LETTER TO A BAPTIST MINISTER
William B. Lipphard
Editor Emeritus "Missions Magazine,"
New York City
Sir:---Thank you for your letter, which is supposed to be an answer to my 'expose' of the unsoundness of your "What Is A Baptist? article in "Look" magazine. You say you "could easily reply paragraph after paragraph," but you refrained from so doing. May it not be due to realization, on your part, that further opportunity would thereby be given to contrasting Catholic claims to spurious Baptist claims? For instance, that Catholics belong to the Church that Christ, the Lord, established; whereas Baptists belong to man-made churches.
You boast about freedom of expression, as if it were an exclusive Baptist claim, yet at the same time you express "amazement," in your letter, "that a Roman Catholic diocesan paper like The Pilot should give space" to my letter in which Baptist errors were exposed. Your assumption that the editors of The Pilot published my letter, because they "must have feared that what I said about the Baptists made a favorable impression upon Roman Catholic readers" of it, is another one of your misunderstandings. Rest assured, my Dear Sir, the declaration in your article, that "there is no historical evidence of any definite body of Baptists before the year 1640," was sufficient to strengthen, rather than weaken, the faith of Catholics. It furthered their appreciation of the blessedness of belonging to the one, and the only existing Christian Spiritual Society which has historic evidence of having functioned as a "definite body" ever since the year 33 A. D., when Peter, Pope No. 1, delivered the first Christian Church sermon.
Rest assured, also, my Dear Sir, that Catholics were furthered in their appreciation of the unified, authoritative, organic, doctrinally exact nature of their Church; in contrast to the 22 Baptist denominations, which you boastfully declare to be devoid of "theological or dogmatic conformity," as "Baptists have no single official creed." Order is God's law, expressed religiously in the creeds of the Catholic Church; and maintained by obedience to spiritual superiors in matters of faith and morals (Heb. 13:17), as they are ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). This is repudiated by the creedlessness and divisive nature of the churches you call "the Baptist denomination."
You assume to have misrepresented; that I "should have been accurate in pointing out that Baptists accept the New Testament, as stated in the Grand Rapids Resolution, and (therefore) we need no self-elected hierarchy to make a creed for us to sign on dotted line." By re-reading my PILOT letter (May 2, 1953), you may learn that while I did not mention the Grand Rapids resolution, the substance therein was named, by quoting from your "Look" article, that "Baptist principles go back to the teachings and practices of the New Testament" (which they do not), in place of a Creed.
The New Testament may be, and is used by the Catholic Church, as a guide in the understanding of the will of Christ, but it is not a creed. A Christian creed is a summary of principles, of articles of belief, in harmony with the Gospels and Epistles, such as the Hierarchy you offensively refer to formulated into the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds, many centuries before John Smyth broke away from the Anglican Church to start the first Baptist Sect.
The Baptists do "accept the New Testament," or rather have appropriated the Catholic-Church-made New Testament, but they have not been guided by the principles therein set forth. This is just like an American accepting the Constitution of the U.S.A., but insisting upon his own interpretation of its contents, even though his concept be at variance with the authoritative, Supreme Court interpretations thereof.
If Baptists were guided by the New Testament, as they claim, surely you would not have declared in your "Look" article, that only "a large majority of Baptists accept belief in the Virgin Birth," which is plainly set forth in St. Matthew 1:18-2. If Baptists were to accept the New Testament, as it should be accepted by Christians, you would not have to declare, in telling "What Is A Baptist?", that "it is impossible to give a categorical answer to the question whether Baptists believe in Heaven and Hell"; as the existence of Heaven is plainly proclaimed in St. Matthew 25:46; and St. John 3:16-17; and the existence of Hell is recorded in St. Matthew 25:41; and St. Mark 9:47.
In conclusion, I beg of you, in the interest of Christian truth, to get the fact registered in your Baptist cranium, that the New Testament is the product of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. She made the New Testament, and it is only by her infallible authority that we know that the books therein were inspired by Almighty God. The indisputable historic fact is, that the bishops of the Catholic Church, under the authority of the occupant of the Chair of Peter, gathered the religious writings scattered throughout the cities containing Catholic churches, and selected from them the 27 books that formed the New Testament.
This took place in a Roman Synod of Catholic Church bishops in the year 382 A. D., during the reign of Pope Damasus. Further consideration was given this Canon of Scripture by the Synod of Catholic Church bishops in Hippo during the reign of Pope Siricius, in the year 392 A. D.; and finally by the 43 Catholic Church bishops, including St. Augustine, assembled in Carthage, Africa, during the year 397 A. D., and sent the Canon of Scripture to the Pope for confirmation. Surely love of the New Testament ought to lead Baptists to love of its author, the Catholic Church, the basic principles of which are recorded therein.
May you see the error of your judgment, is my prayer.