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Few noticed when in June presidential candidate Sen. John McCain talked with McClatchy Newspapers about his faith. Every candidate gets these questions, and McCain has never previously effused on Christianity. At the time, McCain said he was an Episcopalian, though he and his family have for years attended North Phoenix Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation. So you can forgive reporters if they were a little surprised to hear McCain finally describe himself as a Baptist during a recent campaign stop in South Carolina.

McCain said he enjoys North Phoenix Baptist because he considers "the message and fundamental nature more fulfilling than I did in the Episcopal church." There's just one catch: McCain has so far refused the eponymous Baptist symbol. His wife and two his children have been baptized, but McCain has not. "I didn't find it necessary to do so for my spiritual needs," McCain explained. Nor did his pastor regard baptism by immersion to be a requirement for church membership.

However, for many Baptists, baptism is a critical threshold to church membership. Capitol Hill Baptist senior pastor Mark Dever, writing about baptism in the context of the local church for the book Believer's Baptism, simply states that infant baptism is flatly unbiblical. So potential members must submit to adult baptism. Writing from the opposite (paedobaptist) perspective in The Promise of Baptism, James Brownson rejects altogether the idea that baptism must wait for professed faith. He directs readers away from connecting baptism to faith and points them to God's covenant promise. Thus, he tells churches to recognize any baptism conducted in the name of the Triune God.

You can see how these important theological differences affect ...

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September 2007

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