"The Trail of Blood..."

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by Mark Armstrong, Sep 2, 2003.

  1. Mark Armstrong

    Mark Armstrong
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    I'm new here, so pardon me if this has been discussed before.

    Does anyone have an opinion to share about J.M. Carroll's "The Trail of Blood"?
     
  2. mioque

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    The term, utter nonsense comes to mind.
    Naturally there will be somebody on this board who thinks it is all true and so another merry flamewar get's started.
     
  3. rsr

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    No, we're not going to have flame wars. This can be discussed without name-calling.

    It has been discussed often without being disagreeable.

    Mark, there are some who think Carroll's booklet is all or mostly true.

    Others think it reaches far too much to establish successionism and ends up adopting folks as "Baptists" for whom we have little evidence or - since the evidence is supplied by their enemies - is negative.

    I tend to fall into the latter category, believing that a good deal of it is just not proven.

    There are several threads that discuss the matter in general. Rlvaughn started a thread that provides an overview of the different perspectives, as well as a good number of links:

    http://www.baptistboard.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=16;t=000273

    A condensed version of Leon McBeth's work (he's probably the foremost advocate of the English Separatism view of Baptist origins) is here:

    http://www.baptisthistory.org/facts.htm#Baptist%20Beginnings

    [ September 03, 2003, 05:49 AM: Message edited by: rsr ]
     
  4. Dr. Bob

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    Mark - you opened a "can of worms" without knowing it, so don't worry. It is the first but not the last.

    And just because it's been discussed before does not preclude civil answers to your query. This IS a "fellowship" forum, not a "debate" forum, so you won't be attacked. You will just get the thumbs up or thumbs down from those opting to contribute.

    You'd get a big thumbs down from me.
     
  5. mortenview

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    Just a note;
    We use the Trail of Blood and give it to new members. We have a discipleship class; I write my one materials and we also give each person in the class the Trail of Blood.

    Won't debate it; we use it and I have for years. I am an Independant Fundamental Baptist and am not ashamed of where I stand. I also do not ridicule others for believing different.
     
  6. mioque

    mioque
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    Bob, rsr, mortenview
    Once again I'm surprised by you guys in a positive fashion [​IMG]
    Maybe I should give up on being cynical around here :D
     
  7. J.R. Graves

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    (This is an article I recently wrote on this subject. I post it, not to stir up the waters, but for informational purposes only)

    Why I Still Recommend "The Trail of Blood"
    By Ben Stratton

    Probably the most famous book ever written dealing with Baptist history is J.M. Carroll’s little fifty-six page booklet "The Trail of Blood". Since it was first published in 1931, well over two million copies of this book have been published and it remains in print in several different places. However in recent decades "The Trail of Blood" has been sharply criticized. Some Baptists have considered it to be "unreliable", "inaccurate", and "a poor history". In the face of these criticisms should Baptist pastors continue to distribute and recommend this booklet to their congregation? I believe they should and below are few reasons why.

    Before I mention some position reasons I recommend "The Trail of Blood" I must first deal with the criticisms of the book. The biggest criticism is that the booklet contains numerous "inaccuracies". These critics complain that "The Trail of Blood" includes such groups in our Baptist lineage as Waldenses, Paulicians, Donatists, and Anabaptists. They contend that these groups were heretics and it is inaccurate to include them in our Baptist story. Without taking the time and space to defend each of these groups, let us mention that years earlier the great English Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon declared, "We are the old apostolic Church … we, known among men, in all ages, by various names, such as Donatists, Novations, Paulicians, Petrobrussians, Cathari, Arnoldists, Hussities, Waldenses, Lollards, and Anabaptists, have . . . an unbroken line which comes legitimately from the apostles" (Charles Spurgeon in New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 7, p. 613) For centuries in the past and even today many Baptist preachers and historians have looked to these groups mentioned by Carroll as being true New Testament churches during the Dark Ages.

    The second biggest criticism of "The Trail of Blood" is that the book is "unscholarly". These critics feel that "The Trail of Blood" is a "Reader’s Digest" version of Baptist history. However they fail to realize that Carroll never intended "The Trail of Blood" to be an academic work. In it’s introduction, the story of how the book came to be printed is told. Carroll was traveling from church to church giving a series of lectures on Baptist history. Dr. J.W. Porter, an influential Baptist leader, heard these lectures and was so impressed with them that he determined they should be printed in book form. It is important to note that Carroll was giving these lectures on Baptist history in local churches, not in universities or seminaries. Previously Carroll had served as President of Oklahoma Baptist University and Howard Payne College and at the time of his death in 1931 he had one of the largest libraries in the world on Baptist history. Carroll was a scholar on Baptist history and if he had been giving these lectures to academia he would have made them much more scholarly.

    There are a number of positive reasons I still recommend "The Trail of Blood". One reason is its brevity. Very few Baptist church members will ever read a large book on Baptist History, yet many will read a concise booklet such as "The Trail of Blood". A second reason is because it is biblical. Very few Baptist history books deal with the Scriptures, but "The Trail of Blood" gives a biblical basis for what it teaches. A third reason is the excellent chart at the back of the book. People love pictures and this chart clearly illustrates the story of the Baptist people over the last two millenniums. And finally "The Trail of Blood" is simple. Many other books on Baptist history are so deep they are difficult to comprehend. In contrast the "The Trail of Blood" is so readable a young teenager can understand the truths contained in it. These are just a few of the reasons I still recommend "The Trail of Blood". It is my prayer that Baptists will continue to recommend and distribute this important booklet.
     
  8. pinoybaptist

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    thumbs down for me, Mark. Good read, some good info. But if you want to remain scriptural as to Baptist origins, stick to the Bible.

    Our small Primitive Baptist church will go only as far as to trace our origins to the Wales churches...beyond that will be speculative.
     
  9. rsr

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    Ben, I half agree with you. Those interested in history should read it. But I would not recommend it to those who will not read anything else.

    Spurgeon was a great preacher; his opinion about Baptist history I feel no need to agree with.
     
  10. Mark Osgatharp

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    Whether or not the "Trail of Blood" booklet is accurate as history, church succession is without controversy a Biblical teaching and the Lord Himself has His own "Trail of Blood" written on high.

    I'm longing for the day when the Lord will throw open his own "Trail of Blood" chart and show us step by step, church by church, person by person, that He was, indeed, with His baptized churches as they carried His commandments throughout the ages,

    "Even unto the end of the world."

    Even so come Lord Jesus!

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  11. Daniel Dunivan

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    I agree, but our definition of what a "baptized church" is would probably differ.

    I think that the "Trail of Blood" is an interesting example of an "interpretation" of history that was concocted for polemical purposes. As theology, it expresses an understanding of baptist identity. As history, it fails to live up to the standard the discipline requires. Simply put, "The Trail of Blood" is a theological work that masks itself as history, but fails on both accounts.

    I agree with rsr (I am presuming that rsr espouses this approach. If not, I apologize.) that McBeth gives the best approach to baptist origins that I have read.

    Grace and Peace, Danny [​IMG]
     
  12. Mark Osgatharp

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    Daniel,

    I know enough about Baptist history to know that, even from an historical perspective, McBeth is totally in error in his approach to Baptist origins.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  13. Squire Robertsson

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    Personally, I am comfortable with calling Trail of Blood a Reader's Digest or better a Cliff's Notes version of Baptist history. Good for a brief exposition of a given position on Baptist origins but it is not a substitute for works of greater depth and more scholarly treatment of the subject. To rest one's total knowledge of Baptist history on the Trail of Blood, is like resting one's knowledge of work of Charles Dickens on the reading of the Cliff Notes for David Copperfield and viewing the Alistair Sims version of The Christmas Carol.

    As for Pastor Spurgeon's comments, they are not the authoritative comments of a historian. They do represent a position that obviously was held long before Brother Carroll appeared on the scene. (The comments quoted were from a New Park Street sermon.)
     
  14. Mark Armstrong

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    The first time I heard about "The Trail of Blood" was several years ago when the interim pastor we had at the time mentioned it in passing during a sermon. His mention wasn't positive or negative, it was just a casual offhand remark about someone claiming to have traced the history of of the Baptists back to Bible times.

    A little while after that, I happened to see a copy of it in a Lifeway store, and bought the copy. Didn't get around to reading it. Just put it aside to look at sometime in the future.

    Then, several months ago, during discipleship training, the subject of the history of the Baptist church came up, and I uttered the phrase "The Trail of Blood." Our current pastor, who was leading the discipleship training session that evening, reacted like I had said something obscene, and went into a rant about "The Trail of Blood" for a while, about how ludicrous it was, and how awful it was that some preachers treated it like it was Scripture to the point of having it pasted to the inside covers of their Bibles.

    I still haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

    Thank you for sharing your opinions.
     
  15. Daniel Dunivan

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    Mark O,

    In what ways is McBeth in error?

    Grace and Peace, Danny [​IMG]
     
  16. gb93433

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    Daniel,

    I know enough about Baptist history to know that, even from an historical perspective, McBeth is totally in error in his approach to Baptist origins.

    Mark Osgatharp
    </font>[/QUOTE]Dr. Leon McBeth is probably the most respected and most knowledgable Baptist historian in the SBC. Dr. McBeth has taught Baptist history since 1960. He has been in charge of many Ph.D. students doing their research. You can find out more about him at http://www.swbts.edu/contact/faculty/theology/mcbeth.shtm

    Could you explain where you differ with Dr. McBeth?

    Dr. McBeth's book is written using many credible sources that are original documents. Many of the sources are contained in his book, "A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage." You may want to take a look at his sources of information. He made copies of the documents in modern type with errors and all.
     
  17. rsr

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    Daniel, you are not mistaken, although I tend to give the "Anabaptist influence" position more weight. The second and third waves of the Reformation were sweeping over Europe, and it's hard to think that early Baptists didn't drink in some of it.

    If you've not ready McBeth, try him. The writing is very good; the historical atmosphere oozes from the page.

    McBeth readily admits that his opinion rests on what can be proven. If we go to the point that succession exists but cannot be proven, then we really belong in the theology forum, not the history forum.

    and

     
  18. Mark Osgatharp

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    Fellows,

    I base none of my opinions about Baptist origins on "The Trail of Blood" booklet. I own McBeth's history as well as his source book. I own Torbet's Baptist history as well as Vedder's.

    I also have Whitsitt's defence of the 1641 "recovery of immersion" theory. I have read (though I do not own) Morgan Patterson's critique of Baptist successionism.

    On top of that, I own a copy of Henry Dexter's book about John Smyth. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the subject, Henry Dexter was a Congregationalist writer in the 1800s from whom William Whitsitt got his theories of Baptist origins which are aped by Torbet and McBeth.

    John T. Christian is was as well informed as any of the more popular Baptist historians. He wrote two books refuting the theory that Baptists originated in 17th century England and also devoted several chapters in the first volume of his general "History of the Baptists."

    The two book which throughly rout the Whitsitt theory are "Baptist History Vindicated" and "Did they Dip?" In these books, as well as his "History of the Baptists," he provides many facts that prove beyond any reasonable controversy that the Baptists of England did not originate with either John Smyth or the Separatists.

    The man who charges Christian's books with being unscholarly only exposes his own ignorance of the facts.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  19. Daniel Dunivan

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    Mark,

    Could you please clarify what exactly is unhistorical about McBeth's approach? A bibliography of baptist histories and discussions of historiography could compile several pages, but you have made a specific indictment of McBeth's approach. On what specific grounds?

    Grace and Peace, Danny [​IMG]
     
  20. Mark Osgatharp

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    Danny,

    McBeth either:

    a. ignores facts that are inconsistent with his history or

    b. is ignorant of facts with which he should be familiar or

    c. both of the above.

    See my post on the origin of the Baptists for starters and if you'd like I can give you more.

    Mark Osgatharp
     

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