Ask a Pastor Ep. 28 - Infant vs. Believer Baptism, Sleepovers with No Sex

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This episode our Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund, talks with Director of Young Adult Ministries, Josiah Leuenberger, about Orchard Hill Church's stance on baptism and having sleepovers with no sex.

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Transcript:

[00:04] Hey, welcome to Ask a Pastor. This is some content we create and drop every Friday, just with questions that generally come from people who have been listening. So, thank you for sending in questions. You sent in so many and so many we haven't had a chance to get to yet, but they are in a queue and will be coming. And if you have questions, feel free to send them in at to askapastor@orchardhillchurch.com and we'll address them on a future episode. Today, I'm joined by Josiah Leuenberger. Josiah, welcome.

[00:32] Great to be here. Thank you very much.

[00:34] Josiah works with our young adults, does some teaching and some other things here at Orchard Hill. So, great to have Josiah here. And I'm just gonna state upfront kind of what's coming today so that you can decide to fast forward if you don't care for the first topic and are interested in the second topic.

[00:51] The first topic is baptism and I'm going to read the question and it's about especially a unique practice maybe that we have here at Orchard Hill around that. So some of you may not find that interesting. If we have time, in other words if we can wrap up that conversation, Josiah doesn't go down too many rabbit trails, things like that, we will go to a second question which has to do with couples sleeping in the same home but not having sex and how the Bible would see that. So that might be something you find a little more interesting.

[01:22] So with that, let me start with the first question. Josiah, here's a ... and this is a long question, but let me just read it so that our listeners can get kind of the spirit of this. It says, "Hello, I'm new, the area of attended Orchard Hill a few times, but I'm confused regarding the church's stance on baptism. I understand that that as a church you practice both infant baptism and believer baptism. However, aren't these two practices representative of two different understandings of the doctrine? On the one hand, you're saying that infants ought to be administered the covenant sign regardless of them possessing what the sign signifies. And on the other hand, you're saying that they should not be given the sign precisely because they do not yet possess with the sign signifies. Also, it seems that both doctrines are contradictory to each other. In other words, you cannot say that infants should be baptized and should not be baptized in the same way at the same time. It seems to be what is happening. I am just curious what the biblical rationale would be for the church saying that infants should be and should not be baptized simultaneously." So Josiah, go ahead and answer that.

[02:22] Yeah, a lot in there. First, I want to apologize for my voice. I've been a little bit under the weather this Pittsburgh winter, but, this is a topic that I find fascinating. I think that here at Orchard Hill, we find ourselves in a larger stream of churches where we're in the Protestant tradition. Also what you could say is more of an evangelical or reformed tradition even, and by that I mean that we say that the Bible, the scripture, is our standard for the way that we practice. It's our ultimate authority. We're a church that believes that God's saving grace through what Jesus Christ has done for, believing in Jesus' work on our behalf as the way for to be in a right relationship with God. And so a lot of the churches that we have some real commonality with would say that our convictions on scripture would lead us to believe that infant baptism is the way baptism must be practiced in the church.

[03:15] Now, there are other churches that we have a lot of commonality with that would say certainly those of us who share these convictions must believe that those who have come to saving faith in Jesus Christ as adults are the ones who should be baptized. And so where we find ourselves is saying, "Hey, we believe that both of those traditions are biblical and there's a biblical foundation for them." And we leave it up to parents to make those decisions and choose. And I think that that puts us in an interesting position because there are people who we share a lot of commonality with on either side who might say that one practice should be normative for the church instead of both are viable biblical options. And to go into the first, the infant baptism perspective is based on a covenant theology understanding of Baptism as a way in which individuals are marked as part of God's covenant community.

[04:06] And so, that's something that we can look back to the old testament and see how circumcision was something used for the people of Israel, marking them as God's covenant people, those people who belong to God. And the New Testament in Colossians chapter two talks about infant baptism, or pardon me, baptism as a new testament, a means of marketing us as a covenant people. Baptism marks God's people. And this can be extended to infants. You look in the book of Acts, in Acts chapter 10, Cornelius's household. Acts chapter 16, we see Lydia's household. These family leaders came to saving faith in Jesus Christ and the entire household was baptized. And that would have included young children who probably weren't at a point of understanding in their own faith of who Jesus was and they'd come to a point of trusting him. But this baptism was a way for them to be recognized as a part of God's covenant community. So, that is a biblical perspective. Yeah.

[05:04] Okay. Yeah. So in a way, the question is kind of like a gotcha question. Like, "Hey, you can't do both because one of them has to be wrong." So let's just talk about that for a moment because the mindset behind that is everyone at the church should end up having the exact same take on this because there's a right take and a wrong take. And how can you promote a wrong take or allow it to be celebrated within the church? How would you respond to it? Because I think that's kind of what the mindset is in this question.

[05:42] Yeah. There's a word in there, the question that we believe that infants should be dedicated or should be baptized, how can we say that both should happen? And I think that where we would come down differently is we would say, based on scripture, sure, infants can be baptized. And sure, you can dedicate your infant and allow them to be baptized as an adult when they come to a saving faith of their own. I don't think that anywhere in scripture it's indicated that infant baptism must be normative for the church today, though it is a viable biblical option that parents can choose.

[06:17] But I think there also is a strong biblical basis for understanding baptism is something for believers when people come to a point of repentance and recognition of what God has done for them in Jesus Christ. We see that all over the New Testament. Jesus Christ, I mean in his own great commission, commanding the disciples to go preach the Gospel and that when people would respond in faith, they would be baptized. And so certainly there's a tie there between repentance and faith and baptism following. Yeah. And the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 6 talking about baptism is recognition of our death like Christ and our resurrection like Christ's.

[06:54] Yeah. Yeah. In some ways, there's two kinds of churches, and I hate when people say there's two kinds of churches or two kinds of people and try to lump it all, but for the sake of what we're saying, there's churches that tried to ensure monolithic belief, meaning everybody here agrees on 95 % of all doctrine all the way down. And if you don't, then you don't belong because this is a place where we teach what's right and only people who believe what's right attend here. There's other churches that would say, "You know what? We realized that there are some things that are essential that we have to agree on, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the deity of Jesus. You know, things like that. But there are a host of things that it's okay if there's some difference of opinion. Historically, baptism has not been one of those things and that's why this is maybe problematic for this individual to say, "Historically churches have said, we either baptize infants or we baptize believers. We don't do both."

[07:56] I would say, what we've said is not we're saying both should happen, which is the implication. What we're saying is they're both acceptable streams in the evangelical thought.

[08:07] Yep. Agreed.

[08:07] And what we're doing is we're saying we want parents to decide and rather than breaking fellowship over this, we're saying you can choose which way you believe is the best representative of the biblical teaching for your family, but we don't have to separate as a church over the issue. That's very different than saying both are true and both should happen. What we're saying is people have disagreed and we want to create a church where somebody like Tim Keller who's a strong proponent of, you know, the idea of infant baptism and Billy Graham, who is a strong proponent of believers baptism, could both worship here instead of saying we can't worship here.

[08:45] And that's kind of been our approach to this rather than saying saying there's a necessary belief. Now having said that, that doesn't mean that people don't take positions within the church and don't even take strong positions. I have a position. I have a pretty strong position. It's not actually hard to see what my position is, but I'm very comfortable saying, "But you know what, this is not an issue. I'm going to separate fellowship over and this is not something that I want to have people have to find a different church in order to practice their convictions."

[09:21] Yeah. And that's something that I really appreciate about Orchard Hill, that we want to have the conversation and we don't say that for us to be unified as a church means that we all keep our convictions quiet. It's important to us to have that conversation and to recognize that the Bible does have something to say to us, but that there is some difference in understanding on how exactly baptism is to be carried out in our church, in our family.

[09:46] And we allow parents to make that choice and I think that those both are biblical options. And we can be united together as one church under the essentials. You know, scripture is our authority. We believe that Jesus is the center of all that we do.

[10:02] And one thing we've been very careful to do, because one of the concerns, especially people on the more baptistic side of it, believer baptism side would have, is that you're leading people to believe that there is salvation in the infant baptism. And we have been very clear in our pre-baptism classes, in our public statements, that baptism itself never brings about salvation. It's only faith. And so it's either the infant being included as a sign of the covenant, as you said, for the family or the person practicing it themselves later on as their choice to represent faith, never salvation in and of itself. Which again, we feel is an important clarification.

[10:42] But you know, in a sense what we're doing is we're practicing the way that Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists have practiced for years in the way that Baptists and Christian Missionary Alliance and other denominations have practiced for years and just saying, "Rather than dividing, we're uniting on it. So good. Anything else to say on that?

[11:01] No, I think that covers it well.

[11:02] Okay. So let's move onto the second question. The second question is, "What is your perspective on a man or a woman's sleeping at someone's house if they aren't sleeping together? So the question is, and I think, you know, a lot of younger people today especially, and I don't know that it, it was different 20, 30 years ago, it was happening then, it happens now. So when people say young people, it doesn't mean all of this generation, it just means it tends to be more prominent among people of a certain age, especially Christian people, will do this whole thing where they'll say we're going to stay at the same place, but I'm going to sleep on the sofa or in a different bedroom. It's just the two of us. We're having a sleep over but we're not having sex. Therefore we're okay. What would you a counsel or advise or say to a couple who's in that place?

[11:51] Yeah, for sure. I think when you look at that situation, the first thing you'd have to say is, "Okay, there's nothing that's morally being compromised in the physical act of staying in the same space." However, this is a question of wisdom and putting yourself in a position where your values could be compromised. And so I would say that while there's no objective moral compromise taking place when two people sleep in the same area, I would certainly counsel in a young adult who's a follower of Jesus Christ who believes that sexual relationship is reserved for marriage, that this is a, this is a bad idea, and there are a few reasons for that.

[12:33] First of all, you're putting yourself in a position where the temptation is going to be readily accessible to compromise on those values that you've chosen to pursue in terms of sexual purity, keeping that aspect of your relationship for a married couple. It'd be really easy to compromise on that value with the two of you at home alone late at night.

[12:52] That's just a poor choice. It's unwise even though it is permissible. I would also say that as a Christian, something that we should keep in mind is that we do have an element of our witness and people who aren't believers looking at us in making judgements about what our faith is about based on how we would conduct ourselves. And certainly I think that it's important for every follower of Jesus Christ to know that who we are, our identity is based on God's grace, his work on our behalf. That's absolutely true. However, if we do want to be a witness to who God is, we should be people who reflect his values in the way that we conduct ourselves as much as is possible through the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.

[13:33] That said, to put yourself in a position where someone could easily look at you and say, "Man, if I was in their shoes, I would be probably sleeping with this person if we're staying in the same house. You know, the Apostle Paul talks in First Timothy about living in a way that's above reproach is a character quality for a Christian leader. And I think what that really entails is living in a way where someone who's not a believer could look at you and say, "Yeah, that person's character is becoming of someone with a godly heart." And I think that could easily be compromised if you're staying together.

[14:08] Yeah, that's well put. And sometimes, there's something that isn't technically wrong that is not wise, bad idea as you put it in. And I think what I heard you say is you gave two reasons, basically. You Said one is temptation. You just put yourself in a place where you might end up compromising something that you don't want to compromise. And then secondly, the reputation or the witness saying, you know, the way that we portray ourselves. Because most people, if you share a hotel room when you go on a trip together, they say, "Well, if you're in the hotel room, you must be doing something. Therefore you're no different than anybody else. What's up with this faith thing?" You know, what strikes me is in, and I have one more reason I would add to consider waiting. But what strikes me is often what happens in our culture today is that people will say something like, "You know what, it doesn't make sense to get two hotel rooms. It's too expensive." Or, "I'm not going to get a room because of this."

[15:18] And so expedience often trumps wisdom, especially if there's not a conviction that implications can matter. And I've taught for years that that implications are not the same as the absolute. And so, we need to be careful of absolutizing implications. But some implications are clear enough that they should have almost the force of absolute teaching. And even though they're still implications, they need to be taken, with a certain degree of seriousness. Now again, somebody may say, "I don't agree. Nobody else will see, you know, reputation doesn't matter. We're strong. We're not going to give into temptation." And that's why I would add my third kind of reason there.

[16:08] Yeah, sure. And I want to give one disclaimer after that, I guess one extenuating circumstance after that.

[16:13] Okay, good. And my extra reason or third reason would be to say that you miss something, there's a lack of appreciation for when you will actually be married and start spending nights together that you're cheapening by spending nights, even if you're not sleeping together, together. And what you're doing, it's a little bit like opening a Christmas present early. You know? You remember when you're a kid and you snoop around your mom and dad's bedroom?

[16:46] Absolutely.

[16:46] And you find the gift under the bad. And then you can't tell anybody that you found the gift under the bed and you found the gift and you're like, "Well, now I know that I'm getting, you know, X. And I'm really excited about it, but I can't tell anybody." And now Christmas morning comes and instead of Christmas morning being this great moment where you get what you would hope for, you already knew and you kind of made Christmas, you kind of cheapened Christmas without meaning to.

[17:08] And I think what happens when you spend nights together, even if you don't sleep together, is you cheapen what is supposed to be a beautiful celebration when you finally come together and say, "Now we're married. Now we're one. Now we're doing this before God in an honoring and beautiful way. You just cheapen it a little.

[17:28] Absolutely. And just to be personal-

[17:29] And so, that's another reason that I think that that makes sense to say, "Okay, you know what? Maybe I can, but it doesn't serve me. It doesn't serve this person." And on top of that, if you end up breaking up, do you really want to go back and say, "Hey, we spent a bunch of nights together and so on and so forth." So go ahead, what's your disclaimer?

[17:50] Well, I was going to say to be personal, my wife and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary this year. And I remember when we were dating, those months leading up to our leading up to our wedding, when we were engaged, we'd be hanging out at night and we would both say, "Isn't this the worst that we, one of us just have to go home? Isn't this the worst?" But we always made that choice to go home and I'm really thankful that we did.

[18:13] Looking back, as difficult and frustrating is that period of engagement where we just wanted to stay together was, it was a really good thing for us. And I'm so grateful that God kept that aspect of our relationship until we were married and I really can see that there is some wisdom in how he's ordered that for us, even though it might feel painful at the time.

[18:33] Now, my one extenuating circumstance that I just feel like I have to put out there for someone who's gonna want to be the hole poker. There are obviously certain situations where maybe it would be in your best interest. And I think that's something where maybe safety would be compromised in terms of, you know, your girlfriend comes over for a visit on a winter night and all of a sudden this northeaster or blows in out of nowhere and dumps 12 inches of snow and she lives down in the city.

[19:03] Okay. You know, she can camp out on the couch. You go upstairs to your bedroom, something like that. There are extenuating circumstances, sure. But like you shared, financial convenience, you know, financial reasons or convenience, those probably aren't the extenuating circumstances that would be wise to accept.

[19:23] Right. Well, and again, it probably is not a clear cut, right or wrong. And most of our hard decisions aren't. Most of our hard decisions are things where it requires wisdom, it requires saying, "Okay, what's really best here? And again, my contention would be make sure that you're asking that question and be willing to not just take the path of least resistance, because usually the path of least resistance is not best. Usually the path of least resistance is the path of least resistance.

[19:56] And sometimes it is better just to say, "You know what, we're going to to honor this." You know, I've been married a little more than 10 years. But going back to when I was dating my wife, one of the things that I think was really good about our dating was that we set a foundation and the foundation was we trust God first, not each other. And as much as we loved each other and wanting to be together, still love each other. We said, "But we're going to try to honor God with how we do our relationship."

[20:32] And what that did is it set a foundation of trust that more than 10 years later is still treating us well. Because we established something that said this isn't just about what you and I want. Because what happens in marriage is a lot of times, you know, even if it's a good marriage, you have some days where you don't really want to honor God with how you go about your life. And so to know that that's who you're marrying, who you're in relationship with, creates a solid marriage before the marriage actually happens. And that's part of, I think, this choice as well.

[21:05] Yeah. What's best for one another is that you choose to follow God's way first rather than just saying, "I'm going to put you first." That's what brings about your ultimate good.

[21:13] Yeah. Yeah. So all right, we answered that question at least to a degree. Any complaints or questions, comments, you can email them to josiah@orchardhillchurch.com. You'll have to go on the website to get his actual email, but send them to him. He wants to respond.

[21:31] Hey, thanks for joining us today on Ask a Pastor. It's been a good conversation. Again, if you have questions, things you'd like to see discussed, please send them along and we'll be happy to address them on the coming episodes.


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