"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VI No.IX Pg.1,14b
April 1944

Lost In Alaska

Cled E. Wallace

This is not the sort of story you are likely to expect from such a title. It involves a Baptist major, of a Chaplain's Corps, who "stepped off a troop transport at one of our bases in Alaska." At the very first opportunity, he set out to see the city. What do you suppose was the first object of his search? A Baptist church, of course. Now, good Baptists are like that, and I mean it as a compliment. If a man is a Baptist and [is] sincere in the matter, you would expect him to look for a Baptist church if circumstances wafted him into a strange and faraway part of the world. On the same principles, if a man is a Christian without being a Baptist or anything else of a like partisan nature, and even Baptists admit that he can be, then he would be interested in finding a church where "the disciples" "were gathered together to break bread" "upon the first day of the week" and to perform other acts of worship ordained by the Lord, and that without aid or interference from Baptist usage and things of that sort. He would feel a sense of loss if he failed in his search and would diligently go about to remedy the situation. Finding a Baptist church would not satisfy him at all.

But this story has to do with a search for "a Baptist church" in a strange city in Alaska. I am not calloused enough to feel no sympathy for the brother in the disappointment he encountered. He was told that "We don't have Baptists in Alaska." You can only imagine how that humiliated a Baptist preacher with the rank of Major in the Army of the United States! Baptists are a proud people and the dyed-in-the-wool ones are persistent to the very brink of obstinacy. Drop one of this sort into a place where he is the only one of his kind and he will find or make some more, or know the reason why, even if people can be saved, serve the Lord while they live and go to heaven when they die without being Baptists or anything else of the sort. The Major found himself a real and a lonely Baptist. He declares: "I was lost without a Baptist church to attend I had said for many years that if I ever were placed in a locality without a Baptist church I would organize one. Now the challenge was thrown at me by my conscience until I could not sleep at night. With a zeal like that coupled with ability that calls for the rank of Major, of course the result was a Baptist church, the lost was found, and the triumphant Major is humming praise and purring contentment through a Baptist paper. Now, I have a normal share of human feeling and respond quickly to the sentiment to "rejoice with them that rejoice and weep with them that weep." My first and natural impulse is to congratulate the Major on his success. I admire his zeal and energy. But some facts I gather from the New Testament tend to upset my impulses in this connection and suggest some pertinent observations.

You have doubtless heard of an inspired historian by the name of Luke. He wrote the book of Acts of Apostles and left on record some material regarding the activities of the early preachers of Christianity and had quite a bit to say about a very zealous soldier of the cross by the name of Paul. None exceed him in zeal and a desire to save the lost and hold up the banner of the cross. He too, found himself stranded in a strange city and felt a sense of loss: It is said that "his spirit was stirred within him as he beheld the city full of idols." There was no Baptist church there, or anywhere else in the world at the time, but if that bothered Paul any he said nothing about it. If he ever made a vow to establish or organize a Baptist church if he ever was found in a place where there was none, there is no record of it in anything he ever wrote or that contemporaries wrote about him. Luke certainly does not mention it. He did get busy, disputed with certain ones he encountered and others who encountered him and it resulted in his making a very notable speech to a notable gathering. That speech is on record in the 17th chapter of Acts. It deals with creation, man's duty to seek God, the necessity of repentance, the resurrection of the dead and the judgment. Some men and a woman believed, but there was no outstanding triumph in Athens. There is a significant absence of any mention of Baptists and Baptist churches in the inspired record of Paul's work and in his writings. Baptist history simply does not go back that far. Had this zealous Baptist Major been in Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth or in any other great center of gospel activity in the days when Paul was active he would have been "lost without a Baptist church to attend" because a careful reading of the New Testament reveals not one. Even the name is conspicuously absent. Even in this late day when Bibles are circulated by the millions in hundreds of languages and the readers of them are myriads, nobody can find the Baptist church in the Bible but Baptists and it is generally conceded that they qualify as prejudiced witnesses on this point. Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and even friendly sinners can't find it, but Baptists can see it spread all over the pages of holy writ. It is an interesting and somewhat disquieting phenomenon. Take a Methodist, for instance, if Jesus says: "suffer the children to come to me," takes them in his arms and blesses them, he has a clear-cut case of infant baptism, although baptism is not even hinted at. It is too easy for even an honest man to believe what he wants to without sufficient evidence to establish his case. This has been and still is the source of many and grievous errors in religion.

Why was it so important to "organize the first Baptist church in Alaska?" The brother makes an effort to answer the question in these words

"I was lost without a Baptist church to attend. Thousands of souls in Alaska are lost without Christ. It behooves me then as a Baptist to lend every assistance possible--prayer, personal witnessing, personality, purchasing power, preaching, planning, and procuring, to lead these souls to the Saviour."

There were thousands of souls in various parts of the world lost without Christ in the days of the apostles. Every assistance possible was rendered by such men as Peter, James, John, Paul and others. It did not "behoove" them as a Baptist" to pray, witness, preach, plan and procure. They did it simply as Christians and they belonged to nothing except the church, the body of Christ of which all Christians were members because they were Christians. There were no denominations in these vigorous days when the gospel was spreading throughout the earth with its blessed and saving influence. They glorified only in the cross of Christ and glorified God as Christians and never even once referred to the fact that they were Baptists, because it was not a fact. They were not Baptists, or anything else in party, or denominational sense. It ought to be that way now. Sect and party has so fastened itself on the thinking and planning of even good and devout men today that it makes it very difficult for anybody to steer clear of party lines and denominational machinery. Even so, some of us are trying with varying degrees of success and it may do some good to occasionally or oftener call attention to these things.