John T. Christian's Shameful Treatment

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by Mark Osgatharp, Sep 16, 2003.

  1. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    This BIBLIOGRAPHY on the subject of "THE ENGLISH SEPARATIST DESCENT THEORY IN
    BAPTIST HISTORIOGRAPHY" is a classic example of the sort of shameful treatment to which the work of John T. Christian has been subjected.

    You will notice that Whitsitt's book advocating the theory that Baptists recovered immersion in 1641 is listed in the "primary sources" as well as Torbet and Vedder's general Baptist histories.

    And yet Christian's most important works, his two volume "History of the Baptists", "Baptist History Vindicated", and "Did They Dip?" are relegated to the dung heap of "secondary sources."

    Torbet's work devotes 43 pages to the subject of English Baptist origins, very little of which deals with primary documentation. He basically parrots what Whitsitt and others previoulsy wrote.

    The same is true of Vedder, who devotes 12 pages to the subject, confidently asserting the 17th century origin of English Baptists and yet giving very little documentation in defence of his position.

    By contrast, Christian wrote two whole books on this subject: "Baptist History Vindicated" which is 221 pages, and "Did They Dip?" which is 231 pages. These books consitute a thorough refutation of the historical theories of Whitsitt. Moreover, he devoted four chapter in his general history, a total of 111 pages, to the subject.

    All of his writing displays complete familiarity with the original sources and he even provides sources that, to my knowledge, are not found in any of the other histories. But for all of this he is relegated to the second class status of a "secondary source."

    On top of all that, this bibliography even lists George Loftons "Defense of the Jessey Records and Kiffin Manuscript with a Review of Dr. John T. Christian's Work Entitled: 'Baptist History Vindicated.'" as a primary source while "Baptist History Vindicated" itself is a secondary source. My goodness, you'd think that if a refutation of Christians book warranted a classification as "primary" that the book being refuted would warrant the same!

    It's almost as if the compiler of this bibliography thinks that "primary" means "well accepted" and "secondary" means "not worthy of consideration." That is just how the Restorationist historians have swept Christian under the rug for the past 100+ years.

    I say it's time that Christian be given a fair hearing.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  2. rlvaughn

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    Brother Mark, I agree that John Christian has received shameful treatment. Some will speak highly and nicely of him and his scholarship in general terms, and then vilify him when they begin to speak of history. BUT I think if you will check out why Bryan is writing the article, you will see why those certain ones are primary sources for his purposes. Bryan does not hold the English Separatist Descent viewpoint and is investigating and critiquing it. Therefore his primary sources will be those who hold that view. Since Christian did not, he will not be a primary source in that case.
    A CRITIQUE OF THE ENGLISH SEPARATIST DESCENT THEORY
     
  3. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Brother Vaughn,

    Duh, I feel so stupid!!!! [​IMG]

    I found the bibliography on a search and was unable to access the document itself. I was under the mistaken impression that he was advocating the English Separatist viewpoint.

    What can I say. I made a grevious error. I repent in sackcloth and ashes. [​IMG]

    I have read enough Restorationist history to know that Christian has been shamefully disregarded by 20th century Baptist historians. Apparently Mr. Bryan is seeking to correct this problem. My apologies to him.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  4. rlvaughn

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    IMO, it's a pretty good article overall, and Mr. Bryan deals understandingly in the end that ALL church history advocates have some theological presuppositions that may hinder their historical objectivity. He also concludes that the English Separatist model is not the only model that could account for known facts - something that most modern historians seem to be unwillingly to acknowledge.
     
  5. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Brother Vaughn,

    Unfortunately even many successionists go to history with the desire to make it say what they want to say. I once made the statement in a Bible conference that Tertullian was a rank "Campbellite" - meaning that he believed in baptismal regeneration. One of the brothers in the conference was visibly upset at my statement.

    He came to me later and explained the reason. He had been called in question about the scripturality of the church he pastored. In defence of his church he had written a booklet documenting it's history back to Christ and traced that history through some church purported to have been pastored by Tertullian.

    My response to him was that, even if his church's history did go back through some church pastored by Tertullian, then his church had a church in it's genealogy that was pastored by a man who believed in baptismal regeneration.

    I have no doubt that when the Lord opens the annals of history we will find that many who were claimed as our "forefathers" in the faith will be found to have been nothing of the sort. Neither do I doubt that we will find out about a whole lot of folks who the history books never mentioned.

    And whatever else will be revealed in that day, there is no doubt there will be revealed a continual succession of churches from the days of Christ till the end - a "Trail of Blood" if you will. May God grant us grace that we may be a faithful and true part of that holy heritage.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  6. Kiffin

    Kiffin
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    It has been shown conclusively that the Anabaptists did Dip BUT it has also been shown conclusively that they poured from primary sources from the Anabaptist confessions and from their own histories. I think the reason "Did They Dip?" is relegated to the dung heap of "secondary sources is that primary sources such as RIDEMANN'S RECHENSCHAFT, 1540

    The Swiss Brethern we know for a fact poured when Conrad Grebel baptized George Blaurock with the birth of the Swiss Brethern and is testified too by primary sources not secondary sources. It could be Dr. Christian lacked the resources to know those facts, but the Anabaptists DID DIP but their main concern was Believer's Baptism and not the mode. There is no shameful treatment of Christian, He has been shown to be wrong and Dr. Estep's The Anabaptist Story (The best short history of Anabaptism) quotes primary sources of the Anabaptists that gives us greater insight on them than Christian.
     
  7. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Kiffin,

    First of all, let me ask you this? Have you read Christian's writings? If you have, you would know that:

    a. He used the primary sources as much as any other writer.

    b. He readily acknoweldges that some Anabaptists did not practice immersion.

    Christian's contention is not that no Anabaptists practiced pouring for baptism. He was too good of a historian to attempt to prove such a universal negative; unlike Whitsitt who claims to have proven that immersion was a "lost art" before being recovered by the English Baptists in 1641. He was also too familiar with the fact to fail to be aware that there were Anabaptists who did practice pouring for baptism.

    Christian's contention is that immersion was the predominant practice among the Anabaptists and that it was, so far as the record shows, the universal practice of the English Anabaptists. Anyone who has studied his writings knows he has made his case and that on primary sources.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  8. Kiffin

    Kiffin
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    Mark, His contention might be right (And I emphasize MIGHT) if "predominant" means it was the main way plus they also sprinkled, poured along with immersion. There is no doubt they immersed BUT that they also sprinkled, poured is true. If his contention is that "predominant" was the only practice then he is wrong. We know for a fact that it wasn't among the Swiss brethern who were probably the most orthodox of all the Anabaptists.

    Dr. Whitsitt stated, "But none of the Anabaptists of Holland, or of the adjacent sections of Germany, were immersionists. So far as any account of them has come to light, they were uniformly in the practice of pouring or sprinkling for baptism, excepting the Collegiants, who, at Rhynsburg, began to immerse in 1620"

    Dr. Whitsitt probably meant "strictly" immersionists.

    We know there are accounts of immersion practiced among the Anabaptists but Dr. Christian is not trying to say "that immersion was the predominant practice among the Anabaptists " He is trying to say that it was the only practice among the TRUE Anabaptists and those that sprinkled, poured along with immersion were not true Anabaptists. That leaves the Swiss Brethern as FALSE Anabaptists. Dr. Christian is clear on this when in DID THEY DIP? he states, All who were called Anabaptists were not Anabaptists. He is correct but the motive behind his statement is that only those who immersed were Anabaptists.

    Dr. Christian dismisses the Moravian chronicle's account of the birth of Anabaptists (which declares the Swiss Brethern were practicing affusion) as written by "an enemy". He is the only historian I know that questions the authentic nature of this document. One wonders why a enemy would write a sympathetic history. :rolleyes: He also dismisses the Kiffin manuscript. The Kiffin manuscript is a highly debated document but Christian dismisses it. He stated that, The Kiffin Manuscript has been discredited by Baptist authors. That is certaintly not true. There is much debate over the Kiffin Manuscript over such things as the date and translation of it. Crosby the most prominent of the early Baptist historians did not dismiss it though he may have had a incorrect version of it and later Torbet, Vedder, McBeth and Estep do not dismiss it. That is because careful historians are seeking the truth rather pushing a agenda in their book and want to do more research to determine the validity of a manuscript. Dr. Christian dismisses things that disagree with his view of Baptist history and the majority of Church historians be they Baptist or Mennonite disagree with him. This is the achilles hill of Landmark Baptist history...it relies too much on one historian and we do not even know the context or validity of some of Dr. Christian's sources he refers too.
     
  9. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Speaking for myself only, this is the kind of shameful treatment that I had in mind in my first post. The implication is that "Torbet, Vedder, McBeth and Estep" were/are careful historians and Christian was not, and that Christian had an agenda and "Torbet, Vedder, McBeth and Estep" did/do not. Did Christian make mistakes? I'm sure of it. Were some caused by his presuppositions? I have no doubt. But to imply that "Torbet, Vedder, McBeth and Estep" are so careful as to totally detach themselves from their presuppositions is too much to believe.
    I don't think predominant ever means "only." It usually means "most frequent" or "most common."
     
  10. imported_J.R. Graves

    imported_J.R. Graves
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    Kiffin,

    Remember that Torbet, Vedder, McBeth, and Estep do not even agree with each other. Vedder (Who was a liberal who did not believe in the atonment) was very open to the idea of a perpeturity of doctrinal principles. And Estep (like yourself) held strongly to Anabaptist kinship, strongly affirming the Anabaptists in a day when many Baptist historians were denying any contection to them at all. Interestingly enough a few months ago I talked to a preacher who had meet with Dr. Estep shortly before he died. This preacher told me that Estep told him (off the record of course) that J.R. Graves had did more good for the Southern Baptist Convention than any one else in the 19th century.

    As to Christian's opinion of the Morvarian Chronicle, it is true that I have not read anyone else doubting this, but few historians deal with it in any detail. It needs to be studied more. But it is interesting to note that just a few days after this so-called baptism in the house, (every historian admits) that Grebel immerised a man in a river.

    Just a few thoughts,
     
  11. Kiffin

    Kiffin
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    Bro rlvaughn, I am not saying that Torbet, Vedder, McBeth and Estep were unbiased. I am not sure that is possible for any historian. They however in their books do not come across as pushing an agenda. They of course all have errors but John Christian writes from an Apologetic tone. That is he is trying to prove Baptist Successionism. I am always suspicious of any history that has a apologetic tone in it (including by the way Chris Traffanstedt's,
    English Separatists view, A Primer on Baptist History-The True Baptist Trail which has a Reformed Baptist apologetic tone.)


    It is true that Estep and Vedder were defenders of the Anabaptist kinship view and Torbet seems to have a combo of the English Separatist and Anabaptist kinship view while McBeth espouses the English Separatist view but unlike Christian the tone of their books are not Apologetic. Christian dismisses documents that disagree with him on Baptist origins. That does not mean that his History is irrelevant (Like the Trail of Blood). One can learn from his books.


    Hi again JR. Been a long time. [​IMG] I agree that these fellas were not in total agreement though on Baptist origins they were in BASIC agreement. Vedder, Estep would have held a greater influence of the Anabaptists on the early English Separatists than Torbet, McBeth. Yes, Vedder was liberal but his history does not seem to be colored with that bias. I have no problem teaching a perpeturity of doctrinal principles. I think that is true. Certaintly there are similar Baptist principles in the Anabaptists, Waldenses and even possibly the Albigences (Though there seems to be contradictory histories from both sides). Certaintly a perpeturity of doctrinal principles can be traced though it does nothing to bolster the view that Baptists are the True New Testament Church in exclusion of all others.

    I agree. The English Separatist advocates have written their own propaganda manuals such as A Primer on Baptist History - The Real Baptist Trail which trashes the Anabaptists and basically makes Baptists out to be Puritans that immerse. Dr. Estep did a great service for Baptists by defending the Anabaptists and reviving the Kinship view.


    Though I disagree with J.R. Graves on most things, I would agree also ....though I think he over corrected.

    I think that is interesting but I believe it shows that the Anabaptists were not as concerned about the mode but Believer's baptism. I think most historians will agree that the Anabaptists did practice immersion. The Morvarian Chronicle I believe has not been shown to be inaccurate and it seems Christian is the only one I know who questions this account. I think there was great diversity among the Anabaptists (Not referring to the heretical ones) on Baptism. Menno Simons seems to always refer to Baptism as immersion but others speak of affusion. If I am not mistaken Immersion in a Anabaptist or Baptist confession does not appear until the 1644 London.
     
  12. R. Charles Blair

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    Great discussion on Christian - more sources than most, lengthy quotes, careful research, ignored because he was "apologetic" - while others
    "making a case" on the other side are quoted and re-quoted. Mark is right on.

    The major thing revealed by all the Anabaptist research is that they, just like Baptists today, were not "organization people." There were local congregations which never heard of one another, had no organic connection, yet were lumped by the state religions as "Anabaptists." In Communist Russia, JW's, LDS, Pentecostals, Church of God, Church of Christ, etc., were all cataloged by the state as "Baptist" because they all immersed adults, contrary to the state religion. But if the promises of Scripture are valid - and Bible-believers must believe that they are, even if that means being called "apologists," - we must look among these despised and rejected folks for our lineage, and even when we do not see it, we affirm that it is there. If all anyone knew about Southern Baptists in the mid-20th century were the writings of Ralph Elliott, Dale Moody, Eric Rust, et al, what would be the conclusion? Yet during that same time John R. Rice referred to Southern Baptists as "the world's largest group of Bible-believers." Since we have no popes, it is impossible to put Baptists today in boxes any more than we can our Anabaptist ancestors! R. Charles Blair - Ro. 8:28
    (Just read the posts on this board as evidence!)
     
  13. rsr

    rsr
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    The off-topic discussion about doctrine has been moved to general discussions.
     

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