This is a response to Dr. Russell Moore’s latest blog post, entitled “Who Can Take the Lord’s Supper?” I did post my response as a comment on his blog, but felt that this is important enough an issue to share with those who read this blog.
Dr. Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church, where he ministers weekly at the congregation’s Fegenbush location. Moore is the author of several books, including The Kingdom of Christ, Adopted for Life, and Tempted and Tried.
Excerpt from the article:
A man walked out of my church in protest. I didn’t notice it as it was happening, but he told me about it, in a note, a few weeks later. He was angered that he had been excluded. At first, I feared that maybe he hadn’t been spoken to. In a church this size, that’s certainly a possibility. Or maybe, I wondered, had one of our elderly church members looked askance at his wearing jeans or shorts? Turns out, he wanted the Lord’s Supper, and I’d turned him away.
PLEASE read the rest of his article before continuing to read this post.
Dr. Moore, I am deeply disturbed by this, for a couple of reasons.
Before I get started in explaining why this disturbs me, it is not out of disrespect or not valuing your position as a pastor or role at SBTS. Quite the opposite, actually. I had the privilege of hearing you speak at Criswell when I attended a few years ago, and have come to respect and value your insight into Scripture. It is precisely because of this level of respect that I find this article so shocking.
1) “…only baptized Christians in good fellowship with a local congregation were invited to commune.”
2) “First of all, open communion usually rests on the all-too-typical Evangelical presumption that the Lord’s Supper really isn’t that important.”
The first statement is practical nonsense. I am a member of The Village, and we only have baptism services once a quarter (or at least it seems like that’s the frequency), are we to say that those who legitimately confess and profess Christ as Lord are not allowed to join with us in the Lord’s supper until they have been baptized, possibly three months after they initially confess Christ? Additionally, even if one confesses Christ and is baptized at The Village, how is your congregation supposed to know the person’s relationship to the local church he or she is part of when he or she visits your church? The only way to really validate any of this is to limit it to being in good fellowship with YOUR local church. Do you really think the gospel lends toward being that exclusive?
The second statement is simply a generalization that may be true, but I feel doesn’t really address the counter-part of the issue. Some churches, and pastors, may indeed say that baptism is merely a “symbol” of an internal work. This is, of course, unbiblical as Paul tells us in Romans 6 that baptism is when we identify with Christ’s death and resurrection. It is not merely a symbol, it is not salvific, it is a mystery, and I feel we do it an injustice in trying to explain further. So, there may be some doctrine that needs to be corrected in that area, but there is a greater point that I feel those who practice open communion embrace: The unifying work of Christ. It is Christ which unifies us as ONE body, though there are many local manifestations of that body. If someone confesses Christ, and He has added them to His body, who are we to tell them they don’t belong at His table?
Additionally, and I may have missed it, but I don’t recall a single story about the disciples ever being baptized. They were given the Lord’s supper before He even gave the command to baptize, which, as you know, took place after Christ’s resurrection. Should Jesus have not served them communion because they hadn’t been Biblically baptized yet?
Lastly, I understand the need to focus on what defines us as Christians. Unfortunately, Baptist Distinctives and Doctrines make a poor substitute for being in Christ. Focusing on what makes us different most often blinds us to what unites us. Focusing on what unites us gives grace for what makes us different. Focus on unity. Focus on Jesus.