Monday, July 02, 2012

Local Only Ecclesiology, Baptist History, and Landmarkism, pt. 3

Part One Part Two

Fred Moritz in the online only Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal attempts to discredit local only ecclesiology as of recent origin, merely a pendulum swing from Campbellism.  In part two, I showed how that the Church of Christ (COC) stems from a hermeneutical problem, one mirrored by a universal church ecclesiology.  The Bible doesn't support their (COC and universal church people like Moritz) position.  And then Moritz doesn't provide historic evidence.  To do so, he would have needed to give primary source quotations that indicated that local only men, like James R. Graves, were reacting to Campbellism.  He doesn't.

Moritz also tries to trace opposition to alien immersion to Graves.  He defines alien immersion as baptism "administered by a Presbyterian, Methodist, or clergy from some other non-Baptist denomination."  Moritz talks as though this was some strange concoction of the Landmarkers, which seems to indicate a disconnect between Moritz and historic Baptists.  Thomas Crosby couldn't have been influenced by either Campbellists or by James R. Graves, because he wrote his History of English Baptists over 100 years before in 1721, but he does communicate what Baptists historically have believed about the acceptation of baptism.  He writes (pp. 15-16):

But when the Paedobaptists argue after this manner, they don’t consider that they hereby cast the fame odium upon the protestant religion in general, which they have so often endeavoured to fix upon the Baptists only; viz. That they can have no right administrator of baptism amongst them, and consequently no true baptism. For as Bishop Burnet observes, at the beginning of the Reformation, all had been baptized in the corrupt way of the church of Rome. If that baptism was nothing, then there was none truly baptized in beginning.

He writes that Protestants had "no right administrator of baptism among them, and consequently no true baptism."  Those who had come out of the corruption of Rome, "if that baptism was nothing," then their baptism was not true baptism either.  Baptists historically rebaptized those baptized as Roman Catholics and Protestants.  That's why they were mockingly called "anabaptists" or "rebaptizers."  Mosheim wrote in 1790 in the book An Ecclesiastical History (p. 439): “[T]he ancient Anabaptists practiced the repetition of baptism to those who joined them from other Christian churches.”  Again, 1790 was before Thomas or Alexander Campbell and James R. Graves.  The Protestants of that day argues against rebaptism---it's all over their writings.

Moritz acts or writes like opposition to alien immersion was new to the Landmarkers.  This was a historic Baptist practice.  It can be traced as well all the way back to the Donatists.  In the book, Sacred Propulsions, in 1768, is written:

The Donatists were so fierce against the catholics, that they would rebaptize all them who came to their churches from the other: but the catholics, as knowing the Donatists did give right baptism, admitted their converts to repentance, but did not rebaptize them. Upon this score the Donatists triumphed, saying, you catholics confess our baptism to be good, and so lay we, but we Donatists deny your baptism to be good; therefore it is rather to be our fide than yours.

This Baptist practice goes back to the acceptance of the Donatist practice of rejecting Catholic baptism.

Many who call themselves Baptists, like Moritz, would consider themselves to be Baptist in their baptism merely because they have a proper recipient, a believer, and then a proper mode, immersion.  They leave out one other historic Baptist and biblical facet, that being a proper administrator.  Can baptism be accomplished by just anyone?  Both Baptists and Protestants wrote a lot about this before James R. Graves and those men ever came on the scene.  Graves and the Landmarkers were only reflecting already historic ecclesiology.

[I'm not going to make an all-out argument in this post, but the Bible does also put an emphasis on the administrator of the baptism (I talk about this in this post).]

Trying 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

Moritz speculates that the Landmarkers would rebaptize anyone from any church that could not trace, chain-link, all the way back to the Jerusalem church.  That's not even what these "Landmarkers" believed. J. R. Graves wrote in his Old Landmarkism:  What Is It? (p. 85):

Nor do we admit the claims of the ‘Liberals’ upon us, to prove the continuous existence of the church, of which we are a member, or which baptized us, in order to prove our doctrine of church succession, and that we have been scripturally baptized or ordained. As well might the Infidel call upon me to prove every link of my descent from Adam, before I am allowed to claim an interest in the redemptive work of Christ, which was confined to the family of Adam! We point to the Word of God, and, until the Infidel can destroy its authenticity, our hope is unshaken. In like manner, we point the ‘Liberal’ Baptist to the words of Christ, and will he say they are not sufficient?

Another "Landmarker" and defender of Graves' position, I. K. Cross, wrote in his Landmarkism:  An Update (quote off back cover):

I do not know of a reputable Landmark Baptist student of church history who claims that every congregation must trace its individual history link by link back to Christ and the apostles. If this were true there would be few, if any, churches that could validate themselves. This is not [bold in original] the claim of true Baptist church perpetuity. This does not, however, weaken the need for church succession in New Testament church history.

Moritz is arguing a strawman.  He doesn't even quote Graves to represent the position of Graves, when Graves' materials are readily available.  Landmarkers almost exclusively did not and do not believe in a chain-link position.  Some try to go back as far as they can.  What I have witnessed of and heard from them is that they believe that succession does exist and that by faith we should look to establish church authority for someone's baptism and church membership.  This is what Baptists have believed.  Moritz claims to be a Baptist, but in this case, he really argues from the standpoint of a Protestant.  He takes the universal church position, which is Roman Catholic and Reformed, and then attempts to smear those who practice according to a historical Baptist heritage.  It's sad that he would resort to the type of work that he does in order to propagate his position.

I had never even heard of Graves when I came to my position, and yet I read many others who would not have even been called Landmarkers, who took an identical viewpoint.  I in no way am even attempting to defend Graves or the Landmarkers.  What we want is the repudiation of a false position, the Catholic and Protestant ecclesiology, and support for the biblical one, which happens to be Baptist, and different than the one espoused in the journal article by Fred Moritz.

More to Come.


Tyler Robbins said...

Bro. Brandenburg:

I've read McBeth's history. I've read Jack Hoad's book on baptists (which is really good). I've read John T. Christian's intro where he lays out his basic beliefs. I've also read Moritz's article. I'm actually formally taking Baptist history from him right now.

You are right to say that Graves doesn't advocate for apostolic, chain-link succession of Baptist churches:

“Nor have I, or any Landmarker known to me, ever advocated the succession of any particular church or churches; but my position is that Christ, in the very ‘days of John the Baptist,’ did establish a visible kingdom on earth, and that this kingdom has never yet been ‘broken in pieces,’ nor given to another class of subjects— has never for a day ‘been moved,’ nor ceased from the earth, and never will until Christ returns personally to reign over it; that the organization He first set up , which John called ‘the Bride,’ and which Christ called His church, constituted that visible kingdom, and today all His true churches on earth constitute it; and, therefore, if His kingdom has stood unchanged, and will to the end, He must always have had true and uncorrupted churches, since His kingdom cannot exist without true churches,” (Old Landmarkism: What Is It?, Kindle Locations 1700-1706).

Graves, while he eschews the idea of an apostolic succession of local churches, seems to suggest that true “kingdom” churches (i.e. Baptists) have always existed. He likens local churches to branch offices of a large organization; local offices may close or even move, but the company itself is obviously in business. Dunkin Donuts may close in your town, but America still runs on Dunkin. “From the day that organization was started, it has stood; and, though it may have decayed in some places, it has flourished in others, and never has had but one beginning. Thus it has been with that institution called the Kingdom of Christ; it has had a continuous existence , or the words of Christ have failed . . .” (Ibid, Kindle Locations 1709-1711).

You're right about what you said. I just don't see Moritz advocating the chain-link-ism you say he does. He accurately represents Graves' teachings:

"Landmarkism 'further involves the perpetuity, succession, or continuity of Baptist churches through which authority has descended through the ages and will continue.'"

I took the time to write you, because I read your critique of Moritz's article some time ago, and have kept your criticisms in mind as I've read the texts and interacted in class. On this particular criticism, I think you're wrong. Moritz never represented Landmarkists as being "chain-linkers." He DID quote Dr. Weeks as saying they were.

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "chain-link." If you mean apostolic succession, then Moritz doesn't seem to be accusing Landmarkists of this. If you mean "unbroken continuity of true Baptist churches," then he is saying Landmarkists hold to that.

Interested to hear your thoughts.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Tyler,

Graves didn't invent the idea that someone should be baptized with authority and that a church ought to start a church. Consider this book: -- where it tells a different story.

I'd like to get into it, but I'm actually not convinced of what you're saying at this point. Is this a conclusion you're making on your own, or one that Dr. Moritz is making? I can tell you that the body view of Moritz was ridiculed by Dr. Weeks when I was at Maranatha, and Dr. Cedarholm rejected it too. It was brought in by Dr. Weniger and overturned a primary Maranatha distinction.

But I wanted to get the answer to the question first. Thanks!!

Tyler Robbins said...

Bro. Brandenburg:

My apologies. I was tired when I wrote that! I meant to say that I don't believe Moritz was saying the Landmarkers believed in an apostolic-like succession of churches. Graves said they believed in an unbroken succession of Baptist churches since the church began, and he didn't feel a need to prove it. I don't think Moritz was accusing the Landmarkers of believing in an apostolic succession of churches; that's all. You said that accusation was a fictional boogyman - and I admit that was what I had heard about Landmarkers. It is a common misconception against the position, one Graves himself took issue with. I'm just saying I don't think Moritz fell victim to that mis-representation in his article.

I was only dealing with the "chain-link" issue, not the "local church only" issue.

On another note, I was very surprised to see Graves advance the idea that the local churches were Christ's Kingdom that was promised by the prophets in the OT. That's why Graves was so adamant about the perpetuity of Baptist churches. To him, to deny the succession of Baptist churches is to deny Christ's Kingdom.

Not saying you agree with Graves' view of the Kingdom - not at all. I was just surprised to read that from him.

Anonymous said...

Just found this old post, and 'searching' (long story) so 2 questions: 1) where in Scripture does it speak of the importance of the administrator of the baptism? 2) what would you disagree with on Landmarkism? Thanks! Rebecca

KJB1611 said...

Dear Rebecca,

Thanks for the comment.

Depending on how you define it, there is nothing wrong with Landmarkism (if it simply means historic Baptist ecclesiology, that there is no universal church, that only baptism by true churches is valid, and that Christ's churches have existed from the first century until today) or there is something wrong with it, depending on who is defining (or misrepresenting) it.

The Bible teaches in Acts 2:47 and 1 Cor 12:13 that baptism adds one to the body of Christ, the church. As a result, one joins the church one is baptized into. Furthermore, Matthews 28:18-20 is a command given to the church, and, therefore, the church is the one commanded/authorized by Christ to baptize. Nobody can add one to the membership of a church through baptism other than that church itself, so non-church baptism does not fit Ac 2:47; 1 Cor 12:13; Matthew 28:18-20, or many other passages. Furthermore, Christ Himself made authority from heaven for baptism a specific issue when He debated the Pharisees, Matthew 21:25.

I would encourage you to see how church succession is the necessary consequence of Matthew 28:18-20 in the study on the Great Commission in Scripture and history at:

Here is an excerpt from that study that is relevant for your question:

The fact that baptism is a church ordinance[19] (1 Cor 11:2, Col 2:12, Gal 3:27, etc.) also proves that Christ’s command inMatthew 28 and elsewhere is for His ekklesia viewed institutionally. Baptism adds one to the body of Christ, the church (Ac 2:41,47, 1 Cor 12:13).[20] If believers as such had authority to baptize, the great incongruity of those not part of the church adding individuals to it (which actual assembly the believer added the new Christian to would be another difficult question) would arise. Only a church has the authority to administer a church ordinance; the individual who actually places a proselyte under water, whether a pastor, deacon or saint of God without a special church office, whether the man immersing has an ordination certificate or not, does not affect the validity of the baptism— the church can delegate the actual performance of immersion to whom she pleases, and the ordinance remains valid.[21] While Christ commands, and thus authorizes, His church to baptize, He tells her to do so in the “name” of the Triune God (Mt 28:19). “The use of name (o¡noma) here is a common one in the Septuagint and the papyri for power or authority.”[22] This is clear also from the reference to preaching “in His name” in Lu 24:47, where “name” necessarily signifies authority. The authority to immerse derives ultimately from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but the Lord has placed this power in the hands of His churches—both vertical and horizontal authority is involved. The jurisdiction of church discipline is likewise the ekklesia of God, not any individual, board, or denomination (Mt 18:15-17), but heaven itself ratifies the church’s actions (Mt 18:18-20). Arguments which allege the legitimacy of alien baptisms “on the authority of God and His Word,” although apart from the churches of the Lord, in reality have neither the sanction of the King of heaven nor support in His inspired revelation, and His assemblies should obey the strictures of the Scriptures and view such administrations as invalid, as does their Head.

Thanks again for the comment.

Anonymous said...

I will look up faithsaves, and thank you for your time in responding! In Christ our Lord, Rebecca