Saturday, February 11, 2006

"Landmarkism" and Today's SBC Church

I made a few comments on some factual inaccuracies in Brother Tim Holmes article Landmarkism and Today's Baptist Church. Apparently it is not admissable to disagree on the "Doctrines of Grace" blog -- or else the comments were too long -- and my comments were deleted. So I am posting them here. The italicized items are Bro. Holmes' words, and the unitalicized items are my response.

"The main reason for the creation of the Southern Baptist Convention was due to an attempted escape of Landmark ideas in the church...The greatest reason for the institution of the Southern Baptist Convention was to move away from Landmark views." I am at a loss to understand the above statement. How could the Southern Baptist Convention, which was organized in 1845, been organized to "escape Landmark ideas in the church"? This is neither consistent with Bro. Holmes' sources nor his own contention that "J. R. Graves, a preacher of that time, is responsible for setting this movement adrift during the 1850s and pressed hard to have the SBC support his views." How could the 1845 organization of the Convention been effected to avoid an ecclesiological viewpoint originating in the 1850s with J.. R. Graves, J. M. Pendleton, A. C. Dayton, et al.?

In another paragraph,
Bro. Holmes builds a scenario of Baptist and Church of Christ churches across the road from one another, when "A dynamic Baptist preacher comes to town telling the people that unless they become Baptists, they will not see heaven." I have seen this raised as a common charge against Landmark Baptists, but I have never seen solid evidence presented that this could be anything more than a irregularity among them.

"The most distinct doctrine of Landmarkism was that 'the terms church and God's kingdom were used synonymously with each other. The Kingdom embraced the first church, and now it embraces all the churches.' For Landmarkers, this meant that the Kingdom of God is made up of the sum total of Baptist churches." On this item, I am just curious. This position is taken definitely and clearly by J. R. Graves in his writings. In my experience in Texas, this is not a common idea held by Landmark Baptists. Perhaps the strong emphasis on autonomy and 'local church only' leveled it out? Did it survive with any strength among Landmarkers? If so, when and where?

"The largest portion of Landmark influence can be found today in the church ordinances on baptism and communion…Restricted communion is still enforced to this day in the majority of SB churches because Landmarkers taught that only the true church could take part in the service." There is and has been quite a bit of debate on the history of "restricted baptism", alien immersion, etc. But I think there is no reason to connect the presence of restricted communion in Southern Baptist churches with Landmarkism. I believe it is relatively easy to historically demonstrate restricted communion to be the standard and major position of Baptists. Except for Free Will and General Baptists, Baptists until recent years have been almost universally in favor of it (Of course, the decline of restricted communion is much less recent in the UK as opposed to the US). If it is a "Landmark" issue, why is it prevalent in groups not associated with Southern Baptists long before the rise of Graves -- Primitive, United, Regular, Old Regular, etc.? (The same could be said concerning baptism). If Graves/Landmarkism made an unique contribution in the area of restricted communion, it would be his "local church only" restriction, which was not common in his day. Before (and still by many) it was restricted to baptized church members of like faith and order rather than only members of the participating church. The fact that many opponents of Landmarkism, such as R. B. C. Howell, were also restricted communionists, is somewhat telling.

"A very interesting find about Author and Pastor James Marion Frost wrote in 1888 The Consistency of Restricted Communion. This pamphlet supported Landmark views of communion, but he was the same person who helped start the SB Sunday School Board, of which Landmarkism opposed from it's beginnings (Biography). It appears that Frost could have been either ignorant of true Landmark views, or simply out to please who ever he was around in the denomination at that time." I believe this statement, besides possibly misrepresenting Frost, shows lack of information on both communion, as noted above, and Baptist history regarding Landmark ecclesiology. A number of Landmark Baptist leaders (e.g. Ben Bogard, J. N. Hall, J.. A. Scarboro, J. T. Moore), especially around the turn of the 20th century, opposed the Southern Baptist boards and methodologies -- believing these practices inconsistent with their ecclesiology. An evidently greater number of Landmark leaders (e.g. B. H. & J. M. Carroll, J. B. Moody, J. B. Gambrell) saw no inconsistency with their ecclesiology and their Convention methods. So I see no reason to single out Frost as "ignorant of true Landmark views".

In discussing the essence of the church, Bro. Holmes writes, "The definition of church loses its meaning and is
no longer an 'assembly' of people of faith, but a building that we go to on Sundays." This seems to imply that is a natural result of Landmarkism. I find it hard to believe that anyone purporting an extensive knowledge of Landmarkism would make such a statement. I have never heard one Landmark-type Baptist equate "the church" with "the building", but have heard the frequently heard them decry such an idea.

Landmarkism is a frequent "whipping-boy" of other Baptists. If one disagrees with this ecclesiology, so be it. But the details of the disagreement need to be correct. I hope this post will further our knowledge of the subject.


Anonymous said...

In Canada, we just don't understand all the divisions of baptists in the USA. Up to 1927, we had the provincial conventions, which dominated, and a few off-shoot baptist churches. We were all fairly equal in our theology and the history of the baptist church.

In 1927, there was a great divide caused by modernism creeping into the baptist university, McMaster. Some churches formed the Regular Baptists and many just went independent. In 1953, the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist CHurches in Canada was formed and many independents joined this fellowship.

Whilst the term Landmarkism was not used, we mostly believed that the baptist church (or churches that held similar viewpoints) existed from the early New Testament church. This was common church history teaching.

In fact, I had two professors of the landmark persuasion, Dr. C.D. Cole of Kentucky and Dr. J.B. Fletcher of Virginia. We were well schooled in the landmark theology.

Most of our churches celebrated closed communion -for scripturally baptized believers only -

I think you know why I am connected with the Anglican Church to-day, but I remain a baptist in theology, so I am still interested in what happens within the baptist churches. I will, however, never begin to understand the baptist churches in the USA. We are beginning to see some of the confusion as US baptists think they need to evangelize Canada and bring their divisivness into our country. At least our division was over modernism in the church.

I have read about all these divisions in church history books, but still fail to comprehend what they are all about. The divisons seem to be one-man oriented, almost as if they are discipling people to follow a man, rather that THE Man, Christ Jesus.

Thanks anyway.



JLS said...

 "These churches in question act as if Landmark views
are extinct, along with the practices. This kind of ignorance says a great deal
about the maturity or educational level of most of the Baptist churches in this

Statements such as this tend to make me think that the one making the statement
feels greatly superior to the poor, ignorant, unenlightened ones of which he
Where is the  "love, peace, and joy"  of which he spoke?
Sigh, the real problem is bias and pre-conceived notions.
May the LORD help us all to be humbled before HIM and meek, charitable, and
gentle toward our brethren.

RSR said...

I too am at a loss to explain any connection between the formation of the SBC and some effort to avoid Landmarkism.

It's interesting that he quotes McBeth regularly, yet ignores McBeth's recounting of the formation of the SBC — which never once mentions Landmarkism as a factor. The northerners and southerners had no distinct differences of doctrine, except, perhaps on the nature of associational versus societal models of cooperation.

Anonymous said...

Bro. Vaughn,

Several years ago, Bro. Tim Holmes and myself exchanged several e-mails on this subject. I even had the opportunity to meet him last year at the state convention meeting. He is currently serving on staff at a Rick Warren type church in Bowling Green, Kentucky (same town where J.M. Pendleton pastored at) The article is absolutely horrible historically. I am amazed that anyone is still quoting it favorable today.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Ben, I have to agree. I posted on the blog to try to correct some of the "terrible history" and evidently was "censored". I am hoping that it was because they considered the response too long for their blog and not some other reason. I have made some attempt on these blogs to insert some appropriate history, especially since I don't have a dog in the hunt, so to speak. Mostly, I suppose, our history proves we have believed all sorts of different things -- but not some of the things Bro. Holmes asserts.

R. L. Vaughn said...

rsr, when I saw such a snafu -- that the SBC was created to avoid Landmarkism -- I would have rather seen comments on the "Doctrines of Grace" blog correcting the error, rather than the number of "high fives" the article received. He obviously had access to McBeth. He should have read him more closely.

R. L. Vaughn said...

jls, thanks for pointing that out. It isn't always the "Landmark" side that is missing the "love, peace, and joy" is it?

R. L. Vaughn said...

Jim, don't feel bad. In the USA, we don't understand all the divisions of Baptists in the USA!!

The best "sorting out" of Baptists in the USA has been done by Albert W. Wardin. He has two "taxonomy" books -- Baptist Atlas and Baptists around the World -- and is coming out with another book soon. The way he divides and sorts Baptists in the US helps make the most sense of it all, IMO.

I know about C. D. Cole. Tell us more about J. B. Fletcher of Virginia sometime.

P.S. to Ben - you mentioned Bowling Green, where J. M. Pendleton pastored. Though he went north and pastored, he was buried in Bowling Green. I visited his tombstone once while in BG, but I forget the cemetery name.

Anonymous said...

Brother Robert,
I mistakenly gave J.B. Fletcher when it is actually George B. Fletcher. He pastored in Newport News, Virginia, and taught Systematic Theology, Homiletic and New Testament studies. C.D. Cole taught Biblical Theology and related subjects. They were both gifted men and very dedicated to the Lord. This was at the Toronto Baptist Seminary..for me in the fifties. I am not sure when they stopped teaching. Both have gone to be with the Lord now. I value my years under them, and what they taught and demonstrated in life has lasted me throughout my life. As you might already know, Bryan Station Baptist Church in Kentucky published a message by Dr. Cole each issue. Some of the articles were directly from his lectures, especially on the sovereignty of God. I often get teary eyes as I re-read his articles....sweet memories.



R. L. Vaughn said...

On the "Doctrines of Grace" blog, the owner posted the following, "Landmarkism teaches a false gospel. They teach there is no hope outside of a Landmark church." To which I replied, "This simply is not true!" Later ALL the comments were removed from the article.

If one believes Landmarkism is unscriptural, divisive, ignorant or whatever, so be it. But represent it for what it is; let's not spread lies and half-truths. Landmarkism is an ecclesiology (view of the church), not a soteriology (view of salvation). One might find some stray Landmark church that believes in salvation only through their church. Most Missionary Baptists who are Landmark -- whether SBC, ABA, BMA or independent -- teach that salvation is by grace through faith without any mixture of works. Though they deny the terminology "universal church", they do believe in a universal family of God, made up of all believers in Christ, regardless of denominational affiliation.

RSR said...

They have indeed been deleted. I do not follow Landmark ecclesiology, but I do not think it's fair to attribute beliefs to Landmarkers that they do not hold or hold only in small numbers.

"But Landmarkism does not pretend to sit in judgment upon the state of any man’s heart, but upon his ecclesiastical relations only. Refusing to affiliate with them, ministerially and ecclesiastically, is not declaring by our act that we believe their ministers and members are unregenerate, but that they are not members of scriptural Churches. Refusing to invite their ministers to preach for our churches, and to accept their immersions, is no more denying their Christian character than refusing to invite them to our communion table — Baptists know this, and all Pedobaptists ought to know it." — J.R. Graves

R. L. Vaughn said...

rsr, thanks for the Graves quote. Pendleton's "Christian Doctrine" is another good source to debunk the false charge.

I don't have a problem if people in debate try to extend the logical conclusions that might derive from a theological system. But when people make false charges as a matter of fact, they need to be called on it.

To be fair, I would say that the language used by some Landmarkers might also contribute to the problem. But when I've asked folks to point out the Landmarkers that are teaching "church salvation", silence usually answers.

Anonymous said...

Drs. Cole and Fletcher were both landmarkers and solid calvinists. If they believed salvation was only in the landmarkist churches, they sure didn't teach it.

Oh wait, they did pass out that little booklet, The Trail of Blood...does that count?



Chris Price said...

i just tried to share this with the Doc of GRACE crew. we will see if the "extend GRACE" and allow it.

1. The Church had a commission to preach before Pentecost (Matthew 28:19, 20).
a. In this is not true then only twelve people were given this task.
2. The Church baptized people before Pentecost (John 4:1, 2).
a. The baptism is not a Christian ordinance
b. Joh 4:1 Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),
3. The Church had the Lord's Supper before Pentecost (Luke 22:15-20).
4. The Church held an election before Pentecost (Acts 1:15-26).
5. There was a Church roll before Pentecost (Acts 1:15).
a. Act 1:15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said,

6. The words of Jesus, "Tell it unto the Church," were spoken before Pentecost (Matthew 18:17).
a. How could one tell anything to a Church that did not exist!
b. Mat 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
7. There were about 3000 additions to the Church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41).
a. A Church must be established before it can have additions.
b. Act 4:21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.
c. Mission – we extend an arm, plant it, organize a church and then transfer letters to it.
8. Our Lord left his house (Mark 13:34). By inspiration the Apostle Paul identifies "the house of God" as "The Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).
a. Mar 13:34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
b. This shows that the church has been empower to carry out His work and are for Hs doctrines.
9. The first spiritual gift set in the Church was the gift of the apostles (1 Cor. 12:28).
a. The Church had to be in existence before the apostles could be set in it.
b. 1Co 12:28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.

The Scriptures are clear in their testimony that Jesus established his Church personally and left it in the world when He went back to the Father to prepare for us a place in Heaven.

Chris Price said...

since i figured that hey woudl not post my comments ... i thought i would go a little further since they have been spurgeonizing

in the Words of Charles Spurgeon:

"We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther and Calvin were born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel under ground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents. Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existed a Government holding Baptist principles which persecuted others; nor, I believe, any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man..."

Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1861). Volume 7, Page 225.

as well as this ...

Charles Haddon Spurgeon is said to be the most extensively read preacher since the apostles. His books and sermons have been reprinted numerous times both as collections and as individual pieces. Spurgeon (1834-1892) was converted during his teenage years and shortly thereafter began to preach. He was privileged to preach to multitudes both in rented auditoriums and in the meeting houses of his own church in London, England. Under Spurgeon's leadership this congregation built a meeting house known as the Metropolitan Tabernacle which would seat six thousand people. Whereas Mr. Spurgeon was not nearly as conscientious in church polity as we think consistent with Bible principles, he evidences a clear understanding of the origin of Baptist churches.
Before the congregation moved into the Metropolitan Tabernacle, while still meeting at the New Park Street location in 1860, Spurgeon preached these words:

"I am not ashamed of the denomination to which I belong, sprung as we are, direct from the loins of Christ, having never passed through the turbid stream of Romanism, and having an origin apart from all dissent or Protestantism, because we have existed before all other sects..." [9]

During the next year, 1861, after moving to the new Tabernacle, Spurgeon proclaimed:

"We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther or Calvin were born; we never came from the church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the very days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel underground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents." [10]

Later, that same year Spurgeon boldly proclaimed for all the world to hear:

"And now it seems to me, at this day, when any say to us, 'You, as a denomination, what great names can you mention? What fathers can you speak of?' We may reply, 'More than any other under heaven, for we are the old apostolic Church that have never bowed to the yoke of princes yet; we, known among men, in all ages, by various names, such as Donatists, Novatians, [sic] Paulicians, Petrobrussians, Cathari, Arnoldists, Hussites, Waldenses, Lollards, and Anabaptists, have always contended for the purity of the Church, and her distinctness and separation from human government. Our fathers were men inured to hardships, and unused to ease. They present to us, their children, an unbroken line which comes legitimately from the apostles, not through the filth of Rome, not by the manipulations of prelates, but by the Divine life, the Spirit's anointing, the fellowship of the Son in suffering and of the Father in truth." [11]

Such evidence shows that Mr. Spurgeon was not backward about openly and frequently speaking out concerning the history of the people now called Baptists! This writer wishes all Baptist ministers were so forward in this matter!

In 1881, some TWENTY YEARS LATER, Spurgeon was still preaching the same things regarding the origin of Baptists. It is most significant that after twenty years of further study, ministry, and association with both Baptists and others, Mr. Spurgeon still believed in the apostolic origin and perpetuity of Baptist churches. He declared:

"History has hitherto been written by our enemies, who never would have kept a single fact about us upon the record if they could have helped it, and yet it leaks out every now and then that certain poor people called Anabaptists were brought up for condemnation. From the days of Henry II [A.D. 1154-1189] to those of Elizabeth [1558-1603] we hear of certain unhappy heretics who were hated of all men for the truth's sake which was in them. We read of poor men and women, with their garments cut short, turned out into the fields to perish in the cold, and anon of others who were burnt at Newington for the crime of Anabaptism. Long before your Protestants were known of, these horrible Anabaptists, as they were unjustly called, were protesting for the 'one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.'" [12] [Brackets mine: C.A.P.].

[9] C.H. Spurgeon, NEW PARK STREET PULPIT, Vol. 16, 1860, (Pasadena, Texas, Pilgrim Publications, 1973 reprint), p. 66.

[10] C.H. Spurgeon, METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE PULPIT, Vol. 7, 1861 (Pasadena, Texas, Pilgrim Publications, 1973 reprint), p. 225

[11] Spurgeon, ibid., Vol. 7, p. 613.

[12] Spurgeon, ibid., Vol. 27, p. 249.