Criteria for church membership

Contrary to modern Reformed sectarianism, Doug Wilson points out a shining example of Reformed catholicity from A.A. Hodge:

“In all Churches a distinction is made between the terms upon which private members are admitted to membership, and the terms upon which office-bearers are admitted to their sacred trusts of teaching and ruling. A Church has no right to make anything a condition of membership which Christ has not made a condition of salvation. The Church is Christ’s fold. The sacraments are the seals of his covenant. All have a right to claim admittance who make a credible profession of the true religion; that is, who are presumptively the people of Christ” (A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith, p. 3).

Wilson points out that to have strict and exhaustive criteria for church membership (i.e. a specific position on baptism or eschatology) creates two classes of believers. There are those genuine believers who can join the church and those genuine believers who can’t.

Wilson’s ending is worth quoting in full:

This mistake is the result of confusing the session interview with St. Peter’s interview at the Pearlies. It demands of preschoolers that they show their high school diploma as a condition for admittance into preschool. It confuses the end from the beginning, and the beginning from the end. It muddles baptism and the eschaton. It reverses the order of the Great Commission — teach them obedience to all that the Lord commanded, and then bring them in. It is theological dyslexia.

I think Mark Driscoll needs to read up.