Spurgeon on Baptists in the South

“I have not one word of unfriendly criticism to utter against my Baptist brethren beyond the Atlantic. On the contrary, I believe that the Baptists of America are the best Baptists in the world, and that the best Baptists in America are the Baptists of the South. Moreover, if I were to come to America to live, I would join a close communion church and conform myself to its practices on the Communion question.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

From John T. Christian’s 1892 book “Close Communion”, pages 243-244

Why Denominations?

WHY DENOMINATIONS?

We often hear, at our public religious community activities, expressions like these.  “We are of different denominations, but that makes no difference.”  “Denominations aren’t important.”  And in one sense these statements are true.  Surely no one believes that a specific denominational tag is an automatic ticket to Paradise – “Do not pass Go, go directly to Heaven.”  And few would say that a different tag would automatically condemn an individual; though the doctrines taught under that name may be false, some individuals in that group may have a personal relationship with the Creator.

Ever since the founding of the Federal (now National) Council of Churches in 1908, there has been a push away from denominational  identity, known as the “ecumenical movement.”  Some scholars even say we are living in a “post-denominational age.” Given that, a question must be asked: why then do we still have denominations?  Why are those expressing these views part of various denominations?  Indeed, there may be more, not fewer, organized groups of professing Christians now than there were in 1908!  And that leads naturally to a second question: why different denominations in the first place? Surely the only Bible does not give today’s pattern.  How did it come to be, and how should we view it?

Denominations began when people who thought for themselves disagreed with the form of religion they saw around them.  Some of these disagreements were probably very minor, though those who held them did not think they were.  Some were issues of eternity, important enough to justify division.  Denominating tags are a bit like the labels on groceries. They have no nutrition in themselves, but should identify the contents.  It would be chaotic to try to shop in a store where the canned goods had no labels!   And of course the labels should accurately show what’s inside.  If we have a case of the “mulli-grubs” (not in the dictionary, but all of us have had it once or twice), a bowl of chicken soup may be just the ticket.  What if, when we open the can, it contains maraschino cherries?  No matter how much we may like those in the right recipe, a bowl won’t do much for the mulli-grubs!  We would use the “truth in packaging” law quickly and likely demand a refund and a can of soup!

So denominating tags exist to identify points of view.  Since some say that I’m “leaning toward the Baptists,” I’ll use our folks for an illustration.  When someone visits a Baptist church, they have a right to expect to hear,  along with the general Christian basics, reasons why Baptists have a separate existence.  The idea of personal salvation by grace, through faith, once for all and forever; the view of believer’s immersion by a church, so that the individual may be added to the local church, the view that each local, visible congregation is autonomous under Christ and is the custodian of the ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s supper): all these are among the key reasons Baptists exist as a separate group of Christians.

Others have their story, and their reason for existing as separate groups;  we can recognize one another as members  together in the world-wide family of God, and live side by side in Christian friendship; so long as we have freedom, denominations have their value in expressing differing  views of God’s written word.  But the Day to end all days is coming, when denominations will be no more because they will not be needed; for all the saved, there will be no differences—and  that will be glory for me. 

Charles Blair

Pastor, Poplar Grove Baptist Church. Hickman, KY 

Director of Missions, West Kentucky Baptist Association

*** This article was submitted for publication in a local newspaper

Why Should We Wish to Make Baptists of our Protestant Brethren?

But why should we wish to make Baptists of our Protestant brethren? Are not many of them noble Christians — not a few of them among the excellent of the earth? If with their opinions they are so devout and useful, why wish them to adopt other opinions? Yes, there are among them many who command our high admiration for their beautiful Christian character and life; but have a care about your inferences from this fact. The same is true even of many Roman Catholics, in the past and in the present; yet who doubts that the Romanist system as a whole is unfavorable to the production of the best types of piety? And it is not necessarily an arrogant and presumptuous thing in us if we strive to bring honored fellow-Christians to views which we honestly believe to be more scriptural, and therefore more wholesome. Apollos was an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, and Aquila and Priscilla were lowly people who doubtless admired him; yet they taught him the way of the Lord more perfectly, and no doubt greatly rejoiced that he was willing to learn. He who tries to win people from other denominations to his own distinctive views may be a sectarian bigot; but he may also be a humble and loving Christian.   – John A. Broadus

— From his essay “The Duty of Baptists to Teach Their Distinctive Views” 

— From the Baptist History Homepage,     www.baptisthistoryhomepage.com/broadus.john.win.protestants.html