Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Local Only Ecclesiology, Baptist History, and Landmarkism, pt. 2

Part One

In a recent article in the new Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal, Fred Moritz attempts to accomplish a few goals.  One, he wants to debunk local only ecclesiology as unscriptural and of recent origin (19th century) merely as a reaction to Campbellism and an invention by three Southern Baptists, primarily James R. Graves.  Two, he tries to have his readers think that Landmarkism is a theory that churches can and should be able to trace a physical lineage back to the first church in Jerusalem.  Three, he attempts to get his audience to believe that landmarkism, local-only ecclesiology, and the Graves group are heretical, that is divisive to the cause of true churches, essentially cultic.  Four, he doesn't say, but I believe his number one and really only goal is to do away with local only ecclesiology and thinking once and for all at Maranatha.  Moritz is a long time universal church advocate and promoter, spending a great deal of time leading a parachurch organization (BWM), and he doesn't want a whiff of local only ecclesiology and association left at Maranatha.  Does he succeed at his goal?  Let's look.

Wanting to Debunk Local Only Ecclesiology and Show of Recent Origin

I'm accustomed to reading history, judging and evaluating what I read, as to whether it's true, whether the point has been proven or not.  Moritz doesn't come close.  I'm assuming he thinks he has a sympathetic audience who doesn't need proof, i.e., he thinks he's preaching to the choir.  By the way, I find this typical of fundamentalism, which commonly writes articles for itself, for its own crowd, where it won't receive criticism. His article is an insult to hundreds of Maranatha graduates, but that doesn't seem to matter to modern Maranatha, which wants to separate itself from its past.  Its present and future have dimmed because of this.

If local only ecclesiology is only of recent origin, as Moritz is asserting, then it is no better than the Campbellite baptismal regeneration that Moritz also targets in his article.  In other words, an ecclesiology other than Moritz's own is cultic in this analysis.  I'll deal with that, but, first, I find that ironic in that the problem of Campbell's baptismal regeneration teaching, and the proceeding Church of Christ (COC) denomination, is a hermeneutical one.

Campbell and the COC style themselves as "speaking where Scripture speaks and being silent where Scripture is silent."  This is patently untrue, because Scripture is silent when it comes to any condemnation for the non-baptized, and yet Campbell and the COC condemn those who go unbaptized.  What Campbell does is take a few pet baptism references and then attempt to conform all of the doctrine of baptism to fit those few.  Right hermeneutics fit all the verses into the whole.  If we were to compare this to mathematics, Campbell uses addition instead of division.  He adds all the verses up into one baptism doctrine.  That's not how right hermeneutics operate.  It's similar to the way Mormons get to their proxy baptism doctrine from 1 Corinthians 15:29.  Campbell, and others, need to use division, akin to fractions.  A few baptism passages, like Acts 2:38 and 1 Peter 3:20-21 are a fraction, just a division, of the overall baptism passages to which they fit.

The irony for Moritz is that the Campbellite false hermeneutic is the same error that he uses to get his universal church doctrine, except for Moritz it's worse.  You've got way more usages of the "church" than you do "baptism," a much larger sample size.  When you read the 120 or so uses of ekklesia in the New Testament, you don't have, based upon Greek grammar, one unambiguous reference of a universal church in all the New Testament.   It's local church only all over the place.  Universal church teaching doesn't come from the Bible.

Baptistmal regeneration didn't start with Campbell and the COC.  Baptismal regeneration came from a Roman Catholic hermeneutic, so can be traced back to a few centuries after the church in Jerusalem.  Guess what?  So can the universal church doctrine.  Both baptismal regeneration and the Catholic (universal) church  are Roman Catholic.  And then they are also Protestant.  The reformers hung on to Catholic baptism and Catholic church.   Moritz ditches the Catholic baptism, and in so doing, says he's a Baptist (I'll deal with this a little later), but he keeps the Catholic church teaching with the same Campbellite-like hermeneutic.

When you read through Moritz's article, if you are open-minded (like I like to be), then you will see that he doesn't actually prove anything historically.  A major point to his whole thesis is that Graves was in fact a reaction to Campbell.  In other words, all of Graves's local only ecclesiology came out of a reaction to Campbell's doctrine, that is, Graves was using local only ecclesiology and some kind of chain-link authority pattern to alleviate the baptismal regeneration arguments of Campbell.  That would be a necessary historical link to make in order to prove his point.  Moritz doesn't do that, at all.  Not one bit.  And like I said, he probably doesn't think he needs to do that, because his one job with this article is merely to smear people before an uncritical audience.

Here's how good Moritz does at making that link.  He takes one historical event that was occurring around the time of Graves, the Campbell event, and assumes that because they were happening in the same era of history, they must have been related.  Sometimes these kinds of ties might be true.  However, many times they're just fools' gold, as it happens to be in this case.

In order to make the above assertion, Moritz relies on an Alan Lafever, director of the Texas Baptist historical collection.  Lafever opines that Landmarkism would never have occurred without Campbellism.  He doesn't prove it, just states it.  So Moritz uses one guy with an opinion, who does not prove that connection.  That is such a typical fundamentalist manner of operation.  If you quote someone else, you've proven it.  He's done nothing but quote someone who doesn't prove anything, which means he's still not proven anything.

What is really tell-tale about Moritz's assertion is what we see Moritz ultimately do in defining Landmarkism. He says that it is something that it actually is not.  He misdefines Landmarkism.  That alone should send his article to the trash can.  And I'll talk about that in the next part of my response to Moritz's essay.

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