What’s Wrong With the Baptist Church? – William E. Wallace

William E. Wallace

The question implies criticism. People think of religious criticism as bigotry. Criticism is perfectly justifiable in the realm of politics, social philosophy and such like, but if one criticizes religious convictions or systems he immediately is classified as a bigot in the eyes of many. Such conception of bigotry is a misconception, and such charges constitute a misappropriation of the word and a false accusation. What is a bigot? Webster says, “One obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his own church, party, belief, or opinion.” Those who are contending earnestly for the faith once delivered are not guilty on that score. Preachers of the gospel, generally speaking, have always been more than willing to reason with advocates of denominational persuasion, ready to yield to truth in honest reasoning and argumentation—thus they are not guilty of obstinacy. God’s people contend for the faith once delivered and combat false teaching as per the instruction of God’s word. In so doing they are not contending for their own system of religious philosophy, but they are contending for God’s scheme of redemption. The fact that they are always ready and willing to meet representatives of denominational schools of thought in private or public discussion, manifests their attitude and tolerance relative to seeking truth. So mere religious criticism is not bigotry. Folks ought not to shy away from controversy. A man is not a good man unless he engages in some controversy in life—he must fight evil within himself, and oppose evil without, which would corrupt him and his associates—and that involves controversy. Life is controversy, and people expect dispute in every realm of activity—but some shy away from it in the field of religion. While it is true that much religious controversy is of an ill-natured sort and seems to produce no good effects, the fact remains that anything which stands opposed to God’s will, must he opposed by God’s people, and it should be known that through honest clear-cut controversy truth can be ascertained. Bible examples are in order. Job engaged in controversy with the princes of Edom. Elijah, Amos and a host of other prophets of God debated with the evil forces of their day. John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were in controversy with the evil forces of their day. Paul and his companions in the gospel were constantly in dispute with elements within the church and with the world outside the church. All of this was in interest of God’s will, not in interest of any personal whims or conceptions. Thus these men were not bigots, and neither are those who contend for God’s will in this day and age, in any sense of the word.

Now when we talk about things wrong with the Baptist Church we are quite aware of the fact that there are things wrong in the church of Christ. But there is a great difference between the type of wrongs existing in the Baptist system and the kinds of wrongs seen in the Lord’s church. In the Lord’s church the wrongs lie with the people, not with the institution, not with its make-up, not with the founder and authority of the glorious ship of Zion. Certainly there are wrongs in the Baptist Church which come in the same classification of those things wrong in the church of Christ. The difference is, the church of Christ can clean up her errors and the people can get to heaven through the Christian system seen in the Lord’s church. But though the Baptist Church can likewise correct moral and religious shortcomings in daily living, its system of religion is one that does not constitute the way spoken of in the Bible and thus its people cannot get to heaven through it, and that is what is wrong with it.

While both the Baptist Church and the Lord’s church have moral and religious problems to be corrected, one is a man made religious institution and the other is God’s institution, the body of Christ. That is what makes the difference. So when we talk about what is wrong with the Baptist Church we are not trying to cast a mote out of its eyes when there are beams in our own—we are pointing out that the Baptist system of religion is one that does not exist by the authority of God, and that is what is wrong with it. While we exalt the Lord’s church as the Lord’s way of salvation, we are quite aware of the fact that we must continually warn against laxity in the membership, immorality in backsliding, growing indifference and doctrinal departures. We can clean up the wrongs in the church of Christ and get to heaven through the church, because it is God’s institution of saved people. But no amount of house cleaning in the Baptist Church will change it into God’s institution—it would have to disband and its people must be added to Christ’s church, by God, in their obedience. People are in the Baptist Church by vote of man and by unscriptural baptism, people are in the Lord’s church because God has put them there.

So our first point is, the Baptist Church and the New Testament Church constitute different systems of religion. They are different in name, organization, doctrine, worship, foundation and founder. Members of the church of Christ can sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” in confidence, without any human additions. Baptists, to be correct and consistent must sing “Onward Baptist Soldiers.” If they attach Christian to Baptist and sing “Onward Baptist Christian Soldiers” then they imply that there are kinds of Christians beside Baptist Christians and stand in opposition to Paul who said there is “one faith” (Eph. 4:6). If they sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” and leave out Baptist then they show that the idea in the word Christian does not include Baptist “Christians.” The Baptist Church is another faith, a second faith, an additional religious system. Paul said there was one, Christ prayed that his disciples be one, and in considering the fact that Baptist theology and makeup is a great contrast to what is seen in the church of Christ, we must conclude that they both cannot be the “one faith.”

The second thing wrong with the Baptist Church is, it has made a mockery of baptism in its contention on the one hand that it is not essential, yet on the other hand, they contend that it is necessary in order to get into the Baptist Church, the church they say is the Lord’s church. Baptists fight for the truth regarding the nature of baptism—it is immersion. They stand opposed to infant baptism, and emphasize what they call believer’s baptism. Yet after the smoke of controversy settles, when calmness follows their clashes with pedo-baptists, they complacently assert that baptism is not essential to the salvation of the soul. The irony of it!

I have a book before me—the great Graves-Ditzler debate of the 19th century. Graves was the Baptist scholar and Ditzler, the Methodist. This book contains 1200 pages and the greater part of it is given to the discussion of the “mode” of baptism, infant baptism and believer’s baptism. Yet Baptists say baptism is not essential for salvation. They teach a man is saved without it. What is wrong with the Baptist Church? It makes a great fuss about something which it says is non-essential.

I also have before me the Baptist Western Recorder, a weekly publication in Kentucky. The editor, R.T. Skinner, is exposing with lament, the liberal stand taken by the First Baptist Church of Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago church changed its constitution to allow the acceptance of those in full membership who had been baptized in infancy without requiring them to be immersed. The Chicago church has surrendered the Baptist doctrine on baptism and is now allowing those sprinkled in infancy to become members in good and full standing without immersion. Note that it has a constitution to go by—that’s their creed, and their creed is not the Bible. The editor is greatly disturbed over the matter. But why should he be? Baptism is non-essential to salvation you see. The Chicago church realizes that being non-essential to salvation there is no need of letting baptism stand between the church and new members. I dare say that there will be a great trend in years to come among Baptists to lower the standards of church membership and people will come into the Baptist Church in droves when they learn they do not have to be immersed in water. The editor says “the compromise gate leads into the road of full collapse.” But if the thing they are compromising is non-essential to salvation why should they worry?

My next objection to the Baptist Church is, Baptists cast a shadow of reflection of the Lord’s church in asserting that one is saved before he gets into it and can be saved without it. That makes the Lord’s church unnecessary. No, it just makes the Baptist Church unnecessary. Millions of people are paying tithes, spending valuable time and a great number suffer unpleasant experiences in an institution that is absolutely unnecessary. We are told by Baptists that baptism puts you into the Baptist Church, yet it does not save you. Therefore it takes more to get into the Baptist Church than it does to get into heaven. I think more of the Lord’s church than that. Christ died on the cross, shed his blood, purchased the church. I have always thought One was supposed to get equal value for the purchase price. And, I think Jesus was a good business man. Is the church equal in value to the purchase price, the blood of Christ, or did Christ get cheated? Is the blood of Christ essential for salvation, why not then the church which he purchased with that blood. I am speaking of the church now as a system. It is God’s system, and it is necessary for salvation—Christ purchased it with his blood, and we come in contact with his blood in the act of baptism. The act of baptism puts one into the church (Rom. 6:1-7; Col. 2:12). Baptism saves us (1 Pet. 3:21) and God adds to the church those who are being saved (Acts 2:47). God forbid that anyone take the position that God’s church is not essential to salvation. The church is spoken of as God’s house, its members are God’s children. We are heirs of God’s promises because we are His children. We are His children because we are in His house.

Baptists have defeated the principle of peculiarity in the eyes of many people by teaching that once a man is saved he cannot be lost. This is my next objection to the Baptist Church. A Christian is to be peculiar, unspotted from the world. His morals must be high, his character should be blameless. Christians must strive for the high ideal of perfection. There are incentives set forth in the New Testament which lead the Christian on toward perfection. He must add to his faith, virtue, knowledge, self control, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and love (2 Pet. 1:5:7). If he does these things, said Peter, he shall not fall. On one hand the Christian has a hope of heaven, if he strives lawfully (1 Tim. 2:4). On the other hand there is the warning of falling from grace and the consequence—eternal damnation. Peter said “the last state is worse with them than the first” relative to those who turn back (2 Pet. 2:21). But Baptist doctrine teaches that once a man is saved he stays saved, he cannot be lost. He cannot sin so as to be eternally lost. Recently I listened to a series of radio programs in which a Baptist preacher asserted that most of the corruption, wars, immorality, and debauchery in Christendom today are results of the doctrine of “baptismal regeneration.” He asserted that when people are taught that their sins are washed away in baptism, especially in infant baptism, that they naturally become corrupt because they go through life thinking they are all right. The preponderance of sin in areas where infant baptism prevails, said he, is the result of the idea of baptismal regeneration. Well, I should mention here that the Bible does not teach baptismal regeneration. It teaches regeneration through obedient faith which of course includes baptism. But the pastor overlooked the fact that his doctrine of “once in grace always in grace” is by far a greater incentive to sin than that of baptismal regeneration in infancy. For if a man thinks he is saved, and cannot be lost, then he is more apt to indulge in vice and corruption than the man who was taught his original sin was washed away in baptism. You can see that Catholics teach that original sin was washed away in sin, but they teach that one must confess to the priest, purchase indulgences and such like for the welfare of one’s soul. But the consequence of Baptist doctrine is perpetual laxity in morals. I realize of course that Baptists fight all phases of immorality—fornication, dancing, liquor, gambling, et cetera. Nevertheless a good Baptist who engages in any of those vices will not be lost, according to their doctrine. That is what is wrong with the Baptist Church.

The next thing I list as What’s Wrong With The Baptist Church is their attitude toward obedience to God. They teach that the only obedience necessary is that of faith. They reason that if a man is saved in his obedience then he would have to obey all commands, not just Baptism, and that if a man fails to obey every single command, then he would be lost—that is, if it is necessary to obey God in order to be saved. Thus they minimize God’s commands. They make God’s commands mere optional suggestions for man in this life. Paul said we must work out our salvation (Philp. 2:12), and Peter said we purify our souls in obedience (1 Pet. 1:21).

James taught that our faith is dead without works and the second chapter of James rises to haunt Baptist preachers every time they speak on salvation by faith only. They will argue of course that salvation is by grace and not of works and we agree. Salvation is not earned or merited by the works of man, but salvation is not granted or given until man has satisfactorily submitted to the commands, the works of God. We will be judged according to our works (Rom. 2:6; 1 Cor. 3:13). Baptists cannot see how that a man can be saved by grace if he must work out his salvation. They believe obedience nullifies grace. But if and when they ascertain how it is that man is saved by faith and repentance in obedience to God then they ought to see how that man is saved by faith, repentance and baptism in obedience to God. They have never learned that faith that saves, is faith that obeys, or that saving faith is obedient faith. What James said about faith apart from works being dead has never registered on Baptist preachers, and they will talk loud and long about faith including repentance, or repentance including faith, but will deny that faith includes any other kind of obedience.

There are countless other objections to be listed against the Baptist system of religion. I have listed four: Baptists make a mockery of baptism in their doctrine concerning it, they cast reflection on the Lord’s church in their doctrine denying its essentiality, they defeat the principle of Christian peculiarity in their doctrine once in grace always in grace, and they have minimized the importance of obedience, making God’s commands mere optional suggestions.

The Baptist system is a Protestant system of theology developed from confusion of the reformatory reactions of the 16th and 17th centuries. Baptist theology is based on heresy handed down through the centuries, some of which comes directly from the Roman Catholic Church itself. It cannot be the New Testament church because it is different in name, organization, doctrine, foundation, origin and worship than that institution we read about in God’s New Testament.

When Baptist people learn and realize that we are not trying to exalt ourselves over them as individuals, when they learn that we are not trying to get them to join “our church,” when they do see that we are merely contending for the faith once delivered, they will come out of that religious denomination like a host of others have done down through the years.

We must emphasize that the church of Christ is not our denomination,” we must point out that it is not a denomination at all. We must show by our action and our teaching and our lives that this system of religion we uphold and advocate is the faith once delivered, and that our hope is in Christ and his body, not in man and his denominations. In this we are not bigots, we are Christian soldiers.

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Author: Editor

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