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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Recovering E.Y. Mullins

From the Spring issue of The Whitsitt Journal:

According to E.Y. Mullins...

The right of private judgment is a dangerous word, but it is a winged and emancipating word. It is the sole guaranty that humanity will pass out of the childhood to the adulthood stage of religion…It was the hammer with which Roger Williams broke the chain which united church and state…the right of private judgment; yes, a dangerous word, but a word which started humanity on new voyage of spiritual discovery. (From “Baptist Life in the World’s Life,” 1928)

On pastors and deacons: “These are not masters, but servants; they are not rulers, but guides; they are not officials clothed with authority, but teachers. They are simply first among equals, selected to perform certain duties because of their special fitness, and not because they exercise any authority. They are spiritual leaders.” (From “Baptist Theology in the New World Order,” 1920)

Religious liberty excluded the imposition of religious creeds by ecclesiastical authority. Confessions of faith by individuals or groups of people, voluntarily framed and set forth as containing the essentials of what humanity believes to be the Gospel, are all right. They are merely one way of witnessing to the truth. But when they are laid upon people's consciences by ecclesiastical command, or by a form of human authority, they become a shadow between the soul and God, an intolerable yoke, an impertinence and a tyranny. (From “The Baptist Conception of Religious Liberty,” 1923)

What, then, is the Baptist conception of Christianity? Is it best expressed by Luther’s great discovery of the doctrine of justification by faith? It is this but more. Is it in the doctrine of the right of private interpretation of Scripture? Yes, but more. All depends on what you find when you interpret. Is it soul-freedom? Yes, but more. For the free soul may grope in darkness in its quest for truth, and the question of freedom is what humanity will do with his freedom. Freedom does not imply capacity for self-government. Is it individualism? Yes, and more. A person is more than an individual. He is a social being and must live and work in a social order. Is it the separation of Church and State? Yes, and more. For the separation of Church and State may involve tyranny in the Church and tyranny in the State.

There is a larger and better statement of the Baptist position. It is inclusive of all the above, and more. It is this: The competency of the soul in religion. This, of course means under God. It is the assertion of sublime truth that humanity is capable of himself to work out his destiny under the tutelage of God alone. As an individual and as a social being, humankind is competent. (From “The Historical Significance of the Baptists,” 1906)

Editor’s Note: Inclusive language was inserted (e.g., humanity for man).

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