Friday, March 30, 2007

Landmark ecclesiology

Landmarkism is a “logical system” of ecclesiology. It is a theology concerning the doctrine of the church in the same way Calvinism and Arminianism are logical systems of theology concerning salvation. I will give below what I believe to be the main points or basic substance of this ecclesiological system.

About six or seven years ago, I conducted a study to identify/count independent unaffiliated Baptist churches holding Landmark ecclesiology. To do so I had to develop criteria to identify such churches – what might be the essence of being “Landmark”. The three pillars of Landmarkism (A. C. Dayton, J. R. Graves and J. M. Pendleton) were not agreed in all points. For example, Graves held that New Testament use of the word “church/ekklesia” always meant a local congregation. Pendleton thought that in some cases it meant “the church in the aggregate.” I determined the best way to identify a “Landmarker” or church holding Landmark ecclesiology would be to identify the common characteristics of “self-identified” Landmark Baptists from their day to the present. From that I developed what I believed would be the minimum requirements (in combination) it would take to be a “Landmark Baptist church” or “Landmark Baptist”. All might not agree with my method or my conclusion, but I offer the results here for comment.


1. The church is a local autonomous body authorized by Jesus Christ to evangelize, baptise, and teach His disciples.

2. Jesus organized His church during His personal ministry, promised its continued existence, and that church (generically) still exists today.

3. Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water by the authority of a local New Testament church; believers who have been immersed by other denominations must submit to baptism by an authorized administrator.

4. The Lord’s supper is restricted to baptised believers who are walking in orderly church capacity.

This ecclesiology is most often associated with Missionary Baptists, since the name and the systemization of it were associated with Dayton, Graves, Pendleton and others in the Southern Baptist Convention in the mid-1800s. Some who hold the above ecclesiology prefer not to be called Landmarkers. Among some Missionary Baptists it has never attained common usage, though they gladly own all four points listed above. It is debatable whether it is proper to use this term in reference in to others. Nevertheless, other Baptists hold a similar ecclesiology.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, brother, for this succinct and well-stated summary. I think this is both helpful and useful. I believe it is Scriptural. I and our church here do hold to a church communion position, because of the relationship of discipline and the Supper in the Scriptures. I really do think this is well put. Thanks again, and God be with you!

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother LeCrone, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I encourage you to continue to do so, whether you agree or disagree with what is posted. Thanks and God bless.

dr. james willingham said...

Dayton, Graves, and Pendleton might fit the criteria for ignition of Landmarkism, but the ideas were already present among Baptists and had been for, perhaps, as much as 200 years. After all, Roger Williams problem was that he was looking for someone to baptize him, someone with the authority, a key factor in Landmarkism. Much of what is said by Baptists prior to the big three can, and often does, play right into the web or matrix of thought that we now know as Landmarkism. There are roots for the views prior to the Reformation, but they are extremely difficult to establish. I did six years of research in church history and found that the Waldensians in the 1200s had a church in Constantinople and one in Philadelphia, yes, the Philadelphia of Rev.3. I was a landmarker for a few years, but the note on I Cors.12:13 taken in conjunction with I Cors.1:2 blew that out of the water. The only point where the Landmakers have solid ground is the local church's control over the Lord' Supper; they can only exercise discipline over their own members. There is more, but time and other matters do not allow me to get involved to that degree.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother Willingham, thanks for taking the time to read and post. Interesting about the Waldenses in Philadelphia! I'm going to look further into that. Recently posted a brief reference to them HERE. Thanks again.