Baptist Love Vs Baptist Law -- By: Richard V. Clearwaters

Journal: Central Bible Quarterly
Volume: CENQ 02:4 (Winter 1959)
Article: Baptist Love Vs Baptist Law
Author: Richard V. Clearwaters


Baptist Love Vs Baptist Law

Richard V. Clearwaters

“The power of the keys” in Baptist Fellowship in all of our history has been the autonomy of Local Churches (Matthew 16:19); the “rope of sand” that has bound us together has been the doctrines of the Bible that we hold in common (Acts 2:42).

Why will Baptist “Conventions” try to substitute “the power of money” (Matthew 6:24) for “the power of the keys” and the “rope of legality” for “the rope of sand” (1 Corinthians 6:1). Restraint is justifiable when necessary to protect the freedom of others, but not justifiable to abuse the freedom of the majority and protect the freedom of the minority.

When we attempt by law to force men to do things that only love should compel friction is at once generated resulting in only loss, and forms of evasion and frustration. It takes less character to yield to the temptation of adopting compulsory and legal principles but remember they generate only resentment and revenge. An illustration is our Universal Military Training law, in peace time; it looks like a guarantee of permanent freedom but it only paves the way for proposals to restrict freedom of thought, speech, press, religion, and business.

Shailer Matthews, a liberal who helped frame the Constitution of the Northern Baptist Convention (now A.B.C.), warned the body then, and he accused them in a long article in “The Baptist” fifteen years later of forsaking their Baptist heritage of democracy and told them they were doing it in a hap hazzard way—that if they intended to do that they should adopt the unbiblical Presbyterian system of a legal, limited, and representative democracy instead of the historic pure and voluntary Christian democracy that Baptists had been known by through the ages.

But they were willful: Legal Contracts were substituted for voluntary and democratic cooperation between the A.B.C. and each State Convention. And every State, like Minnesota, which refused to accept their legal substitute, was excluded from their orb of cooperating agencies. Minnesota would vote again today to refuse the 16 point legal contract with the A.B.C. which let them choose our leaders.

Another instance of the American Baptist Convention substituting law for love is the case of the Pastor’s Retirement and Pension Fund. The writer was present in the early days when the ministers and missionaries pension fund was launched. The writer recalls in a meeting in the state of Colorado when Dr. W. B. Riley took the floor and praised those who were so humanitarian ...

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