For centuries Baptists have been known as a convictional people.
Felix Manz became a martyr because he believed, not in infant baptism, but in baptism by immersion for believers only. When the Zurich council passed an edict that made adult re-baptism punishable by drowning, Manz became the first Swiss Anabaptist casualty of the edict. He was drowned in the icy waters of the Limmat River in Zurich in the winter of 1527 at the age of 28.
Roger Williams came to America in 1631. His strong convictions and quest for religious liberty kept him embroiled in protracted religious and political controversies and resulted in his banishment from Massachusetts. In fact, a 1645 Massachusetts law specifically banned Baptists from the colony, calling them “the incendiaries of commonwealths.”
Nevertheless, Williams fled to the wilderness and established the town of Providence, founded the Rhode Island colony, and planted the first Baptist church in the colonies.
In Virginia Baptist pastors John Waller, Lewis Craig, and James Childs were jailed in Spotsylvania in 1768 for refusing to stop preaching the Gospel. They were cited as disturbing the peace. Some of the imprisonments of Baptists lasted up to five months.
,Court records in Virginia indicate that in the eighteenth century Baptist preachers who were men of deep conviction were sometimes “pelted with apples and stones,” “dragged off the stage,” “kicked and cuffed about,” “shot with a shot-gun,” “severely beaten with a whip,” and “had their hands slashed while preaching.”
The Down-Grade Controversy among the Baptists of England during the latter part of the 19th century had Charles H. Spurgeon and other Baptists standing up against those who “were giving up the atoning sacrifice, denying the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and casting slurs upon justification by faith.”
The controversy became a tangled affair and has been called the severest crisis ever faced by the Baptist Union of Great Britain. Spurgeon started the controversy to warn his brethren against the rise of liberalism. Spurgeon and his supporters lost the battle and he was devastated by the outcome.
Mark Hopkins, writing for the Christian History Institute, observed, “Unfortunately, in the Down-Grade Controversy, Spurgeon did not emerge unscathed. During the controversy his health deteriorated, so that his wife, Susannah, wrote following his death that ‘his fight for the faith … cost him his life.’”
During the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention some leaders were ridiculed and maligned for their stand on Biblical inerrancy as well as other issues. However, deep convictions always come with a price.
Today, it seems that those who want to neutralize the pastors and laity who have deep convictions are aggressively preaching the doctrine of tolerance. The subtlety of their approach is not that tolerance is to be an end itself, but merely an important working principle in moral discourse and inquiry.
And so we are conditioned to hearing things like “Love is more important then having unwavering and stringent moral and Biblical guidelines; and love will ultimately triumph.”
The doctrine of tolerance is likely an outgrowth of the seeker-sensitive, felt needs, consumer-friendly model of church growth. These pastors are not only great communicators, but they are great entrepreneurs. They have a marketing strategy to draw the masses, have colossal websites, and are sucking up all kinds of other pastors and churches into the vortex of their culturally driven self-styled churches.
However, if that is our philosophy or theology are we going to condemn preachers who have an uncompromising allegiance to the Word of God and preach it without fear for favor? Are we going to throw people like Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman to the curb for remaining true to their convictions by not baking cakes or arranging flowers for a same sex marriage?
Has the culture influenced the church more than the church has influenced the culture? Are many congregations becoming quasi, pseudo churches that please men more than God?
Is the doctrine of tolerance becoming so attractive and “Christian” that those who have convictions must keep silent so as not to incur the ridicule and wrath of a culture that does not know God? Is this the first step in attempting to silence Christianity or drive true Christianity underground in America?
Catholic Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia recently stated, “Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominant. Then it tries to silence good.”
In the Journal of Markets and Morality, the author writes, “Masses of believers would breathe a sigh of relief to think that their faith could be merely a private matter.” And indeed, I think the world would be happy if we confined our faith to the four walls of our church facilities and if it (our faith) never made a public appearance.
There is a growing segment of our society who view religion as one’s appendix. They cannot discern a useful purpose for it, but they hope evolution will eventually cancel it out so they will not have to countenance its disconcerting presence any longer.
We must not be silenced. We must not cease to boldly share our faith. We must not be driven underground. We must not abandon the culture war. There is a battle we must fight. There is a victory we must win or at least die trying.
We must forever speak the truth in love. Truth without love can be brutal; but love without truth is hypocritical and superficial sentimentalism.
A significant part of Christian maturity and spiritual development is being willing to be known and held accountable as a follower of Christ by believers and unbelievers alike.
Jesus was no shrinking violet, no patsy, and certainly not seeking an easy way out of fulfilling His mission. We must follow his example. It is time for Christians to raise their hands and be identified publicly. We must refuse to be marginalized and stand with our Baptist forefathers who bravely stood firm for the principles they held dear