1923 BWA World Congress Message

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Minutes, p. xxix:

130. The Message of the Baptist World Alliance was read by President E. Y. Mullins.

131. The following resolution was moved by President Mullins, and seconded by Dr. J. C. Carlile, of Folkestone:—

“The Congress receives the Baptist Message prepared by the special Commission, thanks the Commission for its labours, extending over a year, and authorizes the printing, publication and distribution of the said message”.

132. Discussion took place, an amendment was moved by the Rev. A. C. Dixon, D.D., of Baltimore, U.S.A., and was rejected by a large majority. The original motion was carried, with one dissentient.

Meetings Summary, pp. 223-228:

A MESSAGE OF THE BAPTIST WORLD ALLIANCE TO THE BAPTIST BROTHERHOOD, TO OTHER CHRISTIAN BRETHREN, AND TO THE WORLD.

Stockholm, Sweden, July, 1923.

The Third Baptist World Congress meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, July, 1923, and representing with few exceptions the Baptists of every country in the world, a constituency numbering ten millions of baptized members, and many millions of adherents, in view of world conditions, and resolutely facing the problems of the future, makes this statement of Baptist principles and purposes to the Christians and peoples of the world.

We are, first and always, Christians, acknowledging in its deepest and broadest sense the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and devoted to Him as the Son of God and Saviour of the world. We rejoice that the spiritual unity of all believers is a blessed reality, not dependent upon organization or ceremonies. We pray that by

increasing obedience to Christ’s will, this unity may be deepened and strengthened among Christians of every name.

The Lordship of Jesus Christ.

There are various ways of stating the fundamental Baptist principle. If we indicate the source of our knowledge, we say the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are divinely inspired, and are our sufficient, certain, and authoritative guide in all matters of faith and practice. As to the nature of the Christian religion, we affirm that it is personal and spiritual. We believe in the direct relation of each individual to God, and the right of every one to choose for himself in all matters of faith. A Christian’s religion begins in the soul when personal faith is exercised in Jesus Christ, the divine Redeemer and Lord. As the Revealer of God to men and the Mediator of salvation, Jesus Christ is central for Christian faith. His will is the supreme law for the Christian. He is Lord of the conscience of the individual and of the Church. Hence, the Lordship of Jesus Christ is a cardinal teaching of Baptists. It excludes all merely human authorities in religion.

The Nature of Baptist Unity.

We desire to impress upon our Baptist brethren in every part of the world the importance of Baptist unity at the present time. Accepting the voluntary principle in religion and regarding the nature of Christianity as a spiritual relation between man and God, we inevitably take the same attitude on questions of faith and conduct as they arise within the churches. We hold fast to the freedom with which Christ has set us free, and this principle implies that we must be willing to love and to work with those who, agreeing with us on the main things and in loyalty to our distinctive Baptist principles, have their own personal convictions upon non-essentials. All Baptist organizations are formed on the voluntary principle. None of these possesses authority over any other. All enjoy equal rights and autonomy within the limits of their own purposes.

Christian Unity.

Baptists have ever held all who have communion with God in our Lord Jesus Christ as our Christian brethren in the work of the Lord, and heirs with us of eternal life. We love their fellowship, and maintain that the spiritual union does not depend upon organization, forms, or ritual. It is deeper, higher, broader, and more stable than any or all externals. All who truly are joined to Christ are our brethren in the common salvation, whether they be in the Catholic communion, or in a Protestant communion, or in any other communion, or in no communion. Baptists, with all evangelical Christians, rejoice in the common basic beliefs: the incarnation of the Son of God, His sinless life, His supernatural works, His Deity, His vicarious atonement, and resurrection from the dead, His present reign and His coming kingdom, with its eternal awards to the righteous and unrighteous.

To Baptists it is entirely clear that the direct relation of the soul to God, or the universal priesthood of believers, is the basis of the New Testament teaching as to the church and the ministry. Christian unity, therefore, as Baptists understand the New Testament, is a result of the operation of the Holy Spirit arising from a common faith in Christ, enlightened by a common understanding of His teachings, inspired by a

common vision of the ends of the Kingdom of God, and issuing in a free and voluntary co-operation in the execution of the will of Christ. Christian unity is thus a flexible principle, adapting itself to every situation. It admits co-operation so far as there is agreement, and abstains from all coercion.

The implications of the voluntary principle based upon the universal priesthood of believers in their bearing upon Christianity are clear. Baptists cannot consent to any form of union which impairs the rights of the individual believer. We cannot unite with others in any centralized ecclesiastical organization wielding power over the individual conscience. We cannot accept the sacerdotal conception of the ministry which involves the priesthood of a class with special powers for transmitting grace. We cannot accept the conception of ordination made valid through a historic succession in the ministry. As Baptists understand the New Testament, all believers being priests unto God, ministers can possess no further sacerdotal powers. They are called to special tasks of preaching and teaching and administration. They remain the spiritual equals of other believers in the church. Again, the principle of the universal priesthood of believers involves the direct authority of Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest. Christian unity, therefore, can only come through obedience to the will of Christ as revealed in the New Testament, which Baptists must ever take as their sole, sufficient, certain, and authoritative guide.

The Baptist Faith and Mission.

As Baptists view, it, the Christian religion finds its central truth in the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, Whose sinless life and heavenly wisdom, whose Deity, atoning death, resurrection from the dead, and Whose second coming and lordship in the Kingdom of God constitute and qualify Him for His work as its Founder and Mediator. God calls all men to salvation through Him, in Whom they are freely justified by grace through faith, and regenerated by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a necessary condition of church membership, since in this way alone can the churches be kept spiritual and responsive to the will of Christ. Church membership of believers only is a fundamental Baptist principle. Each church, as made up of the regenerate, is competent to conduct its own affairs. It is, therefore, by its nature and constitution, a spiritual democracy, free and self-governing, and answering to Christ alone as its ultimate authority.

The New Testament recognizes nothing as baptism but the immersion in water of the believer upon profession of faith. In the Lord’s Supper it recognizes no sacerdotal authority in those who administer it, and no sacramental quality in the bread and wine, by virtue of which it conveys grace through any change in the elements.

In the matter of the polity, the officers, and the ordinances of a church. Baptists seek to preserve the spirituality and simplicity of the New Testament, and at the same time the proper proportion of emphasis. A group of great spiritual principles underlies their conception of a church at all points. As a self- governing spiritual democracy, a church recognizes the spiritual competency and freedom of the individual members. Since it requires a personal profession of faith as a condition of baptism, it eliminates the proxy element in faith and respects the rights of personality. Hence, infant baptism is utterly irreconcilable with the ideal of a spiritual Christianity. Voluntary and not compulsory baptism is a vital spiritual principle of the New Testament.

The officers of a church are teachers and leaders, not ecclesiastical authorities. Thus at all points a church of Christ is the outward expression of great spiritual principles; the supreme value of personality, the inalienable rights of free choice and of direct access to God, the equality of all believers, and their common spiritual priesthood. No charge, therefore, can be more groundless than that Baptists are ceremonialists or sacramentalists. They are the exact opposite of these things.

In harmony with the above principles, Baptists conceive their mission to the world to be moral and spiritual. Primarily, their duty is to make known the will of Christ and secure the willing submission of men to Him, as set forth in the gospel of the grace of God. Evangelization and missions thus become prime factors in the programme of Baptists. The command of Christ to preach the gospel to every creature is of permanent binding force. The necessity for education, philanthropy, and civic and social righteousness in manifold forms arises inevitably out of evangelizing and missionary activity.

Religious Liberty and Its Applications.

Baptists from the beginning of their history have been the ardent champions of religious liberty. They have often been persecuted, but they could never persecute others save in defiance of their own principles. Religious liberty is an inherent and inalienable human right. It arises out of the direct relation of the soul to God. Man is constituted m God’s image. He is a free personality. Moral responsibility is based upon this freedom. This is a fundamental axiom of ethics as well as of religion.

Religious liberty, in its broadest significance, implies the following elements: first, no human authority of any kind, in society at large, in church or state, has any right to repress or hinder or thwart any man or group of men in the exercise of religious belief or worship. Second, the right of every man and group of men to complete freedom in the search for; the worship of, and obedience to God. Third, freedom to teach and preach those beliefs and truths which men may hold as committed to them from God to be made known to others.

Religious liberty is inconsistent with any union of church and state, because the church rests upon the spiritual principle of free choice, while the state rests upon law with an ultimate appeal to physical force. It is inconsistent with special favour by the state towards one or more religious groups and toleration toward others, because equality of privilege is a fundamental and inalienable religious right of all men. It is inconsistent with priestly and episcopal authority and with infant baptism, because free choice and voluntary obedience to Christ are essential to the Christian religion.

Thus Baptists stand for the rights of the individual versus the close ecclesiastical corporation, the direct relation of the soul to God versus the indirect, free grace versus sacramental grace, believer’s baptism versus infant baptism, personal versus proxy faith, the priesthood of all believers versus the priesthood of a class, democracy in the church versus autocracy or oligarchy or other forms of human authority. Religious liberty is not licence. It gives no right to the indulgence of lust or sin in any form. It confers no exemption from the authority of the state in its own sphere. It implies and requires loyalty to Christ on the part of every Christian. For non-Christians it implies responsibility to God alone for religious beliefs, and freedom from all coercion in matters of religious opinion. Baptists have ever insisted upon religious

freedom for unbelievers and atheists, as well as Christians. However deplorable their unbelief, they are responsible not to human authorities but to God.

Religion and Ethics.

Our religion is not only for the salvation of the individual, it is also ethical and social. The new life in Christ creates a new moral character and a new sense of social responsibility. The Christian ideal is God’s Kingdom. He is to reign in all realms of life. His will is to rule in the family, the church, in industry, in society, in the arts, in the state, and in international relations.

Family Life.

Family life of high quality is fundamental to all human progress. Here especially should personality, its needs, its discipline and development, control. Here Christ’s law of mutual love and service should rule. Children are free personalities to be reared in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The will is not to be broken, but disciplined and trained. The home should be a living fountain of religious life, where prayer and study of the scriptures should not be shifted to the school or to any other agency. Divorce on unscriptural grounds is one of the greatest evils of the day in many parts of the world. The duty of all Christians everywhere is to resist this evil. Christ’s teaching on the’ subject should be respected, and every proper means employed to resist and correct the tendency to divorce. The sacredness of the marriage vow, and the purity of home life should be safeguarded in all possible ways.

Christianity and Social Questions.

There is widely apparent in the churches to-day the growth of a new conscience in relation to social problems and a new quest for the will of God in modern society. We are realizing afresh that the purpose of Christianity is the purification of the entire life of humanity, its end a community truly and completely Christian. The noble and self-sacrificing work of caring for the social wreckage of our time, the poverty- stricken and the outcast, must not cease. But our duty does not end there. Not simply by doing an honest day’s work, or by cultivating relations of brotherhood with one’s fellow-workers, important as these are, can the Christian obligation be fully met. We must strive also to the end that the organization of society itself shall accord with Christ’s will, as well as that one’s calling within society shall be conformable thereto.

Baptists gladly recognize the Christian duty of applying the teaching and spirit of our Lord to social, industrial, and family relations, While not committed to any of the varied and conflicting theories of economics, we affirm the Christian conception of industrial relations to be co-operation rather than competition. Life is a stewardship held for the enrichment of all, and not simply for personal gain.

We stand for world peace through international courts of justice, industrial peace through obedience to the rule of Christ, ” Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you,” domestic peace by acceptance of the sanctity of the marriage bond and the parental responsibility to train children in the nurture and love of the Lord.

Christian Stewardship.

Christian Stewardship rests upon the foundation of God’s ownership of ourselves and our possessions. “Ye are not your own. Ye have been bought with a price,” is the divine declaration. All wealth is to be held in trust as God’s gift. It is to be used as He commands. The right of private ownership of property by the Christian does not mean the right to do as he wills with his own, but rather as God wills. The mere accumulation of wealth is not the aim of the Christian business man, but rather the use of wealth in the service of God and men. Under the old dispensation the Jews gave at least one-tenth of their income to the service of God. Christians are not under law but under the gospel. But surely their obligation requires giving upon a scale equal to that of Jews. One-tenth, however, does not exhaust the Christian’s obligation. All that he has belongs to God, and his giving should be in proportion to the needs and requirements of the Lord’s work and his own ability, whether it be one-tenth or nine-tenths, or even more of his income.

The Sabbath.

We recognize and re-affirm with vigour the sanctity of the Sabbath; all work, except works of necessity and mercy, should be avoided on the Sabbath day. God has appointed one day in seven as a day of rest and worship, and it should be observed by all men in accordance with the divine command. We condemn as un-Christian the commercialization of the Sabbath day in the interest of business or amusement of any kind. As a civil institution, one day in seven, observed as a day of rest, has proved to be in the highest degree promotive of human welfare. The religious observance of the Sabbath as a day of worship is a matter for free and voluntary action. Laws to compel such observance are opposed to religious liberty. But laws to protect the Sabbath as a civil institution are right and should be enforced.

Temperance.

We record our conviction that the modern movement to curb traffic in strong drink for beverage purposes is of God. We believe that governments should recognize the movement, and that instead of deriving support from it through taxation, should abolish this traffic.

Baptists and Loyalty to State.

Baptists have always been a loyal and patriotic people. This attitude arises out of their fundamental principles. It is a necessary result of their submission to the will of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. It is seen clearly in the light of their view of the State and the Church. Baptists believe that the State is ordained of God. It is established to restrain and punish the evil-doer and for the protection of human rights. It is, therefore, essential to human welfare. It is not to be used in the interest of any group or class, but to promote the common good. Its duty is to safeguard the personal, economic, civic and religious rights of all.

It thus appears that the work of the church and the work of the State lie in different spheres. In the one case it is a spiritual, in the other a political task. There is no antagonism, and there should be no conflict.

Each should freely pursue its own tasks in its own department of life by its own means and methods. Neither should seek to thwart or hinder the other. The members of the churches should obey the laws of the State as loyal citizens or subjects. The State should protect the rights of all men of various religious beliefs. The supreme loyalty of all men is to God. Disobedience to the State, therefore, is never justified except when the State usurps the place of God in trying to compel the conscience in religious matters, or when it becomes a transgressor of the law of God in requiring what is in violation of Divine commands.

International Relations.

Nations are morally bound to each other. The State, like the individual, must be regarded as a member of a larger community in which other members possess rights similar to its own. This implies that in an orderly world there can be no real conflict of interests between various governments. Secret selfish diplomacy and intrigue are crying sins before God. National selfishness is a terrible evil.

We record our profound conviction against war. It is destructive of all economic, moral, and spiritual values. A war of aggression is a direct contradiction of every principle of the Gospel of Christ. It violates the ideals of peace and brotherhood and is inconsistent with the law of love. It alienates nations which Christ seeks to unify in bonds of friendship. It enthrones hate and dries up the fountains of sympathy. It sets power above right. It creates burdensome debts. It is prodigal in its waste of life.

The true remedy for war is the Gospel of Christ. The new birth by God’s Spirit creates divine love within the soul of the individual. The law of God is thus written upon the heart. The greatest need of the world is acceptance of the Lordship of Christ, by men everywhere, and practical application of His law of love.

We favour co-operation among the nations of the world to promote peace. No nation can live an isolated life. To attempt to do so inevitably gives rise to complicated problems and leads to conflict in many forms. The good of all is the good of each, and the good of each is the good of all. Christ’s law of service is the key to all human progress. Nations as well as individuals are bound by that law. By obedience to it shall we hasten the complete realization of God’s will among men and the fulfilment of the ideals of the great prayer which the Master taught us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.”

We believe that the world has come to a parting of the ways. It is another coming of the Son of Man. It is another Day of the Lord. The question is whether the world will pass along the way of order and peace and goodness and faith, or whether it will go down into scepticism and materialism. We believe that the simple message of the Baptists, with its union of gospel and ethics, of faith and practice, with its note of freedom, democracy, spirituality, will find an answering chord in this new world.

Keywords

BWA; Baptism; Baptist Core Convictions; Baptist Doctrine; Baptist Unity; Brotherhood; Children; Church and State; Conscience; Democracy; Economics; Ecumenism; Equality; Family; International Relations; Jews; Justice; Marriage; Materialism; Mission; Nationalism; Peace; Personality; Poverty; Religious Freedom; Religious Liberty; Roman Catholics; Sabbath; Soul Freedom; Spirituality; Stewardship; Temperance; War.

Citations

Original Source Bibliography: Whitley, W. T., editor. Third Baptist World Congress: Stockholm, July 21- 27, 1923. London: Kingsgate Press, 1923.

Original Source Footnote/Endnote: W. T. Whitley, ed., Third Baptist World Congress: Stockholm, July 21-27, 1923 (London: Kingsgate Press, 1923), pp. xx, 223-228.

Online Document Full Citation: 1923 BWA World Congress Message of the Baptist World Alliance to the Baptist Brotherhood, to Other Christian Brethren, and to the World; https://www.baptistworld.org/resolutions.

In-text Online Document Citation: (1923 BWA World Congress Message).

For more information about Baptist World Alliance resolutions, visit BaptistWorld.org/resolutions.

Since its formation in 1905, the Baptist World Alliance has networked the global Baptist family to impact the world for Christ with a commitment to strengthen worship, fellowship and unity; lead in mission and evangelism; respond to people in need through aid, relief, and community development; defend religious freedom, human rights, and justice; and advance theological reflection and leadership development.

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