The Burden Of Proof in the Trail of Blood

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by Mark Osgatharp, Sep 15, 2003.

  1. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Those who oppose the concept of Baptist church perpetuity seem to think that by proving some Baptists originiated in 17th century England they have, thereby, disproved the concept of a "Trail of Blood". May I say that if all that was ever written about about English Baptist history were accepted as truth it would only prove one thing - that the churches about which the writers had historical information were what the historians said they were.

    It would prove nothing about all the events that happened about which the historians have no record. In other words, when a man sets out to disprove Baptist church succession on historical grounds he sets out to do the impossible.

    It is impossible to prove a universal negative; which is to say, it is impossible to prove that Baptists have not had a continued existence since the time of Christ. To do so a man would have to possess infallible omniscience in the realm of human affairs between the days of Christ and the present.

    In 1652 John Spittlehouse wrote a book titled, "A Vindication Of The Continued Succession of the Primitive Church of Jesus Christ (now scandalously termed Anabaptists) from the Apostles unto this present time. In Answer to three following Assertions, Extracted out of the Writings of Mr. John Brain and chiefly out of his book entitled - The Churches going in, and Coming out of the Wilderness [etc]"

    The very title of this book is a refutation of the theory that the English Anabaptists originated in the early 17th century; for a man could hardly make the claim that the Anabaptists had a continued existence from Christ if people were still living who would have been old enough to know better.

    In this book Spittlehouse clearly sets forth the futility of any attempt to disprove the doctrine of church perpetuity on the basis of the absence of historical records. He says,

    "Object[ion]. You will say, Where was there any one visible Society of Saints, which did practise according to the Apostles' Rules and Precepts.

    Answ[er]. The not-appearance of a visible body or Society of Saints to public view of Antichrist, etc. does no more prove, that the true Church had no visible estate in itself, then [sic] the Sun ceases to be a Sun, during the absence of the light thereof; neither is it more to be imagined, that the true Church, during its hidden, or wilderness condition, did desist from practicing according to the Apostle's Rules, and precepts, (so far as the well being of such small societies did require) then [sic] it is to imagine, that there was not two or three saints left living upon the face of the earth, which I suppose you will not affirm."

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  2. Daniel Dunivan

    Daniel Dunivan
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    Mark,

    Kudos! You stated what I have been contending with you from the start. Baptist successionism is a theological presupposition taken to the historical analysis and not a result of such analysis. (Thus I said that Carroll was not a good historian, but masked theology with historical sounding evidence.

    Baptist successionism cannot be disproven, because those who hold to the presupposition do so not on historical grounds (that would be a contradition in terms--if history is even a quasi-scientific discipline) but based on a theological ground they perceive as being undisputable.

    Baptist successionism is logically questionable if for no other reason than it cannot provide any "possible" situation where it could be disproven (deniablity). The burden of proof lies with you my friend, not with the true historian.

    Grace and Peace, Danny [​IMG]
     
  3. Squire Robertsson

    Squire Robertsson
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    On the other hand neither can the those who hold to an EST position prove their position. What we are left with are two opposing models. The question at this point is which one does the evidence secular and sacred fit into.
     
  4. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Though some have, I do not argue that Carroll's booklet "The Trail of Blood" was based on sound history. Christian, however, is quite another story. He does, from an historical perspective, at least cast serious doubt on the Restorationist approach to Baptist history.

    The only burden that lies on me is to prove that the Son of God promised a continual succession of baptized churches till the end of the world. For the man who takes the New Testament as the authoritative guide to the words of Christ, that task is easily accomplished.

    Once Christ's promise of church perpetuity is established, the burden is on the nay-sayers to prove that Christ failed in His promise.

    From the word of God we learn that God created one man, Adam, and that all subsequent men sprang from him. As a man I bear the marks of humanity within myself and therefore am under no obligation to prove my descent from Adam.

    Likewise, a true church of Christ bears it's indenty within itself and is under no obligation to prove it's descent from the church at Jerusalem which is the mother of us all.

    All historical investigation serves only to give us some glimpses into the fulfillment of Christ's promise to His churches. It does not, however, prove or disprove the promise of Christ and is, therefore, no basis upon which to rest our doctrine of ecclesiology.

    I have no doubt that many successionists will feel awful funny when they find that some churches they proclaimed as their forefathers in the faith were, in reality, damnable heretics.

    However, I am just as certain that the Restorationists will be equally dumbfounded when God unfolds the true "Trail of Blood" and they find that it marches through the waters of holy baptism, down the annals of time, and into villages, hamlets, and corners all over the this terrestrial ball,

    "even unto the end of the world."

    Amen.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  5. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    I agree that one cannot prove a negative. However, where the extant historical evidence mitigates against your position, the burden clearly lies on you to adduce evidence of similar weight to refute it otherwise, as I have stated elsewhere, we have mere supposition, speculation and conjecture.

    Over to you!

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  6. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Matt,

    "The extant evidence" does not mitigate against church succession. If every thing for which the Restorationists contend is factual, it proves only what occured in a small number of churches. The largest part of what actually took place in history will remain secret until the day of judgemnt. Therefore, the argument against church succession is, at very best, an argument from silence.

    However, anyone who has closely studied the issue from both sides knowns full well that all for which the Restorationists contend is not accurate. While I would not contend that a church by church history of the successsion can be documented, I would contend that a history of the general movements can.

    Let me ask you a question: have you ever studied John T. Christian's writings; namely, his "History of the Baptists", "Did They Dip?", and "Baptist History Vindicated?" Unless you are the rare person who has access to all the original documents of Baptist/Anabaptist/Waldensian history or unless you are privy to some writings I know nothing about, you are in no position to judge this issue until you have read these writings of Christian.

    I fully understand that a lack of historical evidence does not authorize anyone to speculate about what happened in history and I understand that some successionists have been guilty of doing this. But the Restorationists are equally guilty of gross arrogance in claiming to have proven what did not happen. They are guilty of leaving the impression that they have disproven succession which is an impossible task.

    In other words, the Restorationists are guilty of putting all their stock in a historical record that is human, fallible, distorted, and at very best imcomplete. Written history is simply no basis upon which to rest any of our religious opinions.

    This is where faith comes in. Were there not one shred of histosrical documentation in favor of the the continual succession of baptized churches and did all the available historical documentation seem to militate against it, I would still be obligated to believe in it for one reason and one only; that being that the Son of God said:

    "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

    Do you, Matt, understand the siginficance when the Lord says, "Amen"?

    Until you can prove that by "baptize" the Lord meant "sprinkle babies" or that by "all things whatoseover I have commanded you" He meant "all things whatsoever the Pope, the Metropolitan, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley, or Alexander Campbell commanded you" I will feel perfectly justified in believing that there has existed a continual succession of baptized churches separate and distinct from Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism, from the days of Christ until now.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  7. Kiffin

    Kiffin
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    Spittlehouse is often quoted to try to validate Baptist Successionism. The problem for Baptist successionists is that those who hold to either the English Separatist position on Baptist origins or one who holds to the Anabaptist kinship view can also produce early statements to validate their position.

    John Smyth
    "I deny all succession except in the truth"

    Thomas Helwys
    “No man can ever prove it...cast it away, seeing there is no warrant in God's word to warrant it unto you, that he or they were the first.”

    John Spilsbury
    “There is no succession under the New Testament, but what is spiritually by faith and the Word of God.”

    The "Kiffin" manuscript also seems to support either the English Separatist or Anabaptist kinship view. So just producing a quote of one English Baptist espousing Baptist successionism is not enough in that the other 2 positions can produce statements validating their position.

    Baptist successionists also rely heavily on one historian, John T. Christian and most Baptist history books written by Baptist successionists offer no new research to validate their position but are heavy reliant on Christian. J.M. Carroll's Trail of Blood is a propanganda manual and is not a real history book because of some major errors in it. John T. Christian is the best of the Baptist successionist historians but Landmarkers and successionists seem to ignore Baptist historians like Armitage, Vedder, Torbet, Estep and McBeth who contradict the Baptist successionist view. There is always a danger when one relies on one historian rather than a consensus.

    The best way to judge the true history of Baptists is to look at what the consensus of Church historians and secular historians state and not just one historian. Most Baptist historians hold to either the English Separatist position or the Anabaptist kinship view. I believe these are the 2 most valid views that have serious documentation to prove their position.

    Baptist successionists are generaly zealous on this subject because their view of the Church rises or falls on their view of history. Baptist successionists hold that scripture teaches that Christ promised a visible succession of local churches through the centuries (That is visible succession of baptistic type churches) while Baptist restorationists agree with the Second London Baptist Confession that "The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error;and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan;nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in Him, and make profession of His name"

    Christ always has had a Church that has never ceased to exist but has always had a people of such as believe in Him, and make profession of His name. Both the Anabaptist and later Baptist movement represented attempts to bring the Church more in line with Apostolic Church practice. There is no proof of a type of Apostolic succession of Baptist churches and it seems that sucessionist views are simply imitating the practice of Rome, Eastern Orthodoxy and the Church of England in trying to prove a direct apostolic link that cannot be proven by history.
     
  8. Doubting Thomas

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    You are assuming that "baptized churches" equals "Baptist churches",and you are reading your interpretation of baptism back into the text. Those who disagree with your interpretation of baptism can look to the same Scriptures AND early Christian consensus and can conclude that THEIR group is the Church established by Christ and thus the fullfillment of His promise.
     
  9. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    Kiffin [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Mark, I fully understand the "Amen" - our Lord commanding, nay willing that it be so, through all the generations of His Church. My contention is that the 'Amen' was neither fulfilled through the RCs and Orthodox, nor however through the various groups of Donatists, Paulicians, Bogomils,Cathars etc - His 'Amen' cannot be fulfilled through heretics of any hue - but rather through individuals and groups of faithful Christians who adhered to the NT faith as best they could in doubtless trying and well-nigh impossible circumstances.

    I would say, in contradistinction to you, that it is the successionist viewpoint that is the argument or inference from silence. There are many more source documents showing that the various Landmark groups were heretical in one form or another (usually dualist)than there are showing the contrary (if indeed any such primary documents do exist)

    No, I haven't read Christian, but would like to - do you know where I can get hold of a copy in the UK? However my question about him would be the same - does he use primary sources to back up his assertions?

    In the end, as Danny has said and you have alluded, we are talking theological standpoint here, rather than history. I would like to believe the Trail of Blood is true (even though I have close Catholic relatives!)-it would make my theology a lot less complicated for starters - and I would also like to believe in the legends of King Arthur and the Holy Kingdom as I'm a bit of a incorrigible romantic -but I need evidence, especially when the only evidence I have is contrary to that position.

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  10. Daniel Dunivan

    Daniel Dunivan
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    Yet the Bible is written history (at least in a loose sense) written by human beings. Unless you want to become a Buddist or Hindu, written history is all you have to know who you are and who God is, for God has chosen to disclose Himself through history.. Whether you relize it or not, Mark, you (and Baptists both in the 17th century and today) are a product of a historical situation. Doctrine cannot be discussed without history, which by its very nature is human.

    My point is proven. Your problem is that, as you have stated previously, successionism has a ecclesiological underpinning to it. It is a theological presupposition not history. If it is not justifiable based on the history, then one should seriously consider the alternative: the eccelesiology is flawed.

    Until you can proved that by "baptize" Jesus meant that if you don't immersion you aren't my disciples or that by "all things whatsover I have commanded you" means that "whatsoever Christian, Graves, Carroll, Spurgeon, Bunyan, Criswell, Stanley, Backus, and Osgatharp commanded you" every honest historian and theologian of a variety of religious traditions will continue to be perfectly unimpressed with baptist successionism and justifiably so! Where Christ is, it should not be doubted that there is the Church!

    I would like to lay bare two presuppositions of successionism (or this could be said of much baptist theology).

    </font>
    • Doctrine is the determining mark of the church.</font>
    </font>
    • Doctrine is static and does not dynamically develop/change as it encounters new cultural conditions and conflicts.</font>
    Notice that if the second of these is incorrect, then the first is logically impossible, and historically speaking, the second seems to be false.

    Grace and Peace, Danny [​IMG]
     
  11. Squire Robertsson

    Squire Robertsson
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    Matt with a quick google search I came up with this. It seems to be a digital version of volume one of the hardcover two volume set. I tried amazon both US and UK and came up empty. Bogard Press in Arkansas sells the set. But, that would be better than 30 pounds with shipping and all.

    And yes, Dr. Christian does cite primary sources. But in the line with then current (late 19th cent) practice, he does not cite the geographic location of his sources. (The following example is fictious because I don't have the books in front of me) He cites a Johann Hoopendorfer with page number and/or title of Hoopendorfer's work, but he doesn't say in which library he found the Hoopendorfer's work. This reminds me of reading through Trench or Burgeon and seeing their Latin and Greek footnotes. They problably contain a lot of good information but I am illiterate in those languages unlike my brethren a century or so ago.
    Hope this helps.
     
  12. Jim1999

    Jim1999
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    I base my landmarkist position on the fact that we, as Baptists, are the closest to New testament teaching. Surely there were groups of people who held similar viewpoints down through history. Were they all true to the doctrines I hold. Not likely, given events of history.

    All records of history are subjective. It is MY view of events. I can give a first-hand account of the bombing of London during the Blitz because I was there. It remains my view, however, and I looked at it rather parochially, from East London. Another person, say in North London, might have a different picture, but we are both correct in our recollection. So it is with church history.

    Given that churches in New Testament times held views contrary to our understanding of scripture, I cannot conceive of any perfect churches in the following centuries.

    The Trail of Blood is a good "read". Is it factual? I don't know, and I read it as I would read any book recounting historical events,,,some more accurate than others, but always from a personal persepective.

    I think we tend to get too sticky wicket on this question. As I have said before and often, I am not in love with the name Baptist, but I am in love with what it stood for.

    On the English Baptists, they were so scattered in theology and practice, one is hard pressed to know where they originated, and what doctrines they counted dear.

    There is "historical" evidence that the Welsh Baptists existed long before the English Baptists, and that Welsh Baptist missionaries spread into the midlands, and hence the source of some Baptist Churches in England. These Welsh Baptists were deemed to be the source also of the Primitive Baptists, or some have claimed.

    Interesting read, but is it all that important?

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  13. Squire Robertsson

    Squire Robertsson
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    Matt: Here is the Bogard Press home page. I couldn't paste the acual url to the books here. So, you'll have to click on Bogard Press; then select Church History. Christian's books are on the second page. They are priced at 9.95 USD each (something like 7 pounds) and that price does not include shipping and handleing.
     
  14. Mark Osgatharp

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    If we were speaking strictly of historical documentation, I might tend to agree with you; at least in respect of pre-Reformation history which is, admittedly, very scant.

    However, one of the chief arguments of the Restorationists is that the English Baptists were not a continuation of the Anabaptists. This theory is easily refuted from existing historical records; Christian gives a thorough rebuttal of it in his three important works.

    Let's say this is true. From a historical perspective it means nothing. If they were the ancestors of the Baptists they were the ancestors of the Baptists - no matter how heretical they were.

    But let me make one thing perfectly clear - as a staunch successionist I am not deterred one iota by any historical data. My belief in successionism is based on the Scripture, not on human history.

    History, at very best, only proves what some believed and practiced and the Lord never promised us a historical documentation of His churches; he promised only the fact of their continued existence.

    At worst, history is biased and laden with downright lies. Most all the records about pre-Reformation groups were written by Roman Catholics who wrote from an extremely biased position. Therefore we ought not put too much stock in what they say when they are criticizing the non-Catholic groups. Rather, we should withold judgment till the Lord Himself lays the record bare.

    In the meantime, we are justified, yes, obligated, to believe in the doctrine of church succession simply because the Lord promised it, whether we can document it or not.

    Yes, Christian uses primary sources. I cited two of them in the links I gave. HERE is a link to online versions of Christian's works. This link contains Christian's two volume "History of the Baptists" (the first of which deals with Baptist history up to the colonization of America) as well as the book "Did they Dip?" which disproves the theory that Baptists/Anabaptists before 1641 did not practice immersion.

    I tried to locate an online version of "Baptist History Vindicated" but could not. A little bit of searching might be fruitful. It can be purchased used at "www.Abebooks.com" but is quite expensive.

    You can purchase the two volume "History of the Baptists" new at www.abaptist.org or used at www.abebooks.com

    Mark Osgatharp

    [ September 16, 2003, 07:12 PM: Message edited by: Mark Osgatharp ]
     
  15. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Of course it is. But there is a vast chasm between Biblical history and strictly human history. Biblical history is perfect. Human history is flawed by error, bias, deceit, and paucity.

    I might add that Scriptural prophecy is history written in advance. Therefore since Christ prophecied a continual succession of baptized churches "even unto the end of the world" we can rest assured that such churches have and will continue to exist. This is true whether or not we have any historical record of them or whether or not the churches with which we affiliate are among them.

    There is some truth in this statment, but we must be careful not to confuse the historical record with history itself. History is the sum total of what took place throughout time. The historical record is only what was written down.

    Therefore, basing doctrine on the historical record is a vain exercise because at very best the historical record gives only an extremely small view of what actually transpired in history. At worst, is is flawed with unintentional error, bias, and willfull deceit.


    Or the historical documentation is flawed as I have noted above. And no matter what the historical record says, the promise of Christ still remains and therefore the fact of succession it undoubtable for all who believe that Christ is the eternal "Amen."


    Indeed, man has changed the doctrine of the Lord to fit his own culture and circumstance. But the Lord has not changed His doctrine and will not. As Paul said,

    "Let God be true but every man a liar."

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  16. Kiffin

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    That is not really true. Many such as myself see Baptists as a continuation of the Radical Reformation. I think that is certaintly true of Dr. Estep and others who hold to a Anabaptist kiniship view. Baptists showed a more balanced theology than our Anabaptist forerunners who often were legalistic regarding pacificism, taking oaths, whether magistrates could join the church etc.. The English Particular Baptists especially gave credibility to Baptists by merging together the Soterology of the Magestrial Reformers theology with the Ecclesiology of the Anabaptists. In a sense Baptists as testified by the theology of the 1644 London confession married the 2 Reformations into one and represented the most balanced theology of any Reformation group of churches.

    While Anabaptist kinshippers agree with the English Separatist school that the first Baptists were Separatists from the Anglican Church, they also see Baptists a continuation of the Anabaptist Reformation (In much the same way Calvin continued Luther's Reformation).
     
  17. Matt Black

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    Keith, Mark,thanks for the urls. ;) Having clicked on them,I realise that I have read Christian, albeit in cursory fashion only. I'll re-read the online version and come back to you...

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     

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