Poisoning the Fountains of Truth: Part Four

August 12, 2009

This is part of an article originally published January 1922 in the Southwestern Journal of Theology by Dr. L. R. Scarborough entitled, “Poisoning the Fountains of Truth.” It was republished in the most recent Southwestern Journal of Theology, “Baptists and Unity.” You can find part one here, part two here, and part three here. May a voice of our past speak to us today. Below is part four of a four part series reprinting Dr. Scarborough’s essay:

3. Another way by which the fountains of truth can be poisoned is by a cer-
tain form of inter-denominationalism and unionism. Here lies the great error
in much of the inter-denominationalism and unionism that is broadcast in
the world today. This was the crux of the matter in the heart of Southern
Baptists when they refused to enter into the Inter-Church World Move-
ment, because they believed that it involved a compromise of the truth
that would eventually take the heart out of the fountains of our life in
our churches. When a Baptist preacher seeks to carry his church into the
Inter-Church World Movement, and when he brings into his church an
inter-denominationalism and unionism which violates the ordinances and
the authority of the church, he poisons the fountains of life. This has ap-
peared to me to be one of the weaknesses of some of our brethren in the
North, who are very strong on some of the fundamentals, especially those
in theology, but by their practice of inter-denominationalism commit an
egregious heresy in ecclesiology. A compromise on one phase of the truth
of Jesus Christ will work death in the life of our churches. A spread of this
form of heresy among the churches of our Southern Baptist Convention
would soon bring the same destruction to the witness and power and life
of these churches that it has done in other sections of the world.

Dr. Gambrell said before he died that one of the greatest perils to
the life of the churches of Jesus Christ in recent years and at this time was
the heresy in ecclesiology along the lines of inter-denominationalism and
unionism, and along the lines of alien immersion. And this is the sort of
thing that I have in mind in this article. We must guard the fountains of
life everywhere. I do not believe that any preacher practicing these things
will get very far in the fellowship of Southern Baptists; and the Baptist
church which practices these things will sooner or later cease to be a Bap-
tist church and lose its witness to the truth set forth by Jesus Christ in His
Holy Word.

I urge the brethren everywhere to co-operate in guarding these foun-
tains of truth. For, if our churches go wrong then we will have no remedy
for the correction of error in our schools, mission boards, and other institu-
tions. But so long as the fountains of truth are kept pure and loyal and true
to the Word of God and the authority of Jesus Christ we will be able to
correct false teachings anywhere else.

Reprinted with permission, Southwestern Journal of Theology

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Christiane

Is your post about ‘Landmarkism’ ?

Robin Foster

Christiane,

No. Frankly, it is not my post, but Dr. Scarborough’s. BTW, Dr Scarborough was no Landmarker. He in fact fought against Frank Norris who was a Fundamentalist Landmarker. Dr. O.S. Hawkins chapel sermon at Southwestern gives a little insight into their disagreements (09/03/08).

Christiane

Robin, thank you for the reference.

Ben Stratton

I would consider L.R. Scarborough to have been a Denominational Landmarker / Southern Baptist Landmarker. He did not follow Samuel Hayden, Ben Bogard, or J. Frank Norris when they led their followers out of the Southern Baptist Convention. Yet, as the article “Poisoning the Fountains of Truth” shows, Scarborough was strongly against alien immersion, open communion and ecumentalism. He was believed in the primacy of the local church and in Baptist perpetuity. And Scarborough was not alone in these beliefs. B.H. Carroll, J.B. Gambrell, George Truett, W.T. Conner, H.E. Dana, W.R. White, etc. were all Texas Southern Baptists who held these same doctrinal convictions. So while I’m not sure if Scarborough ever called himself a “landmarker” or not, if the shoe fits…

Chris Johnson

Brother Ben,

He does appear that way….and the men you have mentioned were very complimentary of his witness.

I am attempting to follow his logic,…and trying to make some sense out of this “poisoning” message. So, from that standpoint, it has been helpful to me to hear another mans perspective concerning organizations.

Obviously, this is only a snip-it of what Dr. Scarborough has contributed,….and as a fellow West Texan, I can empathize with the political nature of his articles. Not always in agreement, but I think I understand why he might say these things.

Blessings,
Chris

Robin Foster

Ben

Thanks for the comment. I would have to disagree with your assessment that Scarborough was a Landmarker (denominational or otherwise) and whether those were the sole tenets of Landmarkism at that time period. I also don’t see history remembering Scarborough as a Landmarker. But I will admit that my sight is limited. :-)

Anyways, thanks.

Robin

John Fariss

His comments sound to me as though they were influenced by Landmarkism, whether he is/was considered to have been a Landmarkist or not. That would be consistent with a western or frontier Baptist perspective from the era. Otherwise, his remarks seem quite vague. Maybe if I knew more details about Texas denominational politics and issues during his time, I would understand more, but I don’t. Not knowing more, I suspect most any Baptist, then or now, could agree with the need to keep the “fountains of truth . . . pure and loyal and true to the Word of God and the authority of Jesus Christ.” But the issue always before us is, “What constitutes keeping them pure, and what constitutes poison?” Those tend to be the issues upon which we disagree.

John

Ben Stratton

Robin,

I never meant to inmply that L.R. Scarborough was a Landmarker in the sense of Ben Bogard of Samuel Hayden. But compare his beliefs to that of other Southern Baptist Landmarkers of that period such as B.H. Carroll, J.B. Gambrell, T.T. Eaton, John T. Christian, or W.P. Throgmorton. All those men are admitted landmarkers, yet their ecclesiology is exactly the same as Scarborough’s. On alien immersion, open communion, ecumentalism, the primacy of the local church and Baptist perpetuity, they are all agreed. That is why I consider him a landmarker. And I think if you sent his writings, without his name, to any of our Southern Baptist Seminary professors today and asked if the author was a landmarker 95%+ would immediatly say “yes.”

Tim Rogers

Brother Ben,

Are you basing your assessment on Scarborough Landmarker tendencies on his belief of Baptist perpetuity? If yes, would you agree that his belief in that was based on the reaction Dr. William Whitsitt (3rd president of Southern Baptist Theologocal Seminary – Louisville)received when presenting the view there was no succession back to John the Baptist? I mean Dr. Whitsitt was released for teaching this view. But today we have historical evidence they did not have during Dr. Scarborough’s time that his research is sound. Dr. Whitsitt was released in 1899 and Dr. Scarborough became President of SWBTS in 1915. So that controversy was still very active at the time.

Blessings,
Tim

John Fariss

Tim,

Wait a minute. You said, “Today we have historical evidence they did not have during Dr. Scarborough’s time that his research is sound.” Whose research, Whitsitt’s, Scarborough’s, or whose? Are you saying there is new historical evidence FOR Baptist perpetuity, that Baptist churches have been around since the Upper Room, if not since John the Baptist? I know I have been out of seminary a while, but I missed it if that is what you mean.

John

Ben Stratton

Tim,

L.R. Scarborough did indeed believe in Baptist perpetuity. By this I mean that he believed Baptist churches existed long before 1641 or 1609. Below is a quote that proves this:

“Without boast or pride, but with joy and certainty, Baptists trace their lineage back to an ancient honorable beginning – to the meeting of John the forerunner and Jesus in the holy baptizing scene in the Jordan River. Through the centuries, sometimes by indistinct lines, sometimes by definite groups and mighty doctrines, they profess love for and loyalty to the teachings and principles which Christ gave to the apostolic group and are recorded in the New Testament.” L.R. Scarborough

The above quote is from his booklet “Vital Essentials Worth Preserving and Perpetuating”

While this was after the Whitsitt controversy, multitudes of Southern Baptists (probably even a majority) still believed in Baptist perpetuity. This would have been especially true in Texas and the Southwest.

Tim Rogers

Brother John,

I meant to say that Dr. Whitsitt’s research was sound.

Blessings,
Tim

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