Breakout Session 4 – Curtis Freeman (Duke University)
Baptists in Politics
What do Baptists have in common in their politics? What motivates them?
Brooks Hays – The Baptist Way of Life
1. Do we have a stake in the civil order? Most crucial question – figure out your answer to that first when thinking about this subject. John Smyth “Worldly authority or magistry is a necessary ordinance of God, appointed and established for the preservation of the common estate, and of a good, natural political life, for the reward of the good and the punishing of the evil…this office of the worldly authority of the Lord Jesus hath not ordained in his spiritual kingdom, the church of the NT, nor adjoined to the offices of his church.” (1610) – The Philadelphia Confession of 1742 would echo this Smyth quote and one by Helwys.
2. Can the state be Christian? Roger Williams and John Cotton debate. Christenings Make Not Christians (7th Volume in Williams’ works). Contending that the key issue is baptism – infant baptism forces all these people to be “Christians”. “The Garden of the Church and the wilderness of the world.” The Key to the Language of America by Williams in 1643
3. What kind of politics suits our interests? John Leland - A Blow at the Root (1801). The Liberty of Conscience. “Let us then adore that God who has been so favorable to our land, and nation – praise him for all that is past – trust him for all that is to come, and not ascribe that to man which is due to God alone.”
4. When and under what circumstances may Christians disobey (civil disobedience) the law? Re: the Civil Rights Movement (breaking the law when it comes to injustice). MLK Jr – “There comes a time when they cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.” Should we be allowed to break laws in order to change them? What would Romans 13 have to say about that? What if we take the punishment among ourselves? He wrote the above quote while from a Birmingham jail. It “might awaken our sleeping white brethren.”
5. Can politics reflect the views of the majority and also respect the interests of the minorities? Jerry Falwell, John Winthrop “And why may not Christians have liberty to go and dwell amongst them in their waste lands and woods…as lawfully as Abraham did among the Sodomites?”
What is our witness as Baptists in relation to different races, countries, etc? The “savages”, the heathen (Lottie Moon), the Muslim, the Hindus, the JWs, the people who believe different than us – shouldn’t we love them with the love of Jesus and maybe not always try to get across a certain political agenda? What is more important – democracy or the Word of God and the Salvation that lies only in Jesus Christ? Remember – the main thing is the MAIN THING.
“I am not a Republican, I am not a Democrat. I am a noisy Baptist.” – Falwell