Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 3, 1952
NUMBER 34, PAGE 2-3,5b

Dissolving A Few Baptist Aspirins

W. Curtis Porter, Monette, Arkansas

The "Church Vote" Aspirin People who are familiar with Baptist theology and practice know something of their voting on people who apply for membership in the Baptist Church. The opposition to this practice by the people who are ignorantly or maliciously called "Campbellites" has caused many headaches in the Baptist ranks. It therefore became necessary for "Doctor" Garner, while prescribing aspirins for Baptist headaches caused by opposition from other angles, to prescribe one for this particular type of headache. And this he does in his booklet, "A Few Aspirins For Campbell-ism," under the heading, "Why Are People Voted Into the Baptist Church"?

In his attempt to answer this question Mr. Garner makes the following statement:

"The only way any human being can get into any institution, any church, of the Lord or of the devil, is to be voted into it. One can not become a member of any institution on earth except by some kind of a vote. This is a principle that holds true with clubs, fraternities, and churches of all orders, GOOD OR BAD." Pages 6 and 7.

It is evident, of course, that if the only way any "human being" can get into any church, "of the Lord or of the devil," is to "be voted into it," then you would have to get into the Baptist Church by that method. Certainly, it is either "of the Lord" or "of the devil." Regardless of which it is, according to "Doctor" Garner, a man has to be voted into it. There is no other way to get into one. If this is true, the "Doctor" has shown as clear as noon-day why people are voted into the Baptist Church. And this ought to relieve the headaches among his brethren. At least, it ought to relieve those which are brought on by being harassed on the voting question by a bunch of "Campbellites."

It becomes evident, however, that "Doctor" Garner's idea of "voting" is a very far-fetched one. While any good authority on the meaning of words will tell you that a vote is "a wish, choice, or judgment, of a person or a body of persons, formally expressed, as by a ballot or with the voice," or "the expression of the judgment or will of a majority by means of votes," yet "Doctor" Garner makes a "vote" mean "any sort of decision" rendered by any one about anything. If some "club" requires the payment of a ten dollar fee to become a member of it, and someone applies for membership in the club, the secretary or treasurer who is careful to see that the application for membership is accompanied by the ten dollars is "voting" that prospective member "into the club." Such is the basis on which he claims that "one can not become a member of any institution on earth except by some kind of a vote." Thus he tries to make every other church just as guilty of voting as is the Baptist Church.

But if that is what voting means, then everything that a man does is by means of a vote. When the alarm clock goes off in the morning, the man "votes" as to whether he will get up and shut it off. When he starts to dress he has to take a "vote" on the matter, and even decides, according to the "Doctor," by means of a "vote" as to which shoe he will put on first. He "votes" on washing his face before breakfast, and when he goes to the table he "votes" on whether he will have toast or cereal. This certainly shows the absurdity of his basic claim that the only way a man can get into any church "is to be voted into it."

In an effort to soothe the pains of his brethren "Doctor" Garner declares there are "three kinds of vote"—the preacher vote, the elder or presbytery vote, and the congregational or democratic vote. To get before you his claim on these I shall give his statement regarding the first one:

"1. THE PREACHER VOTE. The church is an institution of the Lord, in the world. No one can become a member of any church without someone's voting upon him. In some churches the preacher passes on, votes on, determines the worthiness, sincerity, or qualifications for membership in the church. In such churches the preacher or elder asks public questions to the candidate offering himself for membership and fellowship in the local congregation, to determine for himself the sincerity of the candidate in his request. IF THE PREACHER OR ELDER is satisfied HE PASSES ON OR APPROVES the candidate for church membership. THIS IS THE PREACHER VOTE, the sorriest kind of a minority rule. Please excuse me from this vote." P. 7.

Mr. Garner follows a similar course in explaining the "ELDER OR PRESBYTERY VOTE." Thus you are able to see what he actually calls "voting" where other churches are involved. Inasmuch as the Bible requires a man to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" before he is baptized, if the preacher asks the candidate for baptism "if he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God," he is "voting the man into the church." That is what he calls the "preacher vote." That is parallel with the secretary of a club who asks the applicant for membership if he has the ten dollar fee. Both of them, according to the erudite "Doctor," are voting the men into the respective organizations. Such a display of learning baffles the imagination! He presents these in contrast with the "CONGREGATIONAL OR DEMOCRATIC VOTE." But in each case, he asserts, a "vote" is cast, and consequently one cannot get into any church without being voted into it!

But the absurdity of his claim is seen when it is remembered that in his "congregational vote" no effort is made to find if the candidate has met the requirements thus far for membership in the Baptist Church; that matter is brought out by the preacher in charge, and after the preacher has secured the candidate's experience of grace, the matter is then placed before the church for them to vote on whether they will receive him for baptism. The cases are therefore not parallel. The vote of the congregation is taken after the preacher has secured the evidence that the man is a believer. A parallel of this would be found in club membership if, after the applicant pays his ten dollar fee, the members of the club would then vote on him to see if they would accept him for membership.

And the strange thing about all of this is that the course which "Doctor" Garner calls "the preacher vote, the sorriest kind of a minority rule" is the course followed by preachers in the New Testament. In the eighth chapter of Acts we have the conversion of the Ethiopian officer. Philip preached Christ to him. When they came to a certain water the eunuch said: "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized." Acts 8:36. Philip said: "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." Verse 37. He confessed his faith in Jesus as the Son of God, and Philip immediately baptized him. If Philip had been following the prescription given by "Doctor" Garner and Baptist practice, he would have said: "We will have to go back to Jerusalem and put the matter before the church for their vote. If they vote in favor of your being baptized, then I shall be glad to baptize you." But no such course was followed. No such vote was taken. Philip followed the course that "Doctor" Garner asks to be excused from. We shall excuse him, for it is evident that he does not want to follow Bible examples. If he did, he would not be a member of the Baptist Church in the first place.

To soothe the headaches of his brethren the "Doctor" endeavors to prove that preachers and churches of the New Testament followed the "democratic vote" as practiced by the Baptist Church today. A further dissolution of his "church vote aspirin will be accomplished by considering his proof for this. He seeks to prove that the apostle Paul obtained membership in the Baptist Church by majority vote. We shall let him tell of it in his own words:

"Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, baptized into the fellowship of the church at Damascus, returned to the church at Jerusalem and 'assayed to join himself unto them.' (Acts 9:26) There was considerable objection when Paul tried to 'join' the Jerusalem church, but Barnabas stood up, vouched for Saul's conversion, assured the church that he was not a traitor, then he was with them 'coming in and going out'." Garner's Booklet, Page 8.

You will note that Mr. Garner says that Paul was "baptized into the fellowship of the church at Damascus." I thought, according to Garner's previous statement, that the only way a man can get into the Baptist Church is to "be voted into it." But he tells us that Saul was "baptized into it." And how about the voting preceding his baptism? Does the record say that Ananias called the church together to vote on Saul for baptism? There is not a word about such a thing. No vote was taken to determine his fitness for baptism. It was another case of the preacher baptizing the candidate without the vote of the church—"the sorriest kind of a minority rule," according to Mr. Garner. But "there was considerable objection" when Saul later "assayed to join himself to the disciples" at Jerusalem. Certainly so! But the objection was not raised for the purpose of forcing the matter to a "vote of the church." The objection was raised because "they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple." Acts 9:26. They knew of his former persecution of the church; they knew that he had been guilty of killing disciples; and they had not learned of his conversion to the truth. So "they were all afraid of him." But when Barnabas told them of his conversion and of his preaching Christ at Damascus, their fears were allayed. But did they then take a vote on him? This is what the "Doctor" claims. But I would like to see the verse in which one word is said about such a vote. It is not found in the New Testament record. It must be found in the fertile imagination of a Baptist "Doctor" who is trying to relieve the headaches of his brethren.

The next example of the democratic vote on those to be baptized, as given by "Doctor" Garner, is found in the conversion of Cornelius and household in Acts 10. Here is what the "Doctor" says about it:

"He (Peter) took with him the church at Joppa, six men on this Gentile mission...Peter took a vote on receiving these Gentiles into the fellowship of the church at Joppa. His words were, 'Can any man forbid water that these should be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we'? (Acts 10:47)...There would have been no virtue in Peter's raising such a question if those present, members of the church at Joppa, had not had a RIGHT TO OBJECT." Page 9.

This is quite interesting. When Peter took six Jewish brethren with him, "he took with him the church at Joppa." Was the membership of the church at Joppa made up of six Jewish men? Such is the claim of the great "Doctor." But I know that Dorcas was a member of that church. She had been raised from the dead by Peter. Acts 9:36-41. Also there were "the saints and widows" to whom Peter presented her alive. Verse 41. As a result of this miracle, "many believed in the Lord. Verse 42. So the "six Jewish brethren" were only a few of the "many" disciples at Joppa. Therefore, Peter did not take "the church at Joppa" with him. And if they voted on the baptism of Cornelius, it was not the "vote of the church" but only a "vote of a small minority." And "Doctor" Garner says that the vote of "minority groups" is "neither the Bible way of government; the American way of government; nor the Baptist way of government." Page 7 of his booklet. If, therefore, the six Jewish brethren voted on Cornelius, it was not according to the "Baptist way" and can give no relief to Baptist headaches. But there is not a word said about their voting. Yet the "Doctor" tells us that Peter would never have raised the question if these men "had not had a RIGHT TO OBJECT." In other words, the Lord had given them the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit to prove that he had accepted them, but these six men had a RIGHT TO OBJECT to this divine evidence and to veto the whole matter by their vote. God's whole plan of making the Gentiles members of his body could have been discarded by the vote of four men. To what extremes a Baptist "Doctor" will go in his effort to justify an unscriptural practice!

But let us look at another case of voting by the church, as given by Mr. Garner:

"Rom. 14:1 reads, 'Him that is weak in the faith receive ye but not to doubtful disputations.' The 'ye' is plural and shows that every member of the church at Rome was commanded to receive any that they believed to be 'in the faith'." P. 9.

I would have to agree that men who seek membership in a Baptist Church by means of vote, or otherwise, would certainly be "weak in the faith." But is there any voting here? The church was told to "receive" but was it told to "vote"? Not unless "receive" means "to vote"? If such is the meaning of the word "receive" then Jesus said: "He that receiveth (voteth on) you receiveth (voteth on) me, and he that receiveth (voteth on) me receiveth (voteth on) him that sent me." Matt. 10:40. Was every member of the church at Rome commanded to vote on both the Son of God and the Father?

Mr. Garner refers to Acts 1:26 that tells of the selection of Matthias, by casting lots, to take the place of Judas Iscariot. He refers to this as "the practice of the democratic, congregational vote, just for the world like Baptists do it today." Yet he does not even know what their method of "casting lots" was. How does he know it was "for all the world like Baptists do it today"? Besides this was the selection of an apostle—a thing which is never done by any Baptist Church today. And in making this selection one was chosen (Matthias) and one was rejected (Barsabas). It was the selection of one out of two. Is that the way Baptists vote on candidates for baptism? Do they accept one for baptism and reject another at the same time? If this is "for the world like Baptists do it today," that must be true.

He also thinks the selection of the seven in Acts 6:5 was by majority vote. Since the command of the apostles to choose certain men to look after the daily ministration "pleased the whole multitude the "Doctor" thinks the "deacons were elected by the vote of the church." But, according to his reasoning, if fifty-one percent of the "whole multitude" had not been pleased with the plan offered by inspired men, they had a perfect right to veto it and vote it down by a majority vote. Thus they would have determined by a "democratic vote" whether they would follow the plan offered by the apostles of Jesus Christ. According to this, a church would have a right to determine by majority vote whether it would obey any commandment given by the apostles. Perhaps that is the reason the Baptist Church will not baptize people "for the remission of sins" according to Acts 2:38. They have voted it down by democratic rule.

The following is another statement made by the "Doctor":

"Acts chapter 13 tells of the first CHURCH ELECTION and sending out of foreign missionaries...The Holy Ghost called the men to the work, then the church by vote of endorsement, sent them out, under the call of the Holy Ghost." Page 9.

If this was the "first church election," as the "Doctor" says, I wonder what became of the election of Matthias in Acts 1:26. He gave that as an example of voting in the church "for the world like Baptists do it today." But now he says "the first church election" was held in Acts 18 when Paul and Barnabas were sent on a missionary journey. I am afraid the ingredients of this aspirin are bound to clash. With such self-contradiction so plainly evident, how can the "Doctor" expect his patients to get much relief from this aspirin? You will notice also that "the Holy Ghost called the men to the work" but the church "by vote of endorsement, sent them out." Here again, we find, according to the "Doctor's" prescription, that the church could have vetoed the call made by the Holy Ghost. Although the Holy Ghost called the men for the work, the whole thing could have been thrown aside if a majority of the members of the church at Antioch had voted against it. This certainly shows the absurdity of the "democratic vote" as practiced by Baptists today, and the "church vote" aspirin prescribed by "Doctor" Garner has dissolved into harmless and helpless vapors.

(To be continued)