Michael Haykin's Response to: "A Plea For Realism"
September 30, 2014
Professor Michael Haykin has responded to my piece on Baptists and the Lord's Supper. Dr. Haykin is a leading Baptist historian, an excellent scholar, and most importantly he is a godly Christian man with strong convictions. I praise God for him. He also co-supervised my doctoral dissertation and since then we have edited a book together. We are also currently editing a companion volume.
Therefore I am very glad to post his response below, followed by some comments of my own.
Here is his response:
I read my friend Mark Jones' post "A Plea for Realism": Are Presbyterians Christians? and was surprised by a number of things in this piece. To imply that Presbyterians, due to their ecclesiology, are less prone to sectarianism than Baptists is a surprising opener. Both Scottish and North American Presbyterian history (the latter especially since the 1920s) seems to tell a very different tale.
Then, I am not sure exactly what my dear friend Ian Clary said in his paper on Andrew Fuller at last year's SBTS conference (you may listen to the audio here). But to imply, as Mark does, that Fuller's baptismal theology meant that he was sectarian and lacked catholicity implies a complete misunderstanding of Fuller's heart. I have written a study of the friendship of this closed communion, closed membership Baptist with John Ryland, an open communionist and open membership Baptist of the ilk of John Bunyan: it is absolutely remarkable that Fuller could hold deep convictions about this issue, but have as his best friend one who disagreed totally with him on these matters (they did agree on the subjects of baptism). Here we see true catholicity in action.
Fuller never believed that he and his fellow Calvinistic Baptists were the only Christians in Britain-witness his love for men like John Newton, William Wilberforce and John Berridge. In such a context, his strong convictions regarding the proper recipients of the Lord's Supper bespeak a rich catholicity.
Much more could be said, but in fine: I am constrained to affirm with Fuller that the New Testament knows of only believer's baptism (as did the Ancient Church largely up until the fifth century), and that I am prepared to stand with Fuller regarding his Eucharistic convictions, yet (as anyone who knows me will affirm), I am not interested in the slightest in a sectarian Christianity. I believe in the one holy catholic apostolic church--as did Fuller--filled with more than Baptists!
Here is my own response:
I actually agree with Dr. Haykin's response. I have never questioned Andrew Fuller's catholic spirit. I do not question the catholic spirit of Dr. Haykin, Russell Moore, or Ian Clary. The issue is not whether Dr. Haykin believes that I (a Presbyterian, baptized by sprinkling as a baby) am a Christian. The issue is whether Baptist ecclesiology is consistent with their catholic spirit. (The same could be said for certain Reformed denominations, as well, with whom I also disagree).
Dr. Haykin's last paragraph still raises questions in my own mind, however.
How can we harmonize Andrew Fuller's doctrine of baptism, closed communion, and catholic spirit?
It is all very well to affirm a catholic spirit, but quite another thing when the "good and necessary consequences" of your beliefs lead to conclusions whereby:
* Fuller can call me a Christian.
* God calls me a Christian.
* I know I am a Christian.
* But I cannot be part of a local church and receive communion.
It seems to me that there is a glorious inconsistency involved here in Baptist closed communion practice. But they want to have their cake and eat it. They want us to know they have a catholic spirit, but they still would not allow Christians at the table in their local church.
I can be part of the universal church, as one closed communion Baptist told me, but I cannot be part of his local church. If we affirm the former we should affirm the latter. If we deny the former, then I am in precarious position, aren't I?
In conclusion, I desire a catholicity that is not bodiless. I desire a catholicity that is spirit and body. I desire to eat and drink with Michael in his church and in mine. We both belong to Christ because we have the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9). We will eat and drink together in heaven (Rev. 19:6-9), which is why we must eat and drink together on earth. This, I believe, is a true catholicity where belief and practice agree.