THE SIN OF BAPTIST DEVISIVENESS
The concept of "multiplying
by dividing" may work in establishing new Bible believing Baptist churches
but it obviously does not work when we allow "doubtful disputations" to
become devisive issues that result in our separating ourselves from our
own brethren in Christ.
| It was one of those verbal
exchanges that reminded me once again why it is that we Baptists have earned
the reputation for being critical, judgemental, and devisive.
A reunion with a relative
who has known me during the better part of my life listened intently as
I described the workings of God in my life during the recent years since
we had last seen each other. After sharing with him that I am currently
teaching one of the adult classes and singing in the choir of our church,
his response was rather disheartening. Instead of commending me for
my service to the Lord and expressing any kind of appreciation that I was
a fellow believer doing his best to serve the Lord, he asked, "What version
of the Bible does your church use?"
Upon telling him which one
we used, he simply said "Oh?" and then turned away from me. It wasn't
the Authorized King James Version of the Bible. I knew that I was
At that moment, I fully realized
that he had just written me off as one more self-beguiled and compromised
Christian who, due to my not adhering to the "King James Only" view, was
totally out of God's will and probably misleading all of those equally
beguiled students who attended my Sunday class.
Sad to say, having been a
born-again Baptist for over forty years, such disappointing experiences
have occurred more times than I care to count. Devisiveness in our
ranks spans the full spectrum of human experience from our varied views
regarding everything from musical tastes to whether or not we go to movie
theaters to which version of the Bible we use to what association of Baptists
we belong; to name only a few.
Thus, we find ourselves splitting
hairs over a multitude of "doubtful disputations" (Romans 14:1) while ignoring
the greater truths such as our shared faith, Christian experience, and
how we appear to those who wonder why we wrangle more than we witness.
| Naming the problem is one
thing; resolving the issue is the challenge.
The bottom line is that it
seems to be an unresolvable characteristic of too many Baptists; especially
those brethren who come from the more conservative elements of our persuasion.
Although we chaff at the term "fighting fundamentalists," the truth is
that some have earned the title and deserve it. We chaff even more
when we see the same brethren boasting of their pride in identifying themselves
as such. In the meantime, the rest of us are having an extremely
hard time visualizing Jesus attacking every lost soul due to their affiliation
with other sinners or castigating a believer because he/she uses the New
International Version of the Bible or actually enjoys listening to soft
jazz on the radio.
However, we can visualize
Jesus addressing those of our brethren who continue to beat on the already
swollen black eye they have given all Baptists with the following statement...
"And Jesus knew their thoughts,
and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to
desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:"
~ Matthew 12:25
Is our house divided?
Currently, in the USA alone,
there are 50-plus recognized and organized Baptist associations/conventions/fellowships.
Most came into existence because they disagreed with the group of Baptists
they were associated with at the time. No doubt, their reasons were
totally justified in their own minds but, just as doubtless, the Baptist
doctrinal distinctive regarding Individual Soul Liberty took a back seat
during the debate. Thus, one more Baptist group was added to the
In recent years, the tummult
of agression within Baptist ranks has become so pronounced and public that
good solid churches are dropping the name. In some parts of
our country, the name "Baptist" inspires nothing but laughter and ridicule.
Hiding behind the mantle of being "persecuted for the faith" does not apply
in the vast majority of these instances. We simply made fools of
ourselves and the community is responding out of their own sense of justifiable
| Previous generations of devisive
Baptists have done much to harm the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we have
been commissioned to preach and teach. Some of our number in this
current generation have contributed to the same error. Instead of
uniting our efforts to win the lost to Christ, we spend our time sniping
at each other if not competing. Divided houses do that.
It is more of a good understanding
of church history than any claim to the gift of prophecy that this writer
make the following observation. We will continue the trend of dividing
until the name "Baptists" is equated with "Shakers" and those who hold
our understanding of Biblical doctrines call themselves something else--or
we will corporately call on God to forgive us for our having divided His
house and revive the doctrine of Individual Soul Liberty.
"It is better to hear the rebuke
of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of
fools." ~ Ecclesiastes 6:5