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Edit, 1/22/2011: I have been going back through some old blog posts, and I wanted to write that I do not find this blog post persuasive at all any more. I want to leave it here, but the more I read this, the more I hear Paul’s words dripping with sarcasm, not with genuine zeal for creating proper divisions.

I found 1 Corinthians 11:19 very interesting as I was reading the Bible this morning:

17But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

I have two questions about this verse:

First, peace in the church is a good thing, and we as Christians should strive for it. Nevertheless, I think (though I would definitely be open to correction, because this is a fairly obscure verse) that Paul is suggesting that our churches should operate at such a high intensity that factions will necessarily emerge, with those who are genuine on one side, and those who are not genuine on the other side. If churches never actually do anything by the power of the Holy Spirit to build the kingdom, both the genuine the and ingenuous can coexist peacefully.

So, perhaps a good question to ask a church would be, “What is your church doing to make the unbelievers in your midst uncomfortable?” (I wonder what Seeker-Friendly churches might think about this.)

Second, the biggest divide between Baptists and Paedobaptists begins with the question of, “Whom does the church comprise?” Baptists argue that the Church should be “pure”–that is, that the Church proper is only of those who have been saved and baptized in response to that salvation. Paedobaptists (especially Presbyterians) argue that the Church is “mixed”–that is, that the Visible Church includes both believers and unbelievers (as did the nation of Israel in the Old Testament), and that only the Invisible Church includes only the elect.

For this reason, Baptists find it reprehensible to baptize an infant, since an infant is not saved (or, at least, is unable to make a profession of faith), and therefore to baptize an infant would detract from the “purity” of the church. Presbyterians, however, believe that the Visible Church always has and always will contain genuine believers and ingenuous hypocrites, and that it is God’s job to sort the wheat from the tares.

From a Presbyterian standpoint, Paul’s words that there “must be factions among you” make sense; do they make sense from a Baptist standpoint?

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