A name is a loaded thing. It gives one description, a moniker, categories, and a sense of belonging. It also permits social interaction, structure, and order. Names are a fundamental element of human existence. But what does one do if a name no longer correctly describes him, or if the meaning the name portrays has changed over time, or if that name has become so broad that it encompasses those with whom one would never associate?
These are some of the questions I have been asking myself for years regarding the “Baptist” title. Baptist is one of those names that has become so broad and has developed so many connotations that it is hardly helpful as a name any more. Generally, the Baptist name encompasses almost anyone who professes Christ who does not hold to infant baptism. Apart from that, one can be Calvinistic or Arminian in his soteriology, covenantal, dispensational, etc., in his view of the New Covenant, charismatic or cessationist with regard to the gifts of the Spirit, congregational or elder-ruled with regard to ecclesiology, etc., etc., etc. In other words, the only thing that holds Baptists together is the dryness of their infants.
And that is really important to some Baptists. Some Baptists even put Believer’s Baptism up there with the Trinity and the deity of Christ. But that’s not me. For me, Believer’s baptism is important. It possibly shows one’s view of the Old and New Covenants, it shows his interpretations of certain texts, etc. Even so, it is not a doctrine of the first order to me. It’s not even a doctrine of the second order. So then, why do I continue to identify myself by a label that is not a first or second order doctrine to me? Good question.
Additionally, and probably more significantly, is the association that the Baptist name brings. Without naming names, there are persons who label themselves Baptists with whom I would never sit and eat. Conversely, there are those who don’t label themselves Baptists with whom I would gladly (and do) sit and eat. So why categorize myself with those who I believe are apostate and distance myself from those who I believe are my brothers?
But then there comes the problem of what to call myself. Having no name is not an option. I suppose I could join a church of a different denomination and use that title, but then that doesn’t really address the issue. In fact, it places me in the exact same position I am now, except with different positive and negative associations and different doctrinal differences.
Going back to the question of doctrines and their order of significance, what doctrine or name best identifies the religion of those who follow Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ, of course. Therefore, until I find sufficient reason to be otherwise, I’ll call myself a Christian*. And if anyone wishes for me to elaborate, I gladly will.