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  MY CRITICISMS OF BAPTIST CUSTOMS AND PRACTICES           10/77


   I question the prudence, value or propriety of the following 
   customs, practices and tendencies in conservative Baptist 
   churches: 


    - Various contests.  Sunday School contests, Bible reading 
       contests, Visitation contests.  To me a church should be a 
       place of worship, quiet reflection and reverence.  These 
       contests give it a commercial, worldly air.  It becomes 
       more like a circus than a church.  I just don't like these 
       contests.  I think they destroy the proper atmosphere for 
       worship.  Church is not the place for competition and 
       emulation. Competition is worldly, not spiritual.  Indeed 
       it is sin. 

    - tendencies for preachers to intersperse jokes and levity 
       into sermons.  I don't like it, don't think it is proper or 
       right for a house of worship. 

    - tendencies toward emotionalism in the sermons.  The best 
       sermons are considered to be the hard-hitting tirades and 
       harangues.  I mistrust this emotional tendency.  They 
       resemble too closely the tirades and harangues of Adolf 
       Hitler.  They stir strong emotions and create strong 
       beliefs, feelings and attitudes but I have my doubts about 
       those beliefs, feelings and attitudes generated.  Too many 
       are too unchristian and wrong.  Hard-hitting, nice 
       sounding, categorical statements are too deceptive.  They 
       sound great and true, stir strong feeling, but too often 
       contain hidden grains of error.  This type of preaching is 
       too much like brainwashing.  To me Christian belief is an 
       appreciation of spiritual truth and an honest trust in God 
       that comes only with quiet teaching, reflection over holy 
       scripture, and observation of life.  I don't think true 
       Christianity is the blind, militant fanaticism this type of 
       preaching leads to. 

    - the strongly doctrinaire emphasis.  The preaching tends to 
       be highly theoretical, abstract, obscure and visionary.  It 
       tends to be made up of obscure deductions and reasonings of 
       a highly impractical and theoretical nature arrived at by 
       parsing holy scripture (this is a consequence of the pride 
       they take in preaching the Bible only, relying on no other 
       source but holy scripture for their beliefs).  At any rate 
       I am highly skeptical of highly theoretical, visionary and 
       abstruse arguments and reasonings.  I like the simple and 
       uncomplicated.  I like both feet firmly on the ground. 

    - public, extemporaneous praying.  I have my doubts about this 
       type of praying.  I feel the prayers tend to be empty; many 
       nice sounding words saying nothing; that people "pray to be 
       heard" as the Pharisees in the Bible.  Jesus said to go 
       into your closet to pray and I think his injunction was a 
       good one.  I would prefer a good prepared prayer to an 
       empty extemporaneous one. 

    - practice of giving testimonies.  I don't like this practice.  
       It is too much like boasting.  People give testimonies just 
       because others expect them to or they "feel they should".  
       They give a testimony and contradict it with their life, 
       doing more damage than good.  I think too much folly comes 
       of the practice.  I think the best testimony is the good 
       life.  I distrust too much talk. 

    - their aggressiveness and pushiness in witnessing and soul-
       winning.  They give the impression that it is one's duty to 
       aggressively accost strangers on the street and speak to 
       them about their spiritual welfare. I think one's life and 
       example are his best witness, that it is impolite, 
       unchristian and useless to attempt to push anything down 
       someone's throat.  At most, you have a duty to witness only 
       to those who know you, have confidence in you, and want to 
       hear what you have to say.  Talking to someone about his 
       spiritual welfare is very touchy business.

    - Wednesday evening prayer meetings.  I am doubtful about them 
       for the same reason I am doubtful about extemporaneous, 
       public praying.  I am in favor of restricting praying to 
       the closet.  I think public praying tends to be empty, 
       shallow and "done to be heard". 

    - Bible studies.  I don't like them.  I think they result in 
       more bad and folly than good.  They produce a lot of half 
       thought out ideas and opinions.  I don't think that one can 
       arrive at deep spiritual truth by discussion.  Discussions 
       only give the foolish consensus of common, superficial 
       minds and thoughts.  For me, deep spiritual truths are 
       discovered only in the quiet of solitude --- through 
       thought, reflection, meditation on holy scripture, and 
       observation of life. 

    - Sunday Schools.  I think they are mostly a waste of time.  I 
       don't think I ever learned anything in Sunday School.  I 
       learned on my own --- through serious reading of the Bible. 

    - obsession with building bigger and bigger.  Many Baptist 
       preachers spend the most of their time harping on one of 
       the following topics: 1. Importance of attending all 
       services   2. Importance of becoming involved in church 
       activities  3. Giving money to the church  4. Going out 
       "calling" (to bring more people into the church)   5. Soul-
       winning. Three quarters of their time is spent talking 
       about one of these topics. This seems to be the sum total 
       of what "spirituality" means to them.  If you do these 
       things that is all that is necessary.  You are then a 
       spiritual person.  That is the extent of their spiritual 
       depth.  It just doesn't impress me.  It sounds to me more 
       like an ambitious preacher trying to build an empire for 
       himself; like the worldly ambitions of an unspiritual man 
       seeking his own aggrandizement.  Every one of these themes 
       has the single result of building a bigger and bigger 
       church.  And bigger and bigger churches bring in more and 
       more money. 

    - they "pick and choose" from holy scripture.  They pick that 
       which agrees with their dogma and doctrine and omit that 
       which they don't like.  They emphasize the "plan of 
       salvation" and "eternal security" and use scripture that 
       bears out their beliefs in these areas but totally 
       disregard any scripture that speaks of the importance of 
       obedience, goodness and just living.  They totally gloss 
       over and ignore any scripture that deals with the 
       importance of love, forgiveness, kindness, meekness, 
       patience, etc.  Thus, in fact, they are very dishonest in 
       their treatment of holy scripture.  They are guilty of the 
       very thing they so rabidly accuse others of. 



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