It seems to be the chief criticism of Baptists that they will not "co-operate" with the other denominations. If there is one thing for which we are hated and considered incorrigible it is this. I have tried to think this thing through but have failed to find the exact answer to the question, "What are we doing that is not right?"
I think this is a fair question. If I am everlastingly trying to get someone to change his ways and fall in line with my ways, it must mean that I feel he is not doing the right thing or at least not in the right way. If that is not the case, then why do I not co-operate with him and do it the way he is doing? If we are not both doing the same things the same way, then one of us must be wrong.
If Baptists differ from others in what they are doing and the way they are doing it so much that others are constantly trying to get us to change and fall in with them, then they must consider that we are wrong either in our purpose or our methods or both.
Let us look at the Baptist way and see what they would have us change. First, take the Gospel Baptists preach. Does it save? Is it sound enough to take a soul to heaven? Does it give a satisfactory experience? I know of no Protestant who will say nay to these questions. Everyone of them, so far as I know, will accept what Baptists preach as ENOUGH to save sinners. Some of them do not demand as much as we do, but none of them will say that the standard of our Gospel is too low. The only change we could make there would be to cease preaching that Gospel or modify it. But they all say it is enough.
Second, our church membership. Is it sound and substantial? Do we require enough here? Yes, any Protestant will accept what a Baptist professes and does as valid ground for church membership. They require no further confession or baptism. Baptists can join any Protestant church just as they are. Our baptism is recognized as sufficient to meet the demands of the New Testament. Some might modify our emphasis, but none would add to it.
Third, our emphasis on spiritual life. Is our standard, at least theoretically, high enough? Do Baptists emphasize living as an expression of what they profess enough to suit other denominations? It is true that many of our people indulge in unspiritual practices, as do others, but I think our emphasis on this point is sufficient to meet Protestants everywhere. They might modify our standards, but none demand more.
Fourth, our practical Christianity. I know of no Protestant individual who will do more than our better Baptists. We may not put ourselves on record as supporting every movement suggested, but we will find practical Christianity the natural conduct of our spiritual people. And wherever a true Baptist lives he will be serving the needs of his field. He may not be attending all the conventions and mass meetings and passing more new resolutions, but he will be serving in a way that is acceptable to all Protestants. Nobody ever accused Baptists as a class of being lazy and indifferent to human needs. Individuals among them may be, but as a people they are sensitive to human needs in a way that is acceptable to the Christian world.
I could go on, but that about covers the ground. Yes, there is one other thing: their loyalty to the Bible as the Word of God. Does any Protestant take a stand in front of Baptists in this loyalty? We may be criticized for being loyal to this Word, but never for being disloyal.
Then, what is wrong with the Baptists? What can our brethren wish us to do in order to meet a higher standard? And if they think our standard is high enough, just how would they have us change except to modify? And in this day of low standards is not the suggestion to lower our standards a questionable one?
So, if we are doing as well on these vital points as others, if not better than some others, instead of their asking us to co-operate with them, why don't they co-operate with us? We pledge our lives to guarantee the freedom of others to go their ways as under God they see their respective ways, while we, in the earnestness of our consciences, go ours. And if our brethren find us doing only that of which they, by their practice, show acceptance, I ask earnestly, what is wrong with the Baptists?
It makes me wonder if there is not a longing on the part of many to be standing for truth which Baptists represent, a stand which has brought to Baptists, in spite of the ugly criticism that they will not "co-operate," the enviable reputation of acceptance by all Protestant denominations on all the vital points of faith and practice.
I do not say it in any unkind spirit, but I believe the agitation of recent years, and the restatement of Baptist loyalty and the truth which they hold, has opened the eyes of many to the fact that we have remained loyal to the only Gospel that will save. I rather suspect that if it could be done without frankly coming out openly and saying the Baptists are right, many would like to take a stand on our loyalty to Scripture truth which, amid all criticism, we still insist upon while the maligning currents of Modernism are sweeping away so many foundations and sand.
[Western Recorder, July 27, 1939. The Western Recorder, is the Kentucky Baptist State paper. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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