The Great Big Blue Dot (Part 1)

Click here for Part 2 —>

Figure 1: The Great Big Blue Dot. Click image to enlarge.

Liezl, the kids and I attend a small church, Midrand Chapel, in the North of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Midrand Chapel isn’t exactly a descriptive label is it? Midrand covers a wide geographical area and comprises of many neighborhoods and the word Chapel conjures up images of some wishy-washy-anything-goes-pseudo-Christian wedding venue on the outskirts of town.

If you dug a bit deeper and took a squizz through our church constitution you’d discover we were formally called Midrand Baptist Church and we describe ourselves in the document as an Independent Baptist church.

What’s unique about Baptists anyway? Christo Beetge* from Brackenhurst Baptist Church sums it up quite nicely into 10 bite sized distinctives: The Direct Lordship of Christ, The Priesthood of All Believers, Congregational Accountability, The Authority and Sufficiency of the Bible, The Priority of Verbal Proclamation in Worship and Service, Regenerate Church Membership, Separation of Church and State, The Two Ordinances, The Autonomy of the Local Church and Freedom of Conscience.

Bottom-line, Baptists world over share a common set of identifiable doctrinal distinctives. Because of this most congregants attending Baptist‘ish [sic] churches think of themselves as belonging to The Great Big Blue Dot (see Figure 1). Metaphorically, anything inside the circle is Baptist, anything outside is not and the solid blue fill represents our unified doctrine. Simple.

The Great Big Shaded Dot. Click image to enlarge.

Actually it’s not so simple. Those identifying themselves as Baptists today, although agreeing on some central points of doctrine, differ widely from one another on many other matters of faith. Differences in Ecclesiology, Eschatology, Soteriology and Pneumatology for starters make us a fairly heterogenous bunch.

The image on top isn’t completely inaccurate but instead of one shade of blue Baptistdom in South Africa is more like The Great Big Shaded Dot (Figure 2) which acknowledges a broad’ish** range of Theological diversity which is how churches which cling to traditional Baptist tenants such as Rosebank Union, Honeyridge Baptist Church, Brackenhurst Baptist Church, Constantia Park Baptist Church, Antioch Bible Church, Grace Christian Church, New Covenant Baptist Church and even little old Midrand Chapel can co-exist in unified tension; held together but pushed apart; a mixed bag of fruit.

** While there is a plethora of diversity within the Union and beyond it is worth mentioning that the differences are nothing like the swath of division faced by other mainline denominations such as the Anglicans.

Christo Beetge Brackenhurst Baptist Church

* The ariticle referenced in this post was written by Christo Beetge, formerly pastor of Springs Baptist Church, handles much of the counselling at the church. Christo also oversees the Young Adults ministry of the church. He is married to Maureen and has two children: Anton and Gillian.

Click here for Part 2 —>

13 thoughts on “The Great Big Blue Dot (Part 1)

  1. It is growing. Teaching is so rich. The Pastors are wonderful, humble, upright, godly men. I have joined the projection team. why don’t you pay us a visit soon. I chatted to Jonathan Klimek there Sunday before last. I’ve known him since he was a little boy. It is wonderful to see he has grown in to a fine young man.

  2. Some years ago I was in Lyttelton, and used to visit the minister of Bethany Baptist Church, Patrick Hains. He said there were three brands of churchmanship among the Baptists: Reformed, who are hypercalvinist; the Charismatics, who are not, and the Conservative, who are somewhere in between the other two.

    • :). I’m wondering where I’d fit in? I’m Calvinist but not Reformed (as I would distinguish between The Church and Israel). I am a Cessationist, make no bones about it, but I guess I feel somewhere in between?

      One of the things I’ve gained from speaking to you over the last while is a growing suspicion that people don’t conveniently fit into boxes others make for them (and yes, I’m a box maker).

      Where does that leave my pretty little diagram of a multi coloured dot? Well, frankly this was Part 1, I’ve really struggled to pen Part 2, suffice to say it engages in the Separatist/Indifferentist debate and is titled “Dot to Dot”.

      Steve, I appreciate you stopping by.

  3. When I was an Anglican a sociologist came to interview me, and and wanted to put me in one of five boxes he had:

    1. Anglo-Catholic
    2. Prayer-Book Catholic
    3. Modern Churchman
    4. Liberal Evangelical
    5. Conservative Evangelical

    I asked him if I could take 1 and 5. No, it had to be only one. So then I said, How about “none of the above”? No, it had to be one of the five. I said “Anything but 3”, so he put me down as 2 because I was from South Africa, and the last person he had met from South Africa fitted in that slot.

  4. Mark,

    When it comes to listing Baptist distinctives, we Baptists are often as not not careful enough. For something to be distinctive of Baptists, no other professing groups within evangelicalism can hold to the same thing. As far as I know, this is true of matters like regenerated church membership signified by credobaptism, two ordinances (not seen sacramentally), two offices, autonomy of each individual congregation, and perhaps separation of church and state.
    However, can we really say that no evangelical Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans or simply mainline evangelicals do not hold to “The Priority of Verbal Proclamation in Worship and Service”? Do such groups believe they have freedom to bind Christian’s consciences? Are we Baptists really alone in this?
    And the one which I think Reformed and evangelical non-baptistic groups must find particularly offensive is when we say that it is a Baptist distinctive to hold to the Authority and Sufficiency Of Scripture. Last time I checked, that’s what makes you a Protestant, not just a Baptist. There are plenty of non-Baptistic evangelical Protestants who stand by sola Scriptura.
    In truth, the Baptist distinctive that this confuses is the one that states we hold to New Testament authority for the life and practice of the church. It is common in other groups to use O.T. practices and precedents for church life (e.g. circumcision = paedobaptism). What makes Baptists distinctive is not that we hold to the full authority and sufficiency of Scripture, but that we will admit only New Testament prescriptions for church life and order. We do not denigrate O.T. authority at all, but we regard the church as a New Testament entity, guided and controlled by N.T. prescriptions.
    Sorry for the long comment. I’m desirous to see us Baptists known for our theological clarity and precision.

    • Hey David,

      Your comment isn’t long it’s engaging. Thanks.

      As for the word “distinctive”, I read what you’re saying but I’m thinking the word is used differently in various contexts. For instance I frequently refer to my belief in Lordship Salvation as a distinctive. Does that mean that others who don’t look at all like me don’t cling to Lordship Salvation? Certainly not; but it does make me distinct from a swath of people who look very much like me who hold to Free Grace.

      Maybe I’m confusing the word “distinct” as a synonym for “tenet”?

  5. Well, that’s where terms, particularly in theology, need to be precise. If we are going to add up a whole lot of theological beliefs held by various other groups in broader evangelicalism, and say that Baptists alone hold them in this combination, then we ought to call them something like ‘the Baptist approach’, or ‘the Baptist matrix’. Strictly speaking, (and theologically speaking), a Baptist distinctive is what makes Baptists distinct from other Protestant groups. In other words, a distinctive is something unique to the group.
    What usually happens is that we are eager to fill in the B – A – P – T – I – S – T acronym, and end up inserting things that are not distinctive of us at all.
    This is why a Baptist cannot claim that Calvinism (or Arminianism), Lordship salvation, dispensationalism or covenant theology, biblical inerrancy and authority, expository preaching, plurality of eldership, KJV-Onlyism or any other such thing is distinctive of Baptists. They might be popular amongst Baptists. It might be an intra-mural debate amongst Baptists. It may even have originated with Baptists. But a distinctive is something that makes a Baptist a Baptist. A Presbyterian does not hold to a regenerate church membership signified by credobaptism. A Preby/Metho/Angli does not hold to the individual autonomy of each congregation. Reformed (in the strict sense) folks do not hold that the NT alone gives the order and practice of the local church. This is the sense, I think, in which we ought to define the Baptist distinctives. To include things which other groups share, and claim that it is the particular combination of doctrines that makes us Baptists will lead us into a hopelessly tangled mess of who is a Baptist and who isn’t.

  6. Years ago I was a Methodist, and I hear that a minister said at a fraternal meeting. ” I have an old lady in my church who when I asked her , are you a christian she said “certainly not!” I’ve been a Methodist all my days, what I want to become a christian now!….Now while that may seem funny it was serious. The woman confused ‘church” with Christ” Going to church to her meant “Going to God” may that never true be of Baptists of any shade. Never confuse the means with the Maker.

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