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Friday, April 25, 2008

George Truett on Baptism and Religious Liberty

I've been busy writing papers over the last week. One forthcoming paper analyzes David Gushee's "Emerging Evangelical Centrist" thesis and the concept of "substantive neutrality." The other paper which I presented earlier this week was entitled:

Where Did Baptists Come From? The Case For Anabaptist Influence on Baptist Origins

In that paper, I take a look at the writings of Winthrop Hudson, William Estep and Jason Lee. If you have not read Jason Lee's The Theology of John Smyth (Mercer University Press), check it out.

All that said, it was interesting trying to analyze how much influence 16th century Anabaptism and the Dutch Mennonites specifically had on Smyth's adoption of believer's baptism and his church-state views.

Speaking of believer's baptism and religious liberty, I'd like to share my favorite G.W. Truett quotes on those two subjects on this Friday. These lengthy quotes are taken from Truett's famous sermon, Baptists and Religious Liberty, delivered on the steps of the United States Capitol.

Truett on Baptism:
It follows, inevitably, that Baptists are unalterably opposed to every form of sponsorial religion. If I have fellow Christians in this presence today who are the protagonists of infant baptism, they will allow me to say frankly, and certainly I would say it in the most fraternal, Christian spirit, that to Baptists infant baptism is unthinkable from every viewpoint. First of all, Baptists do not find the slightest sanction for infant baptism in the Word of God. That fact, to Baptists, makes infant baptism a most serious question for the consideration of the whole Christian world. Nor is that all. As Baptists see it, infant baptism tends to ritualize Christianity and reduce it to lifeless forms. It tends also and inevitably, as Baptists see it, to secularizing of the church and to the blurring and blotting out of the line of demarcation between the church and the unsaved world....

Again, to Baptists, the New Testament teaches that salvation through Christ must precede membership in his church, and must precede the observance of the two ordinances in his church, namely, baptism and the Lord's Supper. These ordinances are for the saved and only for the saved. These two ordinances are not sacramental, but symbolic. They are teaching ordinances, portraying in symbol truths of immeasurable and everlasting moment to humanity. To trifle with these symbols, to pervert their forms and at the same time to pervert the truths they are designed to symbolize, is indeed a most serious matter. Without ceasing and without wavering, Baptists are, in conscience, compelled to contend that these two teaching ordinances shall be maintained in the churches just as they were placed there in the wisdom and authority of Christ. To change these two meaningful symbols is to change their scriptural intent and content, and thus pervert them, and we solemnly believe, to be the carriers of the most deadly heresies. By our loyalty to Christ, which we hold to be the supreme test of our friendship for him, we must unyeildingly contend for these two ordinances as they were originally given to Christ's churches.
Truett on Religious Liberty:
That utterance of Jesus, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's," is one of the most revolutionary and history-making utterances that ever fell from those lips divine. That utterance, once and for all, marked the divorcement of church and state. It marked a new era for the creeds and deeds of men. It was the sunrise gun of a new day, the echoes of which are to go on and on and on until in every land, whether great or small, the doctrine shall have absolute supremacy everywhere of a free church in a free state.

In behalf of our Baptist people I am compelled to say that forgetfulness of the principles that I have just enumerated, in our judgment, explains many of the religious ills that now afflict the world. All went well with the early churches in their earlier days. They were incomparably triumphant days for the Christian faith. Those early disciples of Jesus, without prestige and worldly power, yet aflame with the love of God and the passion of Christ, went out and shook the pagan Roman Empire from center to circumference, even in one brief generation. Christ's religion needs no prop of any kind from any worldly source, and to the degree that it is thus supported is a millstone hanged about its neck.
In a post-modern world that values relevancy, I'd say that much of what G.W. Truett had to say from those East Capitol steps almost 90 years ago is still relevant today. Preserving the best of The Baptist Story is indeed worth the fuss.



Blogger texasinafrica said...

Very interesting. Now tell us about what's happening in your personal life. :)

6:36 AM


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