The Grammar of Baptists

Originally posted 12-24-06

I have just finished reviewing Lindbeck’s The Nature of Doctrine. It is a book that has become a classic of sorts for many theologians in the last decade. I planned on using it as a secondary or supplemental source, but things have changed. I have heard from one of my professors that my understanding of Wittgenstein is not up to par. He suggested that I look more at Lindbeck than at Wittgenstein – Witt is a dangerous person to us, because it is very easy to get him wrong. This was disappointing news, but I think my professor is right. Now, what I need to focus on is getting this !#*(& degree. So I can forgo Witt for now. I do not plan on forgetting about him, because I did think that Witt offers a powerful method to do theology that would have great implications for the Baptists.
But for now I turn to Lindbeck, who offers much to work with. Lindbeck is looking at doctrines within particular communities, and they ways in which those doctrines emerge. One of his concerns is towards the ecumenical movement, (which is not a concern of mine right now), but his theories are brilliant. Lindbeck looks to Geertz’s understanding of a “thick description” as a way to discern the doctrines and the theological grammar of a particular community. This is exactly what the Baptists need to do; we need to look closely at ourselves currently and historically to discern our doctrines and our theological grammar. It seems bold to claim that the Baptists actually hold doctrines, and it is something that needs to be considered. This is where I struggle; do Baptists actually hold to doctrines? I would venture to say “yes,” and even suggest that they come out of our baptism. A believer’s baptism suggest that the individual has the soul competency to make his or her own decision – freedom. It means that the churches must be free to allow the individual to discern his or her own call from God – Church autonomy. It means that the minister (priest) cannot tell the individual if he or she is or is not saved – priesthood of the believers. Yet there is a flaw in believer’s baptism if one ascribes to the doctrine of original, or at least there is a weakness. How soon until you gently persuade the individual to be baptized? Now we run the risk of sacramentiality. Lindbeck’s rule-theory et al offers much to consider for the Baptists. I will let Wittgenstein rest for a while, and follow the path Lindbeck sets before me (understanding full well that Wittgenstein influences Lindbeck).