Modern Chilean Baptists have fallen a long way from their missionary predecessors, at least in terms of the quality of their service, Calvinistic soteriology and biblical church practices. The initial missionaries that came to Chile from 1917 to 1926 were conservative theologically, very libertarian in their quest to separate church and state, and far more educated than typical American Baptist missionaries in Chile today or modern Chilean Baptist pastors. Moreover, many (if not all) of these missionary men read Greek and Hebrew fluently, and probably read (and some spoke) German, too.

The Early Missionaries

Since the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where all but two of the early missionary men to Chile studied, has never taught Dispensationalism or Pentecostalism, there is no reason to believe that any of the missionaries adopted either thing. As Ernie Reisinger once said about dispensationalists in the Southern Baptist Convention, “There are other good men in the Southern Baptist Convention who have Dispensational views, but they did not get these views in our schools or seminaries.” They were not hyper-Calvinists either.

Southern seminary was then, and is even now, world-renown for its serious biblical and Greek language scholarship, among other things, such as being serious about studying, preaching and obeying the Word of God. There is no evidence that these men were taught or later promoted unbiblical practices like ordaining women elders, preachers or establishing any other leadership role for women in Baptist services (a common sinful malady in Chile today—see 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15). They knew nothing of the prosperity gospel, seeker-sensitive preaching, or running skits, theater, or dancing in church services that often characterize modern Chilean Baptist services.

In 1939, a Baptist seminary was opened in Santiago, under the direction of missionary James McGavock, that initially upheld the doctrinal views of the early Baptists—likely akin to what he learned at Southern seminary. The seminary leadership was promptly handed-off to a brilliant Chilean Bible scholar and biblical languages expert, Honorio Espinoza, who had also studied at Southern from 1937 to 1940, and who was personally trained beforehand by missionary W. E. Davidson. (Espinoza and others in his generation of Chilean Baptists, like Isaías Valdivia, are the subject of another article.) Tragically, that Chilean institution has since seen the majority of its faculty fall into modernism and liberalism. At any rate, returning our focus to the early Baptists that got the ball rolling, in a previous article I wondered:

Who exactly were these ardent missionaries?
—1917 William Earl and Mary Davidson to Santiago (see page 27 of the missionary list).
—1919 Frank and Effie Marrs, missionaries to Mexico who went to help Earl Davidson in Santiago (see page 66 of the missionary list).
—1919 Robert Cecil and Mary Moore, first to help in Santiago for a year and then on to Concepción (see page 73 of the missionary list).
—1920 Agnes Nora Graham (see page 41 of the missionary list), head of the Baptist school in Temuco starting in 1922, construction and operations financed by the Southern Baptist Convention to combat the illiteracy rate of 50% and provide basic instruction.
—1921 Joe Lancaster (and wife Tennessee) Hart to Temuco to start a Bible institute, then to Concepción briefly and finally to Antofagasta (see page 46 of the missionary list).
—1922 James W. and Catherine McGavock to Talca (see page 70 of the missionary list)[but first to Temuco in 1923 to be with most of the other missionaries (page 214), much later heading the Baptist seminary in Santiago starting in 1939].
—1926 Wynne Quilon and Berta Lou (Tooms) Maer to Temuco for youth ministry commencing in 1929 (see page 66 of the missionary list).
They settled in Temuco, Concepción, Talca, Santiago and Antofagasta. MacDonald also became a recognized Southern Baptist missionary, and proceeded to establish churches in Freire, and the southeastern Ninth Region: Laureles, Villarrica, Pucón, Liucura, and Picahres (near Caburgua lake in the Andes foothills). Thus, the first organized Chilean Baptist churches, apart from the previous union with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, under the efforts of MacDonald and the Southern Baptist missionaries (later becoming the Baptist union or association UBACH) were, according to Aguilar (page 8): Temuco (1914), Valdivia (1917), Santiago 1st (1919, reorganized 1920), Concepción (1919), Santiago 2nd (1921, with the Davidsons), Talca (1926), Valparaíso (1936), and Antofagasta (1937).

I now have some further details. The following biographical excerpts were taken from: John S. Ramond (1936), Among Southern Baptists, Volume I, (compiler-publisher from Shreveport, Louisiana), Kansas City, Missouri: Western Baptist Publishing Company.

DAVIDSON, WILLIAM EARL [arrived in 1917]
Bible Department, Hannibal-La Grange College, Hannibal, Mo.; born, Freeman, Cass County, Mo., Sept. 6, 1891; son of Mary Elizabeth Holman of Albany, Ore., and Rev. Franklin Pierce Davidson of Freeman, Mo.; education, A.B., William Jewell College, Th.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; ordained, Savannah, Mo., August, 1917; married Mary Skidmore of Chillicothe, Mo., 1917, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Thayer Skidmore; children, Dorothy and Virginia; missionary, Timber Lake, S. D., 1913-1914; missionary, Valparaiso, Chile, 1917-1926; pastor, Gilliam, Mo., 1927; Bible Department, Hannibal-LaGrange College (1927 to date); author: “Catecismo de Doctrina Cristiana.” Address: Hannibal, Mo. Page 129 [Note: Davidson said he was a much better teacher than a preacher, and that his main contribution was to intensively train Chilean men with what they needed to be solid preachers theologically. “We had gone to Chile both times with the hope of being life-time missionaries there.” Nevertheless, he reported that he had to return to the United States instead of serving in Chile long term due to contracting acute miliary tuberculosis (“galloping consumption”) twice and the severe anemia, hypertension and angina of his wife, but that he always kept in touch with the mission, reading La Voz Bautista, a Chilean Baptist magazine run by the missionaries, writing “wacky ads” to the missionaries. Source: Reminiscences of Our Mission to Chile (pages 38-39, 62-63, 76-77)]

MARRS, FRANK [arrived 1919]
Southern Baptist Foreign Missionary, stationed at San Antonio, Texas (Mexico); born, Florence, Tex., April 18, 1869; education, Southwestern University, Eastman National Business College, Poughkeepsie, N. Y., 1889; work in Baylor University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; appointed May 22, 1900; evangelistic work. Page 327 [Davidson wrote in his Reminiscences of Our Mission to Chile (page 14), that Marrs “was not long for Chile” even though he had a strong desire to serve there after having worked so long among Mexicans in Texas. The climate constantly made him sick and he and his wife suffered from pathetic poverty. Thus, they soon returned to the Northern Hemisphere.]

Pastor, Hunter Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala.; born, Patsburg, Ala., Nov. 23, 1892; son of Elizabeth Mills and George Washington Moye of Patsburg, Ala.; education, graduate State Normal College, Alabama; A.B., Howard College; Th.B., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; ordained, Arkadelphia, Ark., Dec. 20, 1917; married Esther Billingsley of Healing Springs, Ala., Aug. 23, 1921; daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Clay Billingsley; children, Sarah Elizabeth, John Luther, Jr.; pastor, Killen, Ala., 1916-1917; pastor. [Note: Davidson remarked in his Reminiscences of Our Mission to Chile (pages 35, 47), that Moye was in Santiago helping with the church planting when Davidson and McGavock were there but Moye does not appear on the list as an official or permanent missionary, and thus is not counted in the “eleven” in the article’s title. Photograph taken from La Voz Bautista (1923), 15:10 (October), cover]

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MOORE, ROBERT CECIL [arrived 1919]
Southern Baptist Foreign Missionary, stationed at Temuco, Chile; born, Fort Green, Fla., Jan. 28, 1894; education, Columbia College, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; appointed June 11, 1919; evangelistic work. Page 361

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Pastor McDonald Chile 1908.jpg

MacDONALD, AVM. D. T. [arrived 1888, ordained under the Southern Baptists in 1919]
Southern Baptist Foreign Missionary, retired on pension, formerly stationed at Temuco, Chile; born, Edinburgh, Scotland, i Aug. 8, 1851; educated, schools of Scotland; sailed for Chile 1888, an independent missionary to October, 1919, when appointed by F. M. B. Evangelistic Work. Address: Casilla 191, Temuco, Chile. Page 318 Photo credit

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GRAHAM, MISS NORA AGNES [arrived in 1920]
Southern Baptist Foreign Missionary, stationed at Temuco, Chile; born, Yoakum, Tex., Feb. 22, 1888; educated, University of Texas, 1918; W. M. U. Training School, 1920; appointed June 10, 1920; Girls’ School. Page 197Photo credit

HART, JOSEPH L. [arrived in 1921]
Southern Baptist Foreign Missionary, stationed at Concepcion, Chile; born, Essex County, Virginia, Nov. 26, 1879; education, McGuire’s School, Richmond, Va.; Richmond College, 1900; Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, three years; appointed December, 1903; Evangelistic and Educational Work. Page 222 Photo credit


HART, MRS. TENNESSEE H. [arrived 1921]
Southern Baptist Foreign Missionary, stationed at Concepcion, Chile; born, Meade County, Kentucky, Sept. 21, 1881; education, Brandenburg Normal Institute, 1897; Shelbyville College, 1901; appointed Mar. 15, 1904; married J. L. Hart, March, 1904; Educational and Evangelistic Work. Page 222

McGAVOCK, JAMES WILLIAM [arrived in 1922]
Southern Baptist Foreign Missionary, stationed at Santiago, Chile; born, Newberg, Ark., Oct. 30, 1888; education, Union University, A.B., 1918; S.B. Theological Seminary, Th.M., 1922; appointed May 17, 1922; Evangelistic Work. Page 342 Photo credit

McGAVOCK, MRS. CATHERINE, 3. [arrived in 1922]
Southern Baptist Foreign Missionary, stationed at Santiago, Chile; born, Obion, Tenn., Aug. 5, 1890; education, Hall Moody Normal; W. M. TJ. Training School, 1921; married J. W. McGavock, June, 1917; appointed, 1922- ; Evangelistic Work. Page 342

MAER, MRS. BERTHA TOOMS [arrived 1925]
Southern Baptist Foreign Missionary, stationed at Temuco, Chile; born, Medina, Tenn., June 4, 1898; education, Union University, A.B., 1920; W. M. U. Training School; B. M. T., 1923; married W. Q. Maer, January, 1921; appointed June, 1925; Educational Work. Page 320

MAER, WYNNE QUILON [arrived in 1926]
Southern Baptist Foreign Missionary, stationed at Temuco, Chile; born, Europa, Miss., June 14, 1897; education, Mississippi College; Union University, A.B., 1921; A.B. Theological Seminary, Th.M., 1924; appointed June 10, 1925; Educational Work. Page 320

The Missionaries’ Theological and Ministerial Training

Having come from all over the South (except for the missionary from Scotland), most of them were trained at Southern Seminary in Louisville, and eventually sent out from under the Virginia chapter of the Southern Baptist Convention (Foreign Missions Board). One of the key seminary teachers at Southern for most of these men was Archibald Thomas Robertson, who was one of the greatest New Testament and koine Greek scholars of all time. His most famous, massive work was A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical Research, which is still highly regarded today. Source: William Baird (2003), New Testament Research in the Era of Global Conflict, vol. 2, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, pp. 412-414. Another book that grants similar accolades is, Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study by James Leo Garrett, Jr., (2009), Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, pp. 347-350.

A.T. Robertson (pictured below) was a Calvinist in terms of his soteriology, just as was the rest of the faculty. Accordingly to Gregory A. Wills (2010), Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009 (New York: Oxford University Press), “A. T. Robertson held that the fundamental Baptist doctrine was the necessity of the new birth, which included the doctrine of justification by faith and ‘acceptance of the system of doctrine known as Calvinism'” (page 240). Congruently, Frank S. Mead, in his 1954 book The Baptists, reminded us that “we were Protestants before the Reformation, before the birth of Martin Luther” (page 7), although after the Reformation the particular Baptists of England and North America were particular and therefore Calvinistic (pages 19, 23).

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In terms of eschatology among Southern Baptists, historic premillennialism and postmillennialism were the dominant viewpoints during the Nineteenth Century with amillennialism displacing postmillennialism from 1930 to 1980, which is around the same timeframe that dispensational premillennialism became dominant in American Baptist churches. From this framework, one might conjecture that the early American Baptist missionaries probably held to either a historic premillennial or postmillennial eschatology. However, judging from what missionary Davidson wrote, they might well have been amillennial. One 1922 article dealing with eschatology that was published by missionary Hart, editor of La Voz Bautista, was Juan C. Varetto’s “Come out of her my people” [Revelation 18:4]. He was clearly not dispensational by virtue of his allegorical interpretation of the book of Revelation, although it is unclear exactly what his millennial position was. He stated: “The Apocalypse is a symbolic book, so here it is not about the famous city of Babylon built on both sides of the Euphrates, but of Rome, and not of pagan Rome, but Papal Rome.” Source: La Voz Bautista(1922), 14:10 (October), page 7.

W. Earl Davidson

The most prominent theologian of the group of missionaries was, clearly, Davidson (pictured below with his wife), followed by Moore. In addition to writing his 1928 dissertation entitled, The Early History of the Idea of Penance, from which Davidson doubtless exemplified some of his practical expertise in Roman Catholic doctrine after living in Chile for a decade, along with his erudite knowledge of church history and New Testament Greek. He recounts a story of a prayer-warrior woman in Chile, who showed preference for a missionary stricken with typhus by asking God to afflict one of her own instead. Her husband died from the same disease shortly thereafter, while the missionary recovered. Her daughter never forgave her (p. 65). All of this to show just how much Davidson was endeared to Chile and had fond memories of his experiences there.

He also published a Catechism of Bible Doctrine, translated from Catecismo de Doctrina Cristiana that was used to train Chilean pastors and disciple new believers. He was keenly interested in teaching others at all levels, showing that fact by writing an article for La Voz Bautista (The Baptist Voice) in January 1923, while on furlough in the United States, on how to set up a purposeful and successful Sunday School program in the local church. At the seminary level, his lecture notes taken under A. T. Robertson, New Testament Interpretation: Notes on Lectures of Dr. A. T. Robertson, 1914-1915 (1916), were also published, as well as some theological journal articles:

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In one short journal article, “On the Atonement,” Review & Expositor 24.3 (July 1927): 318-320, Davidson builds on the doctrine particular redemption—just as one might have expected coming from a scholar who graduated from a famously Calvinistic Baptist seminary. He wrote it while still in Santiago, Chile—prior to finishing his doctorate in Louisville. Davidson keys in on King David’s claim, “Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight,” (Psalm 51:4) in drawing parallels to Christ’s redemption. “Time would bring to light what was to make it possible for God to be both the justifier of the criminal and just to his victims” (p. 319).

In his earthly ministry, Jesus Christ transformed Himself “from Judge of men to man’s chief victim” (p. 320), and by making all of our crimes against other men against His person, the door was opened for Him to forgive us personally by grace and mercy rather than strictly act as our Judge, and thus mete out what we deserve. Our greatest victim thus became out greatest forgiver. Therefore, King David was right. Davidson stated that he did not regard his thinking as embarking on a new theory of the atonement, but rather served to supplement the doctrine of the substitutionary sacrifice. In his concluding remarks, Particular Baptist Davidson’s Calvinism seems to shine through: substitutionary theory “becomes even more meaningful if the substitute who should satisfy for us is the Judge himself, and if the victim for our sins is also the victim of our sins” (p. 320).

Apparently, Davidson taught the sovereignty of God in salvation as a missionary in Santiago. Whatever happened, then, to the disciples and pastors he trained and their spiritual progeny to have eventually generated such widespread Arminianism among Chilean Baptists in 2018?

The preface to Davidson’s aforementioned Catechism (English) states that, “It was prepared for the instruction of young ministers and Christian workers in the Chilean Mission, and has since 1930 been used as a manual for the training of young Christians in Bible fundamentals and in study classes in Chilean churches.” Again, what happened to this teaching over the past 85 years? In reading Davidson’s Catechism, I find little difference between it and the Southern Baptist Convention’s coeval 1925 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message. As a Particular Baptist creed, it is hardly surprising to find articles such as the following:

Article III: “He [man] was created in a state of holiness under the law of his Maker, but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and in bondage to sin, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.” (emphasis added)

Article IV: “The salvation of sinners is wholly of grace, through the mediatorial office of the Son of God, who by the Holy Spirit was born of the Virgin Mary and took upon him our nature, yet without sin; honored the divine law by his personal obedience and made atonement for our sins by his death. Being risen from the dead, he is now enthroned in Heaven, and, uniting in his person the tenderest sympathies with divine perfections, he is in every way qualified to be a compassionate and all-sufficient Saviour.” (emphasis added)

Article V: “Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of righteousness of all sinners who believe in Christ. This blessing is bestowed, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but through the redemption that is in and through Jesus Christ. It brings us into a state of most blessed peace and favor with God, and secures every other needed blessing.” (emphasis added)

Article VIII: “We believe that repentance and faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger, and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Saviour.” (emphasis added)

Article IX: “Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which he regenerates, sanctifies and saves sinners. It is perfectly consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is a most glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility. It encourages the use of means in the highest degree.” (emphasis added)

Article XI: “All real believers endure to the end. Their continuance in well-doing is the mark which distinguishes them from mere professors. A special Providence cares for them, and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” (emphasis added)

Consider, then, some pertinent excerpts from Davidson’s A Catechism of Bible Doctrine that by-and-large prove his Calvinism, and show that he did not deviate from the recently-published Baptist Faith and Message:

Section 1, Question 6 states, “…we are so tainted with sin that we cannot please God.” Questions 8-11 of Section 2 imply particular redemption, that Jesus laid down His life for us, although somewhat less explicitly than earlier Baptist confessions (i.e., London, Philadelphia and New Hampshire). However, Section 2, Question 13 states that, “God loves men in their sins and yearns to save them from their sins,” which is somewhat ambiguous, as is Section 5, Question 8: “God is loving and good toward all his creatures,” and Section 7, Question 9 that Jesus bore “in body and soul the wrath of God against the whole human race,” and Section 7, Question 10, “Christ died for every man to redeem us from everlasting damnation.” Yet, Question 1 of Section 3 is a bit clearer: “Are all men saved by the death of Christ? No; those who continue in sin remain under the wrath of God.”

Section 6, Question 5 states emphatically that nothing happens by accident or chance but rather “from the fatherly hand of God.” Section 9, Question 11 unambiguously says that, “God gives his renewing Spirit to those whom he has always purposed to save” but in the very next Question 12 there is ambiguity to the point of contradiction, “Is any man excluded from salvation by the will of God? No; God loves all mankind and for their salvation has given his only begotten Son; he would have all men to be saved…he offers salvation freely to every man” yet is so worded as to not outright deny a Calvinistic soteriology. He clearly holds to the perseverance of the saints in Section 11, questions 7 and 8.

Perhaps the oddest part of it is Section 1, Question 10 (related to Section 3, Question 10) which says (akin to C. H. Spurgeon’s belief about infants) that unbelieving children will not go to hell if they die prior to knowing the difference between good and evil, but instead will be saved by grace without believing. In addition, in his Reminiscences of Our Mission to Chile (pages 18, 22, 27), Davidson insinuated that he might have been a teetotaller, and also that he considered that Baptists were “Protestants”—neither view being a general, or historically Baptist perspective.

Also note that Davidson’s orthodox, simple, general eschatological pronouncement about Christ’s return—perfectly aligned with amillenialism—is seen in Section 7, Question 17. He gives no hint whatever of adopting a dispensational hermeneutic or eschatology with a millennium, great tribulation, or rapture (which is often taught in modern Chilean Baptist churches).

In another article, “Paradise Regained and Recent Criticism,” Review & Expositor30.4 (Oct. 1933): 381-402, Davidson showed his (obviously) keen interest in British literature, tackling critiques of John Milton’s Paradise Regained (1671). He basically argued that Milton was not unsound for focusing his attention on Luke’s account of the temptation of Christ, especially his disproportionately long treatment of the second temptation in Luke 4:6-7, “And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority [of the kingdoms of this world] I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.’” Davidson, by then Professor of Bible at Hannibal-LaGrange College in Missouri, concluded that Milton was orthodox in his interpretation and actually drew clever parallels with the trials and temptations of Job who, like Christ, ended up overcoming the devil. It was, indeed, a logical sequel to Milton’s other great literary work, Paradise Lost (1667). While one might see some weak and tacit links to political activism in his defense of Milton, no inkling of Davidson’s soteriology given. It does show that Davidson was a scholar in fields beyond Bible, church history, and theology alone.

R. Cecil Moore

The second regular Southern Baptist missionary to come to Chile in 1919, Robert Cecil Moore, stayed in the field far longer than Davidson. He wrote his 1944 Ph.D. dissertation, The Economic Influence of Roman Catholicism in Chile, at Southern Baptist Theological seminary, around 25 years after his arrival. As such, it was fully related to his field experience. He cites Chile’s low wages and overall backwardness as being direct results of the false doctrine or manipulative polices supported by the Roman Church, e.g., high taxes, brutal treatment of Indians, grants of unequal land privileges, and greed and exploitation in the name of religion.

There is an interesting quotation in his introduction (p. 2) that sums up the link between property, capitalism and a Christian Worldview: “A man’s religion, and a man’s goods are two of the most dynamic forces in his existence, and they are closely related at many points. What a man believes will affect his acquisitive desires, as it will modify also the distributive use of the goods he will make of his goods once acquired.” He then goes on to talk about the importance of observing the Ten Commandments, especially resting on the Lord’s Day and partaking in charitable activities (also see Davidson’s dissertation, p. 69). Too, he applies Max Weber’s theory in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of CapitalismPhoto credit

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Moore concluded that, “…the Roman Catholic Church releases the lowest brutal passions of avarice and cruelty by its sanctions and even its participation. The potential wealth represented by the Indian population is squandered, beaten down by inhumane cruelty, and wasteful, selfish exploitation” (p. 46). Colonial curates (priests) in Valparaíso would also levy hefty taxes on visiting ship captains under threat of excommunication (p. 57). Moreover, under the Jesuits, Moore concluded, “Roman Catholicism, as a religious way of thinking, does not conduce to the best economic welfare of a country or a people” (p. 71). Indeed, “Chile is infinitely behind other countries that have inferior resources, not because of inferior race, but because of a religion that gives inferior economic results. Is it too much to say that Chile is poor because it is Catholic?” (p. 84). “Judged by the history of colonial Chile, Roman Catholicism is not conducive to intellectual liberty and exploration nor to inventiveness in any line. Catholicism is contrary to social change, and social change is essential to permanent economic well-being” (p. 119). In sum, Chile would have been a vastly different place had it not be dominated by Catholicism for so long (p. 124).

Moore wrote for the Chilean Baptist magazine La Voz Bautista (The Baptist Voice) frequently as he spent decades trying to impact the Chilean people. As an activist, seemingly with similiar inclinations as Pastor John Leland decades before him, he kept an eye on world happenings for the brethren and, in the January 1923 issue, even noted gleefully that Russian communism had “failed.” Moreover, the dedication at the beginning of his thesis indicates that his wife was equally devoted to serving the Lord among the Chilean people. Furthermore, he wrote (in Spanish), Men and Acts: Baptists of Chile in 1965, a history of Baptist missionaries and work in Chile, along with other books and tracts.

The Rest: Some Circumstantial Evidence about Their Theology

From the writings of Moore and Davidson, it is clear in the case of Davidson and likely in the case of the others, that the early American Baptist missionaries were theologically savvy, multi-lingual, Calvinistic and non-dispensational, non-charismatic men, who were also intellectuals that enjoyed political activism and studies in church history, economic history and classic English literature. They were hardly men of low preparation, but rather—as thinking men—dedicated themselves to the evangelization and lifting up of people living in an impoverished country. Would it be too much of a stretch to think that the other initial missionaries—MacDonald, Marrs, Moye, Hart, McGavock, Maer—were also of similar character and preparation, or at least just as true and dedicated in their diligent service for Christ in Chile? MacDonald had evidently learned his doctrine directly from C. H. Spurgeon in London (Biography, page 19), and was surely an active Calvinistic preacher. In summarizing “The Baptist Message to Chile” in La Voz Bautista (February 1922), MacDonald stated that apart from decreeing and controlling all things that come to pass, “predestination is the eternal election that God makes for some people to eternal life, by virtue of which they are called, justified, and glorified,” affirming emphatically the perseverence of the saints, too. I hope that further study into the lives and work of these men will better reveal both their precise theological views and their passion for “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Nonetheless, at least by considering the circumstantial evidence of their training, the missionaries’ belief in the sovereignty of God in salvation should come as no surprise. According to William A. Mueller, in his 1959 book A History of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Nashville: Broadman Press), the faculty working at the seminary when Davidson, Moore, McGavock, and Hart studied there were (page 242): John Richard Sampy (1863-1946), faculty member 1887-1942; Archibald Thomas Robertson (1863-1934), 1890-1934; William Joseph McGlothlin (1867-1933), 1896-1919; William Owen Carver (1868-1954), 1898-1943 who, according to Wills (2010), manifested some liberal sympathies, like entertaining the idea that hell does not exist (pages 260-267, 322); Edgar Young Mullins (1860-1928), 1899-1928, who, according to Wills (2010), was clearly a Calvinist (page 240); George Boardman Eager (1847-1929), 1900-1920; Charles Spurgeon Gardner (1859-1948), 1907-1929 who, according to Wills (2010), was open to a few liberal sympathies, but less than his mentor Carver (pages 237-241); Harry Clifford Wayman (1881-1959), 1915-1923; and Landrum Pinson Leavell (1874-1929), 1915-1920. According to Wills (2010), Sampy, Wayman, Robertson and Dargon, along with Byron Hoover Dement (1863-1933), 1906-1914 (President of Baptist Bible Institute and future seminary in New Orleans starting in 1917); “represented the more conservative wing of the faculty” in 1907, with Whitsitt, Harris, and Kerfoot being gone by then (page 268).

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A few other professors possibly influenced later graduates like McGavock (pictured above, who graduated five years after Davidson): Frank Marion Powell (1886-1973), 1918-1941; Gaines Stanley Dobbins (1886-1978), 1920-1956; William Hersey Davis (1887-1950), 1920-1950; James McKee Adams (1886-1945), 1921-1945; and conservative preacher (Wills, 2010:325) Kyle Monroe Yates (1895-1975), 1922-1942. Note that McGavock was a mason, like unto so many Baptists during the Twentieth Century (e.g., Honorio Espinoza) and Presbyterian Pastor Trumbull in Valparaíso during the Nineteenth Century (see photograph of the seminary’s masons below).

Earlier graduates Hart (who was editor of The Baptist Voice for a time) and Marrs were likely also influenced by William H. Whitsitt (1841-1911), 1872-1899; Henry Herbert Harris (1837-1897), 1896-1897; Franklin Howard Kerfoot (1847-1901), 1887-1899; and Edwin Charles Dargan (1852-1930), 1892-1907—all of whom ended their seminary careers prior to Davidson entering the seminary—but did not have courses with Byron Hoover Dement, Harry Clifford Wayman, Landrum Pinson Leavell, Charles Spurgeon Gardner, Frank Marion Powell; Gaines Stanley Dobbins, William Hersey Davis, James McKee Adams, or Kyle Monroe Yates, who taught after Hart and Marrs had finished their studies. These professors were undoubtedly Calvinists. According to Wills (2010), “Whitsitt frequently emphasized the Calvinistic character of baptist doctrine in his church history classes and praised the soundly Calvinistic Philadelphia Confession of Faith” and Dargan’s 1905 book Doctrines of Our Faith clearly indicated that he was a Calvinist, too (p. 240). Presumably, Hart broadly agreed with the Calvinism, local churches practices and issues of morality espoused by the other missionaries, along with translated articles written by theologians outside of Chile that were reprinted in the journal he edited. He likely held, for example, that the role of deacons was merely to serve rather than to rule the local church, which is a doctrine that is quite different than what is practiced today, where deacons are the leaders of the local church.

The deacons are not elders or directors, but rather servants of the church, who must care for the temporal interests of the same. We have no commandment to determine how many deacons there should be in a church, nor how long they should remain in office. The officers of the church are there more to serve than to exercise power. The official positions of the church are not titles, nor ranks, nor means to achieve exaltation, but instead exist for service. Officers and members form part of a unity and their actions are both joint and mutual. [Dr. JLM Curri, “An Important Difference: A Baptist Church Is Radically Different from Paido-Baptist Churches,” reprinted in La Voz Bautista, 15:2 (February 1923), Temuco, Chile, page 11, translated from Spanish.]

Chile’s early Baptist missionaries were trained in Calvinist soteriology and taught the doctrines of grace from the pulpit, in its seminary and in discipleship classes. There is no evidence that they were taught in seminary either a dispensational hermeneutic or eschatology, and certainly not a charismatic perspective on the continuation of the revelatory and other spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12-14, Acts 2 and 8, and Romans 12, or that they promoted such teachings to their churches in Chile. In fact, Davidson commented several times in his Reminiscences of Our Mission to Chile (pages 7-9, 17) that missionaries Davidson and Moore (and presumably others) rebuffed incursions by pentecostals, e.g., a self-professed, boisterous, Greek-reading “prophet” Mr. Shulpig, and faith healer named Mr. Bunster from Concepción who had led the Baptist church there astray, calling the former “heretical.” Yet, one would never know those facts when visiting one of the Chilean Baptist churches in 2018 that was directly or indirectly spawned by their efforts almost a century earlier. Indeed, they would turn in their graves upon witnessing the modern Baptist debacle.

The World Situation When the Early Missionaries Arrived in Chile

Remember, too, that the 1910s and “roaring” 1920s were tumultuous decades in the world, affecting both the United States and Chile, each of which had been receiving (and continued to receive) many new European immigrants. On the world stage, World War 1 (1914-1918), the Russian communist revolution (1917), the sinking of the Titanic (1912) and the Lusitania (1915), and the opening of the Panama Canal (1914), had been changing the course of history. Christian seminaries worldwide experienced the onslaught of theological liberalism during these decades, spurred on by the growing teaching of Darwinian evolution (affecting Carver, Gardner and Toy at the Southern Baptist Seminary), with conservatives splitting off from them to form new ones, such as Dallas Theological Seminary (1924) and (in the case of the conservative Presbyterians) Westminster Theological Seminary (1929). The uprising against theological liberalism and the defeat of postmillennialism that had dominated Baptists and many Protestants for centuries due to the devastation of two world wars, permitted the rise and spread of conservative dispensationalist teachings that profoundly impacted both Baptists and Presbyterians in the mid-Twentieth Century.

Chilean history had been forever altered by the aftermath of the great Valparaíso earthquake and fire (1906), the synthesizing of saltpeter (nitrates) by the Germans (1915) that destroyed their greatest export business, the sinking of British ships by the German ship Dresden (1914) and subsequent blockade of Chilean ports by the British during World War 1, internal strife between German and British, French or other European immigrants who sent their sons from Chile to fight in Europe, the dwindling of its economic power and the golden age of Valparaíso, along with the rise of Santiago’s preeminence, and the 1925 Constitution which separated church and state and allowed common men to vote—and Baptist men to preach publicly in Spanish.

The United States started its central bank (1913), passed a permanent national income tax for the first time (1913), fought in World War 1 (1917-1918), granted women’s suffrage (1920), started producing automobiles via the assembly line (1913), enacted and then rescinded alcoholic beverage prohibition (1919-1933), and saw the first commercial airlines begin service (1914).

One cannot fully understand the situation of the missionaries without first appreciating the world in which they lived and studied, and that of the land where they arrived. In addition, one must have a better understanding of what they believed and sought to establish in Chile to really comprehend the effort. To that end, I hope this article has been enlightening, given that no one would have ever guessed what the early missionaries represented considering the degenerate state of modern Chilean Baptist churches and the Baptist seminary in Santiago today.

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John Cobin, Ph.D. Twitter

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