Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
You might wonder how James 1:17 has anything to do with epistemology. From God comes what is pure and unaffected. Every other "source" has some affect of sin on it and at least the affect of something on it. You can't fully trust any other source but God, so whatever He says about anything you can trust as being the truth.
I've taught history now for 21 years. I teach history a majority of days of every year. I've also done a lot of historical reading. History is what actually happened. I want to repeat that so that you don't miss it. History is what actually happened. In the past, of course. What is written down in what are called "history books" is not always what happened. I've noticed certain trends in what men write that they call history. Men often write a history that backs their desired views of the world. The men who write the accounts of what happened are often the most powerful men at the time or those who have won the battle or the war. Often the men writing the history have an axe to grind. They many times want to make their favorite guys look better than what they were. We see the same kind of varied outlooks in those writing contemporary history. We're not far removed from Abraham Lincoln, but there are wildly different opinions about who the man was. You'll read Christians who treat him as if he were an evangelical and other types of men who revile him. We have a hard enough time getting an accurate assessment of someone still breathing, let alone someone who has been dead for a century or more.
The so-called "history of the church" was written almost completely by Roman Catholicism. How can we know that what Roman Catholic "historians" wrote was true? I go to the Bible and I find that Roman Catholicism corrupted it. They diced up Scripture and spit it back out in an unrecognizable form. I have a hard time trusting their representatives to give me an accurate account of what happened regarding the church or even Christian doctrine. I don't believe that I "know" the history of the church when I "know" what Roman Catholic historians have written.
For some, whatever was published and accepted by the authority represents the academic and scholarly position. To them, if you read what the Catholics wrote on history and doctrine, you know what Christians believed. I don't believe that. About this time, you might be beginning to see me as a bit of a conspiracy theorist. In my opinion, I'm not a theorist on this. I believe it is a fact that Satan would want men to have the wrong view of the church and doctrine, so he would like them to believe the state religion and its historians.
I have a fideistic or presuppositional epistemology (I see them as the same). I believe Scripture. God's Word speaks of the church. It talks about the perpetuity of the church. It explains the nature of the church. The church is an assembly and it has no possibility of total apostasy. We should assume that there have always been New Testament churches since the time of Christ. I don't have to have a written history to believe this. I accept it without the addition of any historic "evidence." I'm a historian who is skeptical of history. I believe that God has made me a skeptic like He does all believers. He says to them to "prove all things." I have to have real evidence, that is, the Bible.
The church should look like, well, the church. Roman Catholicism doesn't walk or talk or quack like a church. I don't see a state church in Scripture. I don't see works salvation there either. I don't see the church persecuting believers anywhere in the Bible. And then I don't see all the other fallacies propagated through the centuries by Roman Catholicism either. What is the Roman Catholic denomination today looks nothing like what I read in the truth, that is, God's Word. It is no wonder that we can read in "history" that Roman Catholicism at the Council of Toulouse (1229) told everyone they could not read the vernacular translations of the Bible. They didn't want anyone checking up on them to see the error. If they did that, some kind of reformation might take place.
Because I know what the Bible says about perpetuity of the church, I look for the record of true churches in history, those that would be independent of the corrupt state organization, Roman Catholicism. I see churches like these in history in every century. I don't know everything there is about them, because these were churches often persecuted by the government and the state religion. They didn't have the convenience of stopping to write their histories. I understand that. What you'll find is that these independent, New Testament churches were Baptist. When they came out the other side after the invention of the printing press, we see that they were Baptist churches. They were called by different names during those preceding centuries, but in the end, they were Baptist.
I feel a little sick to my stomach when I hear men say that Baptists came out of the Reformation, that is, the English separatists theory. They trace their lineage to Luther and Calvin and then to Augustine. They often have many of the same doctrines as well. And they have a more common view of the church as Roman Catholicism than those who believe either a spiritual kinship or chain-link view of church history. They often take an Augustinian view of the church and they are not so hard against infant sprinkling. They many times also believe that the truth was preserved by means of Roman Catholicism. They are often more excited about being fundamentalists than they are about being Baptist. They also might not mind getting together for the gospel and tolerate corrupt teaching and practice to do so. I don't accept this view of history because it clashes with the truth, the Bible.
I'm a Baptist because Baptists are the true churches. They are the churches which remained independent of Roman Catholicism. I'm not Protestant. I was never in Roman Catholicism in order to come out. My legacy stands in the persecuted churches, those who would not bow the knee to Rome. This truth also separates me from most of evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Fundamentalism has been a movement of interdenominational Protestants. Why be a fundamentalist when one is already a Baptist? Baptist is good enough for me.