Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Apologetics (PhD)


Ed Smither


Baptists, Catechism, Baptism, Delay, Catechesis


Christianity | Religion


The recovery of the historical practice of delayed baptism for the purpose of pre-baptismal instruction will better ensure a regenerate church membership, thereby promoting more faithful church members. This study argues that reform is needed in Baptist churches in the preparation for believer’s baptism. As Baptists are “people of the Book,” it is most appropriate to survey what the Bible teaches about the meaning of baptism. The first chapter addresses the biblical texts commonly agreed upon by Baptists regarding baptism, as well as those most commonly disagreed upon. Attention is given to the texts used by opponents of delayed baptism contrasted with the passages used by those who are proponents of delayed baptism. The second chapter considers the practice of the early church fathers related to delayed baptism and pre-baptismal instruction. While there was much regression in the doctrine of baptism in these early centuries, moving away from credobaptism to pedobaptism and from baptism being an outward sign of an inward reality toward baptismal regeneration, one still finds the church practicing due diligence in preparing the catechumenate for baptism and full membership by way of catechesis. The third chapter examines the baptismal practices of the Reformation period with special emphasis on the practices of the magisterial reformers Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, and particular attention to the theology of one radical reformer Balthasar Hubmaier. Though the magisterial reformers maintained the Catholic practice of infant baptism in their churches, they also utilized catechisms, bringing this format of religious instruction into Protestantism. Hubmaier is distinguished from the magisterial reformers and shown to be an important doctrinal link between Anabaptists and Baptists in use of catechisms and the practice of believer’s baptism. While the previous chapters of this study are foundational, the fourth chapter argues for the recovery of the Baptist practices of catechesis, delayed baptism, and insistence on a regenerate church membership. Baptists consistently published and encouraged the use of catechisms from around 1600-1900. It is only in the last century that Baptists laid these practice aside. It is proposed that perhaps Baptist leaders, while rightly focusing on preaching, reaching, and baptizing have neglected regenerate church membership by expediting baptism for the sake of growth. This negligence has hindered church purity and witness. Regardless of philosophy or motive, the discontinuation of pre-baptismal instruction has contributed to the problem of Baptist church rolls filled with names of those who professed and were baptized, but have little to no relationship with the church. The fifth chapter discusses the implications of implementing delayed baptism for pre-baptismal instruction with the aim of better ensuring a regenerate church membership in the Southern Baptist Convention. A model is proposed for implementation in Southern Baptist churches. Each Baptist church should prayerfully reconsider its responsibility to preserve the faith once for all delivered to the saints and to do all it can to ensure a regenerate church membership.

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