Landmark ecclesiology "inconsistency"

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by rlvaughn, Jan 16, 2006.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    In this thread I would like to investigate what I've long thought was an inconsistency in Landmark ecclesiology. Now you may think there is a lot of them (or maybe that there aren't any). But I'd like to stick to this point. It is partly historical and partly theological, but I think those who regularly post in this forum will have the most interest in it and possibly the most knowledge of it (and since Landmark discussions are already stirring). That's why I'm posting in the Baptist History forum. rsr, if you think it should be moved, please do so.

    That inconsistency is this: Landmark ecclesiology fervently promotes the independence and autonomy of the local church. Yet the common practice among Landmarkers, when a church independently and autonomously chooses to support a "different" mission program, a "different" educational program, etc., is to start separating from one another and drawing lines of fellowship. Why is this? Therefore if an independent autonomous Landmark church sends messengers to the ABA, it can't fellowship with a Landmark church in the BMAA, which can't fellowship with a Landmark church in the SBC, which can't fellowship with an independent Landmark church, and so on forever. Is this consistent with the teaching, or inconsistent with it?

    I first noticed this in the ABA. Back then over half of the churches in the association did not support missions through the Sec-Treasurer's office. The rest did mission work through the office. All the churches were in fine fellowship (theoretically at least) with one another. But on the other hand, many wouldn't fellowship independent churches that believed just like they did, supported missions direct just like they did, but were not members of the association. I think this has been pretty much true of us historically. Is this consistent?

    Does this make sense? I'm typing this hurriedly trying to finish and meet my parents for dinner (lunch to some of you). I'm check back later, and try to offer clarifications if needed. Thanks.
     
  2. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Brother Vaughn,

    I agree.

    Another issue that relates to this is the matter of "alien immersion". Just how "alien" does an immersion have to be before we reject it. We had a discussion about this recently on the Topica forum. You can view it at ABA Topica Forum

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  3. rsr

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    I really don't see any inconsistency, Robert. Each church is autonomous and free to choose with whom it will associate and can draw those boundaries as narrow or as wide as it wishes. That is the nature of the beast.

    The New Testament has many instructions on proper doctrine, which sometimes encourage divisions (at least from a carnal viewpoint), but it also stresses the unity of the faith.

    "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

    We Baptists have tried to find the right balance between emphasizing correct doctrine and fostering unity and have come up with different methods. Which is correct? I don't know and don't expect to know in this lifetime.
     
  4. rlvaughn

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    Let me add this. I failed to make this point explicitly in the first post. When I discuss this as an inconsistency, I have in mind not an internal inconistency within the ecclesiological system itself, but an inconsistency between the doctrine/belief and actual practice.

    Stephen, I agree that each church is free to choose with whom it will associate and "can draw those boundaries as narrow or as wide as it wishes", though I would argue that this drawing of boundaries is sometimes without any scriptural reason -- therefore the church is free in the sense that no other church/body can tell her what to do, but wrong in the sense she must answer to her head, Jesus Christ.

    But let me go a little further, using a real life illustration, with the names changed to "protect the innocent". This question may be too far removed from the situations of some of you have experienced.

    XX Baptist Church in Anytown, USA affiliates with the American Baptist Association. She believes the fundamentals of the faith -- creation, inspiration, Trinity, salvation by grace, etc. -- and holds Landmark ecclesiology. She rejects alien baptism and pulpit affiliation, while holding church perpetuity and closed communion. She sends her mission funds directly to the missionary on the field. YY Baptist Church, only twenty miles down the road, does not affiliate with any association. She believes the fundamentals of the faith -- creation, inspiration, Trinity, salvation by grace, etc. -- and holds Landmark ecclesiology. She rejects alien baptism and pulpit affiliation, while holding church perpetuity and closed communion. She sends her mission funds directly to the missionary on the field. XX Baptist Church will not fellowship with YY Baptist Church BECAUSE YY Baptist Church is not affiliated with the American Baptist Association (not because of anything she believes or doesn't believe). She will not allow YY's preachers into her pulpit, will not sit on presbytery's with YY, and she will not visit her meetings or engage in any kind of correspondence. Since XX Baptist Church doesn't believe one must be a member of the American Baptist Association to be a scriptural church, she will accept YY's baptisms, but any other contact is taboo. What is there in Landmark ecclesiology, or common sense for that matter, that would cause XX BC to disfellowship YY BC? Nothing. Yes XX BC is free to not have anything to do with YY, but why should she choose such a course? I can see no reason, and this is what I think is inconsistent with Landmark ecclesiology. If each church is independent and autonomous, why not judge YY Baptist Church on her own merits as an independent and autonomous church instead of judging her on the association of which she is or is not a member?
     
  5. rlvaughn

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    Bro. Osgatharp, thanks for the link. I have found "Petitioning - the next level - Biblically" and think that may be one of the ones to which you refer. I can't figure out how to get around too well there, though. Is there a simple to navigate to the original post? Thanks.
     
  6. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Brother Vaughn,

    While I think that the ABA churches have sometimes been too narrow in their fellowship, I will say that I understand the caution, especially when it comes to fellowship with SBC churches.

    Suppose Gum Stump Convention Baptist church in Booger Hollow makes a good sounding profession of Baptist faith and polity. And yet Gum Stump receives letters and sits in associational fellowship with Snob Hill University Baptist Church in Metropolis, who's pastor, a teacher in the Modernist Baptist University, is known to be an infidel. Gum Stump also regularly sends money to the cooperative program which funds Modernist Baptist University.

    I can understand why Booger Hollow First Landmark Missionary Baptist Church (American Baptist Association) has some apprehension about taking baptisms and exchanging pulpits with Gum Stump Convention Baptist Church; because by fellowshiping with Snob Hill church, Gum Stump has sullied her profession. As it is written,

    "He that biddeth him godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds."

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  7. rsr

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    I would agree that sometimes the drawing of boundaries is without any scriptural reason — but I suggest that the boundaries are very wide scripturally and do not offer a very practical basis for deciding such things.

    Exactly where, according to Scripture, do we draw the line for fellowship? Is it among only Baptists of like faith and order (whatever that is)? What about the Evangelical Free Church? The Church of the Brethren? If someone quotes Bonhoeffer, is he to be shunned? What if he quotes Pat Robertson? Or Billy Graham? Or Wesley? Or John Gill? The list goes on.

    I have my own opinions about where to draw the line (as expressed in my previous post, I think unity is predominant, though not exclusive, because otherwise I would not contend for the Baptists) but I think you would have a hard time trying to prove from Scripture the exact demarcation that should be observed.
     
  8. rlvaughn

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    I don't think any two Baptists will ever agree exactly where to draw the line of fellowship. But what I see as inconsistent is when we draw the line at not being a member of OUR association, everything else being equal. I really don't even have a problem with being suspicious, as Mark mentions in his post above. If they're not part of our group, do they really believe like we do? That's a legitimate question, I think. But once we've investigated the suspicions, seen that they are unfounded and the church clearly believes like we do, and still won't fellowship with the church, we have elevated association membership above local church autonomy and independence.

    I'm not even considering anything as broad as deciding on Evangelical Free Church, the Church of the Brethren, or something like that. And I'm not even talking about the differences as much as between ABA & SBC. The particular real life situation I have seen a number of times is of two Direct Mission Landmark Missionary Baptist, etc., etc., just about down to the dotting of i's and crossing of t's, EXCEPT for one being in an association and the other not.

    While I think it is admirable of any church to try to remain "pure", I think there is also the other side of trying not to "despise the church of God" that God has not despised.

    [ January 16, 2006, 09:36 PM: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  9. Mark Osgatharp

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    I concluded a long time ago that if it is OK to fellowship with a church it is a sin not to. Frankly, I wish we could go back to the days (I'm talking over 200 years ago) when the primary inter-church fellowship was within the local assocation. I think most, if not all, attempts to create a larger formal fellowship than local have served only to divide the churches, because the attitude almost invariably arises that "if you don't join our efforts you are anti."

    By the way, Conventionists are just as guilty of this as are ABAers. I have a cousin who is a life long Southern Baptist and she frankly observed that the Southern Baptists don't care if someone is saved unless they can get the credit for it (which admittedly may be an exaggeration, but that is the impression with which she was left). I also recently had the pastor of a large SBC church tell me that they didn't exchange letters with anyone but Southern Baptists.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  10. Paul of Eugene

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    Yes but did they take people on statement without the exchange of letters?
     

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