Thursday, February 23, 2006

Resurging Landmarkism in the Southern Baptist Convention and Its Impact on the Mission Field (Part 1)

Several years ago a man by the name of Bob Ross took it upon himself to republish the messages of Charles Haddon Spurgeon by reprinting The Metropolitan Tabernacle Series, a multi-volume set of every message preached by C.H. Spurgeon during his pastoral ministry. Many Southern Baptist pastors have this Metropolitan series in their libraries, including me.

Recently Bob Ross sent me a letter explaining his former background in Landmarkism and his eventual repudiation of this belief system. I am posting his letter to me on this blog, along with his excellent summary of Landmarkism, closing with several quotes from Mr. C.H. Spurgeon himself. I know the post is long, but it is vitally important you understand the implications of reemerging Landmarkism in the SBC.

Tomorrow I will explain why a repudiation of Landmarkism is absolutely essential for the planting of churches on the mission fields around the world.

Dear Brother Burleson:

I have read some of your comments on Landmarkism, and I surely hate to see that it is apparently rising again to some significance among Southern Baptists.

I spent the first several years of my Christian life in Landmarkism, after having been baptized at Parkview Baptist (SBC), Jackson, Tennessee in 1953 by a godly and beloved Pastor (now deceased) who first introduced me to the writings of J. R. Graves.

I left the SBC over Neo-orthodoxy in the schools (particularly at Union University) in 1954, and spent the next eleven years of my life advocating Landmarkism among the "strong as a bear's breath" type of independent Baptists. In the Providence of God, I was enabled by His grace to study my way out of it and abandoned it in 1964.

Since I knew Landmarkism very well from the "inside" of independent Baptists and saw its divisive and sectarian character, I wrote a book, OLD LANDMARKISM AND THE BAPTISTS, briefly discussing the history and teachings of Graves and other Landmark Baptists, including myself. If you have not seen the book, I will be happy to send you a free copy. It is a 188-page paperback, fully documented.

Over the past 41 years, I have received many testimonies from readers -- especially preachers -- who have been helped by my various writings on the erroneous theories and practices of Landmarkism.

Here in Texas, as recently as this week I read the SBTC Texan magazine article by Jim Richards which advocated some of the principles involved in Landmarkism (Feb. 6, 2006, page 5). I hate to see the SBTC leadership get on this dead-end trail which leads to the type of Landmark sectarianism which I have witnessed among independent Baptists, the American Baptist Association (Texarkana headquarters), and the Baptist Missionary Association (Little Rock headquarters).

I have tried my best to maintain fellowship with Christian brethren who hold to Landmarkism, but they usually have held me at arm's length and regard me as a heretic!

Bob L. Ross
Pilgrim Publications
Pasadena, Texas

"Old Landmarkism" and the Baptists

An examination of the erroneous theories of CHURCH AUTHORITY and CHURCH SUCCESSION of the so-called LANDMARK BAPTIST movement.

The term LANDMARKISM is a nickname which refers to ecclesiastical views arranged as a logical system or ecclesiastical order and popularized by the late James Robinson Graves (1820-1893). According to Landmarkers, there is no authority in either the Word or from the Spirit for doing the work of the Great Commission; this authority comes solely from the local Baptist church.

It is held in theory by an undetermined number of Baptists in various conventions, associations, fellowships and independent churches. The system, sometimes called "church truth," is not exclusive to the Association Baptists, but according to Dr. I. K. Cross, the term "Landmarkism" has been widely used in "derision" for those Baptists in the fellowship of the American Baptist Association of Churches with which Dr. Cross is affiliated. There are quite a number of independent churches that are Landmark, but they do not affiliate with a convention or association. Usually, these churches do not believe there is scriptural authority for anything larger than the local church, although many of them do affiliate in "fellowships" and special "conferences."

Landmarkism involves the authenticity of a church as an organization, the administration and administrator of baptism, and the ordination of ministers. It is asserted that a church is unscriptural, baptism is invalid, and ministers are not duly ordained unless there is proper Church Authority for them. This is Landmarkism's "chief cornerstone."

Some writers of the past referred to this position as "high churchism." Consequently, the Landmark view is that Baptist Churches ALONE have the authority of Christ to evangelize, baptize and carry out all aspects of the commission. The system further involves the perpetuity, succession, or continuity of Baptist churches through which authority has descended through the ages and will continue. This position, though not uniformly defined among Landmarkers, is believed to have been taught by Christ in such verses as Matthew 16:18, 28:19-20.

While Landmarkers in general profess either an inability to demonstrate the succession or no necessity of doing so, their efforts to advocate their system of "church truth" are almost invariably characterized by several quotations from secondary sources and their own respected authors, supposedly establishing the historical claim. Generally therefore, they believe that

1) the true and scriptural organization of a church,
2) the valid administration of baptism, and --
3) the proper ordination of a gospel minister,
all MUST all be enacted upon the authority of a sound and true, scriptural church namely, a church that was born through the authority of a "mother" church continuing in like manner back to the original apostolic church of Matthew 28 where "church authority" first "began".

In refuting these errors, Baptists and other Christians today can believe in the continuity of Christianity since Christ and may devote themselves to regulating their faith and practice by the Scriptures (in an orderly manner) without adhering to the Landmark teachings of church authority and succession. The authority which validates baptism, or any other scriptural action of our time, does not reside in the church institution any more than does the authority which validates salvation itself; authority resides in Jesus Christ and is expressed in His Word. The church itself is dependent upon this authority, but this authority is not dependent upon the church.

This book advocates no new or novel views in opposition to Landmarkism. The first Confession of Faith set forth by English Particular Baptists is the well-known Confession of 1644, and in Article 41 it states:

"The persons designed by Christ, to dispense this ordinance (baptism), the Scriptures hold forth to be a preaching disciple, it being no where tied to a particular church, officer, or person extraordinarily sent, the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them under no other consideration, but as considered disciples."

Landmarkism, as a system, is of relatively recent origin among the Baptists, although various items in the system have been obvious at certain times in our history. But at least not until J. R. Graves popularized all of the related concepts in systematic form did a significant segment of Baptists finally become a fragmentation from other Baptists (in the Preface of his book, Old Landmarkism; What Is It?, Graves takes credit for "inaugurating the reform" which became known as Landmarkism).

May this book assist all who read it to see Landmarkism in its proper perspective among the Baptists. -- Bob L. Ross

The following are some great quotes from C.H. Spurgeon. The emphasis is all mine. Spurgeon said in his day what I am attempting to say today.

C. H. SPURGEON (The Sword and Trowel, 1974, page 267, 268):

From "Fragments of Popery Among Nonconformists" --

It is very natural that our friends should desire their minister to baptize them, and yet there is no reason why he should do so on account of his office. It does not appear from the Scriptures to have been an act peculiar to preachers; in fact, at least one of them, and he by no means the least, was not sent to baptize, but to preach the gospel. A vigorous Christian member of the church is far more in his place in the baptismal waters than his ailing, consumptive, or rheumatic pastor. Any objection urged against this assertion is another unconscious leaning to tradition, if not a relic of superstition.

The usefulness of the ordinance does not depend upon the baptizer, but upon the gracious meditation and earnest prayer of the person baptized: the good which he will receive will depend upon how far his whole soul is receptive of the divine influence, and in no sense, manner, or degree upon the agent of the baptism.

We do not know what Paedobaptists think upon their ceremony, but we fear that the most of them must have the minister to do it, and would hardly like their infants to be left to the operation of an unordained man. If it be so, we do not so very much wonder at their belief, for as it is clear that no good arises to an infant from its own prayers or meditations during the ceremony, there is a natural tendency to look for some official importance in the performer of the rite; but yet we do not and cannot believe that our Paedobaptist friends have fallen so low as that; we make no charge, and hope we shall never have cause to do so.

For Baptists to attach the smallest importance to the ordinance of baptism being administered either by a minister or a private member would be to the last degree inconsistent, and yet we are not sure that the inconsistency is not to be found in many quarters. It behooves ministers to break down in time every tendency to make us into necessary adjuncts of the ordinances, for this is one step towards making us priests.

All I can say is "Amen" Mr. Spurgeon!


Savage Baptist said...

Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmm. All kinds of things seem to be rearing their heads lately. One of our church members--happens to be one of my better friends, actually--is trying to get people to attend a class he wants to teach on The Trail of Blood. I haven't told him yet that I'll soon be writing a post pointing out its errors.

The saddest part of the whole Landmark business is, as your Spurgeon quotes make clear, that the Word of God knows nothing of this. It is simply not possible to engage (as opposed to parrot) the Biblical text and defend Landmark positions. That Landmarkism is rearing its head again speaks volumes about our failure to teach.

Well, now I've offended everybody. At least I try to be fair.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Wade,

With this article and othes like it, you and other bloggers have made a very strong case against the IMB BOT's November 2005 policy change regarding baptism. Like-minded people continue to fortify this position daily.

Dr. Hatley has promised a theological and historical explanation for their policy change. But what in the world will he be able to say that at this point will be compelling to anyone? How many leading Baptists (Gill, Spurgeon, Dagg, etc. Oh, yeah, and Gene M Bridges) does he expect us to ignore in order to accept what is sure to be his flimsy rationale?

I think truth is winning out.

Love in Christ,


GeneMBridges said...

I wonder...has anybody else noticed that The whole "Trail of Blood" theory contains the seeds of liberalism?

Consider it. It traces the lineage of Baptists not merely through Anabaptists, many of which (including those with whom John Smyth seemed acquainted) had a, how shall we say, inventive Christology in terms of the humanity of Christ, but also through Paulicans who were Gnostic dualists, all by following believer's baptism/rebaptism through history...but without respect to even more fundamental concerns. Such a willingness to set aside orthodoxy in the name of establishing a "history" of the "true churches," contains within it the very attitude that would set aside orthodox doctrines in the name of modern epistemological innovations with respect to Scripture and "soul competency" and still seek to call itself a historic Baptist. When folks discuss they legacy of Landmarkism, they almost always overlook this fundamental idea. It's rather ironic that, as conservative theologically as Landmarks are, their historical theory also leads to theological anarchy when it works itself to its natural end.


Thank you for your kind words...

I am no John L. Dagg. I am certainly no Spurgeon. I'm no leading Baptist. I'm just a Baptist who got fed up and decided to put his history degree (from a NC Baptist college I might add) and his theological library to work and, by the grace of God, had the time and ability to write material that I pray y'all find truthful and useful.

...And the irony of all this is, when June rolls around and y'all come to my town (I live about 45 minutes from Greensboro) I will certainly be there for you...but not as an SBC messenger, as I will be joining with a brand new church with an as yet denominationally unaffiliated Baptist church (though they know where I'd recommend they go once they get established locally) I really don't have a dog in this hunt from the inside. In other words, Trustee Hatley, nay, no IMB trustee or any other Southern Baptist can lay claim to my work in this matter being agenda driven at all should that be attempted. If it was, I would certainly stay in the church at which I am now in order to serve as a messenger at the Convention. I have worked on this for one reason: because I believe God is still at work in the SBC but He will not bless the SBC if it goes in this direction.
May the Lord bless you all abundantly, yes, even the Arminians among you :~) and keep you from this road upon which certain Soutehrn Baptists would trod.

I, too, am waiting for the theological justification for this. I have my own ideas; and, as Wade knows, I've found some very disturbing things in my research into this which seem to confirm those fears. I should think it will be quite an interesting read when it comes out.

JUSTAMOE said...

Barna's research indicates that, of the 96.8 million born-again adults in the U.S., only about 16 million of us are "evangelical"--the kind of disciples that I'd bet your church is busy every week trying to make!

Certainly, not all of these (evangelical) Christians are Baptists--and all of them except many Southern Baptists, apparently, know that "the Baptist church" is NOT the one-and-only true church.

We are arrogant, arrogant people, sometimes, as Southern Baptists!

Barna's research: about . . .

16,147,083 evangelical believers (know they are born-again, fitting a biblical definition of it; 7% of all adults in U.S.);

80,735,418 non-evangelical believers (know they are born-again, but not "solid and sold-out" Christians; 35% of U.S. adults);

136,096,848 notional Christians (in their own minds--don't fit biblical definition of "born-again"), non-Christian faith adherents, and atheists/agnostics (59% of all U.S. adults; link:

The real church--whichever one that is!--still has its work cut-out for it! Let's get busy, folks!!

Anonymous said...

I am amazed you continually look to Spurgeon as an example to follow on ecclesiology. Spurgeon was a great preacher and is truly a great example for us to follow on many issues, but ecclesiology is not one. How many Baptists today do you know you follow Spurgeon's example on the participants of the Lord's Supper?

I am much more conformable with John Broadus:

"I think it highly undesirable that persons previously immersed by Pedobaptists or Campbellites should be received as they stand into the Baptist Church. I think they ought to be baptized when received, for the sake of good order, and to prevent any troublesome questions from afterwards arising. I think that the candidate, even if satisfied with his previous immersion as a baptism, ought to be willing to be baptized now, to satisfy the church and give no trouble hereafter, and that if he is not willing the church can do without him." John A. Broadus

(John A. Broadus [1827-1895] was a very well-known Southern Baptist preacher and professor. He was one of the founding professors at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where he served for 36 years. The above quote clearly shows Broadus' strong position on the alien immersion issue. The quote is from page 18 of the booklet "Kentucky Baptists, the Seminary, and Alien Immersion" published in 1908 by W.J. McGlothlin.)

Kevin Bussey said...

Who decides if a baptism is legitimate? Is NAMB next? Then the BFM? This is scary!

Anonymous said...

After reading your comments about Landmarkism I have come to understand that certain elements of it has been around in the Churches I have been a part of my entire life. We have always rebaptised anyone coming into the church from another denomination even though they had received believer’s baptism by immersion. I have always been slightly embarrassed by this and thought it was the same in all Baptist churches. Is this action the norm or are we out of step with most other SCB churches? said...


You don't understand why I appeal to Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers?

He was staunchly conservative, warmly evangelical, entirely pastoral, and intentionally missional.

Why would I not?

Anonymous said...

For those who would say the recent changes are not Landmarkism; are they, in your opinion, the same beliefs as 100+ years ago? Or, is it something slightly different?

Would it be better - in terms of avoiding the whole "Yes you are", "No I'm not" debate - to label what is happening now as a "neo-landmarkism"?

Or, would that be disingenuous?

Anonymous said...

I like what our English Baptist brothers had to say back in 1644 about DISCIPLES being the ones to baptize and quoted in your post...

The first Confession of Faith set forth by English Particular Baptists is the well-known Confession of 1644, and in Article 41 it states:

"The persons designed by Christ, to dispense this ordinance (baptism), the Scriptures hold forth to be a preaching disciple, it being no where tied to a particular church, officer, or person extraordinarily sent, the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them under no other consideration, but as considered disciples."

As a M currently serving on the field, we teach our people that the authority to baptize is given to believers in the Great Commission by Jesus Christ Himself.

There is little or no emphasis made in the N.T. on the person doing the baptizing. What matters is in whose Name they are being baptized, not who DOES the baptizing. In very few instances are we even told who the person was that did the baptizing (Phillip is one that comes to mind). My reading of the N.T. is that the WHO is downplayed over the only fact that matters in that they were baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

If we are incorrect, someone please point out the pertinent Scriptures!

When we begin putting the emphasis on WHO baptizes over in WHOSE NAME they are baptized, my feeling is we have ceased to align ourselves with what I find in the N.T.

Who determines who a valid "administrator" is? What Scriptures are used?

This issue has huge implications for missions around the world and needs to be on the "front burner" of missions dialogue.

Anonymous said...

I'm a pastor of a small SBC church in eastern Oklahoma. I've been following this issue very closely, and Bro. Wade, I'm a regular reader of your blogs. I've never blogged before, but at this point, I feel that I have to chime in....

There is a minister of another denomination who I respect who a few years ago went to his denomination's yearly national leadership meeting. When he returned, he was asked by a member of his congregation how it went since he came back looking depressed the next Sunday. He replied, "Those people need to get saved. I never once heard the name of Jesus..." They were caught up in business, politics, programs and social issues.

Is this where we are going? Have we forgotten that King Jesus is ALIVE? We seem to act like He is dead, and that in His absence we have to make all the "God" decisions---whose church is legitimate, who was baptized right, whether a person's call to the ministry is genuine. We fight and sin against each other for power. How horribly arrogant. There is only room in the Church for one "I Am". We need to be down on our knees repenting of such, and like Daniel begging the All Sufficient One to cleanse the whole SBC of such sin.

No one was ever saved by shaking a preacher's hand or getting dunked in ice cold water. Salvation is, as you have said Wade, by grace through faith Jesus Christ alone! Christianity is not a religion of a bunch of rules and doctrines of men, but a relationship with a living Redeemer and King. James says if we want wisdom---ask Jesus for it! It is the Holy Spirit who both authored and will interpret scripture. Ask...Seek...Knock...

Okay, I know I'm preaching...but the Holy Spirit is given, and Christ lives in his children to provide the solid leadership we all (including the BOT at IMB) so despirately need in this hour.

God bless you all. You're in my prayers.

Greg Cloud
Muldrow, OK

art rogers said...

As to the forthcoming argument from theological and historical sources that will back the BOT policies, there is a reason for the lapse of time.

The academic formulation must occur, and the trustees in question must learn it well enough to state it as though it came from them originally. That's my take on it, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I missing some, but from John's baptism of Jesus through Acts, I don't find anyone other than disciples, apostles and other's authorized and sent, like philip, a deacon, who baptised. Where is the model for the regular believer's equal authority to baptize? said...


Good thought. said...

Mr. Anonymous Missionary,

My post later today (or tomorrow) will address the very issue you raise.

Anonymous said...

Bro. Burleson,

I place Spurgeon in the same category as John Bunyan. They are great examples to follow on piety, grace, spirituality, preaching, etc., but should be avoided when it comes to ecclesiology. The fact is there was vast differences between Spurgeon's ecclesiology and the ecclesiology of Southern Baptists of his day as evidenced in my quote from Broadus. Broadus was not an exception to this either. I could easily give quotes from Boyce, Manly Jr., Carroll, Mercer, Cone, Truett, etc. on this same issue.

Tim Batchelor said...

Based on the dialogue over on Founder's Blog with Dr. York it is clear that the doctrinal argument underpinning the Mission Board's baptism policy will not be Landmarkism or anything like it. Landmarkism argues on the premise of who has the authority to baptize. I asked York point blank on his blog whether his support for the IBM baptism policy was related to Landmarkism. While other writings of York's (such as "Why Historic Baptists Require Baptist Baptism" found at, He appealed instead to the insufficient meaning of baptism as practiced by those who do not believe in eternal security. In debating the point with them you must address not the issue of authority solely but the issue of symbolic meaning of valid New Testament Baptism.


Anonymous said...

Dear Dan Poole,

I'm curious to know who you believe are the "authorized and sent" in the present age? If the only ones who could baptize in the NT were the "authorized" apostles and deacons, then who was authorized after their deaths? The ones who "succeeded them?" If this is the case - and that is where your logic leads I'm afraid, then are we all to accept the doctine and become Catholic? Or, even worst, Gnostic Paulicists?

Also, if there were only a few disciples and deacons baptizing in the first century - it would have been quite difficult for so few a number of people to have baptized so many! If they were not the only one, then surely they would have had to "appoint" others to baptize, right? Then does that make those "appointed ones" apostles?

The only logical conclusion is that there were many who were "authorized" to baptize in the first century (mere disciples of Christ) - any other position cannot be taken seriously by anyone who takes simple logic seriously.

art rogers said...


I don't think it is that Jesus specifically said "anyone can baptize" so much as He never specifically said only certain ones can baptize. To say this, I believe, adds to Scripture.

Paul Cooper said...

I am with you on your battle. I am NAMB appointed campus minister. I have been so upset by what is going on that I have created my own blogspot because of it. I know Dr. Hershael York (who has written a theological defense on his blog to support the new IMB policy) pretty well and am best buds with his nephew John Mark who holds similar views as Dr. York on this issue with the IMB. I love both of these men of God but passionately disagree with them both on this issue.

You might be interested in my latest blog on the issue:

It disucusses how the SBC fought to win the inerrancy battle and instead of fully focusing on the culture war and reaching the lost we are back to fighting each other and now fighting over smaller and non-vital issues. In it I quote from a book that feared such a thing happening. The last year the SBC has begun to bicker over Calvinism and now it has spread to Landmarkism. I believe we should listen to people like Jimmy Draper who say - hey, we won the theology war - now it is time to reach the lost. We should follow the vision of someone like Bobby Welch who says "Everyone Can" go reach the lost! Let's major in the majors and minor in the minors.

Anonymous said...

Don Poole asked, Where is the model for the regular believer's equal authority to baptize? This question in response to my anonymous M post (sorry we have to be anon! I'd much rather be able to sit down and talk face to face.)

Don, I confess you got my curiosity up enough to go and look up in the book of Acts and see what it actually says about WHO did the baptizing. The following are all the passages I could find in the book of Acts.

Acts 2:36-41 Does not mention who baptized the 3000 but can be assumed it was probably the 12 assisted by at least some/all of the 120 other disciples upon whom the H.S. had fallen on Pentecost. 3000 people is a lot of people to baptize in one day. Surely with 120 available bodies, the 12 would have called on at least some of these other disciples to help out? But the text doesn't really mention this detail. All that seems to matter is that they were baptized.

8:9-13 Says they believed Philip, but doesn't say who did the baptizing. vs. 13 says Simon believed and was baptized. One may assume it was Philip, but again the text really doesn't actually state this.

8:34-39 Here is one passage where it is pretty clear that Philip did the baptizing of the Ethiopian eunuch.

9:17-18 A certain disciple by the name of Ananias baptized Saul. It would seem only two people are actually named in Acts as the ones administering baptism. Philip and Ananias. Both were disciples and followers of Jesus, but I do not see any other titles prefixed to their names giving them a special license to carry out baptisms.

10:44-48 Peter ordered that those in Cornelius household be baptized. Since Peter commanded others to do the baptizing, we can only assume it was carried out by those unnamed "brothers from Joppa" accompanying Peter to Caesarea.

16:13-15 It just says when Lydia and her household were baptized... We might assume Paul and Silas, but it really doesn't say, nor seem to matter in that again this detail goes unmentioned.

16:29-34 From the context it is most llikely that Paul and Silas baptized the Philippian jailor and his family.

18:7-8 Simply says Crispus and all his family and many of the Corinthians were baptized, but does not specify who did the baptizing.

19:1-7 Says they were baptized, from the context, most likely by Paul.

On the mission field, especially in the kind of new work we M are involved with, there often are no ordained, "authorized" people around to do the baptizing, and we certainly do not have any of the original Apostles or the "12" still hanging around to help us out!

This priviledge falls to the obedient disciples of Christ, the lay church planters who are actually out in the field winning these people to the Lord and simply obeying what Christ has already told (authorized) us to do back 2000 years ago.

The reason Paul and the other apostles might have been the ones actually doing the baptizing in Acts was not so much that they were "sanctioned" or were "authorized administrators", it was simply that these were people they had won to Jesus through their ministry and it was their priviledge to baptize them as Christ commanded them to be.

What has changed over 2000 years that only a certain few priviledged class of Christians is sanctioned to carry out this very specific command of Christ known as the Great Commission?

In the GC all believers can GO, are permitted to MAKE DISCIPLES, and there is little problem with TEACHING; but baptizing is somehow off limits and reserved for a special class of believers? Who determines who is part of this special class of authorized believers? What Scriptures can be pointed to sustaining this?

It would seem to me that baptizing is part of the Great Commission. It is given to all of the Church of Jesus Christ who choose to obey what it is He said for us to do.

Maybe that is why 2000 years after Jesus gave us this command, we are still far from finishing the task. Could it be that we have delegated the Great Commision and the tasks of going, making disciples, baptizing and teaching to a limited few, instead of the WHOLE CHURCH being obedient to what He commanded us to do?

Please understand I do not wish to sound polemic in any way. This is not about winning/losing a theological debate. This is about the eternity of the millions of souls in our assigned people group. There is no way a chosen select few can accomplish what was intended by Christ for the whole church to do!

Again, I humbly ask, show me the Scriptures that indicate this is unbiblical practice/teaching and believe me, we will give serious consideration to those passages brought to our attention. And if need be, correct the error of our ways in part or in whole.

P.S. I am a proud graduate of SWBTS in Ft. Worth, Texas and extremely grateful to the S. Baptist churches, teachers, pastors, professors, heritage, fellow missionaries, and brothers in Christ whom the Lord has used over the years to mold and shape our understanding of ecclesiology and the ordinances. I signed the BF&M 2000 and feel responsible to the Lord (and S. Baptists) to teach and lead according to what His Word actually says, no more, no less. I am not infallible, and certainly prone to making mistakes, but please clarify any perceived errors with the N.T. Thanks for praying for all of us out there on the mission fields of the world. We need your prayers like never before!

GeneMBridges said...

I'm sure I missing some, but from John's baptism of Jesus through Acts, I don't find anyone other than disciples, apostles and other's authorized and sent, like philip, a deacon, who baptised. Where is the model for the regular believer's equal authority to baptize?

Who did Jesus baptize?
Who baptized John the Baptist?

John baptized Jesus, but there is no record of John's baptism. He would have received, at most, a Jewish mikvah.

When it comes to the administrator of baptism and lineages, Paul has strong words about that in 1 Corinthians doesn't he?

One gentleman quoted Broadus. All that proves what Broadus said, not what Scripture said. For that matter why is Broadus more preferrable than Dagg? Dagg said a person should be rebaptized if immersed by a paedobaptist minister as a matter of conscience, not a matter of duty.

For those tracing Baptist history through John Smyth, who baptized him? Himself, by his own admission.

Who baptized John Spilsbury? Himself.

"Somebody has to be first" was his argument.

This argument about the administrator of baptism is absurd. If one invalid administrator is any number of generations in the past, then no baptisms he administers are valid. Ergo, anyone who becomes an administrator of baptism that traces his lineage through that person is any more valid an administrator than the paedobaptized/paedobaptist administrator. Authority to baptize is like the call to share the comes by way of regeneration, not baptism. Ergo, the authority to baptize flows from the same fountain. As Dagg said, there is little difference when a man shares Christ with 2 men at once or 20 or more. Paul was called to preach before he was baptized. John was filled from the Spirit from the womb. With the exception of the disciples of John who became Jesus disciples and Paul, we have no record of who baptized most of the Apostles. It seems quite strange to say any believeris authorized to share the gospel itself (which of far more importance than baptism) with a room full of others and, if they are all converted, is then not authorized to baptize them.

Marty Duren said...

And all this time I thought Bob Ross was that guy with the fro who painted "happy clouds" on PBS every Saturday afternoon. Who knew??

Anonymous said...

There is an article today in the Richmond Times-Dispatch containing comments from Chairman Hatley and Pastor Burleson at (found via

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe what I'm reading here. I'm not a preacher or a missionary, but I am a child of God and a Southern Baptist. I don't look at my church as my crutch. I look to Jesus for holding me up and keeping me straight.
I don't know what a 'Landmarkist' is and have never heard of it. I love Spurgeon, but I don't believe in infant baptism. Pulling a little here and a little there from the Christian's of old is not right. Who cares what they think? Forgive me, I know you all probably read their writings, but they aren't Jesus and their word is not God's word. It doesn't matter what they say. It matters what you believe in your heart. Do you believe the word of God? You say you do, and then you stir things up. A couple of you are bitter and dont' know it. Do you know that you are grieving the Holy Spirit?

There are several e-mails here about baptism. I could just see it now. Someone friend gets saved and his friend baptizes him. Then that friend leads someone to the Lord and he is baptized by that person, and so on and so on. It would be chaos. Everyone would be down at the creek baptizing everyone. How ludicrous!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think you all are picking at small things. We do need structure, and it sounds as if you are trying to tear it down. I came from a Fundamental Baptist background, saved at 28 years of age. If they had said you need to be baptized here, I would have done it. It's a small thing. All I care about is if what I hear about my Lord and his word is correct in every aspect. Only if it's a really debatable issue will I take offense and deal with it.

To anonymous: We have always rebaptized a professing believer from another denomination. I haven't heard of Broadus but I think he makes allot of sense when he said if a person doesn't want to submit to Baptism, forget it. I was told it was my first step of obedience. If they can't obey at baptism, they won't obey him at all.

Go to the Lord Jesus Christ, not someone else, with your burdens. Depend on him. What do we know? We are as worms.

Anonymous said...

Here is an exert of what I sent to the writer of the Richmond Times-Dispatch based on the article:

Mr. Ress,

Thanks for your coverage of the controversy over policy changes at the IMB.

Here are a few items I would love to see someone with your skills investigate:

You noted that the trustees voted to remove Burleson from the board because of "issues involving broken trust and resistance to accountability." I understand this is what the chairman reported to the press. Burleson claims the actual verbage used in the written charge (which he also says he was not allowed to have or speak to) included accusations of "gossip" and "slander." Would love to know what is actually in that document and what is the basis of the charges (the trustees have released nothing regarding this, to my knowledge, despite public request by Burleson to make what they have public)

There has been a dispute as to the vote tally on the move to ask the convention to remove Burleson. Initially, the vote tally was reported to be 25 to 18 to request Burleson's removal; later, it was reported to be 50-15. It has been reported that all information from the Board must now be cleared by the Chairman or his designee as a result of the vote tally reporting. Are other trustees willing to talk?

In your article, you quote the Chair as saying, "You shouldn't go first to criticize publicly." Can you investigate to determine if Burleson in fact made no effort to resolve this within the context of the trustee board before going public, as this seems to suggest?

One additional issue - and this is much bigger than you may think (don't know your background or familiarity with Southern Baptists) - the policy change the board enacted was that candidates who have a "private prayer language" - that is, they PRAY PRIVATELY in a language other than their learned language - are disqualified from service. This is NOT about candidates that speak in "tongues" PUBLICLY - public tongues was already prohibited by Board policy - this went WAY BEYOND the previous policy, speaking to how missionary candidates pray privately.

(Where did the reporter get the idea this was about public tongues?)

Clif Cummings said...

Whether we quote Spurgeon or Broadus, Gill and Dagg or Burleson and Bridges, we must all eventually go to the Scripture, RIGHT?
This is what I did most of the day Thursday. I looked at all THE TEXT concerning baptism. (I have a great computer program that made the search very easy.) I studied them only within the CONTEXT to be certain I wasn't imposing a PRETEXT. That is what we all say we must do.... right? (Since we were "iced-out" of having services last Sunday, I was a week ahead and had lots of time for extra study on Thursday.)
I came to the conclusion baptism identifies a believer with Christ and Christ alone. Not the church. Not the pastor. (Paul made that clear!) And certainly not a denomination or its statement of faith (ie. the BF&M).
Where does the Scripture say that the ordinance of Baptism was given to " the local church." I couldn't find it.
I am looing forward to Dr. Hatley's release and PART II of this post. Also, I want to sign on for a copy of Bob Ross' book!

Anonymous said...

Wow!!! Reading the comments makes me think the baptism by the HOLY SPIRIT is needed more than ever. I feel for the one who said baptism by laypeople was ludicrous. I led a person from Australia to Jesus. My independent Baptist church would not baptize him without He become a member. As a member of a Royal priesthood, I baptized him in my pool. The preacher heard of this and laughed. He said" what was he baptized in, the membership of the pool." Jesus spoke to my heart and said "was I baptized in to the membership of the Jordan. Was the enunch bapized into the membership of the pool of water."
That settled it for me then. My friend has walked with the Lord for the last 33 years. He is active in his church (not baptist) in Australia. I'm all for preachers baptizing but if the circumstances arise, we are commissioned to baptize, Jesus gave us all the commision. He is as alive today as He was 2000 years ago. May our minds be stayed on JESUS. I am Southern Baptist

Anonymous said...


How I would love to see that day of "ludicrous" happen. What a day of rejoicing that will be!!!!!!!!!

"M" on the field

art rogers said...


That's a good letter, but I think you are mistaken about the vote tally. That vote was in November, but brought up on the same day that Wade's vote came up. The policy to clear all press releases concerning the BOT had to be cleared by the chair or his designee was instituted that day as a result of that flap.

In other words, the timing was close together, but they were not necessarily related.

However, the communication of trustee business by trustees is Wade's issue, and the aforementioned policy foreshadows a possible move to squelch dissent from the trustees, so that vote and policy may end up becoming closely tied to Wade.


Bill Scott said...

We have to be situationally aware at all times. We cannot go through life with blinders on. It is imperative that we as Christians, that we as Baptists have situational awareness.

Paul said, "Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant." (I COR 12:1) One of Paul's biggest challenges was to confront ignorance of the relevant spiritual issues of the day.

I contend that things have not changed much at all. By and large many of us are ignorant of spiritual things. Most Christians (not just Baptists) don't know what they believe or why they believe it. We accept what we have been told as absolute truth.

If we don't prayerfully evaluate doctrine in light of scripture then we are not only ignorant, but blind as well.

Landmarkism is an exclusive, as well as divisive doctrine that will certainly cause much discord. If it continues to spread among those willing to accept before they PRAYFULLY evaluate we will loose our missions momentum.

Tim Sweatman said...


You said, "Pulling a little here and a little there from the Christian's of old is not right. Who cares what they think? Forgive me, I know you all probably read their writings, but they aren't Jesus and their word is not God's word. It doesn't matter what they say. It matters what you believe in your heart. Do you believe the word of God?"

I completely agree with this statement, but I disagree with your conclusions BECAUSE I believe the Word of God. Could you show me just one verse of Scripture that supports the rebaptism of a believer who has previously been baptized according to the biblical pattern (by immersion, subsequent to conversion, as a symbol of his or her salvation)? If baptism is one's "first step of obedience" after being saved, then why would a believer need to take that "first step" a second time?

You also said, "Someone friend gets saved and his friend baptizes him. Then that friend leads someone to the Lord and he is baptized by that person, and so on and so on. It would be chaos. Everyone would be down at the creek baptizing everyone. How ludicrous!" Would you agree that every Christian is called to lead others to the Lord? Well, the same Great Commission that commands us to go and make disciples also commands us to baptize them. Based on what Jesus said in the Great Commission, what you have described as ludicrous is exactly what Jesus has commanded us to do.

Looking at the statement of yours that I quoted at the beginning of this comment, you might find it ironic that it is mostly the ones who support rebaptism that base their view on the writings of "Christians of old" rather than on the clear teaching of Scripture.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the correction, Art

Anonymous said...

Wow. All I did was ask a little question.

About those doing the baptizing in the NT, I think all were absolutly authorized and sent. John wasn't on a self directed mission to baptize in the Jordan, and those who were counted amoung the diciples who baptized were more than the first 12, but counted as diciples and were not just jumping in to help out. All of the Acts examples include those who were directly sent by the apostles or the Holy Spirit, to baptize. The early church Fathers, who don't seem to get much repect with this bunch, may have had it about right; there was an established order of who could baptize, but if needed, because of circumstance, anyone, even unbelievers could in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be a minister of baptism. The baptism was effective because of the faith of the one being baptised, not that of the one ministering it. A view still held by the Catholic Church. A denomination that also accepts a protestant's baptism, if it was done in triune form.

Anonymous said...


Since you said, “the bible teaches that every Christian is a pries unto God,” would you agree that every Christian has individual priesthood? If you do, then you agree with Moderates who object to the removal of ‘individual priesthood’ from the BFM. It was removed because as one person said, “It gives too much freedom to the individual.”

When individual priesthood is ignored for the ‘good of the group’, it starts a structure of landmarkism and a ]top down rule’. ‘Top down’ is good if God is the top. But when man tells God what God cannot do, then man is replacing God. This happened when man told God that Gentiles could not have salvation as a gift without a few traditions. This happened when man told God he could not call anyone for certain kinds of his work unless they were baptized a certain way, prayed a certain way, or a certain sex.

Don’t we realize God can call a donkey or even rocks to cry his message? I’ve been lost on the ocean with waves make the compass spin like a top. Wade, I see your blog as a lighthouse that could correct the compass of the SBC.

Rex Ray

P.S. My son is posting this as I am in the hospital.

Anonymous said...

To Baptist Theologue,

I admire your knowledge of Baptist history of baptism. How would you apply it in the following case? In the early 1930”s my uncle, Rex Ray, (SB missionary to China) was asked to organize a church. The man said he had bought a Bible and after many days, he and twenty others believed in Jesus. My uncle went to his village and after asking many questions of their beliefs he told them they were a Baptist Church.

He had the philosophy that all Christians would be Baptist if no one had messed with them. Since they baptized each other, did my uncle do wrong in not rebaptizing them. I believe the answer is after the doors of China closed and then reopened the number of Christians had doubled; proving that all that Christ’s church needs is his word and the Holy Spirit, not the BFM 2000.

By the way, besides the thief on the cross, my uncle’s first born was buried in China without being baptized. At five years of age, she left this world saying, “Mama, which one is our house? “

Rex Ray
P.S. Not an official blogger don't know how to send message.

Unknown said...