"The New Editor of the Western Recorder"
By R. G. Baucom
I AM ALMOST tempted to write under the heading, "An open letter to the Board of Directors of the Western Recorder." But some Kentucky Baptists might think an "outsider" was presuming to tell the Board whom to elect.
Therefore permit a Texas Baptist pastor to say to you Kentucky Baptists that you should be proud of the Western Recorder. We beyond the borders of Kentucky do not look upon it solely as your State denominational paper. We view it as a Southwide paper. In fact this writer once thought it was a Southwide paper for the entire South rather than a State paper. My father took the paper and as a boy I looked upon it from hearing him talk as a great Southern Baptist paper for all the South. Frankly I still view it thus and I now write with that thought in mind.
No one outside of Kentucky should try to tell Kentucky Baptists whom to elect as Editor. But I have a very strong feeling that it would be well to let Kentucky Baptists know how a Baptist out of Kentucky feels towards the greatest Baptist newspaper now printed. When I hold a revival meeting, I always see that the pastor of the church shall get the Western Recorder , if he is not already taking it.
THE ONE thing uppermost in the mind of Southern Baptists, as regards the new editor of the Western Recorder, is whether it shall continue to remain the great vertebrate that it has been under the great Victor I. Masters or shall it degenerate into a mere denominational bulletin. There is a vast difference between a Baptist newspaper and a denominational bulletin.
We consider the Western Recorder the greatest Baptist newspaper printed. We consider Dr. V. I. Masters the greatest religious editor living. Denominational ownership, in most cases, has caused our denominational papers to become mainly bulletins for the promotion of the denominational programs as this heads up through different boards and agencies. Unfortunately our idea of a denominational paper has come to be moulded into that viewpoint. But Baptist newspapers are NOT to become boosting agencies for a program however good that program, to the exclusion of the admonition of the Apostle Jude when he said, "contend earnestly for the faith, once for all delivered." Nor should they sidestep the statement by Paul when he said, "I am set for the defence of the Gospel" [our emphasis.—Ed.]. In recent years we have become contaminated with the virus of "holy, holy, thus saith the Convention" or "holy, holy, thus saith Dr. So and So." In those same recent years, Baptist newspapers have rushed to the defence of the man under charges rather than to the defence of the Gospel. Especially has that been so where it has been some prominent leader or some prominent school man or some of our schools. To elevate a preacher to some official position sets him up in the minds of some in a higher class in the ministry. Even the man himself sometimes becomes contaminated with that virus. The pastorate is the highest of all the work of Christ, and it reaches its highest point in the chastened, humble spirit of its Christ-exalting occupant.
"Holy, holy is the great leader." "Holy, holy is the great school." Certainly no one has actually been using such terms, but the implication has become prevalent. The Western Recorder has not failed under Dr. Masters to fly to the defence of verbal inspiration or the Blood Atonement or the Virgin Birth or the New Testament Churches as against the Universal Church theory or against any other false teaching, regardless of where it may have come from. And this point, brethren, Kentucky Baptists constitute what we out of Kentucky are concerned about in the election of a new editor.
I know not the Western Recorder beyond Dr. Masters, as Drs. Eaton and Porter were before my day. But I do know that we look upon the paper as a Southwide paper to keep Southern Baptists on the right track. NO RELIGIOUS NEWSPAPER PRINTED TODAY BEARS THE INFLUENCE THE WESTERN RECORDER DOES [Type emphasis here is mine and I wish I might drive home to the very center of your spiritual being that thought].
Too many resignations have come lately. They have left us staggering. Sampey, Scarborough, then Hamilton, all of the Seminaries. Now Masters. AND I DO NOT CONSIDER THE ELECTION OF A MAN TO SUCCEED ANY OF THE SEMINARY PRESIDENTS ONE WHIT MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE ELECTION OF AN EDITOR OF THE WESTERN RECORDER.
TO ME it is a tragedy that occasions should arise among Southern Baptists for any Baptist newspaper to have to bring to the attention of Southern Baptists some fatal teachings that have been called to our attention within the past years within the pages of the Western Recorder, but to me and if possible a greater tragedy, is the fact that our other papers are not outspoken against such teachings.
Shall the new editor be so contaminated with the virus of officialism that the greatest Baptist paper of them all shall degenerate into a mere program bulletin? In some
States it is almost anathema in high Baptist quarters for the Baptist paper to call attention to the wrong teaching in a school or of some "greater leader" or "great pastor" getting off the track. They will fly to the defence of the school or "leader" or "pastor," BUT NOT THE TRUTH.
Or else they just say nothing. Denominational ownership has a tendency to suppress. Hitler FIRST suppressed the German press, then the German people. "Truth crushed to earth will rise again," is an axiom that does not hold true unless it has some medium through which it may rise. To bear witness of a program which we ourselves made may be important. But we do not WORSHIP the program, nor the men who made it, nor the Convention which sponsored it. WE WORSHIP GOD AND HIS CHRIST.
We follow the Book. Holy Spirit rebuke us, if our course shows that in our hearts the program stands first [And He surely will rebuke us. Has He not already rebuked us? — Ed.].
All my life I have served within the Baptist official group. The local District Association, the State Convention and the S. B. C. We must co-operate and our program is the present device of that co-operation. Our basal trouble is not in that. It is in the disastrous assumptions which we have identified with it. One of these assumptions is that you have got to put control and wisdom AT THE TOP to run the churches of Christ — the TOP being, NOT God's Spirit, but a few official brethren.
If you catch one of us when we cannot dodge from your grasp, we will cry out to high heaven that we do not boss people from the top, or that we do not intend to. Yet the fact stares us in the face that everything has been bowed back into a dark corner and wisdom holds forth at the top, primarily in a School, or a Committee, or a Board or an Agency, and secondarily in the "official mind" as it expresses itself in various State and Southwide organizations.
I go further and call your attention to this deplorable fungus growth. When a church becomes pastor less, if we have not dotted every Convention "i" and crossed every program "t," a word or hint is dropped by any authoritarian brother and because of the virus "holy-holy-is-the-program" has contaminated some member or members of that church, we become outcasts in the mind of such member or members and the Holy Spirit is shoved aside.
A New Testament Baptist church is the only pure democracy on earth. Shall New Testament Baptist churches tell the Conventions what to do? or shall the Conventions tell the churches what to do? Here lies the battle ground of our future co-operative effort. We rightly boast of our Baptist liberty and democracy, BUT LET US GO ALL THE WAY BACK TO IT and apply it when it hits leaders as well as those they lead. Else, quit claiming belief in it!
Modernistic, unscriptural overlordship dictation wrecked the Northern Baptist co-operative effort. The smallest New Testament Baptist church on earth is bigger than the biggest Convention on earth. We will never go all the way back to democracy until we go that way within our Conventions. The recent San Antonio Convention was a healthy step in the right direction. With worldly wisdom we have been laying our plans and then "inviting" the Holy Spirit to come and approve them. The Holy Spirit is the most abused Person on earth today.
I COULD wish the reconsideration and re-election of Dr. Masters. That is my personal desire and I feel like I voice the desire of all orthodox Baptists around the globe. But if the Board does not do so, as a Southern Baptist I want to lay upon your hearts the absolute necessity of maintaining in a denominational paper, a Baptist newspaper WITNESS TO ALL THINGS DOCTRINAL AND PRACTICAL, THINGS THAT ARE OF COMMON CONCERN TO ALL BAPTISTS AROUND THE EARTH.
That is an issue that needs to burn like a forest fire and on whichi except on rare occasions — too rare to mention — the Western Recorder has dropped a burning match and borne witness. If such liberty is to be denied a Baptist newspaper under denominational ownership, bought by denominational money, and controlled by the money-raising arm of officialism, then we had better sell the papers or even give them away.
The leadership of a majority of the denominational organizations of America are already Modernistic or sympathetic towards Modernism or fellowshipping the Liberals. Many of the American Seminaries have gone over to the liberal view and some to rank infidelity. Unionism is being preached everywhere. Southern and Northern Methodists are now united in organization. Can Southern Baptists have even a day of fellowship with Northern Baptists, IF their leadership be Modernistic or sympathetic towards liberal theology, denying the virgin birth and the plenary and verbal inspiration? — who practice alien-immersion and open communion? "Can two walk together except they be agreed?"
Such "unity" or so-called fellowship is wholly of the flesh, for it is a betrayal of the Christ of Calvary.
Shall the Western Recorder witness be softened to meet the demands of such a fellowship? or shall it continue to be a vertebrate for the witness of the revelation of God to man?
Shall it be softened to meet the "official mind," in whose mind a school, Association or Convention, or committees, boards and agencies thereof, transcends the smallest New Testament Baptist church within the bounds of the Southern Baptist Convention?
Shall it be softened to meet the demands of a Liberal Theology that transcends the will of God as expressed in the atoning work of Christ on Calvary?
Shall it be softened to meet the demands of officialism who look to the program rather than a "thus saith the Lord" or a thus saith the churches?
Shall it. be softened to meet the demands of a school, a Committee, Board or Agency, OR SHALL IT CONTINUE TO BEAR WITNESS FOR THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST AND THE CHRIST OF THE CHURCHES?
When a Southern Baptist has a manuscript that has teeth in it, almost invariably it must find its way to the Western Recorder for expression. BUT EVERY PAPER OUGHT TO BE OPEN TO THESE HELPFUL DISCUSSIONS. SHALL THAT ONE MEDIUM LEFT NOW BE CLOSED? SOUTHERN BAPTISTS AWAIT YOUR ANSWER, KENTUCKY BAPTISTS.
[From the Western Recorder, August 6, 1942, pp. 4-5. Document provided by Ben Stratton, Farmington, KY. - Scanned by Jim Duvall.]
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