to isolate baptism from Christian conversion] has permitted "new measures" of various kinds, such as the "mourner's bench," the "invitation system," or a recited "sinner's prayer" to displace baptism as the rite of conversion, thus shirking and even marginalizing Christ's command to the church. Zeal to avoid "baptismal regeneration," which many perceived to be the necessary consequence of Alexander Campbell's teaching, actually spawned another error, "decisional regeneration." This was an error rooted in revivalism that is now a traditional element in American evangelicalism. If the former error is to relegate regenerating efficacy to the rite of baptism itself, the latter error assigns the same efficacy to the human decision to act upon whichever measures preachers may use.

The Enlightenment's high estimation of the power of human choice took root in the frontier American church. Regrettably, evangelical churches yielded to confluent streams of revivalism and Enlightenment influences. Though Alexander Campbell unwittingly yielded to the Enlightenment's overconfidence in human reason, he rightly opposed the introduction of "new measures" that began to impoverish churches by the acceptance of conversions that did not yield transformed people. (p. 325, paragraph division mine)

1 comment:

d4v34x said...

Since none of the heavyweights have yet opined, I'll just say that when I sub-taught a Sunday School lesson on Baptism/Church Membership I suggested that we Baptists may have marginalized it by 1. Disconnecting it from conversion and 2. performing it, for all practical purposes, privately.