Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Trail of Blood

I've written a little more on Baptist history here and here and here.  You can read those.

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My family moved to Watertown, WI in 1973 for my dad to attend Maranatha Baptist Bible College, when I was entering 7th grade.  My dad, my sister, my brother, and I all graduated there.  He got his Masters.  I got a masters and master of divinity.  I've talked about this before, but Richard Weeks taught all the Baptist related courses -- Baptist history, Baptist polity, Acts, and Revelation -- anything to do with the church.  Dr. Weeks had by all reports, the largest personal Baptist history library in the world.  Maranatha published only two books in its history:  Evaluating Versions of the New Testament by Edward Fowler (for which B. Myron Cedarholm wrote the foreward) and History of the Baptists by Thomas Armitage.  What do you think those two acts communicated about the emphasis of Maranatha, what Maranatha considered itself to be about?  It saddens me that Maranatha is ashamed of this heritage and ashamed of its graduates who continue to believe it.  They're not only ashamed, but it seems obvious that they try to blot out that entire history like it never existed.  By the way, that doesn't make me a scandalized alumnus -- I'm just reporting.

At that time, in Maranatha's bookstore were books you find sold today by the unaffiliated Baptists:  The Myth of the Universal, Invisible Church Exploded by Roy Mason, The First Baptist and The First Church by S. E. Anderson, Ecclesia by B. H. Carroll, and The Trail of Blood by J. M. Carroll.  We read  The History of the Baptists by John T. Christian for Baptist History class.  Those books are not offered by Maranatha any more.  You can't find those books in the bookstore anymore, but now you can get them from Wayne Grudem, Carl Trueman, or Nathan Busenitz.  I was there when things started to change, as Arno Q. Weniger became president and began taking Maranatha a whole new direction with the imprimatur of an almost entirely new faculty.

Recently SharperIron linked to a short article bashing The Trail of Blood.  I say "bashing," because it couldn't stand as any kind of actual critique -- it had zero documentation.  Wait a minute, I take that back, he did have several links you could click on to go to Roman Catholic websites in order to "debunk" the Trail of Blood position.  Did you know that Roman Catholics don't take The Trail of Blood position?  Oh, that's right, they helped create the trail.  They caused much of the bleeding.  Did anyone at SharperIron, Fred Moritz, or any of these criticize this particular aspect of the article?  No.  Crickets from them.

Trail of Blood, on the other hand, the commenters at SharperIron said was "hokum," Landmarkist, and Baptist Brider.  Unfortunately it was the typical analysis of the bandwagon.  Then we read Fred Moritz come on to promote his article on "Landmarkism" at the Maranatha website (which I refuted in a series -- part one, part two, part three, part four -- that will speak for itself).  For people to understand Landmarkism, they should read the writings of J. R. Graves and evaluate as to whether what he taught was found in the New Testament.  I say that, because Moritz quotes critics of Graves, who read critics of Graves after he was in the grave.  Graves hasn't been dead that long.  You can read what he wrote.  And when you read what he wrote, you don't find his saying that his position was a reaction to Campbellism.    Dr. Cedarholm preached a sermon every year at Maranatha against the chain link view of Baptist history and Maranatha held a position called "spiritual kinship," which would not contradict what Carroll wrote in his pamphlet/booklet, Trail of Blood.

I asked the author of the blog post (who has of his few twitter feeds, StuffFundiesLike in mockery of fundamentalists) some questions, several of which he wouldn't answer.  He was claiming to believe an English Separatist view of church history.  It would be helpful to read a critique of that position (here, here, here, here, and here).   One he did answer was the question as to whether there were true churches that existed separate from Roman Catholicism from the time of Jesus until now.  He said, 'Of course, he believed that.'  If he did believe that, then he essentially takes the same point of view as Carroll in Trail of Blood.  At the minimum, it is a spiritual kinship view, which says that there were always churches with New Testament distinctives (Baptist distinctives) throughout history since Christ.  However, neither is it in conflict with Baptist successionism.  Baptist successionism is not in fact the mythical chain link view.  I've never met anyone who takes the chain link position, despite the criticism.  Successionism says that churches should come from churches, and that authority travels from church to church.  Nobody that I know or have read says that you can trace that all the way to Christ.  They say that they believe that there is authority back to Christ, succeeding from one church to the next.  I think it's important with whomever we criticize, that we understand their view, so that we are in fact criticizing their view and not a straw man.  I contended that Moritz's paper was attacking a straw man.

Despite the author of the post against the Trail of Blood admitting to a Trail of Blood position, he says that the Baptist denomination came out of the Reformation, meaning that Baptists are Protestants.  We know Protestants came from Roman Catholicism, so where is the preservation of true New Testament churches?  The belief in the preservation of true New Testament churches, that are today called Baptists, is both a spiritual kinship and Baptist successionist view.  It says that true churches always existed separate from Roman Catholicism and were known by different names.  That is a fulfillment of biblical presuppositions for the preservation of the true church and the absence of a total apostasy in this age.  It's called the Trail of Blood, because it is a church persecuted by Roman Catholicism.  The idea is that you can see the true churches by the trail of blood of the martyrs.  I believe that.

What Carroll does is to give a brief presentation of assemblies of people who look to have those New Testament distinctives.  He isn't attempting to prove the point with a little booklet, multi-volume sets have been written that do that.  In Trail of Blood, Carroll just makes a presentation.  Yes, there are criticisms, because some sources will say that some of these assemblies weren't actually orthodox or didn't really fulfill New Testament distinctives.  History can be used in so many different ways.  Consider the multiple and contradictory opinions of Abraham Lincoln, of FDR, of George W. Bush, and we're talking about something less than 200 years ago and after the invention of the printing press.  True Christians will always be criticized.  No one can usually fully depend on everything said in historical material.  Much of what is written is an interpretation of what is written, considering the viability of the sources.  If you want more on spiritual kinship or Baptist perpetuity, much more has been written.  No one should depend on a little pamphlet or booklet for an in depth presentation.  Carroll himself wasn't attempting to do that.  He wasn't saying that his booklet was the end all.  However, his view is the correct view, as it is the view that fits biblical presuppositions.

The entire civilization of ancient Babylon is expressed today with complete confidence based on extrapolations from a single stone pillar.  There is very little criticism.  I'm happy to believe like Spurgeon the historical sources that tell us that true New Testament churches have existed from the time of Christ until now.  They didn't start with English separatists after the Reformation.

I have no problem with the idea that a church is the bride of Christ, but I don't take the so-called Baptist brider position.  I would be glad to take it if I thought it were true.  When men say that true churches are Baptist churches and that a church is the bride of Christ, so Baptist churches are the bride of Christ, I don't disagree with that.  If that's what it means to be a Baptist brider, then I am one. I don't think that the bride itself, however, is only the church.  The bride is a metaphor that is used to refer to more than local churches in scripture.  It is used by New Testament authors to refer to an assembly (Eph 5), but also to more than that (see Revelation 18-22 and John 14).  I'd rather not discuss that under this post.  I've talked to others about it.  However, I don't see "bride" equal only to "church" and "body" in scripture.  With that in mind, a belief in spiritual kinship or Baptist successionism isn't a Baptist brider position.  It isn't with me and with other men I know who believe like I do.

Whatever we're going to believe about history, we have to believe what someone else wrote.  All of it is difficult to sort out.   I believe the proper view of history is to look at history with the Word of God in view.  That's what God told men to do in Isaiah 40-48.    All the fulfillment of the promises of the church were yet future when Christ made them.  We relate the present to the past, which also connects to the future.  This is why presuppositions are so important when examining history.  We have no promise of the preservation of historical material, but we do have the promise of the preservation of God's Word.  We should assume that what God said would happen would happen.  God makes prophesies and promises and we can count on them because of His power and sovereignty.  I don't take a Roman Catholic and, therefore, English separatist or Protestant view of history, because it doesn't fit what God said He would do.

6 comments:

Kent Brandenburg said...

Someone anonymously asked me why I said something about the tweet mocking fundamentalism, because I "mock" fundamentalism. I want to answer that question. First, I don't mock fundamentalism. Second, I often support fundamentalism, and sometimes even evangelicalism. Third, I criticize fundamentalism, which is far different than what stufffundieslike does. What I do here isn't even close to what he does. Fourth, SI claims to be fundamentalist, so there is some irony--very little--but some.

Joe Cassada said...

And so the need for the belief in the universal church, to explain how the Church would continue when there were no biblical assemblies, i.e., though there were no biblical local churches, the true church existed in the elect who were saved and yet were a part of the Roman Catholic church. I see now how the Reformers kept the promise of divine perpetuity for the church: by the doctrine of the invisible, spiritual church.

And some Baptists find fulfillment of church perpetuity by holding to spiritual kinship or successionism. The issue really isn't church history so much as it is in how one defines "church."

Sorry. Thinking outloud here.

Derek said...

Good post! On the "Bride " issue, the point of the metaphors used concerning the church is that they are always local and visible. The confusion people have is the inability to properly see the difference between the Kingdom (basilaea), of which all believer are part of, and the church (ekklesia), of which only those who have been saved and baptized into are a member (appendage). When we are called "Baptist-Brider", the error arises when you wrongly assume (thanks to Scoffield) that all believers are a part of the Bride, and the Bride of Christ will someday go up in the rapture. The Bible NEVER says the Bride will be raptured - SAINTS will be raptured. I am a Baptist Brider because I believe an authentic Baptist church is the Bride of Christ. But, all true believers will be "caught up" in the rapture, not Baptist church members only.

Michael Alford said...

Ken,
As a young Cherisitan I read 'The Trail of Blood' and love dit, but my on e crticism of it is that it is an oversimplification of church history. I will agree that there have always been believers who were not part of the Catholic church, and predate that particular montrosity. I will even agree that the modern Baptists are descended from such a group. But I think church history is, lets say, a bit messier than that. It looks to me like there were all sorts of groups of believers with varying degrees of doctrinal purity running around all over the place, and the idea that there is this unbrokenline of succession from the time of Christ to now of Baptist churches is, as I said, an oversimplification. Church history in the past is just as muddy and messy as church history is in the present.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Michael,

I think it's good to be balanced and open in our evaluation especially of what it is that we like.

Carroll was a scholar and at the time of writing was differentiating himself and his seminary from the Southern Baptist Seminary, which had moved the direction of Whitsitt and English separatism. These are two different approaches to history, one presuppositional and the other evidential. I've always viewed Carroll's presentation of history with a bias toward theological presuppositions. Sure, you can find members of these groups that have wacky things to say. You could put Baptists of today in a time capsule and people in the future would think we were liberals. Trail of Blood, I believe, is a point of view, and it is a pamphlet, sort of like a blog post. It would be better to read John T. Christian and Armitage, and something more substantial. I've read enough history to know that it requires interpretation and you've got to do the best you can. That's why ultimately our point of view must be biblical, which Carroll's was. The fact that there is dispute about some of the groups he says are in the line of truth doesn't mean that English separatism is correct.

Anyway, enough for now.

onepunch rukia said...

I believed this man is wrong in concluding that the trail of blood does not have sufficient evidence to prove that the true church existed continually. Perhaps Carrol cannot be trusted in believing that the true church has been existing continually, however, is the word of the Lord Jesus Christ enough to convince you that the church will continue!!! with his promise that he will be with them, and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it". and that he gave a command that the church will remember his death burial and resurrection through administering the Lord supper till he comes!!!. and that Ephesian 3:21 said that God gets the glory in the church. so if the true church did not continue, it means it died sometimes, when? and also there was a time the church did not remember the Lord Supper. I think if you are honest to yourself you are like Thomas the doubting to the bone.!!!! aren't Christian supposed to live by faith and not by sight??? I can agree that there isn't a clear view of the continuance of the true church down through the history, but will that cloud our belief in our founder and Saviour that he will be looking after the church??? after all it is his body right???