J. R. Graves, who was such a major influence for Landmarkism in W. TN and Western Kentucky, was also a major player in the development of Union University in Jackson, TN. Dr. James Pendleton was also a major influence for Landmarkism in Southern Baptist life, and he was a former President of Union University. These two men probably did more to influence the Mid South in the area of Landmarkism than anyone else. Of course, there are many others in SB history, who were real Landmarkists. Men like B.H. Carroll and J. M. Carroll, and many other, influential leaders in SB life held to this view of ecclesiology. Landmarkism slowly died in SB life, and sadly, its departure also meant that SB seemed to slowly ignore ecclesiology; began to look upon it as seemingly unimportant; or started to give it just a passing glance. That’s the way it almost appears, anyway. So, a group of people out there began to talk about good, sound ecclesiology. And, it seems in this day and age, that there are some people, who claim that Landmarkism is not dead in SB life; due to this group known as the BI(Baptist Identity) fellas stressing sound ecclesiology. They say that Landmarkism is being promoted by a group of SBC purifiers, who want the SBC to be a Landmark fortress. And, these decriers of Landmarkism claim that the so called “BI” fellas, or the “Bapstist Identity” crowd, are the ones, who are promoting this ecclesiological view. And, there have been all kinds of accusations and misconceptions floating around about what the “BI” crowd is promoting; what they actually believe. But, are the “BI” fellas really Landmarkists? Could they really be classified as Landmarkists, or do they just believe in good ecclesiology? I want us to take a look at how some of these fellas believe about doctrines that surrounds the basic beliefs of Landmarkism, and compare it to real Landmarkism. I’m going to ask a series of questions, and I’m going to ask each, so-called, “BI” fella to respond to the Landmark belief, or to the misconceptions of some people out there, with his view of these things. Then, let’s compare that to true, real Landmarkism. Answering these questions are: Robin Foster; Matt Brady; Wes Kenney; and David Worley(Me).
Question #1: Do you believe that a Southern Baptist Church can trace it’s beginning to the Lord Jesus Christ? that there’s been a trail of blood? that a true, SB Church has been in existence from Jesus until now; as the Landmarkists believed?
Robin: I don’t believe that JM Carroll’s trail of blood is correct in its theory. I do believe there has been a “free church” tradition witness throughout history, whether or not one can call it a “Baptist” tradition as we see it today I question. Baptist churches, as we know them today, I believe got their start from Smyth and Helwys, while we have a spiritual connection with the Anabaptist of the reformation.
Matt: True churches have existed from the time of Christ and will exist until He returns. I believe my Southern Baptist church to be one of those true churches. I am not so concerned with the ability to list the particular name of every true church that has ever existed in historical and geographical order back to the church at Jerusalem as the Roman church tries to do with popes back to Peter.
Wes: If by that do you mean that the baptism of everyone in my church can be traced back through churches authorized to baptize in an unbroken line all the way back to the Apostles, then no, I don’t believe that. I believe that there have always been, since the time of the Apostles, faithful New Testament churches in existence, and I base this belief on Jesus’ promise that He would build His church, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it (Mt. 16:18).
David: I agree with the others that the trail of blood idea of J.M. Carroll is not correct. I do believe that there has always been NT churches in existence thru out history. I don’t believe that they were Baptist churches, and I know that they weren’t Southern Baptist churches. But, they were NT churches, which preached the Gospel.
Question #2: Do you believe in closed communion? that only the members of a local Church should take the LS together, as Landmarkists believe?
Robin: No. We practice “close” communion which to our understanding is inviting anyone to the table who has received Jesus as their Lord and Savior and has participated in believers baptism by immersion. With this, I do believe that communion is a church ordinance and should only be practiced among the gathered local church.
Matt: Our church follows close communion. Just as a family gathers together around the meal table, it is the church family that should gather together around the Lord’s table. If we have others of like faith and practice in attendance, we do not forbid them as I suspect that the believers at Troas did not forbid the Apostle Paul when he met with them on the day they celebrated the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). Occasionally we will have guests that will be invited to eat with us at the table.
Wes: While I am sympathetic to this view based on Paul’s warning against partaking without “discerning the body” (1 Cor. 11:29), I am also in harmony with the Baptist Faith and Message on this point, and have no problem serving in churches which admit anyone who has been scripturally baptized to fellowship around the Lord’s table.
David: I believe in a modified close communion view. I do believe that the LS is a Church ordinance. I do believe that it should be observed by the Church, with others of like faith being welcomed to participate. I do believe that baptised Believers should participate in it. I do not believe in being so rigid that we’d have the LS police making sure that only baptised Believers of like faith are taking the LS with us. I would not make a big deal out of who should, and who should not be taking it. But, when I preached on it, and when we begin the LS; I would gently remind everyone about these things.
Question #3: Do you believe that SB Churches are the only true Churches out there in our world today, as Landmarkists believe that Baptist churches are the only true churches?
Matt: By definition a Southern Baptist church is one that gives money to missions through the Southern Baptist Convention. Giving through the SBC cannot possibly be the measure of a true church as true churches existed long before 1845.
Question #4: Do you think that only SB’s are going to Heaven? that they’re the only ones that are really saved? (This is a misconception that I continue to hear from people concerning the BI fellas)
Robin: That is just simply ridiculous. Salvation is by grace through faith and is lived out among the saints in a local New Testament Church.
Matt: Had the Conservative Resurgence not taken place, I probably would not be a Southern Baptist today, but I would still be a Christian. Salvation is determined by grace through faith and not by any organization of man.
David: I have to agree with Robin that it’s absolutely ridiculous that we’d even have to respond to this kind of a question, yet I keep hearing it from people. My answer is “NO.”
Question #5: What baptisms would you accept? In other words, what would be the bare, basic things that would have to be true before you would consider it a true baptism? that you would accept without asking the person to be baptised? (Landmarkists would accept only Baptist baptisms; baptisms done by another Baptist church)
Robin: Baptism by a local church, by immersion, as a symbolic representation of union to Christ, death to sin, and resurrection to eternal life, “never to die again.” Romans 6:3-11
Matt: A member of our church must be baptized by immersion after conversion by a church whose baptism is an ordinance of symbolism and obedience to our Lord’s command and not a means of grace.
Wes: I agree with the Baptist Faith and Message, which defines scriptural baptism as “the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the beliefer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus.” The BF&M also identifies baptism as a church ordinance. So as long as someone’s baptismal experience fits this definition, and took place under the authority of a local church, then I believe it to be biblical and would encourage my church to accept it as such.
David: I agree with the Baptist Faith and Message, as well.
So, hopefully this will clear things up just a little bit about who these “BI” guys are, and what they really believe. Maybe? I hope so.
I would like to thank SBCToday for allowing me to guest blog on the topic of Church Covenants. I miss the daily interaction and fellowship with these guys so allowing me to post is a tremendous blessing. The piece below is actually part of an article I will include in a church newsletter. Whether you agree or disagree, I hope that you all are in some way blessed after reading it.
What is a church covenant? A church covenant is a commitment to God among fellow brothers and sisters as to how they will conduct themselves under the Lordship of Christ in their mutual relationship as fellow members of a New Testament church. Baptist churches have used covenants since their beginning. As one Baptist historian stated, “[Baptists] have written and used hundreds and perhaps thousands of church covenants” (Charles Deweese). But why were church covenants used by our Baptist forefathers and are seldom used today?
In our day and age of ecumenical awareness and knocking down the walls of denominations, are baptisms important to people anymore? to Churches? With all of the people saying that they would accept any ole kind of baptism, whether it be sprinkling, pouring, or whatever, is it important about the kind of baptism you have? With some people in Southern Baptist Churches saying that they would accept any baptism, as long as the person was saved, and the baptism was by immersion, is it important who does the baptizing? I mean, if momma’s can baptise their children in the backyard mudhole after they lead little Johnny, or Susie, to the Lord; and it be acceptable to a SB Church; does that not scream some things loudly about that Churches view of baptism? So, do baptisms matter anymore? Are people even concerned with a doctrine and practice that seems to be a very important one as you’re reading the NT.
I really believe that part of the problem today, which some people and some Churches have in some areas of ecclesiology, is that they have a John Wayne, rugged individualist, “I did it my way” mentality. And, this mentality rubs off on their view about baptism, and really, about the Church in general. And, we see this in the thinking of people when they say things like, “I ‘m satisfied with my baptism, so I don’t want to get baptised by a Baptist Church. I want to join your Church without being baptised again.” We see this kind of thinking when Pastors say things to the effect that it doesn’t matter if a new convert is baptised by an individual person in a hot tub, or if they’re baptised with the Churches presence and by the Churches blessing. It doesn’t matter to them that the Church is not involved in the baptism. Why? because it’s an individual thing, rather than a Church thing. In their view, it is a personal thing that happens outside of the Church.
You know, when you look in the Bible, baptism is a group thing; not a “lone Cowboy on the range, riding in the sunset as the coyotes howl” thing. The Lord set up the Church to be a fellowship of Believers. The Church is supposed to be where people are baptised, and taught the Word of God, and discipled, and encouraged. The Church is supposed to always be a group of Believers, who are seeking the Lord together. So, why would baptism not be a Church ordinance? Why would baptism be something that an individual could just do…out there… somewhere….apart from the Body? Why would the Church today let Western philosophy turn baptism into an individuals own personal possession, rather than something that the Church does and participates in? Could it be for convenients sake? Could it be to get more members in their Church, because they know that some people will not join their Church if they have to have a proper baptism? Could it a real reluctance to deal with controversy on the part of a Pastor? Could it be ignorance of the Bible? Could it be the desire to “fit in” with the greater, evangelical group out there? To accepted by the “cool group?” What do you think?
Well, baptism is supposed to be a testimony of the person’s conversion. Baptism is supposed to declare a message, the Gospel, to the people watching it. Baptism is supposed to be a symbollic picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. Baptism is a picture of the blood of Jesus washing away the guilt and punishment of our sins. Baptism is supposed to be a way of formally accepting a new born baby in Christ into the Church. So, why would people even think that it’s something that’s an indvidual thing? Why would they even want baptism to be an individual ordinance, rather than a church ordinance?
Folks, baptism is a time to celebrate the new birth. Baptism is a time to rejoice in the salvation of a person. Baptism is a very special thing, and it’s something that all the Church should have the privilege to participate in. Baptism is a time for the entire Church to join with the baptismal candidate in this wonderful ordinance given to the Church by the Lord Jesus. How much would be lost and missed if everyone was just out there baptising people in their own, private hot tub, or swimming pool, or local swimming hole in the creek? I think a lot would be missed. We would be missing much of what the Lord intended to do in the life of a Church, if the Church is not allowed to participate in the baptism of new converts.
So, who should get baptised? Of course, those people who get saved by grace thru faith. Acts 2:41. Acts 10:44-48. Acts 16:30-34. How should they be baptised? By immersion. Matthew 3:13-17…Jesus came up straightway out of the water. The very word for “baptise” in the Greek means to dip under, to immerse. So, if you want to do it right, the way the Bible clearly teaches, then it must be a dipping under; an immersion. What should baptism be about? It should be a declaration to the community that a person has been saved. It should be a testimony that the person has truly, sincerely put their faith in Jesus, and they’re willing to obey Him as their Lord. Who should baptise? The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Great Commission was given to the Church. Matthew 18:20. The beginning of the Church was standing before the Lord Jesus that day. The Apostles were standing there, who were commissioned to preach the Gospel to the world, and baptise the new converts, and disciple them. They were the men that God used to get the Church that the Lord Jesus founded going. The Church should be the one who baptises new converts, so that they are involved with a Church family; to be nurtured in the faith; encouraged; taught; loved; affirmed; accepted; challenged; inspired; and given much needed guidance. The Church is the one, who was given this task by the Lord Jesus, it’s Head.
So, what a Church believes about salvation and baptism does matter. Who is doing the baptising does matter. It says a lot about a person’s beliefs. I mean, if you get baptised in the Church of Christ, then you are identifying with their view of baptismal regeneration and works salvation. If you get baptised by a Mormon Church, then you are saying that you agree with them about works salvation, denying the Trinity, denying the atoning death of the Lord Jesus. If you get baptised by an Assembly of God Church, then you’re agreeing with them that salvation is not an eternal work of God; that it’s something that can be lost. If you get baptised in the Methodist Church, sprinkled on top of the head, then you were not properly baptised by immersion. And, these are not true baptisms. Now, I’m not saying that these people aren’t saved. They most certainly could be saved. But, their baptism is not a valid, proper, true baptism. They should be baptised for the right reasons, and in the right way.
Now, please don’t come into the comment section calling me a Landmark Baptist. lol. I don’t believe that Baptist Churches are the only true Churches, or that we can trace our lineage back to Jesus, or that SB’s are the only ones who can baptise. Puulease. Listen, if Muddy Creek Community Church believes like we do about salvation and baptism, then we should accept their baptism as a true baptism. If Possum Ridge Bible Church believes as we do about salvation and baptism, then I believe they have a true baptism. So, please don’t come in here with all the Landmark comments. I really don’t have the time, nor the energy to deal with that malarky. But, I do believe that baptism is important. And, it should be done right, and for the right reasons. And, I most certainly believe that it should be a Church thing.