"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." -- I Timothy 4:1.
Under the heading "Our Outdated Church Covenant," with the by-line of R. Lofton Hudson, Home Mission magazine published in its March, 1969 issue a scurvy attack upon the church covenant in common use among Baptist churches. The article deserves attention only as an example of the corrrupt and corrupting influences being foisted upon Baptists in our day.
Threadbare Argument Of all the threadbare arguments ever used against anything worth preserving, one of the most tiresome is that anything good is old-fashioned and outdated. Yet this old outdated argument is the leading point, almost the only point, of the article under review. "Now words, concepts, and emphases become threadbare in twenty-five years."
Quite contrary to this shallow statement which was threadbare before it was written, the fact is that some words, some concepts, some emphases, never become threadbare: not in 25 years or 2500 years. Educated people can read literature (even classic literature, not to mention scripture) written 2500 years ago and still thrill to its truth and wisdom.
After complaining of "how many millions of copies" of the church covenant may have been printed, including many thousands in recent years, the article suddenly declares that "It does not use language which is in use in 1969." Of course, the author has already discredited his own statement; and to help further in a good cause we are happy to reprint the covenant in this issue of the Ashland Avenue Baptist. Any American who cannot understand its language does not deserve to be called literate.
Intoxicating Drink Mentioning the printing of the covenant in a Tennessee church bullitin, the Home Missions article grieves over the underscoring of the words, "To abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drink as a beverage."
Quoting the article: "My objection to the church covenant is that it rather grieves me when I face the fact that Jesus Christ could not belong to a Southern Baptist church . . . . He drank wine."
Really, I sincerely believe that this statement in an article published by an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention is a libel on Southern Baptist chnurches. I sincerely hope, and I really believe, that there are still a few Southern Baptist churches where Jesus Christ is welcome; and in a manner of speaking He certainly is a Member, the head, of every true church, whether called Southern Baptist or otherwise.
As to the drinking of wine, no beverage is "intoxicating drink" unless it intoxicates; and I make bold to say that Jesus Christ never drank wine to the extent of intoxication.
"Split Infinitive" Coming to "other serious objections" to the church covenant, the writer, in an apparent attempt to be disarming, concedes: "The split infinitive, 'to religiously educate our children,' I can forgive. I love to split on occasionally myself."
Splitting infinitives is an old English custom in the best of literary company, and so it is hard to understand how Mr. Hudson can endure it, much more forgive it. But "to religiously educate" does not mean the same thing as "religiously to educate" or "to educate religiously," and a man who cannot discern the difference does not need to be finding fault with the English of his betters, even if that better English was written a few years ago.
"Museumish Words According to the article being reviewed "the covenant is loaded with museumish words like 'solemnly and joyfully,' 'holiness,' 'ordinances,' 'to seekthe salvation of our kindred and acquaintances,' and to be 'exemplary in our deportment.'"
If these words are museumish, at least some Baptists will still prefer them to the gutterish slang quoted in the article as coming from an imagined "new recruit in the Christian fold": "I'll bet the cat who wrote that was cool and thought he was where the action's at. How long ago since people would dig this kind of dribble?"
While the fact may be incomprehensible to modern "cats," respectable language generally outlasts many generations of illiterate slang; and intelligent people have no great difficulty in understanding it, because literate language is the language of intelligence.
Odd Vocabulary Probably this article at hand was written mostly for th eyes of church leaders, who would be expected to be fairly familiar with current religious jargon and have dictionaries available in case of need. Even so, it is rather odd that an article complaining about difficulty in understanding the church covenant should itself contain a few words that might trouble readers.
Let the reader judge for himself whether any of the following words might be as troublesome to some people as the vocablulary of the church covenant: escalated, formulated sacrosant (possibly a typographical error for sacrosanct), archaic, poignant, transcended, and "velvet ghetto." I must confess that the last expression has me stuck. I know the current misuse of the word ghetto, but what a velvet ghetto might be I do not know. Shall I guess? The rich part of town, maybe?
Words listed above are in the main part of the article, which serves to introduce what is called "A Church Commitment." In the "Commitment" appear such words as institutions, facades, milieu, paranoid, psuedo-autonomy, isolated, overtures, and comaraderie." This last was probably intended as camaraderie. If the imagined "new recruit" can "dig" all this, he ought to take a bath and rejoin civilization.
"Social Issues" Eventually the real purpose of this attack upon the church covenant becomes apparent. The criticism of language is only a pretext. The real object of attack is Christ Himself: the purpose is to belittle the gospel of Jesus Christ and its transforming power in the individual lives of followers; the purpose is to promote the social gospel, another gospel which is not another. (Galatians 1:6-9)
"Take the great social issues of our day that ought to be the primary concern of God's people: race relations, fair labor practices, war and peace, poverty programs, interfaith communications and love, openness to one another and to God and responsible citizenship." So says the article.
But these things ought NOT to be "the primary concern of God's people," and we can make them so only at the cost of utter spiritual ruin. Our primary concern must be to know, know, and obey God in Jesus Christ; and then to lead others to know, love, and obey Him.
In the suggested "Church Commitment" we read: "We commit ourselves to attacking the problems of the government and the sorld. Other continents, Russia, Communist China, the power structures in our country in our own political set-up -- these are all our concern." Let those who will make such matters all their concern: genuine believers in Christ will be more concerned with the kingdom of God.
Doctrine of Satan "We need brothers and sisters" declares Hudson's Commitment, "as well as a Father and Mother (Holy Spirit)." The Devil's brand of doctrine shows clearly here. never in all the Bible is the Holy Spirit said to be anybody's Mother. The idea if female deity belongs to Satanic heathenism, not to Christianity. How many Southern Baptists will fall for this old doctrine of Satan, now presented as a new commitment for Baptist churches?
Pealing A Pretense Must I go on? Well -- one more quote: "We will try to peal off our pretenses and our facades and be frank, open honest, and sincere." Whew! Let pretenses and our facades sound out loud and clear as bells, and at the same time be "frank, open, honest and sincere." That is about as consistent as the ret of the article.
It is possible, of course, that the author meant "peel," and originally wrote it that way, "peal" being a mere typographical error. But there is a God in heaven Who overrules all things, and I thank Him for that "peal." Let us that know Him peal out the alarm warning against commitments to error, and we, at least, can be "frank, open, honest, and sincere" in so doing.
Church Covenant Following is the "Church Covenant" published in Pendleton's Church Manual:"Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour, and on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, we do now in the presence of God, angels, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, as one body in Christ.
"We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this church, in knowledge, holiness, and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.
"We also engage to maintain family and secret devotion; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintance; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger; to abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage, and to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Saviour.
"We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offence, but always ready for reconciliation, and mindful of the rules of our Saviour to secure it without delay.
"We moreover engage that when we remove from this place, we will as soon as possible unite with some other church, where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's word."
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, KY, April 11, 1969, pp. 1, 3. -- jrd]