Monday, May 02, 2016

Unaffiliated Baptist Churches: Analysis of the Emphasis

To obey the Bible, I don't know how a church isn't an unaffiliated Baptist church.  Maybe churches that aren't unaffiliated haven't considered it, but if they did, they too would become unaffiliated if their concern was obedience to the Bible.  Before our church became an unaffiliated Baptist church, there was always conviction for me that we were doing something wrong.  We couldn't obey all of scripture.  It was impossible.  I knew our church wasn't right.  Once we became unaffiliated it brought great peace, and never was I happier, because we could obey all the Bible.

When I write "unaffiliated," do I mean "independent"?  I could answer "yes," but I would know that was a wrong answer.  Before our church became unaffiliated, it was an independent Baptist church.  At that time, we could probably also be characterized as an independent, fundamental Baptist church.  I knew we were not truly independent.  I realized that very early on.  Churches that called themselves independent were not independent.  I didn't know of one independent Baptist church that was actually independent.  Those churches are still called "independent," but they aren't independent.

"Unaffiliated" is a title, but it also means something to me if I were to see that label.  What characterizes unaffiliated Baptists truly, as I see it, is that they are churches that fellowship with other churches of like faith and practice alone.  That's what "unaffiliated" means.  When I say "fellowship," I mean it in a technical sense, a biblical sense, as cooperation.  Our church cooperates only with churches, and only with churches of like faith and practice.   How can a church do that?

Unaffiliated churches do not cooperate with mission board missionaries.  They do not cooperate with mission boards.  Independent Baptist churches are independent in a sense.  They are not in a convention or association of churches.  However, independent Baptist churches, I've noticed, still cooperate at least with mission boards, most often with parachurch Bible colleges or universities, and then with parachurch Christian camps.  Those associations disallow them to fellowship with churches of like faith and practice alone.

I could break down for you the problems of mission board and these parachurch organizations, as well-intentioned as they might be, but that is not the primary purpose of this post.  For all the readers to understand what I was writing, they had to know what an unaffiliated Baptist church was, compared to an independent Baptist church.  One huge breath of fresh air, I had and have thought and witnessed about being unaffiliated, has been the absence of Baptist or fundamentalist politics too.

In addition, I'm also not talking about what I believe it means to be a Baptist.  I'm glad to talk about that, but it isn't what I'm writing about here.  In short, however, I see being Baptist to mean, distinguished by the marks of a historically biblical church.

With everything that I have written so far, I would still only be an unaffiliated Baptist church.  It is still the only designation and practice for obedience to all of scripture.  However, just because one church calls itself unaffiliated doesn't mean that our church will cooperate with it.  In my travels, I have noticed that sometimes the unaffiliated Baptist church is not the best church to visit or even be a member in a given area.  Unaffiliated Baptist churches I have begun to notice some problems that are a concern to me.  Even with saying that, our church could only be an unaffiliated Baptist church and our church could only fellowship with other unaffiliated Baptist churches.

I've noticed four ways that unaffiliated Baptist churches cooperate.  I'm open to the possibility that there are more than four occurring.  One, an unaffiliated Baptist church will send out a missionary, and other unaffiliated Baptist churches will cooperate by sending support to the sending church in order to financially support that missionary.  That's the main one.  Two, unaffiliated Baptist churches might do a project together, such as publish a book or a paper.  Three, unaffiliated Baptist church pastors will preach for each other, and something related to that is the unaffiliated preacher conference.  Individual unaffiliated Baptist churches invite in other unaffiliated Baptist pastors to preach for what is called a "preaching conference."  Four, an unaffiliated Baptist church will invite certain other unaffiliated Baptist churches to cooperate in a camp or retreat.

With quite some time now, maybe about fifteen years, to assess unaffiliated Baptist churches, I have some criticisms.  I'm going to use this post and perhaps one other to list what I see to be the problems for unaffiliated Baptist churches.

What bothers me most right now about unaffiliated Baptist churches in general is what I see as an unsound list of primary distinguishing factors for unaffiliated Baptist churches.  I would love to be disabused of this perception.  However, I believe what I'm writing is true, while attempting not to broadbrush completely.  Let me explain.

Like perhaps every other unaffiliated Baptist church, our church practices closed communion, is local only in ecclesiology, and uses the King James Version of the English Bible.  Maybe one other characteristic might be added to these three, but that one might be conservative dress standards.   It seems that if an unaffiliated Baptist church is marked by these three or four qualities, it passes as very acceptable to most unaffiliated Baptist churches.  Those four factors might be common, but they should not be the most notable distinctions at the shortcoming of other more significant ones.

If a man preaches out of the King James Version, but he messes up most of what it says, that should be unacceptable.  What I'm saying is that your preaching should be what the King James Version actually says, not just be out of the KJV.  If a man preaches out of the King James Version, but he does not preach what the King James Version says, then it really doesn't matter what version of the Bible he uses.  He's messed up every possible version he could use.  Merely using the King James Version of the Bible should not insulate a man from rejection.  I'll leave this criticism right there, but I could say it in a much harsher way.

As I write these criticisms, please feel free, other unaffiliated Baptist pastors, to criticize me and what our church and I do.  Please write or call me if you have concerns.  All of us need to consider what is happening in our churches.

More to Come


Tyler Robbins said...

Two questions:

(1) If a local church forms a mission board to handle the logistics and support for it's missionaries, do you accept this. One of the missionaries we support fits this category.

(2) I'm surprised you emphasized the KJV, and not the TR. From what I've read from you, I understood that your emphasis was not on the English translation per se, but the TR which underlies it. I may be wrong.

(3) Do you believe the New Covenant, in some real sense, is active here and now for the church? This will have a bearing on a follow-up question I have about your position on the Lord's Supper.

TThis sounds like it will be an interesting discussion.

Farmer Brown said...

We have been sent out by a true unaffiliated baptist church to start a church in our area. Prior to that, we traveled the United States extensively, at least 4-6 weeks each year, sometimes 10 or 12 weeks in a year.

We always attended local baptist churches as we traveled, and have seen the problems first hand. When we were in an area finding a church we would review the local churches within an hour's drive. Sometimes we would contact the churches. I think the problems could be summed up in three parts:

1. The broad strokes. You can tell this from the website. This is things like a bad gospel (including Calvinism), rock bands, and modern texts. This would eliminate more than half of the churches, sometimes 90% in some areas. Most Baptist churches have these errors.

2. The Finer strokes. This would be women leaders, weird doctrines, things you have to attend to find. For example, we went to one that looked good on paper and the pastor had his wife get in the pulpit and speak for 15-20 minutes about some issue. Another looked and sounded great until 40 minutes into the service the pastor started raving about "N*ggers" from the pulpit while people Amen'd loudly.

3. The Nitty gritty. You have to meet them to know this. These are things like no standards, bad associations, tyrannical pastors, churches led by the pastor's wife.

In our travels, most Baptist churches, probably 95% of those we looked at to visit, fall into at least one of these area, most more than one. By the way, these are Non-Garb, Non-SBC, etc. We would not even look at those.

This is what Baptist churches stand for now, at least 95% of the 1000+ we have reviewed, slackness, weakness, bad doctrine, and compromise. If you add in the SBC, Garb, and denominational Baptist churches (ABCUSA, CBCUSA, etc) the percentage of churches that bear the name Baptist that are in serious error could be 98%. You could say the 2% are the ones that define the name, but it is the 98%.

Kent Brandenburg said...



(1) If a local church forms a mission board to handle the logistics and support for it's missionaries, do you accept this. One of the missionaries we support fits this category.

I moved from mission board to no parachurch mission board to no mission board period. Churches send out their own missionaries and other churches cooperate with that. The problem I've seen with your example is that it brings our church into cooperation with those other churches through that church as a mission board. It might be able to work out if it is all about logistics, but it usually offers too many things to sort through, I've found. I've never seen that there isn't something. It also says each church can't do it, which I have not found to be the case. For fellowship purposes, I am fine with what you've written though. It could turn out OK with what you've described. It's not something we would do ourselves though.

(2) I'm surprised you emphasized the KJV, and not the TR. From what I've read from you, I understood that your emphasis was not on the English translation per se, but the TR which underlies it. I may be wrong.

I don't think I can put a disclaimer for every single thing I write, but maybe I need to. I am original language preservation. Some may immediately peg what I wrote as Ruckman or double inspiration or English preservation, but they would be wrong, just like they should think they're wrong when many reformed Baptist or Presbyterians use only the KJV for the same reason I do. It's the underlying text and the preservation of scripture in the language in which it was written. However, I'm just reporting what I see. Why each of those churches uses the KJV alone, that's a separate discussion to this.

(3) Do you believe the New Covenant, in some real sense, is active here and now for the church? This will have a bearing on a follow-up question I have about your position on the Lord's Supper.

Yes, that's if I understand your question correctly. I'm saying again what I see characterizes unaffiliateds. It seems that they elevate closed communion to a place of unmatched significance. I'd like to say I was wrong, but I hear this with so many. If closed communion were to be about keeping a church pure, it would seem that would be countered by the horrible preaching which corrupts the church. Purity would be what the Bible teaches, so start with purity of what the Bible teaches, so that you have something to protect. That's where I see this closed communion takes on almost sacramental significance to unaffiliateds, and there is a hypocrisy to it.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Farmer Brown,

Everything you wrote rings true. The problems are very serious. It reminds me of the thought that when Jesus comes, will there be no faith on the earth. I'm sorry to hear your experience, but it matches what I've seen, but what I might chalk up to living and working near Berkeley, California. I could see my perspective as skewed.

Tyler Robbins said...

I figured I was right about your stance on original languages. No worries on that, then.

With the Lord's Supper, I waffle between open and close communion. I see the most basic requirement for the Lord's Supper is that a person must be a member of the New Covenant in Christ's blood. However, I don't think you can be an obedient member of the New Covenant if you haven't joined a local church and been baptized after coming to saving faith.

This is why, practically speaking, I see no difference between "open" and "close" communion. You state the requirements, admonish people not to partake unworthily, mention the requirements for church membership and believer's baptism, and distribute the elements. If people stiill choose to partake unworthily, you can't club them in the service!

Nevertheless, I'm just not convinced that you can necessarily FORBID a member of the New Covenant from observing the Supper. If you do, it seems to me that you're making the Supper more about church membership and baptism than a memorial about Jesus Christ's work and the promise of His return.

This is an issue I've been mulling over for a while. Haven't really settled on a firm position. There's a lot more to be said. If I had to critique what I've seen about the Lord's Supper in independent Baptist circles, it's that (1) it's not done often, (2) and it's not explained well, and therefore (3) people don't really care about it.

JimCamp65 said...

In response to Tyler's comments...

If a person professes salvation, yet is not baptized (willfully, not by circumstance), then I would think that this person is partaking unworthily. Considering the Bible says this is physically dangerous, we ask that they not partake (closed communion).

We had a man around our church for years who professed salvation, always refused baptism, & after many years, moved on. In the SBC church he began to attend, they gladly gave him & his shack up girlfriend Lord's Supper. A member of my church is friendly with the man, & told him that he should not partake of the table if he is not baptized, but when asked why this was so, could not answer. He brought me the question. I told him what I have written above.
For a man to profess salvation, then refuse association to Jesus Christ & His churches by Baptism (Gal. 3: 27) certainly seems to be a person who is unworthy.

If I'm off in this, I would like to know.
Jim Camp

Farmer Brown said...

A question for Kent (or whomever):

You said, "Even with saying that, our church could only be an unaffiliated Baptist church and our church could only fellowship with other unaffiliated Baptist churches."

If a church was Biblical in its positions and practice, but did not use the name baptist on its sign, would you fellowship with them?

Farmer Brown said...

Kent said, "I'm sorry to hear your experience, but it matches what I've seen, but what I might chalk up to living and working near Berkeley, California. I could see my perspective as skewed."

It's not skewed. I though the same thing at first. But we have looked at churches in TX, MS, FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, WI, IL, IN, OH, PA, WV, CT, MA, NH, TN, KY, MN, NY, NJ, and probably others. The problem exists in all those places. I assume it is the same on the west coast as well. The only place I have not been is the Pacific NW and the Upper Midwest.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Farmer Brown,

Thanks for the question. Since "Baptist" is what the daughters of Christ's first church have called themselves for centuries, would an assembly that has Biblical doctrine and practice choose to disassociate itself from that heritage and voluntarily repudiate it by refusing to call itself by the name that has identified the churches that Christ has been building up for the last 2,000 years? This is about as likely as a Christian who has true doctrine and practice repudiating the name "Christian" and choosing, instead, to call himself a "Muslim."

KJB1611 said...

In relation to the general point of the post, I believe we also ought to draw a distinction between a Baptist preacher who loves the Word and is teachable, but never learned how to do correct exegesis, and someone who refuses to rightly divide the Word but willfully insists upon preaching his own ideas and imposing them upon the Word, and in this manner shows that he does not love the Word.

KJB1611 said...

Also Tyler & Jim,

I believe a major point of verses such as Mark 16:16a and Acts 2:38 is that one expects a true believer to be baptized. Allowing an unbaptized person to partake of the Lord's Supper is certainly allowing someone who is disobedient to partake--indeed, the NT does not contain any instances of willfully unbaptized regenerate persons, so we have no reason to treat an unbaptized person as a partaker of the New Covenant until he manifests that participation in that Covenant by confessing Christ through baptism.


Kent Brandenburg said...


The churches I was a member, all the way to the age of 25, were close. I began close, because I had never seen closed. I read about it in Hiscox polity book and in Baptist history. As I started pastoring, no one told me there was a problem with close, but I was in conviction about practicing that way. I continued practicing that way, however, still knowing no one who practiced closed. All of that might seem subjective so far, but I believe it was the Holy Spirit convicting me, because close was unbiblical.

I became convinced of closed 10-15 years ago with 1 Corinthians 10:16-17:

"16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread."

The body of Christ is local only. It is a church. It isn't all believers. Only an assembly partakes of the Lord's Table. We are regulated by what scripture says and it says the Lord's Table is communion of the body of Christ. Only a church can protect its membership, so it makes sense. In a church is actual judgment of whether someone is a believer or not.

The Lord's Table is one of my favorite times in our church. It's so so important to our church.

Kent Brandenburg said...


If a church was Biblical in its positions and practice, but did not use the name baptist on its sign, would you fellowship with them?

I don't think one can judge a true church by a name, so in essence I could judge a church to be a true church without the name. However, I believe there is vertical and horizontal authority for a true church. Jesus traveled 70 miles to be baptized by John the Baptist, because his baptism was authoritative. Churches start churches. What difference does it make that anyone is sent by a church if someone can go based on vertical authority alone? I'm not going to break it all down here, but I haven't seen a church without the name Baptist that believe that way. I'm open to the possibility. I just haven't seen it.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Part of changing what someone sees is wrong is talking about it. We don't want to use ignorance as an excuse. Bad preaching and then bad doctrine continues if we don't do something about it. I'm pretty sure you believe that. If judgment must begin in the house of God, judgment should begin with unaffiliated churches.

Tyler Robbins said...

Bro. Brandenburg:

I hear you. My "official" position is close communion. I have had a burden to try to communicate to our folks how important the Lord's Supper is. I'm not sure I'm succeeding, but I'm trying. I've never seen the Lord's Supper done or explained particularly well in any church. I think Baptists need to do a lot of work to bring it back to the center of our worship. However, as you mentioned, being pious about the Lord's Supper is pretty hypocritical if the Lord is routinely disgraced by terrible and un-Biblical preaching every single week.

Michael S. Alford said...

For years I was associated with a church that taught that person who took communion with sin in their life was taking the risk of God killing them. The communion services were very tense, with ample opportunities given for the church folks to 'fess up' as we say down South before partaking.
About halfway through that association, I rejected that notion because I couldn't reconcile in my head how a saved person, eternally secure, could eat and drink damnation upon themselves.
As a remedy, I took the phrase of a man examining h themselves, and looked at the only other time Paul uses that phrase. It's in the other epistle to the same church where they are told to examine themselves in regards to salvation.
So an unsaved man who participates in the Lords supper is not discerning the Lord's body ( the church) and somehow taking a gamble with his soul in regards to whether or not God will continue to deal with him about his salvation.

I know it's a quick explanation, but does that sound plausible?

Farmer Brown said...

Thomas, please pardon me, but I do not understand your answer to my question. I was asking if you would associate with an assembly that was Biblical in doctrine and practice but did not have the name "Baptist". Is your response that you would not?

Your response was very strong. I wonder, do you believe that it is a sin against God for a church to neglect to use the name Baptist? If a church sent out an evangelist and he started a church that omitted the word "Baptist" in its name, would that be something of which he would need to repent?

Anonymous said...

"If a man preaches out of the King James Version, but he does not preach what the King James Version says, then it really doesn't matter what version of the Bible he uses."

I think you have written something like this before, but I am not sure. I realize that you completely reject any non-TR translation, and that you are not endorsing any other translation by what you wrote.

Please take this as a serious question: If a local baptist church in a specific area has a Hyles guy that is using the KJV and messing it up; and another local baptist church in the same area has a guy that is trying to faithfully exegete using the ESV, where should a person bring their family? I know the best answer is "Find a church that faithfully exegetes with the KJV" but, as Farmer Brown point out, finding that 1 out of 50 church is sometimes almost impossible.
Vic Crowne

KJB1611 said...

Dear Farmer,

Thanks for the question.

Someone who does not want to associate himself with the church Jesus started and her daughters should definitely repent of that. There are no other true churches in the world today other than the daughters of the one Christ started. Every other religious organization is man-made and has no authority from the risen Lord to exist.

Bible-believing Baptist churches today are the daughters of the church the Lord Jesus started, and as such they were given the Great Commission, given authority to baptize, etc., and are each Christ's own body and precious bride.


Dear Vic,

Thanks for the question. If it is a Hyles guy vs. an ESV guy, the answer is to pick somewhere else that preaches the Word, believes in repentance, and is not violating Revelation 22:18-19 by using a corrupt Bible that is not even inerrant (see, e. g., If that means driving a very long way, then so be it. If it means moving somewhere else, then so be it--obedience is more important than convenience, expense, etc. When I was going to UC Berkeley, (and, by the way, did not know Bethel Baptist Church where Pastor Brandenburg pastors existed) I would spend 1.5 - 2 hours, and significant cash, getting to a church by walking, taking public transit, and then getting picked up. I would be there Sunday morning, stay Sunday afternoon and go soulwinning, and then stay for Sunday evening, every week--and I have no regrets about it whatsoever.

Farmer Brown said...

Thomas, you are being evasive. I have asked you a couple clear and direct questions a couple times and both responses have been indirect and evasive. They are simple and clear questions.

1. Would associate with an assembly that was Biblical in doctrine and practice but did not have the name "Baptist".

2. Do you believe that it is a sin against God for a church to neglect to use the name Baptist?

KJB1611 said...

Dear Farmer,

I have no desire whatsoever of being evasive. I believe what I said above was quite clear.

1.) There is no such thing in the world today.

2.) Defining "Baptist" the way I do here:

the answer is "Yes," in the same way that it would be a sin to neglect to call oneself a "Christian" and prefer to call oneself a Hindu, Muslim, a follower of an undefined God, etc.

Kent Brandenburg said...


You probably know that Thomas and I will agree only if we agree. I think the truth is what is most important to him. That doesn't mean he can't be in error. Here's how I would explain the answers to what you're asking him, and this question is something I've considered before.

1) I have not seen a church with which I could fellowship without the name Baptist. I could sit and talk to one of them and rejoice in whatever truth it believed, but not fellowship. I'm open to someone pointing me to one. I'm not saying they don't exist, but I don't know of any, and it makes sense to me why there would not be. History would be important to a true church and true churches wouldn't be closed off from history.

This by the way doesn't mean I wouldn't preach at a Bible church or even attend one. The former would be with the purpose of the church getting where it needed to be. The latter would be because it was the best church in driving distance to where I was. I would be glad to tell them why I wouldn't join. Do you know of a "Bible church," for instance, that isn't Protestant? If it is Protestant, how could it be a true church, because it is a shoot off of Roman Catholicism, therefore, having zero authority. That doesn't mean I'm not happy with all the scriptural things one of those churches believes and practices.

2) I don't think I could say it was surely a sin to have the wrong name, even as the name Baptist didn't start with the Bible per se. It might be a sin though, depending upon why.

Kent Brandenburg said...


That's a tough question. I would not live somewhere where there is no church with which I could fellowship. That would be a prerequisite for my choice of living place. However, if I was a person stuck some place for various legitimate reasons, I would go to the most biblical church. Having a true gospel would be a top criteria. If someone used the KJV, but believed in double inspiration and then massacred its interpretation, I would think that is worse than someone who uses the ESV and preaches every word truly and with great care. It's a tough question, sort of like one my brother would pose to me, when he would open up a year book, when I was a teenager, and pick out two non-candidates, and ask, Do you like that girl or that girl?

JimCamp65 said...

Michael Alford,

I speak Southern fluently, with a Texas drawl, so I understand "fess up" in the original language.
I am still where you once were. I hold that the passage is referring to the danger of sickness & sleep for Christians who partake unworthily. Unworthily (vs. 27 & 29)is an adverb, which relates to the manner in which they were taking it. Over the years, I have come to agree with Robertson on the subject "He does not say or imply that we ourselves must be "worthy" (axioi) to partake of the Lord's Supper. No one would ever partake on those terms."
In other words, it was the way they partook (a party), not the estate their personal life was in when they partook.
Due to this, Lord's supper has become more relaxed at our church.
However, vs. 28 states that we are to examine ourselves, then partake; so I think there is still an element of personal piety which is expected.
The damnation mentioned in vs. 29 simply means judgment, a sentence by a judge. Variations of this word occur in vs. 31 & 32 - But plainly, these uses of the word are not eternal damnation to Hell. The judgment rendered is found in vs. 30, they were sick & some sleep.

I appreciate the input. I've looked long & hard at these passages (which does not mean I'm right on them). This is where I continue to end up at.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm sorry that I accidentally published George's comment. I thought I pushed delete, and it wasn't. I apologize. I love George, even though, I would think that he thinks I don't or am incapable of loving him. I'm not publishing his comments though for reasons previously stated. Sorry.

Farmer Brown said...

Thomas, again you refuse to give a straight answer. I am not surprised. What you are saying is what I have heard from many people who take your position.

False equivalence, evasive answers, careful sidesteps. This is the way you have to be to take your position. I will address you answers, even though you will not give me the courtesy of a straight answer.

1. You said, "There is no such thing in the world today." You know you cannot possibly know this. You cannot possibly make that judgment, as you know. You answer as though you have all knowledge. Why not just give me a straight answer? Why the need to be so cunning?

2. This is obvious false equivalence. I did not say "Do you believe that it is a sin against God for a church to use the name Catholic instead of Baptist?" If that had been my question, your answer would have been appropriate.

That was not my question. Not using "christian" does not mean you have to use "Hindu" any more than not using "Baptist" means you have to use "Catholic". You answer as though you would have to adopt a false name or deny Christ and the Bible. You know that was not my question. Again, I cannot get a straight answer.

Can a position possibly be a good and proper position if it has to be addressed with such subtlety? How much scripture has brought you to your position?

Perhaps you could just give me a straight answer to one question; do you believe that it is a sin against God for a church to neglect to use the name Baptist? Could you answer that from the Bible?

James Bronsveld said...

Farmer Brown, I am not sure where your difficulty in understanding Bro. Ross's several answers lies, although I do note that you did not respond (perhaps not seeing the comments) to the responses here and here to your initial comment, in which you suggested Bro. Ross was engaging in idolatry.

Reading the article that you found troubling, I observe that while you charge Bro. Ross with false equivalence, you create a straw man in how you handle the content of his article (which clearly indicates that a church without the name "Baptist" could still be Baptist, and a so-named Baptist church might not be) to suggest he advocates that only so-named "Baptist" churches are true churches. The article makes the issue about church authority, but you make it about a name.

Without repeating everything written in response to your first comment under the Skelly article, I would posit my own questions to you: Do you believe that the unaffiliated Baptist church sending you out holds Biblical New Testament doctrine?

That is, is your unaffiliated Baptist sending church equivalent to a New Testament Biblical church?

Is the doctrine of your unaffiliated Baptist church equivalent to New Testament doctrine?

If so (as I would hope the case may be), I would suggest that it is not improper, in terms of identifying doctrine, to state that the NT churches planted in the first century were Baptist churches (or Baptistic, if that makes you feel better). Or, we could call such churches, then and now, "churches of Christ – but not the denomination," or "Bible churches – but not the denomination," or "assemblies of God – but not the denomination." Regardless, churches begun in the New Testament under the authority of the first church (vertical authority, as Bro. Brandenburg speaks of it) have continued to reproduce and hold to truth from the first century on and until today, in fulfillment of church perpetuity. They have (very early on) been labelled Anabaptist, or Baptist, and that is how they are known today.

This brings us back to the question of why a church today holding Baptist doctrine today would avoid the distinction Baptist, and whether or not it would be a sin to do so. Absent evidence to the contrary, I would suggest that it would be for the same reason that you post anonymously under the pseudonym Farmer Brown, since you are neither a Farmer, nor surnamed Brown. Let me hasten to add that there are likely legitimate reasons for your doing so, but the purpose is the same: to obscure one's identity. So it is with Scriptural churches. For almost two thousand years of recorded (extant) history, the enemies of true churches have labelled them Anabaptist or Baptist (just as enemies and persecutors labelled disciples in the NT "Christians" - a term that the 1st-century disciples did not call themselves, but which has clung to our present generation as a name we now call ourselves) and have spilled their blood by the countless millions by that name and because they held to truth. You can call it idolatry to see all such true churches as Baptist if you wish. On the contrary, I would say it is the natural conclusion of doctrines related to the perpetuity of the church, the authority of the church, and the propagation of the church. That, as I read it, was the point of the article, and a correct point, at that.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I don't disagree with anything in James' last comment, and it is well stated. There is a sense to me that the name or label question is a red herring. Why isn't a church calling itself Baptist? Is it that ignorance of history?

I want to be clear to all what I mean by horizontal and vertical authority. I don't think these are technical terms. They are coined by me, because I didn't know what else to call them.

Vertical authority is biblical authority. God says something in His Word and you do it because He said so. God says evangelize and so you respond to what He said and you evangelize.

Horizontal authority is earthly in this sense. Someone can evangelize because God's Word says and it can evangelize because a church sends him to evangelize. There was a church at Antioch because having a church in Antioch was according to God's Word, but the Jerusalem still sent Peter to make sure it was a church, giving it horizontal authority.

Is a church a church without the horizontal authority? Ironically, I believe it is disobeying scripture by not having it. Certainly some might be doing it for a time out of ignorance.

This issue is traceable to events in church history. Most think John Clarke was the first Baptist church of America because Roger Williams was sebaptized, that is, self-baptized. He and someone else baptized each other, so they were not baptized. Baptism is vertical, but it must be by a true church, which is horizontal.

A lot of folks today talk and act like they don't care about horizontal authority, which is contradictory to vertical authority.

Farmer Brown said...

James and Kent, couple things.

1. I do not condemn the name Baptist. I am a member of a Baptist church. Where I have a problem is when someone says you have to be a Baptist to be right. That is what Thomas appears to be saying, although he will not plainly come out and say it.

2. Most people who take Thomas’ position respond the way he is responding to these simple questions. I have literally never received a straight answer. The response always has to be finessed. “Well yes, if you accept these givens, look at it a certain way, and squint with one eye…”

3. James said, “This brings us back to the question of why a church today holding Baptist doctrine today would avoid the distinction Baptist”.

I don’t hold Baptist doctrine. The Bible is my standard, so I hold Bible doctrine. Why would you call true doctrine "Baptist" doctrine? “Thy word is truth.” True doctrine is Bible doctrine.

4. James, you asked, “What were those first century churches organized by the apostles? Were they Presbyterian? Catholic? Pentecostal? Methodist? Reformed? Saying they were "Biblical churches" is a vague term.

What did the Apostle Paul call them? He refers to them in three ways, primarily. He calls them “churches of God (Christ, Firstborn)”, “churches of [geographical areas]”, and “church(es) of Saints, Gentiles, etc”

That is what they were. If they were something other than that, the man who planted them (by the power of God) would have made sure we knew. Paul never said “The Baptist church of God at Macedonia.” He used the very same “vague terms” to which you object.

That is how I know the church in Macedonia was not a (capital “B”) Baptist church. He could have called them that. He could have called them anything. He did not, intentionally. Are you now going to redefine what he did? How could you even contemplate changing something from the way Paul did it? What good could possibly come from that?

Paul’s instruction on all matters of doctrine and polity is, “Brethren, be followers together of me” (Philippians 3:17) and, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do:” (Philippians 4:9)

Since Paul never used any popular denominational title, are you walking in his steps if you go beyond what he did? Kent has just lectured eloquently about not going beyond the Bible in the matter of evangelism. Is it only evangelism where we do not go beyond the Bible, or is it all matters of faith and practice?

What if a church is planted where we are and we call it a church of God in our area? Will that be acceptable? I agree with Kent and Thomas is almost every area of faith and practice, but I think Thomas would not fellowship with me, based on his prior comments.

What did you learn, receive, hear, and see of Paul that would bring you to that position? What would Paul think of a church refusing to fellowship with a church of God because the latter would not share a name with the former? Even if our works are correct, we would be on the outside because of our name.

When Jesus addresses the churches in Revelations 2-3, what does he observe? Does he say "I know thy name"? It is by their works he judges them. Is using the exact same identity (not really even a name) Paul used a bad work? Yet for that work we would be disfellowshipped by many. Is this how Paul walked?

Let me take one empty response off the table up front. “If you do not want to use Baptist because Paul did not use it, you should not use “christian”. Paul did not use that either.” That is a lame response, and contains no reasoning from the Bible. I am not saying you cannot use the term, only challenging the slavish devotion to it.

Also, I have been trying to use the terms Paul used, to the exclusion of the terms Paul did not use. I don’t have any problem if you refer to believers as “believers”, “brethren”, “beloved”. In fact, I prefer it and have been trying to do it.

Farmer Brown said...

James, I misread this from you: "you create a straw man in how you handle the content of his article (which clearly indicates that a church without the name "Baptist" could still be Baptist"

I wanted to answer that. I do not think you are correct. That is just the questions I have been trying to get Thomas to answer. My question was "If a church was Biblical in its positions and practice, but did not use the name baptist on its sign, would you fellowship with them?" Look above in this thread. That is what I was asking Kent above, and Thomas answered his response daughters of the true church, which was not clear.

I asked him to clarify in the post starting "Thomas, please pardon me..." His response was "There is no such thing in the world today."

This is the questions I have been trying to get him to answer. It is not a straw man, I think his position is it is not enough to have the right doctrine and practice, you also have to have the right name. I think. I still am not sure. Not trying to be combative, I would just like a clear answer from him.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Farmer,

When in the post here:

you had stated that asserting that Baptist churches are the churches started by Christ (as in my article here: )was idolatrous, I had responded:

Dear Farmer Brown,

In the way that I defined "Baptist" in the article, which, I trust, you read, I do not believe there is any problem with my use of "Baptist" whatsoever:

“Baptist” is defined in this sentence as all churches which have come into existence from the original congregation founded by Jesus Christ—thus, for example, a medieval Waldensian church would be considered “Baptist,” while a religious organization such as a modern non-denominational congregation or a Bible church that agreed to place the name “Baptist” on its church sign would not be considered truly Baptist until the members of such a congregation received immersion on the authority of an already constituted assembly in the line of Christ’s true churches.

Please note also that the term “Christian” (meaning “Christ-follower”) was not given the people of God by Christ or the apostles, but years after the start of the church by unconverted Gentiles (Acts 11:26), on whose lips we also see the term in the other two references to the word in Scripture. In Acts 26:28, the pagan king Agrippa calls Paul a “Christian,” and in 1 Peter 4:16, a persecutor makes a believer suffer “as a Christian.” Believers accepted this designation, initially given in mockery by unbelievers, and became known as Christians. The descendents of the church established by Jesus Christ received their various other names (such as Waldenses, Cathari, Donatists, and Anabaptists) in the like fashion. The enemies of the Lord’s churches called them “Anabaptists,” meaning “re-baptizers,” because of their practice of immersing converts, although they might have already been “baptized” in their infancy. Eventually the prefix “ana” dropped off, and the modern designation “Baptist” came into existence. The designations “Baptist” and “Christian” were thus both given in the same manner—unbelievers originated the label, and the people of God accepted it.

While I certainly do not want to be engaged in idolatry or to be presumptuous, and so if you have a legitimate, Biblical reason for so designating something I write, I want to know about it, calling Christ's church "Baptist" is neither idolatrous nor presumptuous, unless you will renounce "Christian" also--and, for that matter, since Christ's church is never called "Biblical" in the Bible--and the phrase "the Bible" is not even in the Bible--it would seem that your argument would require renunciation of the phrase "Biblical/Bible church" as well as "Baptist" as allegedly idolatrous.

I appreciate that you want to give the proper place to the church Jesus started out because of the importance of her Founder. That is very good.

I never got a response to this argument, so I do not know if you agree with it or not. I don't know if you think it would be fine to repudiate "Christian" and supposedly be Biblical in the same way that we apparently can repudiate "Baptist" and be Biblical. Since there was no response, should I say you were being deliberately evasive, giving "false equivalence, evasive answers, careful sidesteps," and not giving you "the courtesy of a straight answer" and are doing so because of a need to be "so cunning"? If you said, I have "no desire whatsoever of being evasive. I believe what I said above was quite clear." then should I, in response, insist all the more that you were giving false equivalence, careful sidesteps, and the rest?

KJB1611 said...

I actually have no idea what you are talking about when you say I am doing this--but, then again, perhaps that is another false, evasive, discourteous, sidestepping answer and I don't really mean it.

I can imagine what it would be like to visit one of these non-Baptist but Biblical churches. (I have to imagine because they only exist today in the realm of imagination.) To fit Farmer Brown's categories, the religious organization would not be Baptist, but by repudating "Baptist" it would also not be standing for something else, such as Catholic or Mormon or Methodist, but would be standing for and identifying with nothing at all (just as someone repudating "Christian" could allegedly not be standing for something else, but for nothing, despite Christ's statement that one is either with Him or against Him.) Perhaps the conversation would go something like this:

Me: Hi, what is the name of this church?

No Name Church Pastor: Um, we don't have a name. We aren't Baptists, though. We want to make sure we aren't associated with them. We know it is true that, as Dr. J. J. Durmont & Dr. Ypeig (Reformed) affirmed: “[The Baptists] descended from the tolerably pure evangelical Waldenses. . . . They were, therefore, in existence long before the Reformed Church . . . We have seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists . . . were the original Waldenses; and who have long in the history of the Church, received the honor of that origin. On this account the Baptists may be considered the only Christian community which has stood since the Apostles; and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrine of the gospel through all ages.” Nevertheless, we don't want to be associated with the line of Baptist churches. We want to be associated with Christ and the Bible, but not with the churches Christ started and who have faithfully preached the Bible and stood for Christ unto death from the first century until today.

Me: Do you believe that baptism is a church ordinance (Mt 28:18-20; 1 Cor 12:13; Acts 2:41-47), so Christ gave the church authority from heaven to perform it?

NNCP: Yes, we believe that, it is in the Bible.

Me: How did your church get started?

NNCP: Well, we got a bunch of former Catholics and Protestants together, people who had not received baptism from the line of Baptist churches, and we decided to become No Name Church. We were not willing to go to an extant Baptist church, a daughter of the one Christ started, and receive baptism at her hands, so we just started up from nothing many centuries after Christ started His church. The first person immersed himself and then immersed the rest of us.

Me: So that first guy--was baptism a church ordinance for him? What church authorized his baptism?

NNCP: Stop asking me questions. You are being evasive. Stop being so cunning and deliberately sidestepping things.

The only other alternative answer the pastor of No Name Church could give would be, "We had people with a Baptist baptism--a baptism from a daughter of the church Christ started--but we repudiated the Baptists to form No Name Church." If they repudiated the line of true churches to become No Name Church instead, we should show them the respect to honor their decision to repudiate the line of true churches and conclude that they are no longer part of that line.


KJB1611 said...

BTW, Farmer, the Scripture that brought me to my position is exegeted in:

Finally, I'm not sure why my answer to #2 not straight, but all the other things you called it, so I'm not sure what further to say. I said "Yes" and then I defined my terms. What else do you want me to do to not have an evasive answer, false sidesteps, refusal to give a straight answer, lack of courtesy, etc.?

KJB1611 said...

Dear Pastors Brandenburg & Bronsveld,

Thanks for the comments--I agree, and well said. I wrote the response above to Farmer Brown before your comments appeared on the blog.

KJB1611 said...

I wrote all of the above before I read Farmer Brown's second set of comments subsequent to my last ones. I will let him comment on my response, at least if he wishes to do so, before spending the time to write anything especially lengthy in response to his latest comment. I will briefly note, however:

If it is to go above that which is written to say that Baptist churches are the true churches of Christ, then he ought to repudiate the name Baptist, not to say that it is acceptable or even a matter of indifference. The "above that which is written" argument proves too much in the way he has used it.

I would also be interested in knowing if we have fellowship with those who refuse to say they believe in the Trinity, and the "Trinity" goes beyond that which is written.

I rather suspect that Farmer Brown believes there are many things that are sins that are not specifically stated in the Bible, unless he would have his children (if he has any) wear shirts with pictures of Karl Marx and a thumbs up.

That's all I have time for now – or perhaps I am making that up too, so that I can continue to be evasive, intentionally avoiding what Farmer Brown is saying, making false equivalences, and so on, all because of my great lack of courtesy.


Farmer Brown said...

Thomas, I will concede it is possible you are not prevaricating. I repent of having made that charge against you. Also, I did not accuse you of idolatry, I was careful in my statement. I said "It seems to be a form of idolatry.", and then said why it seemed that way.

Nevertheless, you still do not give me a straight answer.

You imagined a scenario complete with the most negative interpretation (" We want to make sure we aren't associated with them."). You say that to not put "Baptist" on the sign is to repudiate "Baptist". You have assigned all types of motivations to my questions, although I have not done so.

From your response, "The only other alternative answer the pastor of No Name Church could give would be, "We had people with a Baptist baptism--a baptism from a daughter of the church Christ started--but we repudiated the Baptists to form No Name Church." Again, you are characterizing motives, a characterization that comes solely from your own imagination, not from anything I have written. Charity thinketh no evil.

I am assuming from your responses that your position is anyone who is is not a capital B'er is repudiating the church of God. Let me ask a different question:

Is it possible someone could call themselves something other than "Baptist" without having an unGodly and unbiblical reason?

I am not asking if you could imagine the reason, I am not asking you to create a scenario about the reason, I am only asking if it is possible. Is it?

James Bronsveld said...

Farmer Brown, it seems to me that while you maintain that Bro. Ross is not giving you straight answers, you are giving the same sort of complex nuanced answers to questions posed to you. For example, I asked you the following direct questions:

That is, is your unaffiliated Baptist sending church equivalent to a New Testament Biblical church?

Is the doctrine of your unaffiliated Baptist church equivalent to New Testament doctrine?

Rather than acknowledge the obvious answer to that, you focused on my description of a certain set of doctrines as being Baptist, and corrected me to refer to "Bible doctrines." But, as has been asked, where is the word "Bible" found in the Bible? You take exception to the emphasis (or equivalence) on a descriptive term that actually appears in Scripture (in reference to a preacher with whose doctrine I wholly agree: John), even though I and others have repeatedly noted the necessity of its use to describe a body of doctrine in a world where an internet search for "The church of Jesus Christ and its Scriptures (to avoid the non-biblical term 'Bible')" takes me to a page of Mormon apologetics sites.

Suggesting that evangelism with an unscriptural methodology is equivalent to describing the doctrine of a church (in a world full of false forms of so-called Christianity) by using a Scriptural term, even though it is not coupled with the word "church" in Scripture is false. I can search the New Testament in vain to determine which doctrines are to be included in a Scriptural church's doctrinal statement or statement of faith, and I will find neither command nor precedent. Yet I would unhesitatingly state that I could not fellowship with a church nor join myself to one where there was no statement of faith. Why is a doctrinal statement so important to me? Because it describes what the church means when it declares it sets forth "Biblical doctrine." The terms are defined, the position is made clear.

That further moves us to the question of apostasy from the truth. I am not clear whether you make the descriptive term "Baptist" (in describing a church) a matter of preference or a sin (something I believe Bro. Ross touched upon). It seems, from some of your comments, that you describe it as though it were sin, without actually coming out and making the statement. You initially commented that the assembly belongs to Jesus, and that only He can name it. That position alone would require you to separate from the sin of those who have not only gone above that which is written, but have also given names to assemblies which were not theirs to name. The bulk of your writing fluctuates between making the use of the descriptive name a matter of liberty and making it sin to use the term. Consider some of your statements:

How could you even contemplate changing something from the way Paul did it? What good could possibly come from that?

Since Paul never used any popular denominational title, are you walking in his steps if you go beyond what he did?

There are more such statements, but I shall rest with the above quotes. Farmer, Would it be a sin for you to fellowship with a church that has gone above what is written to name itself (rather than leaving it to its owner) and stepping outside of the example of Paul and the apostles (who intentionally did not use the name Baptist) and redefining its by calling itself Baptist?

I am to rejoice that I may suffer as a Christian - a label given to me not by Jesus Christ (whose disciple I am), but by those who hate Him and His disciples. I likewise rejoice in the epithets that have been hurled at God's people throughout the centuries, calling them Anabaptists, Baptists, Catabaptists, and a host of other names, some of which have not continued to the present age. It is part of that taking up the cross and following Christ.

David said...

This has been a most interesting string of comments. At the start, there were comments at how ninety some percent of Baptist churches are way off, yet that is the label they use. Some today are not wanting to cast off Baptist in order to disassociate from those faithful throughout history, as Mr. Ross is making it out to be. Some are wanting to disassociate from the over ninety percent of what is known today as Baptists. Throughout history, the true churches had different names. Mr. Ross is completely against this ever occurring again. At what time should we cast off a label that no longer matches the substance inside?

I also am new to this teaching that we have to have been baptized by a church that can trace itself back to the very beginning in the time of Christ. I will be honest... I do not know my sequential history of authority/churches from where I was baptized and find it near impossible to trace it all the way back to the first church. Based off of Mr. Ross' comments, I would need to do this impossible task in order to know if my baptism was valid. Am I understanding this correctly?

Farmer Brown said...

Sorry James, there is so much cross talk and I think I overlooked your questions. Let me answer them. "Is your unaffiliated Baptist sending church equivalent to a New Testament Biblical church? Is the doctrine of your unaffiliated Baptist church equivalent to New Testament doctrine?"

Yes and Yes.

Regarding your next question, "Would it be a sin for you to fellowship..."

No. I was referring to renaming the churches he planted "Baptist" churches, not to what you currently call your church. He did not offer any guidance on that which seems to have been intentionally vague.

James said, "This brings us back to the question of why a church today holding Baptist doctrine today would avoid the distinction Baptist, and whether or not it would be a sin to do so. Absent evidence to the contrary, I would suggest that it would be...the purpose obscure one's identity."

One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

Where are your witnesses to convict them of sin? Are you able to decide their motivation and judge them as evil, based on you own thoughts? James, I do not think you really mean this. We do not know each other, but our mutual acquaintance speaks highly of you, and I do not think this is your position, to judge someone as in sin unless they prove otherwise. If nothing else, it's un-American.

KJB1611 said...

Someone who did not want to post on the comment section here e-mailed me about this thread, and I thought the comments might be helpful to other readers. This is (part of) what I wrote to that person:

Thanks for taking the time to write. I think Farmer Brown and I probably are talking past each other to some extent, because I really have no idea why he thinks I am being evasive, but I don't think he is the type of person (as far as I can tell from having never met him but just reading his comments) who is one to just levy unjustifiable accusations like a, say, Donald Trump.

Thanks for trying to evaluate the whole discussion. I think it is an important issue on which we should do our best to understand and follow what Scripture teaches.

In my view, it all comes down to whether or not baptism is a church ordinance. If so, then self-baptism is invalid, and there must always be an extant church which can administer valid baptism, or the church cannot continue until the end of the age. Certainly one cannot prove that in every era of church history Christ's churches were always called "Baptist," especially since they only needed to be called "rebaptizers" or "Anabaptists" after separating from the developing apostasy that developed into the Roman State-"Church." The use of the name "Baptist" is much less important than the fact of church succession as promised by Christ in Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 3:21; etc.

Furthermore, I cannot dogmatically prove Biblically that the very moment a Baptist church votes to remove the name "Baptist" that at that moment Christ always takes away the church's candlestick. Certainly if they continue down the path that such a decision indicates, they will lose the candlestick for sure at some point. And perhaps the moment of the vote is the moment when Christ takes the candlestick away, at least with substantial frequency. But, were I the head pastor of a church, I would guide the church I was shepherding to require another person coming to our church from such a congregation, and having been dipped there, to receive baptism with clear Divine authority from our church in order to join our assembly, since a decision to deliberately cease to identify with the Baptist/Anabaptist/Waldensian, etc. line of churches is a decision to put distance between the line of the churches which are each Christ's beloved body and bride and their own assembly.

KJB1611 said...

Also, in relation to the idea that my position requires that people know extra-Biblical history, while the Bible does not require believers to know extra-Biblical history--I would like to suggest in response that Scripture teaches that baptism is a church ordinance, which requires that self-baptism / non-church baptism is invalid. Furthermore, it is clearly legitimate to find out, if an individual claims to be baptized and wants to join one's church, whether or not that person really has been Biblically baptized. (After all, in God's eyes, if he isn't baptized, he cannot really be a church member, whether we recognize this fact or not.) For instance, if a person was dipped in the name of the Father, the Archangel Michael, and an impersonal force like electricity, his baptism is not valid; if he is immersed by a priest who thought that it was conveying regeneration, it would not be valid; etc. It is no more adding to Scripture or requiring that people follow uninspired history to determine if a group of people who assemble together have a valid baptism than it is to determine if a particular individual has a valid baptism.

Finally, I thought it was worth mentioning that taking the position that an assembly must receive baptism in order to become a Baptist church, rather than just voting to become Baptist, has cost me something. I submitted a form of the paper here:

while attending a seminary that was run by a non-Baptist church that had gotten a Baptist pastor and had then decided to vote itself Baptist instead of being baptized Baptist. (I did not attend that church, but attended a church that took the same view on church authority and succession hat I did (and do), and which is a good and necessary consequence of the teaching of Scripture.) The president of the seminary knew what my position was on this matter before I began to attend, but after being there for a good while, giving them a good bit of money, and not causing any waves at all with anyone there on the subject or even talking about it with anyone (as far as I recall), when I was approaching the time that I was set to graduate they decided to not let me graduate because I still took the position that they were fully aware that I believed in before I arrived--so standing for the necessity of church authority in baptism--which is, I believe, the central issue--has actually cost me something.

May you also be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.

KJB1611 said...

Dear David,

Thanks for the comment--I'm glad you have found them interesting.

I think the following two quotes may help you with the succession question:

The ecclesiological position . . . often known as “Landmarkism” in contemporary American Baptist circles . . . many who oppose this position on church truth have created all sorts of ridiculous misrepresentations of the Landmark Baptist position, so that many non-Landmark Baptists, including pastors and others in positions of leadership, ignorantly think that Landmarkism teaches that only Baptists will be saved, or only Baptists are Raptured, or various other types of utterly heretical nonsense. It has also been misrepresented as an assertion that a church must be able to trace a chain-link succession back to the first century or it does not have a valid baptism. It is unfortunate that those who hold to and propagate this sort of hot air do not take the time to find out what the Landmarkers they vociferously oppose actually believe. Let J. R. Graves, one of the first, along with J. M. Pendleton, to employ the term Landmarkism in the 1800’s to describe the ecclesiological position which he and many other Baptists of his day contended for, define the term himself: “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?” (pg. 85, Old Landmarkism: What is it? Texarkana, TX: Bogard Press, 1880 (reprint)).

KJB1611 said...

#1 continued:

Landmarkism is the Scriptural teaching that there has been an actual succession of churches, just like there has been an actual succession of men from Adam, but it does not assert the necessity of tracing that succession back church by church to Christ, because the Bible asserts its existence, and God’s naked promise is sufficient. It is a position based upon faith (Hab 2:4) in the promises of God about church succession, as found in the Great Commission and elsewhere (Mt 16:18, 18:17, 1 Cor 11:26, 12:13, Eph 2:19-22, 3:21, 5:27; see these passages explained in relation to succession on pg. 7, Landmarks of Church History, Robert Sargent, Oak Harbor, WA: Bible Baptist Church Publications, n. d.. 2 Tim 2:2 also suggests a succession of church leadership.). The definition of Landmarkism set forth by J. R. Graves is still that believed by those who gladly call themselves Landmark Baptists today. For example, I. K. Cross, “one of the most outstanding proponents of Landmarkism during the last quarter of the twentieth century,” a prominent historian and seminary professor for a school associated with the American Baptist Association, the largest group to universally assume the title of “Landmarkers,” defends the same position in relation to perpetuity delineated by J. R. Graves in his pamphletLandmarkism: An Update (Texarkana, TX: Bogard Press, 1984- the quote above is from the back cover). He includes numerous quotes from Graves and rejects the misrepresentations of Landmarkism mentioned above. This modern day Landmark Baptist leader writes: “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.” (pg. 13, Landmarkism, an Update.) Neither those who coined the term “Landmarkism,” nor those who take the term to themselves today, believe the various strange, heretical, and unbiblical positions their opponents put to them out of either ignorance or spite.

KJB1611 said...

Quote #2:

The reference in Ephesians 4:5 to “one baptism” demonstrates that by the time of the inspiration of the epistle to the Ephesians Spirit baptism was a completed historical phenomenon,[68] and only immersion in water continued for the course of the age of grace. The fact that there is only one true baptism requires that neither sprinkling, nor any pre-conversion ceremony, nor any baptism given with a view towards remitting sins, nor any administered by any individual or organization not authorized by Christ—indeed, that all baptism not in accord with the “one faith” (Eph 4:5) delivered to the saints, must be rejected. Christ, in the Great Commission, gave authority to immerse believers to His church alone. The Roman and Greek Catholic denominations, with their gospel of the baptismal regeneration of infants, is immersed in the spirit of Antichrist, and such baptisms are obviously null and void, as are the sprinklings of the traditional Protestant denominations, and the immersions of cults from Campbellism to the Watchtower society which give some measure of saving efficacy to its waters. Groups congregational in polity that deny that Christ is a sufficient Savior and reject the perfection of His atonement by opposition to the doctrine of eternal security (Jn 6:47,10:28-30, Rom 8:28-39, etc.) must also have invalid baptisms, for they teach a mutilated gospel (Gal 1:8-9) and so are no churches of Christ. It is also a necessary consequence of the Great Commission that societies which have separated from Protestantism, Catholicism, or sprung up in some other way, yet preach the true gospel, are congregational in polity, and immerse only believers, (as do the majority of assemblies within the Bible church denomination, for example) but have no organic connection with the church Christ organized and commissioned or her daughters, do not have valid baptism, since they are devoid of divine authorization.

KJB1611 said...

Once baptismal authority is lost, the Great Commission gives no means for its recovery apart from one of the legitimate assemblies the Lord has guaranteed would continue to exist until the end of the age. A man without Bible baptism and church authority, who has, perhaps, separated himself from a Protestant group which itself came from the Papist Harlot, who immerses others and starts his own denomination, does not have a true church of Christ, however zealous or sincere he may be, however God may graciously use him to the salvation of sinners despite his errors, or however similar to Baptist polity he is in areas other than authority in baptism; nor does any body which develops from his assembly become a legitimate church, a true temple and bride of Christ, unless it first receives baptism from an assembly which has heavenly authority.[69] This fact, clearly taught from the language of the Great Commission, demonstrates that all baptism other than that administered by Scriptural Baptist churches, which alone have maintained, in accordance with the promise of their Lord (Mt 28:20),[70] a continuous existence with actual succession to the church Christ organized during His earthly ministry, is invalid. This does not mean that individual members of faithful Baptist churches of today must wonder if, because of some remote historical aberrancy in the sixth century, say, or the 1100’s, they have legitimate baptism—since Christ guarantees church perpetuity in the Great Commission, and it is a plain Biblical command to join a true church of Christ (Heb 10:25, etc.), God will always make it possible for His people to know where His ekklesiai are. A church which a saint can see historically has separated from Protestantism or formed apart from the lineage of Christ’s assemblies, whether it carry the Baptist name or no, has no authority from the Lord to immerse, but is a schismatic, unbiblical organization, while a member of a Baptist church that is faithful in doctrine and practice to the Scriptures, and which, as far as he can tell, lies within the temporal continuity of His Savior’s churches, need not fear about the legitimacy of his baptism out of worry over events which have slipped off the pages of history; his Omnipotent God had promised to preserve the church, and He will not make it impossible for His people to obey His commands— such a saint should trust His Lord’s promises, be humbled by the privilege of his position in the Bride Christ loved and gave Himself for (Eph 5:25), and joyfully serve His faithful God through His NT Temple (1 Cor 3:9-17, Eph 2:20-22, 1 Tim 3:15).[71]

Both quotes are from:

Thanks again.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Farmer Brown,

Thank you for the gracious repentance over the charge. That is Biblical humility. I appreciate it--and it honors God!

If I am still not giving a straight answer, I think it must be because we are talking past each other, for I am trying to give straight answers.

I am not saying you would agree with everything I had the pastor of No Name Church say. I do not believe in this series or anywhere else on the blog have I ever discovered what you believe about church succession and related issues, so I have to guess at what you would say.

You are correct that charity thinketh no evil, of course. That does not change the fact that a very high percentage of churches think very carefully about how they wish to present themselves to the world with what they are called. Deciding to not call one's church "Baptist" is a very deliberate decision, not an accident. A church that changes from "Bible Baptist Church" to "River Glen Assembly" knows exactly what it is doing, and where it is going after making that change.

Nevertheless, it is certainly possible that someone could have a motive that is, in that person's mind, upright, for refusing to call himself a Baptist, as one could refrain from calling oneself a Christian from a motive that is, at least in that person's eyes, justifiable. Someone could also have a motive that is, in his own mind, good for calling himself a Presbyterian--if he thinks Presbyterianism is true, that is what he should do, and his reason for so doing--fidelity to Scripture as he sees it--is not wrong, although his conclusion is certainly wrong.


Farmer Brown said...

"Thomas wrote, "It has also been misrepresented as an assertion that a church must be able to trace a chain-link succession back to the first century or it does not have a valid baptism."

How far back do you have to go?

KJB1611 said...

Dear Farmer,

A church which a saint can see historically has separated from Protestantism or formed apart from the lineage of Christ’s assemblies, whether it carry the Baptist name or no, has no authority from the Lord to immerse, but is a schismatic, unbiblical organization, while a member of a Baptist church that is faithful in doctrine and practice to the Scriptures, and which, as far as he can tell, lies within the temporal continuity of His Savior’s churches, need not fear about the legitimacy of his baptism out of worry over events which have slipped off the pages of history; his Omnipotent God had promised to preserve the church, and He will not make it impossible for His people to obey His commands.


KJB1611 said...

In other words, if you are clear as far as you can see, you are good. Thanks.

David said...

Mr. Ross,

I read through your copy paste. When I have more time, I want to look through the Scripture references. I am still seeing a HUGE inconsistency, though. From what you wrote and those you quoted say that one's baptism is invalid and the church is invalid if it was not done by a Baptist church which received its authority from a Baptist church and so on and so forth. And if we cannot trace it back to the first church, that's okay, we just depend on faith. If we are going to be so strict on the baptism today being legit depending on where it received its authority, why can we fluff off not being able to trace it all the way back? You quoted and stated it is not a physical succession but yet talk as if it is. I am confused. You are putting such an importance on this passing of authority and yet say "if you are clear as far as you can see, you are good." If you basing the passing of authority from baptist church to baptist church on Scripture, what Scripture are you basing the you are good if you are clear as far as you can see"? I am not trying to be difficult but having a hard time understanding your position without the inconsistencies. Please do not respond with cut and paste quotes and speak in simple language, too. I like cookies, particularly on the bottom shelf.

Also, the following that I had written never was answered from my knowledge: "At the start, there were comments at how ninety some percent of Baptist churches are way off, yet that is the label they use. Some today are not wanting to cast off Baptist in order to disassociate from those faithful throughout history, as Mr. Ross is making it out to be. Some are wanting to disassociate from the over ninety percent of what is known today as Baptists. Throughout history, the true churches had different names. Mr. Ross is completely against this ever occurring again. At what time should we cast off a label that no longer matches the substance inside?"

Also, Pastor Brandenburg, feel free to give your response, too. Thanks again.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm not sure what you want to know. The Bible says nothing about being able to trace your church all the way back to the Jerusalem church. I would be interested in a verse that teaches that. Since scripture is sufficient and regulates what we believe and practice and there is no such verse, I'm not regulated by that requirement. I assume, however, that there are true churches all the way back to the Jerusalem church, because Jesus said there would be. Some would depart from the faith, but not everyone. Churches should start churches. That's the NT model, hence what the NT authorizes. A church has more than just vertical authority, but also horizontal authority. Jesus traveled 70 miles to be baptized with the proper authority. I could go into a long explanation of authority and would do that if you needed me to. I'm going to assume right now that you don't need that.

It's a matter of faith -- following the teaching of the NT through proposition and example. You can't judge what you can't see, but you should judge what you do. We obey what we know by faith. You want an obedient church. I don't mind if you ask individual questions, David, but I don't get what the problem is here. Someone starts his own church, baptizes himself -- he doesn't have authority. A church should be started by a church, which is started by a church. That's how it should be done. This is what someone says when he says it is a matter of faith. This is not a game, where you say, well, since, I don't know if five generations back, that was a church, and I don't know if the pastor was saved, etc., so I'm just going to do whatever I want. No. You look to do what the Bible says.

The "must-trace-it-back" to Jerusalem is a red herring. It's also a straw man because I don't know anyone who is saying that.

Farmer Brown said...

True churches have always existed since the first church in Jerusalem. The Bible teaches that. I think everyone here agrees with that.

The problem with Thomas' position (and maybe Kent's? Not sure.) is you are both absolute and vague. Absolute that any church not directly planted by another church is not a church, and vague about the value of lineage. Those concepts are mutually inclusive.

If you are absolute that no body is a true church apart from the way you have defined, you need to be absolute about how you arrived. Otherwise, you may well be falsely baptized, which calls into doubt your salvation. There is no example in the NT of a believer who was not baptized (thief excepted)

I personally know of a church that started as an unaffiliated brethren church (which broke off from the Anglicans back in 1820). The pastor and men of the church through study of the Bible became a Baptist church with good doctrine 45-50 years ago.

From then, many hundreds believed, were baptized, and added to that assembly. It has several 2nd gen churches, and possibly several 3rd and 4th. The people in the 3rd and 4th gen churches most likely have no knowledge of the origin.

According to your doctrine, their baptism is invalid and they are not part of a NT assembly, as commanded in the Bible. However, also according to your doctrine, they should not worry about it. Is their baptism now valid? It is almost as if you position is your church and baptism just somehow become valid if you do not know it is not valid.

I know that oversimplifies it, not trying to misstate what you believe, just trying to be brief.

Kent Brandenburg said...


You are arguing a strawman. I don't know who takes the position, so I don't know if he thinks he's getting good arguments. You say I'm vague. I'd wonder how, but you'll just say I'm vague. That's vague. Maybe you want me to say more than I'm saying, but everything I'm saying is scriptural. If there is some thing I've said that is unscriptural, please tell me what that is.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Let me add one thing. You bring me a "historical situation." I think you are asking me to judge it. You don't get doctrine though from situations. It's like attempting to get doctrine from Charismatic experiences. I'm not saying that all of them aren't true. I do know that in Acts 11 a church didn't send a church. Churches sending churches is the pattern. That's how it should happen. However, all those folks were baptized by an authoritative church. Peter came and brought authority. I'm fine taking churches on a case by case basis, but we don't get our doctrine from those cases, even worse, cases reported as cases.

This doctrine is not what it means to be a Baptist. Baptists didn't accept Roman Catholic baptism, so they don't accept Protestant baptism. Who does that leave? Baptists. Or a category you are mentioning apparently, the people who find a Bible and start a church. Do we change everything because of their apparent existence?

James Bronsveld said...

#1 – Farmer Brown wrote: Where are your witnesses to convict them of sin? Are you able to decide their motivation and judge them as evil, based on you own thoughts? James, I do not think you really mean this.

I seek to be precise in my statements, but space does not always allow me to develop my points as far as I would like. I do not wish to move into a place of talking AT a brother in Christ, but since you appear to be seeking clarification on that comment, I will give it and then rest. Statements such as, "Only the owner can name his assemblies" do not present your position as making the descriptive term "Baptist" a matter of liberty or conscience, but rather as a matter of giving the Lord's churches a name He never gave it. To make statements like that and then conclude it is a matter of preference does not sound like the Farmer Brown of whom our mutual friend speaks so highly. (Suffer me a little humour here, Brother!) If only Christ can name His churches, and then you or I take such authority upon ourselves without Scriptural support (as you have suggested about describing the 1st century churches as Baptist churches), it is not liberty, it is sin which must be repented of. Similar statements in subsequent comments do not diminish the way your position is presented, regardless of your comment that you are speaking of the churches of Paul's time, not my church or any other Baptist church of the 21st century. Further, if your sending Baptist church is patterned according to the churches of the 1st century, your sending church has no more authority to call itself Baptist than I do to describe 1st century churches as being Baptist.

I asked you directly if your sending unaffiliated Baptist church holds to the doctrines of the Bible, and if your unaffiliated Baptist church is a New Testament church. You answered “yes,” as I suspected, and I rejoice to know that you and I walk in that truth together. That said, it appears that you are splitting hairs on this issue to a point of confusion and apparent wordplay. You say that the doctrine of your Baptist church is not Baptist doctrine, but Bible doctrine. But it is Baptist doctrine. It is Baptist doctrine, because it is doctrine taught in Baptist churches and not in other churches. You repudiate that, though, and I get that you desire to affirm that the doctrine taught in your church is not of man, but of God. But you hold to that position so strongly, you would correct someone for suggesting that a Baptist church teaches Baptist doctrine. It is confusion to tell someone in a world filled with countless denominations and sects all calling themselves "Biblical" that you are Baptist but don't teach Baptist doctrine is not anywhere akin to Paul's intentional vagueness in not using the term to describe the early churches. You instead remove a descriptive term that for centuries has identified a line of truth held by certain churches throughout history. You agree that the doctrine taught in your Baptist sending church equals Bible doctrine, but Bible doctrine does not equal Baptist doctrine, as if to say that the one is the same as the other, but the other is not the same as the one. That, I'm sorry, is not the intentional vagueness of Paul. That is just confusion. I can support your intention and what I believe is your desire, but I cannot agree with its outcome. (more...)

James Bronsveld said...

#2 - What is curious to me (and I get that there is a lot of cross-talk in commenting here) is that in multiple responses to your comments, the one issue raised that I have yet to see you confront is your preference for the term "Bible doctrine" and its inconsistency with your strong rejection of the term "Baptist doctrine." This has not been a minor point. It has come up numerous times in this thread as well as the original one. Yet you have remained silent on that point. The Bible never gives itself the title “Bible.” That is a title for the Word of God given to describe what the Bible calls “The Scriptures,” among other things. But we use the term "Bible,” because we are identifying which Scriptures we use. That is, not the Qu'ranic Scriptures, nor the Mormon Scriptures, etc. Yet the Bible never calls itself the Bible. Why is that recent title acceptable to you, but the other not? Why not warn about the appearance of idolatry with that term?

You ask for witnesses to judging motivation. I submit to you that motivation is only one consideration. I would question a modern church's decision to repudiate the name Baptist, because context matters. The dropping of denominational references is a current and crazy fad in evangelical circles. You have stated your position that the issue is a matter of liberty, a matter of preference. So, if the decision of a church to repudiate that name is tested against the rules for liberty in I Corinthians 8, I still end up at conclusion weighted heavily in favour of it being sin, even for the stumbling block it poses to others by its appearance.

There is the appearance of repudiating historic Baptist doctrine. There is the appearance of wanting to present a non-denominational, non-sectarian image in a world that is seeking it (even if for different reasons). There is the appearance that somehow truth (related to the identified type (i.e. Baptist) of the Lord's churches) has been lost for the last two or three hundred (or even more) years, and that you are now recovering it and restoring it to what it was Biblically. This has been the methodology of the cults from the Restoration movement through to our times. I'm sorry, but we cannot divest ourselves of history. The article in question dealt with “Baptist” as a description – identifying the type of churches that were the Lord's churches throughout history, not the name alone (which is how I read the article in question).

Labels, Descriptions, symbols, and names mean something. Some we separate from because of the identity that comes with its acceptance, and some we hold fast to. Many of these are not even mentioned in Scripture. This blog has made this point elsewhere, but Paul was intentionally vague about the use of the Swastika (or any number of obscene words in use today, some of which could theoretically be used in contexts other than simply exclamations). He never mentioned it once. But if my sons or a member of my church were to identify with the Swastika, I would see the stumbling block it would cause, and identify it as sin because of its appearance, because causing my brother to stumble is a sin, even if I have liberty to do something.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I haven't read every word here, but if something were Baptist doctrine that weren't biblical, I would go with Bible. I usually call that Baptist tradition. Certain Baptists, I've noticed, sometimes have traditions that aren't biblical. Baptists though aren't Taptists, Tradition sole authority. However, the idea of Baptist doctrine is doctrine taught and passed down through the church. If it originated after the Bible, it's not true, but something that is Bible, but has no history, and you find it only in Roman Catholicism, I have strong reasons to doubt that.

KJB1611 said...

Dear David,

Thank you for the question. People who use the term "Christian" are more messed up than those who use "Baptist" – the Pope is a Christian, Mormons are Christians, Donald Trump is a Christian, a state church woman preacher in Scandinavia who doesn't believe in God is a Christian, etc. Nevertheless, I will keep using both "Christian and "Baptist."

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brandenburg,

Thank you for the articles, and for the comment section which is always helpful and interesting.

Mr. Ross,

Thank you for sharing your story about how attending the seminary run by the unbiblical church cost you something. Attending a seminary run by an unbiblical church was obviously okay with you at the time. You say you gave that unbiblical church "a good bit of money." You knew the church was unbiblical yet you still supported it with your finances and attendance, etc. Thank you for sharing that story.

Regarding your statement, "If you are clear as far as you can see, you are good," that would seem to mean that an unbiblical church (like the one whose seminary you attended) could start other churches (or "churches" if you like) and that that unbiblical church and its daughter churches would be wrong for someone to attend, but eventually after so many generations of churches people might not be able to trace the history back to the original bad church because it would be too far away for them to see, but the attendees would "be good." So in the very same lineage you could have bad churches that eventually give way to "good" churches because the people attending are unable to trace the history back to the bad church.

Mr. Brown,

I don't know what you are saying, but are you saying that if someone was only to use the word "Baptist" the way the Bible uses it, you would be okay with that? In other words, the word "Baptist" is in the Bible 15 times, and of those 15 times, zero times it is used in conjunction with the word "church." To put the word "Baptist" with the word "church" is to do something the Bible never does. Are you okay with a person who wants to use the word "Baptist" the way the NT does, and therefore he chooses to follow the Bible pattern of never using the word "Baptist" in conjunction with the word "church"?

Thank you all for your time.


KJB1611 said...

Dear David,

There is a literal succession--because Scripture teaches that--and there is no need to prove it link-by-link, because Scripture does not teach that.

Perhaps one can compare it to our descent from Adam. Christ, as the Second Adam (1 Cor 15), died for the sons of Adam. Does that mean that I need to trace my heritage link-by-link back to Adam before I can believe on Jesus Christ? No. Is there a literal succession of my ancestors all the way back to Adam? Yes. How do I know that? The Bible says so.


Dear Farmer,

The Bible teaches church authority in baptism. A good and necessary consequence of that Biblical doctrine is literal succession, because unbaptized people cannot form a church and baptize. The character of God is also such that He would not command us to join true churches and then make it impossible to know which ones they are. Therefore, if as far as one can see a church has proper authority, it does have such authority.

The religious organization that broke off from the Anglicans and then from the brethren and added the name "Baptist," if they adoped Baptist doctrine, would also recognize that one becomes a Baptist by receiving baptism, not by voting oneself into a Baptist. Would we accept a vote in place of immersion for an individual? No. Then why would we accept it for a group? While I do not know anything about the people you are speaking about, I would be very surprised if they held to issues from local-only polity to authority in baptism, for if they did, they would recognize their need to submit to the ordinance. Furthermore, only Christ's true churches--those with Him in their midst--will remain true to Scripture in the long term, so a non-true church that votes itself Baptist instead of being baptized will not continue in the long term because it no more has Christ's special presence in its midst than a Methodist congregation does (although if there are true believers there Christ is in them so something good can happen in that sense).


Dear James,

Great comment.

Dear Bob/Anonymous,

I did not give the example of the seminary as a statement that everyone should do what I did. I think not going to a seminary where they allow things that are not Biblical, and then refuse to allow you to graduate because you still believe something Biblical that they knew you believed when you joined, is a good idea. I don't think it is necessarily a sin to pay for things related to education from people that are not perfect in their doctrine and practice. I will buy and read books from publishers that publish good and bad books. One can pay tuition to learn a language from even an unsaved person, etc.

I believe I answered the rest of your comment in my response to Farmer Brown.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Ross,

Thank you for admitting that not everyone should do what you did.

Why do you say that?

Thank you,