Johann Baegert Addresses Yet More Questions “to the Gentlemen of the Protestant Faith” (3rd of 3).

Brace yourself. Hurricane Baegert is about to blow the roof off.

For nearly three centuries the Catholic church enjoyed an advantage that enabled Catholic missionaries to sail for the farthest coastlands. Their advantage: Specialized organizations for sending missionaries called the monastic orders. The reader is familiar with Catholic churches (administrated by priests, and bishops); less familiar, perhaps, are Catholic monastic orders (Dominicans, Carmelites, Franciscans, Jesuits) whose specialty was sending missionaries to “the regions beyond” where there were no Catholic churches. No Catholic priest would rub the palms of his hands into his forehead and say, “If only the church were organized properly we would not need the monastic orders.” Ralph D. Winter called the harmony between churches and monastic orders “the enviable Roman Catholic Synthesis.”[1] The acceptance of the one for the other–priest in his church and abbot in his monastery–“continues to be Rome’s great organizational advantage to this day.”[2] Scott Sunquist writes, “Most cross-cultural and much local missionary work has been done not from a local church base but from monasteries, or special mission structures.[3]

Johann Baegert (d. 1772) was a Jesuit missionary residing among the Guaycura Indians in Baja California during the long “Protestant mission ice age” (we wrote about it here). Baegert was writing a book called Observations in Lower California when he started a new page and asked “some questions of the Protestants, and par­ticularly of their ministers, concerning the lack of zeal these gentlemen show in converting heathen.” We printed two of Baegert’s questions here, and two more here. Below are questions five and six.

Some Questions Directed to the Gentlemen of the Protestant Faith and Particularly to Protestant Ministers. By Johann Baegert

The Protestants have the best opportunity of carrying out the work of converting nonbelievers in both the West and the East Indies, for there, as everyone knows, their trade and power is very great. It would be much easier for them and they would be more successful than the Catholics, for they have nothing else to preach to the pagans but their doctrine of faith . . . . Never­theless, I have not heard or read anything up to now about Protestant missions or missionaries in the East or West Indies. Therefore, with their permission, I ask these Protestant gentlemen:

Fifth: If the Protestant religion is so evangelical and good, why do the Protestants not seek to introduce it into all parts of the world and bring the light of Faith to so many nations who live in darkness and in the shadow of death? Why do the Dutch not only omit preaching the Heidelberg cate­chism or the canons of their Dordrecht synod in Japan, where they monopolize all trade, but actually conceal their Calvinistic religion before the Japanese? They deny their religion; they do not wish to be known as Christians, but solely as Dutchmen. The image of Him, whom they consider their God and Saviour, they even trample underfoot. How shameful! Never has any greed and avarice brought any Roman Catholic nation to this! Before the rise of the two new evangelists of Wittenberg and Geneva, no one would ever have believed it possible that a Chris­tian nation could go so far. This brings no honor to the Calvinistic (or as they wish to call it, Reformed) religion or its adherents, but should rather cause them to doubt the quality and truth of this sect which leads the subjects of a great state to commit such a fantastic, un-Christian, and blasphemous deed. The English and the Dutch (in particular the latter) trade in all things in all the corners of the globe, and they will do anything for profit. Should even Satan himself have a shipment to any of the four continents, he surely would find much courtesy in Amsterdam and soon have a ship ready to sail at his service. The one thing they do not wish to export and bring to the market, however, is their religion. All the preachers in Holland have as little desire as Satan himself to convert one single pagan . . . or to lead him to Heaven.

Sixth: If Protestant preachers fear misfortune and death, and perhaps for this reason lack courage and do not dare to venture among foreign nations and barbarians, why then do they not show any concern for the eternal salvation of their colonial slaves in America and the Negro slaves from Guinea and elsewhere. Surely from them they have nothing to fear. Why do they let them perish like dogs?

If those preachers of the Augsburg and Geneva Confession are kept at home by their wives and children, if family and house prevent these gentlemen from a voyage to the pagan kingdoms in the East or West, why do they grumble about the Catholic Church and curse her so mightily because she demands celibacy of all those who voluntarily enter her priesthood? Why does their church not wish to remember St. Paul’s saying (I Corinthians 7): “I have no command from the Lord as to chastity, but I do advise it;” nor Christ’s utterance (Matthew 19): “Whosoever forsakes his house or field in my name . . . “? Both celibacy and voluntary poverty, though not indispensable, are of service in promoting the conversion of pagans in far distant lands according to the will and command of the Lord. Two big obstacles are thereby removed. The Protestant preacher, however, speaks, as in Luke 14: “I took a wife, or wish to take one, I have a house, etc., and it is full of children; therefore I cannot . . .”

Hence among the Roman Catholic clergy Christ has His helpers and the Apostles have their faithful successors, in the persons of the missionaries dedicated to the conversion of heathen. To teach and baptize the unbelievers the missionaries travel throughout the world, penetrating into regions where no profit-hungry merchant nor daring pioneer has ever been before. They work and sweat with Christ for the salvation of souls; they want to see their Faith spread into all the corners of the world and make Christians of all men, no matter who they might be. Some they instruct and baptize, others they prepare for Heaven; they preach the kingdom of God to those who are nothing to them from whom they get nothing, and from whom they can expect nothing but death and martyrdom. For the sake of this work, they leave their homeland and—with it—everything, to sail over the seas. Like St. Paul, they fear no dangers, but suffer shipwreck, hunger, and thirst, and dwell in deserts, exposed to ugly vermin. They live among wild beasts and such human beings as are only distinguishable from beasts by their bodies. They risk their lives a hundred times and spill their blood in a hundred different ways. Meanwhile, the Protestant lip servant puts his hands in his pockets and watches indifferently the horrors of idolatry in so many lands. He lets millions of black and white pagans perish . . . not in the least bothering or thinking of coming to their aid, in spite of God’s explicit command to help them and save them from eternal damnation.

Now I beseech the modest and truth-loving Protestant reader to lay aside all prejudices and, in honor of God, draw his own conclusions and tell me in all sincerity: Where and on which side is the love of neighbor, the true mark of the disciple of Christ? On which side, pray, the Catholic or the Protestant, is the spirit of the True Church?

Blincoe: How do you feel about Baegert and what he wrote? Are his questions biblical? Are his questions reasonable? What does he mean, “I beseech the modest and truth-loving Protestant readers?” Do his questions merit godly sorrow on our part? How shall we bring forth fruit worthy of repentance?

Sunquist wrote:

I believe Ralph Winter has clearly shown, throughout history and through Scripture, that both structures are part of God’s redemptive plan. As awkward as it may be at times, especially when apportioning time or money, God’s mission has always been carried out by both local churches (modalities) and missionary organizations (sodalities).[4]

Next: Justinian Welz Established “The Jesus Loving Society.” His Church Gave Him the Left Foot of Fellowship.

Previous: Johann Baegert Addresses More Questions to “the Gentlemen of the Protestant Faith.”

[1] Winter, “Protestant Mission Societies and the ‘Other Protestant Schism’,” 196.

[2] Winter, “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission,” 128.

[3] Scott Sunquist, Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory (Grand Rapids, Michican: Baker Pub. Group, 2013). 303

[4] Sunquist, Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory. 303