Tuesday, October 18, 2016

An Analysis and Review of Kevin Bauder's "Landmarkism"

Someone gave me a copy of two books by Kevin Bauder, his Baptist Distinctives and New Testament Church Order, and One in Hope and Doctrine:  Origins of Baptist Fundamentalism, 1870-1950, the latter co-written by Robert Delnay.  Despite our differences and perhaps even his protests, Kevin Bauder and I have a lot in common, I think more in common by far than we have different.  If he ever visited our church, I believe he might even say he has more in common with our church than almost all evangelicals and most fundamentalists. I sympathize with his defense of fundamentalism, even though I disagree.  I appreciate his desire to elucidate and defend Baptist distinctives.  Above all, I appreciate his desire to encourage conservative churches.  Even though I greatly object to his position on the preservation of scripture and the Bible version issue, his chapters on the subject are the most respectful writing I have read from the other side.  Bauder is obviously the clearest and best position of the four in The Spectrum of Evangelicalism.

Despite my penchant for Kevin Bauder, I found motivation to write a blog series in order to criticize one chapter in his book on Baptist distinctives -- "Landmarkism" (pp. 198-220).  It interested me that he found that subject worthy of a chapter, providing enough of a motivation for him to repudiate.  It is not one of his better pieces of writing.  I am going to spend a good amount of time over upcoming weeks analyzing the chapter, because I think it provides a teaching moment for readers here.  Much of what he denounces is actually biblical teaching.  He also errs in his representation of those who believe what he misrepresents.

What Bauder labels "landmarkism" is a name given to a very particular ecclesiological and historical position, which was then called "landmarkism."  When an author discounts what he disbelieves, he should document his representation of it.  He should offer quotes straight from the pen or mouth of the advocate along with footnotes or endnotes.  In other words, he should deal with what people actually have said.  Bauder doesn't do that with his chapter.  As a result, I am saying that he portrays and then knocks down a strawman of what he calls, landmarkism.

As his first sentence (p. 198), Bauder writes:
THE LANDMARK BAPTIST (capitals his) movement began in the American South during the mid-nineteenth century.
The effect of such a statement is that everything following, which Bauder lumps in with landmarkism, began in the mid-nineteenth century, which is false.  Some of what James Robinson Graves taught did originate with him at that time, never seen before in church history.  The same criticism could be made, however, of dispensationalism, so would require some nuance in explanation for an accurate representation.  For instance, did J.M. and B.H. Carroll take the identical teaching as Graves that says that the kingdom is or synonymous with the church?  They didn't. Graves defined landmarkism and he included that peculiarity in his definition.  Some aspects of landmarkism are unique to Graves himself as a teacher.

Bauder presents without proof a view of Baptist history.  He suggests a stream of Baptist history, which he says are the "regular (historic) Baptists," interrupted by Landmarkers, who emerge from and interrupt that stream.  I submit a conflicting position to his, that his "regular Baptists" emerge and interrupt and "pose problems" for true Baptists.  It's true that both of us can't be right.  He, however, does not prove the history of his position -- just asserts.

Before Bauder begins dealing with "the distinctive teachings of Landmark Baptists," he writes:
To those who have never been exposed to Landmark Baptists, some of these teachings may seem to border on the bizarre.  This strangeness may lead one to think of Landmarkism as a cult.
For poisoning the well, "bizzare" and "cult" function nicely.  I see the exact opposite, that is, the bizarreness of what Bauder calls "regular," which I will later demonstrate in this analysis of his presentation.  I wouldn't express kingdom teaching like Graves does.  However, I have no problem with someone saying he believes that Christ's churches are His kingdom on earth in the age in which we live.  I could explain that and prove it from scripture.  Graves goes beyond a scriptural comfort level for me, but I share his seriousness about the place of the Lord's church on earth in this age, which contrasts with whom I consider "Protestant Baptists."

A lot of the modern perversion of the gospel corresponds to the lack of connection between the church and the kingdom.  Many problems in churches arise from not seeing the authority by which Jesus operates as King through the church.  Many have never received Him as King and still see themselves as Christians.  This lack of King and kingdom preaching has resulted in many unconverted in professing Baptist churches.  Jesus gave all authority to His church (Matthew 16:18, 28:18-20, Rev 1:19-2:1, Titus 2:15), but churches don't act like it because they are so, so careful to separate the church from the kingdom.

Bauder's first problem with landmarkists is their definition of or understanding of the nature of the word church.  He spends some time explaining its denial of a universal, invisible church (p. 199). He does fine.  When I read material like Bauder writes, I read language that I would not use, so I don't think it represents me.  He often uses the terminology "local churches" and "local church."  That is "regular" for him, but it is peculiar for me.  You don't read "local church" in the Bible.  Why do you think that is?  It's because there is only one church in the Bible and it is local.  The Greek word translated, "church," is ekklesia, and it means, "assembly."  Assembly is always local.  It would be redundant and peculiar to say "local assembly."  It shouldn't be normal for Baptists to say, "local church," because it isn't biblical.  It's normal for Bauder, because he doesn't take his ecclesiology from scripture.  He reads it into scripture.

Bauder says (p. 199) that "dispensationalists begin the church at the Day of Pentecost, while Landmarkers believe that it began with the ministry of John the Baptist."  I'm a dispensationalist too and I believe it began with the ministry of John the Baptist.  The Bible teaches that the church existed before Pentecost.  That is an exegetical position.  Immersed believers were added to the church at Pentecost, which implies the church already existed.  We also know that Jesus sang in the church (Hebrews 2:12).  John Gill wrote concerning this verse:
This is to be understood . . . of the church below; and not of the synagogue of the Jews, but of the disciples of Christ, and of his singing an hymn to God, with and among them, as he did at the institution of the supper, ( Matthew 26:30 ) for though the number of the apostles was but small, yet they made a congregation or church, and which was a pure and glorious one.
Jesus teaches church discipline in Matthew 18:18-20, speaking as if the church already exists.  There is no exegetical basis to say that the church began at Pentecost.

Bauder explains that the pre-Pentecost timing for the founding of the church blossoms from the landmark fusion of the church and the kingdom.  As I said above, not all landmarkers believed that true churches comprise the kingdom since the days of John the Baptist.  This is peculiar to a unique ecclesiology, perhaps beginning with Graves, but not homogeneous to those with a local only ecclesiology.  I have been local only my entire adult life and I didn't see that position ever until I read it in Graves very recently.  I would wonder, however, how Graves's kingdom position might be peculiar to Bauder, while Mark Devers's amillennialism isn't for a Baptist.

Everyone should take a biblical view of baptism.  If the biblical position is landmark, then take a landmark position.  Bauder writes (pp. 199-200) as if there is a conspiracy among these landmarkers to keep Baptist churches as the only true churches.  To do that, he says that they make baptism the differentiating factor for being a church.  To the landmarkers, those without true baptism (Catholics, etc.) are not churches.  He explains that landmarkers expect "proper mode, meaning, subject, and administrator."  I hadn't heard "meaning" ever as a criteria.  However, Bauder says that historic Baptists (those he's been with) don't agree on administrator.  He sets up a strawman to dispute this.

"The Landmark theory," Bauder writes, "requires an unbroken chain of baptisms from the days of John the Baptist down to the present day."  This is where landmarkers get their designation, "chain-linkers."  I was local only in my ecclesiology in high school.  I heard sermons in my local-only college (Maranatha Baptist Bible College at the time) that said that landmarkers were chain-linkers, which was a reason why we weren't landmarkers.  Since then, I've never met a chain-linker.  Graves himself was not a chain-linker.  In the preface of his book, Old Landmarkism, Graves writes (p. xiii):
Others have been influenced to believe. . . . that we hold baptism is. . . . ineffectual unless we can prove the unbroken connection of the administrator with some apostle; and. . . any flaw. . . in the line of succession, however remote, invalidates all his baptisms.
Graves debunks that gross mischaracterization that continues to spread from such as those like Bauder.  He at least must deal with what Graves wrote in the very book that is supposed to be teaching his doctrine.

Despite the error by Bauder, he is somewhat in the ballpark (maybe the parking lot) on representing people like me on the subject of baptism.  I am one of these guys he is misrepresenting, and I know that I believe that baptism must be performed by the proper administrator.  Someone can't go jump in a pool and call it baptism.  Two people out swimming can't immerse each other and call it baptism, even if they say it "means the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ."  God gave John the Baptist authority to baptize (Mt 21:25, Mk 11:30, Lk 20:4).  Jesus traveled 80 miles to be baptized by John.  I don't believe Roman Catholics are true churches and since Protestants came out of Roman Catholicism, I deny their authority to baptize too. This is a matter of faith.  We should do the best we can with authority by faith.  It's not a chain link, but a matter of obedience.  I'm not taking my position as a way to find some path to calling others not true churches.

Bauder might rankle some Presbyterian friends and people very chummy with other Protestants by reporting a particular teaching of landmarkism, but proper administrator is just Bible teaching. Calling non-authoritative baptism, "alien immersion," a term I have never used in my life, proceeds from a biblical belief in proper administrator.  I inform him, although he probably already knows, that guys like me also reject Roger Williams as a Baptist because of this.  We say John Clarke was the first Baptist in America.  I call this, "just being serious about what the Bible teaches."  We should be regulated by what scriptural precept and example.  This is what we see in the New Testament.  We should be fine with calling something that isn't biblical baptism, not baptism.

(More to Come)


ProudBaptist said...

Thank you Brother Kent. I was raised Catholic, saved when I was twenty five and by peculiar providence found myself among the Landmarkers, pastoring their churches for some twenty years. You have explained Landmarkism better than most Landmarkers I know. It is perplexing to me that Bro. Bauder does not document what he writes about Landmarkism when there is an abundance of Literature about it printed by the ABA, BMAA and independently. Looking forward to reading your future critiques.

Farmer Brown said...

Kent quoted, "Others have been influenced to believe. . . . any flaw. . . in the line of succession, however remote, invalidates all his baptisms."

Why isn't this true? Not the part about saying you have an unbroken chain. I understand you do not claim to have evidence of an unbroken chain. I have never met anyone who does. I think they may be out there, but I have never met them, and understand you do not represent them.

However, based on your position, why isn't it true that a flaw in the line of baptisms invalidates all following baptisms in the line?

Kent Brandenburg said...



Kent Brandenburg said...

Farmer Brown,

There is no verse that says, "Thou shalt be able to trace your lineage back to the first church." I assume that there is authority, but I'm looking to what is faithful, and I don't think it is difficult to locate. It's our reasonable, logikos, service. The logic is baptism needs authority, Catholics and Protestants don't have it, so don't accept their baptism. Do all Baptist churches have authority? I do the best I can, which is what I believe God expects of me, since He didn't promise to preserve the visibility of the line of authority. The Landmarkers saw Baptists starting not to take authority seriously, and lots of problems proceed from that, but mostly it's disobedient.

Lance said...

I know of at least two "chain linkers" here in Minnesota. In one case, the pastor became Landmark. He then went to a Landmark church and was re-baptized by that local church. He then came back to the local church that he pastored and demanded that all present members be re-baptized by him.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Lance.

I have never seen this in person, but if I were to judge it, I would have to look at exactly what happened. We "rebaptize" people too, but not generally those who have been baptized in Baptist churches. There are instances though. One church was started by a Plymouth Brethren man who loved vacationing a certain place, decided to buy a house there, and then started a church, not Baptist. No one sent him. Later, they called themselves Baptist. Someone from that "church" we "rebaptized." It really does come down to whether someone thinks there must be a proper administrator. Does that church need authority? This is the essence of it, not a chain-link tracing back to Jesus. I'm not saying they don't exist, but I've never met one.

Notice the man above, who pastored Landmark churches, and he says I'm representing it accurately.

Farmer Brown said...

Kent, how long does it take for an invalid baptism to become valid? I think you would say you should not worry about a baptism ten generations ago being invalid, you just do your best. By your teaching, every succeeding baptism would be invalid, but also, don't worry because it is beyond what you can see, so you are valid. When does that change from invalid to valid take place? How many generations should you look?

KJB1611 said...

It is an excerpt from the study here:



Anonymous said...

Kent, since you admit Trail of Tears is inadequate to support your position, can you point me to what you consider the most scholarly work defending the idea that there was a real church outside of Catholicism/Reformers that existed from 100 AD until today? I am not being difficult. I am interested and will likely read it.

KJB1611 said...

J. T. Christian's 2 volume History of Baptists is pretty good, see http://faithsaves.net/ecclesiology/