Religious Groups in Our Evangelism

As we continue this brief series on our ap­proaches to those of differing faiths among Protestants, let us keep in mind the 1956 Book Club selection, A Guide to the Religions of America.

L.C.K. is an associate editor of the Ministry. 

As we continue this brief series on our ap­proaches to those of differing faiths among Protestants, let us keep in mind the 1956 Book Club selection, A Guide to the Religions of America. We are endeavoring to bring some guidance to our workers who will be meeting believers of these various religious groups in evangelism, not merely making them conscious of denominational facts and practices, but also finding a Christian approach to sharing our message of Christ's return. Having previ­ously discussed the Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist, and Quaker groups, let us next turn our attention to the Baptists.

The Baptists

Adventists feel that they have much in com­mon with the Baptists, whose beliefs are also Bible-centered. Stressing the New Testament perhaps more than the Old is accounted for in this way: Baptists recognize themselves to be the continuation of the early New Testament church, some claiming John the Baptist as their founder. There was an organized body of Bap­tists in England before 1640. Groups emerged who became known as Anabaptists (now Men­nonites) because they insisted on a rebaptism, since infant baptism is not scriptural. Roger Williams founded the first Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1639. This is associated in our thinking with Baptists who contended for a separation of church and state, a principle Adventists have learned from their fervor.

Baptists are fundamental on the basic Chris­tian doctrines. They stress spiritual living, but may hardly be classified with reformers as Ad­ventists understand this term. They are zealously evangelistic at home and abroad. Basic Baptist principles may be summarized: (1) the suprem­acy of the Scriptures rather than the church in matters of faith and doctrine; (2) religious liberty; and (3) the baptism of believers rather than of infants. We note that not all Baptists contend for an endless punishing in the lake of fire, but many do. They hold that the sacra­ments are "dignified ordinances" rather than sacraments. The Lord's Supper is a memorial service without supernatural grace. On many of their doctrines Adventists will agree, but not on all of them.

Regarding the imminent return of Christ, Adventists hold to another interpretation of prophecy. Ours is the historicist and the Bap­tists the futurist, which today is known as dis­pensational. Here we see gross confusions on chronology and events associated with the end. Baptists, too, look for our Lord's soon return, but largely favor dispensationalism.

Adventism was guided to the Sabbath truth by the Seventh Day Baptists. It may be noted that the Baptists as a group are not rigidly Calvinistic or Arminian. There are enough types among them to give place to liberalism, and toleration takes care of what Adventism could not favor. To us Baptist doctrines often lack certainty. Baptists today need a clear-cut prophetic message such as Adventists claim.

Disciples, the Christian Church

Next we suggest that the Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ, and Christian Church, used interchangeably, is the name of a larger body indigenous in the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century. "Historically, the churches of Christ, claiming to be identified with the New Testament Church, and vigorously advocating a return to New Testament Christi­anity, have the same backgrounds as the Dis­ciples of Christ."—Quoted by VERGILIUS FERM in the American Church.

At the taking of the 1906 Federal census these two groups were listed separately and each has gone its way, following those principles that have tended to lead them further apart. But there is so much common background that for brevity we deal with them as a unit.

The Christian Church developed in Kentucky and Ohio under Barton W. Stone; the Disciples developed in Pennsylvania and Virginia under Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott. All four of these leaders were of Pres­byterian antecedents, changed from Calvinistic to Arminian thinking. These churches stress the gospel of unity within the Church Universal. Their slogans are "No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no name but the divine." And again, -In essentials unity, in opinion liberty, in all things charity." In common with other Christians they have their liberalists as well as fundamentalists.

Baptism is by immersion. The doctrine of original sin is rejected. But they still believe in man's sinful nature unless and until re­deemed by the saving sacrifice of Christ. With higher standards, yet usually not reformers in practice, and not too dogmatic on doctrine, they carry influence in large areas in the United States. Whatever interpretations Alex­ander Campbell gave to prophecy, a strong emphasis on it was never a feature in his writ­ings. On this point it requires effort to interest the Disciples. Recognizing them as a blend of Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist beliefs will be helpful in our evangelistic approaches. Again such a blending would also suggest a too versatile view of those doctrines that require a stand in our day. Adventists may here be a true help to this group we are discussing.

The Moravians

When Martin Luther, founder of Lutheran­ism, posted his ninety-five theses in Wittenberg in 1517, the Bohemian Brethren had already been organized for sixty years, and numbered about 200,000 members in four hundred churches. Moravian roots go back to John Huss, of Bohemia. The Thirty Years' War and the Counter Reformation absorbed their member­ship into the Lutheran, Reformed, and Catholic churches. Under Count Zinzendorf the Mora­vian Church took on a decidedly pietistic pat­tern in his Herrnhut colony, where was also caught the spirit of overseas missions. Bethle­hem, Pennsylvania, became the Moravian base in the New World. On new soil it lost the Lutheran conception of the church as a move­ment within the state.

Moravians never formulated a distinctive creed; a Christ-centered faith means more to them than a creed. On the importance of doc­trine they admit, "We know in part" (1 Cor. 13:9), a statement that is significant as new light is brought to them. They are fundamental­ists. Their views on reconciliation, justification, sanctification, and glorification are akin to Lutheranism. There is, however, a much stronger emphasis on the second coming of Christ. Their church worship is less ritualistic than that of the Lutherans. The altar is not present in their churches. On the Lord's Supper there is a leaning toward the Reformed Church interpre­tation of the emblems. Communion, as in Lu­theranism, generally includes a preparatory service. Baptism is either by pouring or sprin­kling. The Moravians lay more stress on reform­ing the individual than in reform movements. There is interchurch cooperation, and this would suggest an interest in understanding re­ligious groups other than theirs. There is much common ground with Adventism.

The Lutherans

The Lutheran Church in America was in­fluenced by the spirit of the Moravians, who set a more pietistic mood for them. The Lutherans were more reluctant than the Moravians to give up their state church traditions brought to the New World from Europe. For many decades the Lutherans contended for church worship to be conducted in their mother tongue, mainly the various Teutonic languages.

Lutherans are ritualistic in their worship. They might be compared with the Anglican Church with its "low" and "high" ritualism. It should be noted that the Lutherans believe in parochial education, and it is not usually difficult to enroll their children in our church schools.

Baptism (sprinkling infants), the Lord's Sup­per, and confirmation are the three pillars, the genius of Lutheran communion. The rite of confirmation—the establishing personally of the vow parents sponsored at the time the in­fant was sprinkled—is a strong factor in holding Lutherans to the church. Instruction is usually carried over a period of at least two years prior to confirmation, the pastor himself leading out as teacher and personal adviser. Luther's cat­echism is taught meticulously to each pupil be­tween twelve and fourteen years of age. He now learns the historical background and the doctrines of his church, and makes a public confession of Bible Christianity at the time of his confirmation. The whole experience is deeply impressed upon the young communicant, and is decidedly evangelistic. It stabilizes him throughout his entire life. He is not readily persuaded against the doctrines of his church.

Lutherans are also strong Trinitarians. The emblems of the Lord's Supper suggest a modi­fied Catholicism. There is stress laid on the "presence" of the Christ whose body was broken and whose blood was shed. The communion service is more than a memorial; there is the element of mystery, perhaps a hangover from Catholicism. Here instruction must precede persuasion. It is stated on good authority that. Lutheranism has not progressed doctrinally since the days of its founder, Martin Luther. True, the church's maturity brought a mellowing of its original dogmatic stand, but Lutherans fellowship less with other denominational groups than do the Moravian& However, many Lutheran youth are breaking down former bar­riers through their discussion groups. Here Ad­ventist young people may assist with friendly relations with these Lutheran youth, who are showing much interest in our strong temperance movement. Again, our practical Dorcas women will find response during times of emergency and disaster, for the Lutherans have an excel­lent record in helping to alleviate human suf­fering.

L. C. K.

(Continued next month)

 

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L.C.K. is an associate editor of the Ministry. 

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