Landmarkists? Really?

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?

Robin:  No.

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. 

Wes:  No

David:  No

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.

Wes:  No

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.