“I believe the Bible also allows for such temporary provisions in a church’s order and life in extraordinary moments. For instance, we should ordinarily baptize people in the gathered assembly of the church, as the combination of Matthew 18:20 and 28:19-20 teaches and the precedent of Acts 2:41 illustrates. Yet in Acts 8 we find something exceptional. The Holy Spirit plops Philip down in the middle of a desert, where he finds himself with an Ethiopian eunuch who professes the gospel and asks to be baptized. No church is in site, but Philip baptizes him.”
-Jonathan Leeman, “Has COVID-19 Made 9Marks Raise the White Flag on Multi-Site and Multi-Service Churches?”
But what is the rush to baptize? Is this really an extraordinary moment? Capitol Hill Baptist Church delays baptizing children for years – they promote waiting until a child has matured and moved out from under the authority of his parents to see if he really is displaying evidence of being born again before they feel comfortable baptizing him. In the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, why not wait a week or two, enabling the new Christian to be baptized in a “gathered assembly of the church?”
An article titled, “The Baptism of Children at Capitol Hill Baptist Church,” church leadership makes it quite clear that they do not normally baptize children until they are no longer under parental authority. Below is an extensive quote from the article:
“We do understand that the consideration of an appropriate age for a believer to be baptized is a matter not of simple obedience on an issue clearly settled by Scripture, but rather is a matter of Christian wisdom and prudence on an issue not directly addressed by Scripture. Though the baptisms in the New Testament seem largely to have occurred soon after the initial conversion, all of the individuals we can read of are both adults and coming from a non-Christian context. Both of these factors would tend to lend credibility to a conversion. The credibility of the conversion is the prime consideration, with the effect upon the individual candidate and the church community being legitimate secondary concerns.
We believe that the normal age of baptism should be when the credibility of one’s conversion becomes naturally evident to the church community. This would normally be when the child has matured, and is beginning to live more self-consciously as an individual, making their own choices, having left the God-given, intended child-like dependence on their parents for the God-given, intended mature wisdom which marks one who has felt the tug of the world, the flesh and the devil, but has decided, despite these allurements, to follow Christ. While it is difficult to set a certain number of years which are required for baptism, it is appropriate to consider the candidate’s maturity. The kind of maturity that we feel it is wise to expect is the maturity which would allow that son or daughter to deal directly with the church as a whole, and not, fundamentally, to be under their parents’ authority. As they assume adult responsibilities (sometime in late high school with driving, employment, non-Christian friends, voting, legality of marriage), then part of this, we would think, would be to declare publicly their allegiance to Christ by baptism.
With the consent and encouragement of Christian parents who are members, we will carefully consider requests for baptism before a child has left the home, but would urge the parents to caution at this point.
Nothing in this statement should be construed as casting doubt about the legitimacy of the baptism of any among us, regardless of how young they were when they were baptized. Because they have continued in the faith into their adult years we assume the legitimacy of their initial profession made at baptism. The question we are concerned with here is looking forward, not backward. To put it another way, we are raising the question about how many people have been baptized at this church in the past as younger people and children who went on to give no evidence of ever having been savingly converted, and what damage was done to them, and to the witness of the gospel through the church’s premature baptism of them. It is our judgment that while there is some danger of discouragement on the part of those children who do give some good evidence of being converted and yet are not baptized and welcomed into communicant membership in the church, through good teaching in the home, and through the loving inclusion of the families in the church as we currently do, that danger is small. There is, however, we believe, a greater danger of deception on the part of many who could be wrongly baptized at an age in which people are more liable to make decisions which are sincere, but ill-founded and too often short-lived.
Two other notes in conclusion. First, we realize that this issue is an issue of great emotion for some, and we in no way are trying to lead anyone to disobey their conscience on this matter; we simply are trying to inform and educate our consciences from the Scriptural necessity of a credible profession of faith for baptism. Second, while it is not generally known among American evangelicals today, the practice of baptizing pre-teenage children is of recent development (largely early 20th century) and of limited geography (largely limited to the United States, and places where American evangelicals have exercised great influence). Baptists in the past were known for waiting to baptize until the believers were adults. Baptistic Christians around the world are still much more cautious than modern American Christians, often waiting in Europe, Africa and Asia to baptize until children are grown and are in their 20’s.”
Well, there is this:
“But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
Acts 16:28-34 NKJV
It seems to me there were probably some children in the jailers household, and I would guess some of them were under twenty. At the very least, we can surmise that Capitol Hill Baptist Church wouldn’t baptize any of the children because they weren’t out from under the authority of the parents, nor would they have had time to observe the fruits in their lives to verify that they were all truly converted.
No, Jonathan, it really isn’t only people of today that have thought you don’t need to be baptized prior to joining a church. The quotes below are taken from “The Works of John Bunyan, Differences About Baptism No Bar To Communion,” pages 8-10, 19, 32-33
And now, reader, although this author hath thus objected against some passages in this my first argument for communion with persons unbaptized; yet the body of my argument he misseth and passeth over, as a thing not worth the answering; whether because he forgot, or because he was conscious to himself, that he knew not what to do therewith, I will not now determine. 1. I effectually prove, ‘That baptism is not the initiating ordinance.’ 2. I prove, ‘That though it was, yet the case may so fall out, that members might be received without it.’ 3. I prove, ‘That baptism makes no man a visible saint, nor giveth any right to church fellowship.’ 4. I prove, ‘That faith, and a life becoming the law of the ten commandments, should be the chief and most solid argument with true churches to receive saints to fellowship.’ 5. I prove, ‘That circumcision in the flesh, which was the entering ordinance of old, was a type of circumcision in the heart,’ &c. These things, with others, our author letteth pass; although in the proof of them abideth the strength of this first argument;
6. The sixth argument is, There is ‘one baptism.’ Now we are come to the pinch, viz., Whether it be that of water, or no? which I must positively deny. (1.) Because water baptism hath nothing to do in a church, as a church; it neither bringeth us into the church, nor is any part of our worship when we come there; how then can the peace and unity of the church depend upon water baptism? Besides, he saith expressly, It is the ‘unity of the spirit,’ not water, that is here intended: and the arguments brought to enforce it, are such as wholly and immediately relate to the duty of the church, as a church. (2.) Further, That other text, that treateth of our being baptized into a body, saith expressly it is done by the spirit: ‘For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body’ (1 Cor 12:13). Here is the church presented as under the notion of ‘one body’; here is a baptism mentioned, by which they are brought, or initiated into this body: Now that this is the baptism of water, is utterly against the words of the text; ‘For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body.’ Besides, if the baptism here be of water, then is it the initiating ordinance; but the contrary I have proved, and this author stands by my doctrine. So then, the baptism here respecting the church as one body, and water, having nothing to do to enter men into the church, nor to command them to practise it as a church, in order to their peace or communion, or respecting the worship of God as such: and (I say again) the baptism in the sixth argument, being urged precisely for no other purpose, but with respect to the church’s peace as a body; it must needs be THAT baptism, by virtue of which, they were initiated, and joined together in one; and that baptism being only that which the Spirit executeth; this therefore is that one baptism.
We come now to my seventh argument, for communion with the godly, though unbaptized persons; which you say is LOVE. My argument is this; ‘Therefore I am for communion thus; because love, which above all things we are commanded to put on, is of much more worth than to break about baptism.’ And let the reader note, That of this argument you deny not so much as one syllable, but run to another story; but I will follow you. I add further, That love is more discovered when we receive for thesake of Christ, than when we refuse his children for want of water: And tell you again, That this exhortation to love is grounded not upon [water] baptism, but the putting on of the new creature, which hath swallowed up all distinctions (Col 3:9-14).
Quest. 7. ‘Whether your principle and practice is not equally against others as well as us, viz. Episcopal, Presbyterians, and Independents, who are also of our side, for our practice, though they differ with us about the subject of baptism. Do you delight to have your hand against every man?’
Ans. I own water baptism to be God’s ordinance, but I make no idol of it. Where you call now the Episcopal to side with you, and also the Presbyterian, &c. you will not find them easily persuaded to conclude with you against me. They are against your manner of dipping, as well as the subject of water baptism; neither do you, for all you flatter them, agree together in all but the subject. Do you allow their sprinkling? Do you allow their signing with the cross? Why then have you so stoutly, an hundred times over, condemned these things as antichristian. I am not against every man, though by your abusive language you would set every one against me; but am for union, concord, and communion with saints, as saints, and for that cause I wrote my book.
To conclude,–1. In all I have said, I put a difference between my brethren of the baptized way; I know some are more moderate than some. 2. When I plead for the unbaptized, I chiefly intend those that are not so baptized as my brethren judge right, according to the first pattern. 3. If any shall count my papers worth the scribbling against, let him deal with my arguments, and things immediately depending upon them, and not conclude that he hath confuted a book, when he hath only quarrelled at words. 4. I have done when I have told you, that I strive not for mastery, nor to shew myself singular; but, if it might be, for union and communion among the godly. And count me not as an enemy, because I tell you the truth. 5. And now, dissenting brethren, I commend you to God, who can pardon your sin, and give you more grace, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.
“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?”
Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV
As you have seen above, Mark Dever has, as a general policy, the practice of denying water baptism to children who attend Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Dever believes that “the church that has fewer false conversions will be a more powerful witness and a better advertisement for the gospel of Jesus.”
While agreeing with the sentiment Dever expressed, I disagree with his solution – not baptizing children. Dever feels if he waits until a child is out from under the authority of his parents he can better judge if the individual is truly a Christian.
We cannot know our own hearts, much less the hearts of others. I fail to see how Dever is going to be able to better judge of a young person’s heart once the individual has moved out on their own.
As a side note, Capitol Hill Baptist Church does not allow a person to become a member of their church unless they are baptized. Capitol Hill Baptist Church also makes the case for formal church membership because they claim this is the only way church elders can know who belongs to their church and thus, whose souls they must watch over because they have to give an account to God for their members (Hebrews 13:17). Therefore it must logically follow that the elders of Capitol Hill Baptist Church don’t have to watch over or give an account for the souls of children attending their church because they are not formal members, therefore the elders have no clue that they are responsible for these children. Ridiculous? Yes, but so is the claim that unless you formally join their church, signing their membership contract, they have no way of knowing they are responsible for your soul.
To illustrate the fallacy of Mark Dever’s policy of not baptizing children until they are out from under their parent’s authority because he believes he can more accurately judge whether the young adult is a genuine Christian, let’s take a look at Dever’s Pastoral Internship program. While Dever may see and actually interact with a newly emancipated young adult attending his church once or twice a week, an intern would receive much more attention.
According to the document below, interns are expected to join CHBC, signing the CHBC Statement of Faith and Church Contract. Prior to the elders recommending any individual for membership to the congregation two of the elders conduct an interview with the prospective member to verify the individual is a genuine Christian. After this the congregation votes to accept the individual into membership.
Internship at CHBC is a five-month program in which the interns are spending six, maybe seven days a week with Mark Dever or other elders. As the document below states: “The internship program at CHBC affords us the occasion to focus time, attention and resources on the training of future shepherds of Christ’s Church.” One could reasonably assume, therefore, that Dever and his fellow elders know the interns much better than they would know a young adult who has been attending their church once or twice a week. They should be much more able to accurately judge whether an intern is a true Christian than they could judge anyone else. (Notwithstanding the fact that they and the entire congregation have already voted them into membership, thus exercising their “keys to the kingdom,” judging him to be a bonafide member of the Kingdom of God.)
Consider now the case of Anthony Moore, an intern at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in the Spring of 2014. You may recall that Moore was fired from The Village Church in January 2017 when it was discovered that he had been videotaping his good friend on numerous occasions while showering at Moore’s home. Moore was then hired by his good friend Thomas White, who was the president of Cedarville University. Moore reported for work in August 2017. Then, in April 2020 Moore was once again fired when bloggers published the sordid details of his story.
Below is a quote from Julie Roys’ article on Moore’s firing highlighting Moore’s bizarre behavior during the time that he was an intern (and I assume) a member at CHBC.
The victim said Moore suffered from depression during that time, and on a couple occasions threatened to kill himself if the victim didn’t call him. The victim said that multiple times during his relationship with Moore, the victim wanted to end the relationship, but “I just didn’t see a way out.”
In 2014, Moore became campus pastor at TVC Fort Worth and hired the victim to be the youth pastor. The victim said he began to suspect that Moore was inappropriately dependent on him. But he said he never imagined that Moore, a husband and father of three, struggled with same-sex attraction.
I believe this sufficiently illustrates the fallacy of Mark Dever’s baptismal practice. It is impossible to judge a man’s heart, so why not just baptize children on their confession of becoming a Christian? Will you have some individuals in your church who are not truly converted? Yes, but that has been the case since the beginning of Christianity. Remember Judas? A more recent example is Joshua Harris, CJ Mahaney’s handpicked replacement at Covenant Life Church. Harris has recently renounced his Christian faith.
The photos below illustrate just how totally Moore had Dever fooled. Dever’s promotion of him at such an early stage of his ministry was unprecedented and with hindsight, we can see it was foolish. Dever had the con-man sharing his wisdom obtained during his one-year of ministry with men who had 3 or 4 more years of experience than Moore.
I wrote an article a few years ago about Mark Dever and 9Marx. I received several comments which were quite favorable of Dever by a past intern at CHBC. When this individual mentioned that he had been an intern I checked the “Past Interns” list and did not find his name. I advised him of this fact. He replied that he had been removed from the list of Past Interns because he had become an atheist. I recently emailed him and asked him how long it had taken for his name to be purged from the Past Intern list. Here is his reply:
Below are two screenshots of the “Past Interns” list. The first was taken two days ago. It has been three months since Anthony Moore was fired from Cedarville University, yet Moore still remains on the list, showing him as an assistant professor of Theology at Cedarville University. The second screenshot reflects the “Past Intern” list on August 2, 2016. At that time Anthony Moore was a pastor at the Village Church.
I am of the opinion that Mark Dever knew of Anthony Moore’s firing from The Village Church and he is also aware that Moore has been fired from Cedarville University. Since the intern list has been changed from Moore working at TVC to working at Cedarville, Dever obviously knew of the job change. You can bet he has also kept abreast of the situation at Cedarville. Yet three months after Anthony Moore was fired the listing for him has not been updated! This is very strange. Since Zach Moore’s name was removed from the list within a “matter of weeks” I can only conclude that Mark Dever finds it very embarrassing to have a man who converted to atheism after interning at CHBC on the “Past Intern” list, whereas having a sexual pervert who has been fired from two jobs on the Past Intern list is no big deal.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Mark Dever has never retracted his letter of support for his good friend C.J. Mahaney, a man who has been credibly accused of covering up sexual abuse while he was in charge of the Sovereign Grace denomination and also blackmailing Larry Tomczak, the co-founder of the organization.
Oh well, as long as no children are being baptized at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, all is well at the 9Marx flagship! Because, as Dever said, “the church that has fewer false conversions will be a more powerful witness and a better advertisement for the Gospel of Jesus!”