20th Century Landmarkism in the SBC

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by rlvaughn, Jan 14, 2006.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    In another discussion format, I made the following observation: "20 years ago I would have said there was no real Landmarkism left in the Southern Baptist Convention...Now I theorize that Landmarkism never left the Convention. Rather, in the early 20th century it went into the background in the spirit of cooperation and healing the wounds of the former bitter Landmark controversies. Later it went 'underground' due to repeated assaults from both academia and the liberal camp."

    1. The first theory was based on observation, hearsay, and a survey of Southern Baptists that I conducted in 1991. It was a random sampling of about 55 churches from all over East Texas. The survey was conducted by phone and by mail. One thing that struck me was that those who would receive "alien baptism" were quite vocal. Those who did not accept it never seemed to make a "Landmark" argument for their position. The "Landmark leaning" churches had a range of reasons, and usually would accept anyone baptized in a church with a "Baptist name". One church drew the line at Baptists because they didn't want to have to judge between the other denominations -- in other words, to have to decide, for example, that a baptism by one denomination was OK and a baptism by a different denomination was not. In some cases, churches would receive baptisms from all Baptists, unless they believed in falling from grace. In some cases the pastors had no problem receiving some non-Baptist immersions, but went along with the church's policy. On reflection today, I would say that some of the folks may have been cautious in their answers because they might have been suspicious of how the information would be used.

    2. This first theory began to change with several circumstances. One was meeting Landmark Southern Baptists on the Baptist Board. Another was a few years ago when a resident of this area moved to Kentucky. This person was a member of an ABA church (largest landmark association, I suppose) and sought to join a Kentucky SBC church by letter. They would not accept him and required rebaptism. What a twist, to my mind! So I started to rethink this position.

    3. The new theory developed with the above-named and other information, such as finding out about Dr. Roy Beaman, Mid-America Seminary, etc., and has been further modified to wonder if Landmarkism really even went that far "underground" in the SBC. Perhaps it changed its methods of argument and manner of speech, or perhaps it just wasn't in the forefront to get attention while other controversies were going on? In another place "J.R. Graves" suggested that the Landmarkers became more active in their local churches and local associations, and pulled back somewhat on the national scene. And I think it was he who also pointed out several editors of state denominational newspapers into the 40s and possibly 50s were Landmark in ecclesiology.

    4. So my question is directed mostly to Southern Baptists, but is also to others who have knowledge in this area. What has been the effect and influence of Landmarkism in the Southern Baptist Convention in the 20th century? Has it been subdued and somewhat underground? Has its presence been just as real as ever, with the exception of national recognition? Is it ready for "re-emergence" in the aftermath of the conservative resurgence?

    5. This brings me to one last question. One aspect of the debate on new SBC International Mission Board policy has to do with the administration of baptism. The new policy, according to Wade Burleson's blog, is as follows:

    It seems to me that those opposed to this new policy have heaped upon it the opprobrium "Landmark" and "Landmarkish". Now I don't doubt that the Landmark Southern Baptists agree with this policy, but I do doubt that this arises strictly from Landmark ecclesiology. I feel that the soteriological as opposed to ecclesiological element of the argument may mean that a lot of non-Landmark Southern Baptists hold this position as well. What say ye?

    Note: there is another thread discussing the policy as policy. I hope for discussion related to whether the policy originates from Landmark ecclesiology or not. Thanks.
     
  2. Rhetorician

    Rhetorician
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    Bro. Vaughn,

    I see that my comments about Dr. Beaman were picked up and read. One hardly knows who might read and be influenced by what is written or seen on such media as the BB!?

    I have much to contribute but am concerned my opinion might be castigated as it has been on other threads b/c of my modified LM views or educational experiences. Some are not satisfied for the discussion's sake when others do not say "shiboleth" like they do. They want to be right in a "take no prisioners" kind of way. It never occured to them that maybe, just maybe there was another understanding of the scripture that could be as accurate as theirs?!

    There are those in the ranks who are so rabid, so ultra-conservative, and so "close-minded" when it comes to the LM doctrines; that when you don't cross all of the "theological Ts" and "dot all of the theological Is" like they do, then they label you a heretic or worse.

    It is my understanding that the Gospel is Christ crucified. Some almost look at their understandings of ecclesiology as primary and of the Gospel itself as secondary. And it seems that some even take it to the level of cultic practice and passion.

    I would love to talk to you via pm or email. Please send me either at any opportunity.

    In Christ alone!

    The above comments are not directed at you personally. I have always found you to be Christian gentleman.

    In Christ alone!!
     
  3. GeneMBridges

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    Yes and No.

    There are a couple of things going on.

    1. I have seen a few arguing for this policy in the blog metas. The logic of some, but not all, of the supporters of the policy works something like this:

    First, the new baptism policy/guideline states that a candidate for missionary service must be rebaptized by the sending church if the candidate was originally baptized by a church that did not adhere to the doctrine of eternal security.

    The logic, as I understand it from some of those agreeing to this is something like this. Note, not all defenders of the policies believe this. This is just what I have seen.

    Argument One: Premise. Arminians (and by this, I mean those who can lose their salvation, typing "Arminians" is a lot easier than typing all that) believe you can lose your salvation.

    Ergo, they "must" believe in salvation by works.

    Ergo, if a missionary candidate was baptized in an Arminian church (let's call it Arminian Baptist, Anycity, USA), s/he was not regenerate (salvation by works = false gospel);

    Ergo they need to be rebaptized because, presumably, by joining the church now sending them to the field (FBC, Anycity USA that adheres to Article V of the BFM) and by affirming the BFM Article V personally, they must have been converted at some point after their baptism in Arminian Baptist Church, Anycity, USA).

    Now, in brief, I think this suffers from oversimplification.

    (1) The classic Protestant doctrine of Salvation is twofold: Sola Fide is justified by faith, Sola Gracia saved by grace. Unless you have an antinomian doctrine of eternal security, most Protestants affirm some kind of doctrine of perseverance. In Reformed theology all believers persevere to the end, none are lost; in Arminian theology, not all believers persevere to the end. From the outset, this argument seems to equivocate between justification and salvation (and maybe conversion) as if they are one and the same. They aren't. Any systematic theology text discusses this. Justification is the first phase of salvation.

    (2) The above argument assumes that to believe in conditional perseverance is to repudiate justification by faith. Now, I'm Reformed. Do I find conditional security inconsistent with Sola Fide? Yes and no. If it leads a person to obsess over their salvation and they are motivated to keep it and do works in order to be saved, then that could be construed as inconsistent. On the other hand, I personally find it more inconsistent with Sola Gracia than Sola Fide. Faith connects us to the righteousness of Christ and on this basis we are declared just in God's sight. As long as John Smith's faith is in Christ alone and not himself for his justification, he's been converted. As to his perseverance, the question for me isn't, "Is it necessary to persevere?" but "what lies behind your perseverance?" Is it you, or Sola Gracia? If not the latter, it's the former, but does that affect Sola Fide, which applicable to justification? I don't believe it does, because:

    (3) Apostasy is a definable theological construct. I use RBC Howell's (2nd SBC President) definition: it requires repudiation of evangelical doctrine (the gospel, the person of Christ, etc.); a decline in morals (gradual or severe), and a "loss of spirituality of mind" --understanding spirtual things, apprehension and love of truth, God's Word, the people of God, a sense of conviction of sin, etc, e.g. the inner "psychology" of faith" as opposed to the other two which tend to speak to the outer phenomenology of faith. Backsliding encompasses one or two, but not all three of those dimensions.

    Now, Arminans generally accept that definition of apostasy. There are few, at least in my experience, that believe you can do just "anything" and lose your salvation. My Wesleyan friends and I have discussed this and they agree to that definition of apostasy and agree you have to "go pretty far out" to lose your salvation, so I don't think that the logic of the person using the original argument is very strong, because, while conceptually I agree it is inconsistent, practically, most Arminans aren't obsessing over their salvation any more than the rest of us as far as their security, and my explanation of salvation is conceptually different than the application of that explanation, so the objection seems to turn on a category error. If believing in eternal security is necessary to be validly converted, then it follows that those who do not have assurance are not saved. In Reformed theology, we have first and second order tests for assurance, and both Calvinists and Arminians (I'm referring "5-Pointers" on each here) accept them. See the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confessions and the BFM on those issues. We all agree that God can take away our subjective sense of assurance when we backslide as a means of disciplining us back to Him, not that the person is unregenerate.

    (4) God saves through faith in Christ alone not right doctrine, and I personally would go so far as to say that we believe because we are regenerated. Now regardless of whether one is a synergist or monergist, ultimately, you have to construct an argument, if you're going to argue for the policy on baptism on these grounds, that eternal security is a necessity of justification by faith. That's not an argument the BFM makes, and there a some high profile theologians like John Frame that are quick to point out that even John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb, so if belief in right doctrine is essential for justification, we have a problem. John's disciples later in Acts are converted without having believed in the resurrection. Their acceptance of the resurrection comes as a result of their prior conversion, for they had already believed in Jesus. Now, for the life of me I can't think of anybody not preaching Jesus rose from the dead anyway (this is just an example Frame uses), but the point he makes is that we should be coming along into right doctrine as a result of our justification, viz. through the sanctifying work of God and sound instruction, not vice versa.

    (5) If you make eternal security a soteriological essential, you automatically rule out John Wesley and even a great many of the Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, and that could also be construed as treating faith as a work of sorts, so the logic strikes me as an exercise in mirror-reading where the disputant is mapping his own feelings that one could lack assurance of salvation if he was an Arminian, thus he would obsess over it, then he imputes that to Arminian theology itself and castigates it for failing to measure up.

    Argument Two: Argument One is admittedly a more oblique argument, and not one that know has been made by those on the IMB Board itself. So, even though I critiqued it, it really isn't, to my knowledge, that critical to the discussion, since this doesn't appear to lie behind their decision. The other argument that seems closer to what the IMB is thinking that I've seen is: baptism is a sign of agreement with the doctrine of each particular denomination (e.g. like faith and order), so, while they may have been legitmately baptized in "Arminian Baptist Association or Church USA," and this was valid with respect to their conversion (thus negating the above argument), they must be rebaptized by us because now they are in a church that believes in eternal security.

    Now, this argument is assuming that baptism guarantees the candidate personally adheres to a particular soteriological doctrine and is intended as such. Unlike the above argument, this is closer to a Roman Catholic argument for succession of bishops (simple succession guarantees orthodoxy) and is exactly the argument that Iraneus and Tertullian called the doctrine of the Gnostics, because it assumes that baptism guarantees orthodoxy. It's important to note here that this policy is worded such that they must be rebaptized even if they have stated they personally affirm Article V of the BFM 2000 on eternal security and the church recommending them testifies to that effect. They must still, according to this policy, be rebaptized.

    If that is so, then it would seem that, implicitly, baptism places an indelible mark on the soul or mind of sort or at least a mark. Even those of us affirming the LCBF that believe baptism is a means of grace only affirm Christ is present to the faith of believers in baptism (and the church that witnesses their baptism), not that a mark is placed on the soul or mind or that the person is testifying to adherence to the totality of our systematic thelogy, though they are implicitly adhering to our church covenant (but then so are those we accept without rebaptism from Arminian Church USA, for, in the Reformed churches, we tend to tell them up front that we are Reformed and believe certain things. In my church, so we don't have second class members as they do in the PCA (where you can't be an elder if a credo-baptist Calvinist, you can be a member), precisely because we tell folks that to join with us they should agree to our doctrines. We do not, however, rebaptize them when they join unless they come from a paedobaptist church.

    Also, presumably, if John Smith decided to leave the SBC at some point and rejoin Arminian Baptist Church USA again, it would seem he would need to be rebaptized by them to be validly a member of their church again, so you end up with an argument for multiple baptisms.

    In addition, this argument tends to suffer the death of a thousand equivocations, for if the soteriological doctrine (e.g the doctrine of eternal security per se, not simply "the basics") of the church is the point of contact and identification of John Smith in his baptism, then what if the pastor of the church sending John Smith to the mission field was baptized in Arminian Baptist Church USA himself many years ago and not rebaptized by FBC, Anycity, USA (or a church of like faith and order affirming eternal security)? Would that invalidate John Smith's baptism? Thus, you end up constructing an argument that either makes the church the administrator or the pastor/elder(s) of the church who are required to have been baptized by an administrator of like and faith and order and so on and so on...thus the thousand equivocations if the policy does not include the baptism of the administrator as well...which is true of the IMB policy (it only applies to the missions candidate).

    For the life of me, I know of plenty of people being baptized in the SBC who aren't even regenerate, much less who believe in eternal security anyway. Now, I do think the SBC MUST improve its baptismal standards, because we tend to "dunk 'em" and let them go and our average attendance is something like 1/3 of our membership, but I don't see how baptism is a guarantee that the person being baptized believes in eternal security any more than their being baptized in Arminan Baptist Church guarantees they did not believe in eternal security, because I know folks in Assemblies of God churches that disagree with conditional security, and I know folks in SBC churches that disagree with eternal security, plus I know folks in Wesleyan and Presbyterian churches that request and receive credo-baptism, having been converted as adults and just now joining a church. Thus, ultimately, this argument comes across, to me as more pragmatic than anything else. It no more guarantees orthodoxy than a simple line of succession guaranteed the bishops were orthodox in Iraneus' and Tertullian's day when they argued against the Gnostics on that same matter.

    2. As to those actually writing the policy. A number of these folks were interviewed this past week at the meeting and asked about their rationale for the policies The answers were quite telling:

    a. One trustee said that one of the reasons for why it was important was because the Arkansas Baptist Convention thought it to be important and they give alot of money.

    b. One said that it was more a decision based on the pragmatic "what if" scenarios of missionaries who might sign off on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 but who really disagreed on key points and only signed to get onto the mission field. (Now, for the life of me, I can't see how baptism is going to make you more sure of that, but that's what was said)

    c. A TX trustee said, "I am a landmarkist." "all of Arkansas is Landmark." This trustee was then seen asking another trustee if there was biblical justification for landmarkism, and that trustee quoted Proverbs 22:28.

    d. "We can't have confusion by sending people to the field who have experienced alien baptism." (Again, how is this "confusion" if the person you are sending and the church sending him both tell yuo he believes in eternal security via affirming the BFM 2000 Article V?)

    Now, you all may not wish to believe those reports, and that's fine. However, I know a former trustee and current ones who personal who have assured me that these are true. They have heard these before from other trustees. So, yes, there is an admittedly Landmarkist slant to the new policies coming from the lips of certain trustees themselves.
     
  4. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Thanks for the comments, GeneMBridges. If I understand the points you make about the policies originating from Landmarkism, then Landmarkism is probably much more entrenched in Southern Baptist ecclesiology than many might suppose.

    I think myself to be a fair judge of understanding Landmark ecclesiology and arguments. If so, then I think the proper Landmark way to argue for the rejection of these baptisms performed by churches rejecting eternal security is to say these churches are not true churches. I haven't seen that argument being made distinctly. I don't think very many Southern Baptists really believe that Free Will Baptists aren't saved. I could be wrong. I must also be careful to admit I may not understand Southern Baptist Landmarkism, since I was raised in a different tradition.
     
  5. GeneMBridges

    GeneMBridges
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    I agree. To me, from what I've seen, the argument that Free Will Baptist Church, Anycity USA is not a true church requires that eternal security (at a minimum) be a requirement for a church to be true church. That would, ultimately, require Argument One above. I've not seen that argument being made. Those closer to the trustee decision making process may be able to shed light on that.

    Also, those on the IMB Board pushing these policies are largely from TX and Ark. Here in NC, we don't see much Landmarkism as such, so to most NC Baptists the logic of this is astounding, particularly as Free Will Baptists are rather popular Down East and in the Mountains of NC. Our churches do not, to my knowledge, rebaptize those coming from those churches to us or vice versa. This is important, IMO, because, when first proposed, we were told that this was grounded in what "the majority" of Southern Baptists believe. Now, that may be what a majority of TX Baptists or Ark Baptists believe, but it is not, from what I can tell, what the majority of Southern Baptists believe.
     
  6. imported_J.R. Graves

    imported_J.R. Graves
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    Landmarkism within the SBC varies from state to state. You have to remember the states that Landmarkism flourished in back in the late 1800's. Places like Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas are the same places where you will find Southern Baptists still holding to Landmarkism today. Landmarkism was never really strong in Virginia, or the Carolinas, even back in the nineteenth century, so it doesn't surprise me that those states would be weak on Landmark doctrines today. Landmarkism also flourished in states such as Oklahoma, California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, and Illinois in the early twentieth century as Landmarkers from the previous Landmark states moved to these new states seeking new jobs. Today there is still a Landmark persence in these states.

    Are Landmark Southern Baptist numerous in these Landmark states? Well, yes and no. They are no where near as numerous as they were just a few decades ago. Many of the old Landmark pastors have died off and not many young Landmark pastors have come along. Yet in most Southern Baptist associations in these Landmark states you will find a handful (sometimes a lot more) of pastors that still hold strong to Landmark doctrines. Also in these states you will find many, (often a majority of) Southern Baptist churches that are still Landmark on the ordinances, especially when it comes to alien baptism.

    To show just how greatly Landmark issues vary from state to state, here in Kentucky the General Baptists are quite numerous. General Baptists are similar to the Free Will Baptist in that they believe a Christian can lose their salvation. Here in Kentucky a majority of Southern Baptists churches require an individual coming from a General Baptist Church to be baptized in order to join.

    One last thing to mention is the use of the term "Landmark" or "Landmarkism" among Southern Baptists. There are multitudes of Southern Baptist pastors who hold to most or all of the Landmark doctrines that have never heard of the word "Landmark". I am reminded of a true story of a conversation between an independent Landmark Baptist pastor and a Southern Baptist pastor. The Southern Baptist preacher denied being a "Landmarker", but once the independent Baptist explained it to him, the Southern Baptist pastor said, "That's what I believe".
     
  7. Mark Osgatharp

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    Brother Vaughn,

    When I pastored in Pennsylvania we had a couple in the church who were from Oregon and had been raised among the Southern Baptists. They owned a copy of a rather lengthy history of the Southern Baptists in Oregon.

    The author of that history was pro-Landmark in ecclesiology and pointed out in the beginning of the book what I mentioned in this forum a couple of weeks ago - that "Landmarkism" has often been confounded with "Gospel Missions" and that much of the Southern Baptist opposition to "Landmarkism" was, in reality, opposition to Gospel Missions. He maintained in the book that much of the Southern Baptist work in the Pacific northwest was established on a Landmark ecclesiology.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  8. gb93433

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    That is true of a lot of the old west coast SBC churches.
     
  9. rlvaughn

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    I believe W. P. Throgmorton is usually given a lot of credit for influencing Landmark thought in Illinois.

    This points up that we need to be careful about assessing "Landmark Baptists" only by the name. A few things along that line: When I was doing my independent Landmark Baptist church survey, I had one CA pastor write, "Yes, we believe all those things, but don't want our church identified as Landmark Baptist. You can count us if you'd like, but don't put us on your list." [not an exact quote] In southwest Missouri there are a number of "Old-time Missionary Baptists" that separated from the SBC circa 1950. They will tell you they are not Landmark Baptist. Those they know who revel in the name "Landmark", the "Old-timers" believe have a too loose view of salvation leaning toward easy-believism. Yet they have all the ecclesiologcial traits of Landmarkers. Even here in East Texas where I grew up, I don't remember the BMAA & ABA churches referring to themselves as "Landmark Baptists". We were "Missionary Baptist". I'm sure some of the leaders would have recognized the churches as Landmark Bapist - some of the churches and associations were so named. But I expect it was never common for the average church-goer to think of themselves or possibly even know they were Landmark Baptists. Usually in areas like TX & AR, SBC churches are not called Missionary Baptist, but Southern Baptist.

    This "name thing" is something that complicates the assessment of the extent of Landmarkism, not only among Southern Baptists, but Baptists in general. That's why I came up with a kind of "lowest common denominator" idea for assessing the unaffiliated churches I surveyed.
     
  10. Mark Osgatharp

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    Brother Vaughn,

    I phenomena (which I'm sure you have encountered at some time or another) is the tendency of some within a persecuted group to try and distance themselves from the group lest they, too, suffer persecution. This was the exact reason, as Paul gives in Galatians, for the rise of Judaism in the early churches. He said,

    "As many as desire to make a fair shew on the flesh, they constrain you to be circumsised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ."

    I think it is this same phenomena that has obscured the numbers of Landmark Baptists in this country. The reality is, there are many who are, in fact, Landmark in what they teach about the church, and yet deny that they are Landmarkers because they are unwilling to bear the reproach of the name.

    By the way, liberals are subject to the same duplicity of speech. When the fundamentalists get the upper hand and start putting the squeeze on the modernists, they are suddenly not modernists any more. Therefore, it is really difficult to say just how many modernists there are, or are not, among Baptists.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  11. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    I don't doubt this is one motivation for churches and preachers distancing themselves from the name "Landmark". But I know for a fact that the "Old-time" Missionary Baptists in Missouri had contact with some Baptists who identified themselves as Landmarkers and they thought the Landmarkers were weak and sickly on allowing folks to join the churches without being able to relate an experience of salvation. In such a case it was more about not being identified with something they didn't believe.

    A motivation for Southern Baptist Landmarkers could have been to distance themselves from the Gospel Missioners and others with whom they had separated. Sometimes modern folks (on both sides of the divisions) think of the turn of the century splits in the Arkansas and Texas Conventions as being between Landmarkers and non-Landmarkers, when in reality they were between Landmarkers who disagreed with one another.
     
  12. imported_J.R. Graves

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    Here is one example of Landmarkism among Southern Baptists that many readers on the Baptist Board may not be aware of:

    "In other convention business, a proposed amendment to the ABSC (Arkansas Baptist State Convention) Articles of Incorporation failed to gain a two-thirds majority needed for implementation. The proposal sought to delete a clause which states The Baptist Faith and Message shall not be interpreted to permit alien immersion or open communion.
    Don Nall, pastor of First Baptist Church, Batesville, submitted the proposed amendment. Noting he respects "the right of every Baptist Christian and every Baptist church," Nall added, "My problem is where it says, 'shall not be interpreted.' The very cherished principle that Baptist Christians have had ... is the principle of priesthood of the believer and autonomy of the church and here we have our state telling us how to interpret or not to interpret The Baptist Faith and Message."
    Following debate on the issue, messengers voted 433-232 to approve the proposal, failing by 10 votes to receive the two-thirds needed for adoption." From Baptist Press, November 1998

    This report should not be interpreted to mean that all 433 of these representatives from Arkansas Southern Baptist churches were in favor of alien immersion or open communion. Probably many of them still held to a strict view of the ordinances, but they thought this should not be a test of fellowship in the state convention. Also it needs to be noted that only a small percentage of Southern Baptist pastors in each state (10%-20%) actually attend the state meeting.

    I would like to hear more of you voice your thoughts on the impact and reach of Landmarkism among the Southern Baptist Convention in the 21st century.
     

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