Sunday, May 03, 2009

Landmarkism Is a Growing Problem in the SBC

In the 1960's a fellow named Bob Ross published a book entitled Old Landmarkism and the Baptists. I had never heard of this book until Bob Ross sent me an unsolicited email over three years ago. Bob, a Southern Baptist himself, wrote to me that he was concerned about the resurgence of Landmarkism, particularly in the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas, and that he would send me his book on Landmarkism. Bob himself published his email to me on the Internet over three years ago, but now I'm publishing it here for you to read for yourself


Sent: Thu 2/23/06 3:31 PM

Dear Brother Burleson:

I have read some of your comments on Landmarkism, and I surely hate to see it 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, Jackson, Tennessee in 1953 by a godly and beloved Pastor (now deceased) who 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 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


The desire to maintain fellowship with all Christian brethren is something which all of us should strive to attain. Landmarkism, however, leads people to separate and divide rather unite and cooperate. Lord willing Southern Baptists will continue to speak out and resist any Landmark Resurgence within the SBC.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Ramesh said...

Sorry Pastor Wade for dredging these old posts. Most of these authors have been very critical of you and I just want the readers to have the proper links.

Peter Lumpkins Blog (SBC Tomorrow)> Bob Ross on Wade Burleson: Splat! Splat!!.

Bob Ross Blog (Reformed Flyswatter) > Burleson -- A Landmarker?.

Bob Ross Blog (Reformed Flyswatter) > Burleson's bombastic book.


Selah's post has reappeared from "hiding".

Please also read this post of Pastor Wade, for the comments to see the connection of the above posts.

Wade's Blog > Should a Minister of the Gospel Have a Blog?.

Anonymous said...


Someone keeps beating the same misrepresenting drum.

Anonymous said...

If we did the deeds we were doing at first would this be an issue?...One who keep searching for the true linear church will never find it because sometimes there are true believers even in the midst of a heretical congregation. We need to get back seeking God...a Body that does not seek its Head will only be confused on what constitutes a true landmark.

Anonymous said...

I can't speak too much to the Landmark issue, so forgive the left turn here, but I have been familiar with Pilgrims and Ross for probably 35 years.

I personally have found him odd. Of course, some would say that about me.

Without getting too personal, Ross reminds me of a guy who says he loves baseball, knows a ton about baseball, has studied the history of baseball, published books about baseball...

but then he will say something like "they should have never moved the goal posts to the back of the end zone" and that "Ty Cobb was not a very good hitter."

He has an endless supply of Spurgeon's legacy, but then participates in a blog titled the "calvinist flyswatter"?

Like I said, it's just weird to me.

I don't read him and I don't trust him.

Probably unfair of me, but he does have an ally in Lumpkins, so I can't be too far off.

sally pu

Alan Paul said...

Landmarkism give me the feeling of deadness. Of hoplessness. Of frustration. Of sadness. It is a legalistic and nitpicking facsimile of true Christianity. Just a manmade copy of that which God gave us.

Anonymous said...

I have never read Bob Ross's book on Landmarkism, but I always enjoyed his art show growing up. Wade, maybe you would feel better about the SBC if you painted a couple of nice little trees. :)

WTJeff said...

It's difficult enough to get baptist churches to have a kingdom perspective (especially locally). Landmarkism provides justification for the empire mentality (inward focused) that plagues so many of our churches.

Personally, I'm skeptical of any body, denomination, or group that says they have God and His word all figured out. We can know doctrine and we can know God, but anyone who doesn't leave room for the mystery of God in their doctrine usually has very little room for grace, humility, and loving the lost where they are at.

Anonymous said...

Landmarkism (legalism) kills spiritual transformation.

Take a gander at King Saul in 1 Samuel 15. God rejected his legalism. Thus, Saul does not make it to chapter 16.

The key problem with Landmarkism is that it fails to see that the local church is an EXPRESSION of the universal church. IT sees the local church as the final authority in all matters. No, the Bible is. Landmarkism is to the local church as Roman Catholicism is to the universal church. Both extremes (in my respectful and humble opinion) are wrong on this issue.

Each of us will stand before the The Judge one day having complete and total guilt in and of ourselves, yet having been justified at the moment of rebirth, let us at the very least, in our differences and inadequacies, seek to come to the throne together--as a people of cross, and a people of The Book. Then, and only then, will God weed out the tares.


Word Verification: tardses

As in: you'z is a bunch of 'tardses


Anonymous said...

"nice little trees"

um....its "happy little trees"


Anonymous said...

Is it possible, and not just the product of a cynical mind, that the 'leadership' of the SBC does not necessarily BELIEVE in Landmarkism, so much as they need the 'authority and control' that Landmarkist doctrines bestow upon THEM?

The Landmark position certainly reinforces their control over the SBC churches.

Just a thought.

Christiane said...


It's me, L's

How are you?
When do you start school?
Let me know if you work for the Sisters of Mercy.

I read you comment about 'Roman' Catholicism and I thought I might suggest that you simply use the term 'Catholicism', for this reason:

The 'Roman' rite is one of six rites in my Church. The other rites are listed below and each has its own traditions. For example, my godmother was raised in a Byzantine Catholic church and I and my father's family are all of the Roman Catholic church or the "Latin Rite".
So, it gets confusing, I know.

Below is a little info about it.
When the Church gathers for a conclave or for a funeral of a pope, all the different patriarchs of the different rites can be seen in their particular vestments from their own traditions.

Just thought I'd clarify a little.
Love, L's

Below is from the Catholic Encyclopedia for your reference.
Sorry, if I have confused you more.

"Within the Catholic Church ... Canonical rites, which are of equal dignity, enjoy the same rights, and are under the same obligations. Although the particular churches possess their own hierarchy, differ in liturgical and ecclesiastical discipline, and possess their own spiritual heritage, they are all entrusted to the pastoral government of the Roman pontiff"

The Catechism lists seven rites.
These rites so listed: Latin, Byzantine, Alexandrian, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, and Chaldean, are actually families of liturgical expression.
These rites are the descendants of the liturgical practices that originated in centers of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria."

Anonymous said...

Thanks L's

While theologically I could never be Catholic, I do love the titles and the vestments and the prayerful garden walks. :)

Pray for my second interview at St. John's this week.


Linda said...

Or maybe landmarkism is a growing blessing in the SBC.

I do understand the problems with landmarkism.

But it just might be the blessing that calls Baptists back to take a stand where a stand needs to be taken.

Or else, in the words of one person I heard this weekend, things might go like this:

Pole dancing and stripping are non essentials of the faith. They are widely accepted by the consensus of most younger members of the SBC. They draw many people to church. They allow us to be relevant to the culture. Many women (and a few men) feel called to pole dance and strip, and surely there is a need for livening up the dead church. Besides, nobody but pole dancers and strippers want to pastor in Milnesand New Mexico these days, what with big student loans and all.

So how we can tell a sister church not have a pole installed and allow its usage, or not to have strippers?

NO?? Then I guess it IS ok to have boundaries and to draw lines in the sand.

So the fuss is really about where to draw the lines. It is about what is Biblical and what is Baptist.

And just maybe the old landmarks might be in, if not totally the right places, at least more helpful places than all this postmodern no absolutes drivel.


Anonymous said...

'no absolutes' falls more under the Landmark tree in that the references to the founding of 'Landmarkism' are very weak and unsubstantiated.

Where are the facts?
Where is the 'connection' with the early Church?
Where is the written 'record' of Landmark authority through the ages?
Where is its history?

'no absolutes' falls under the Landmark tree: very vague, very fragile arguments for its 'ancient authority'
The history just ain't there.

John Fariss said...

Linda, surely you jest. Perhaps you are just being sarcastic and I missed it; I shall hope so.

In case you are not, one does not have to be a Landmarkist in order to have a strong sense of morality, no more than one has to be a Baptist in order to have a strong sense of morality. I have known some very moral athiests in my 56 years of life (so far). Of course there should be lines; I don't know anyone, SBC, CBF, AoB, mainline deminations, non-denominational, etc., who has claimed otherwise. The problem with Landmarkism, as I see it, is twofold: first, some people draw lines in the wrong places, based on erronious understandings of history and/or Biblical theology(i.e., Landmarkism, but also the Campbellite movement, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many others); and second that lines often become hedges, the sort of hedges that the Pharisees placed around the Law. The Pharisees had the best of intentions--to move the "faith once delivered" out of the Temple on the Sabbath and into everyday life 24/7. Unfortunantly, human nature being what it is, those lines transformed into hedges, which them transformed a living faith into a religion of rules and regulations which was blind to the coming of God Incarnate, because He did not conform to their preconceived notions of what Messiah would be. The lesson of history is that Landmarkism--whether the full-blown variety promoted by Graves and Pendleton, or the somewhat milder landmarkist tendencies of some in the so-called "Baptist Identity" movement--likewise results in a religion preoccupied with rules and regulations.

I am not sure what you mean by "post-modern drivel." There are no doubt many aspects of that on which you and I would agree. On the other hand, there are those who use that phrase to include virtually anything they do not enjoy or appreciate in the 21st Century church, even down to the use of contemporary praise music and sermons which are anything other than "three points and a poem." I know many churches--yes, Baptist, yes even Southern Baptist (including the one I serve)--which use some contemporary forms of worship, but I have never heard of one that would even think about what was proposed in your "overheard" conversation. Was it real? And if so, was it serious?

BTW: Southern Baptist seminaries, at least when I attended pre-CR, did not participate in any Federal loan programs for students to come out of with huge debts.

And finally: if it's Biblical, does it really matter whether or not it's Baptist?

John Fariss

Jeff said...

John, I am not sure you could get Federal Loans in seminaries at any time. I was in seminary in 1987-1991
and it was so cheap you didn't need a loan.

Perhaps now that they have colleges they need loans.

Anonymous said...


It's me, L's

Of course I'll pray for you to get the position.

If St. John's wants to see you for a second interview, it's a really good sign.

I think it would be a wonderful experience for you, in the course of your work, to be able to visit with the sick and pray with them, as someday, you will do this when you get out of seminary anyway.

I can see you helping in the work of the Lord in St. John's and if it were up to me, I'd hire you on the spot.

Also, I like it that the location of St. John's is right near the seminary. This could really work out for you in lots of ways. Love, L's :)

Lydia said...

"So the fuss is really about where to draw the lines. It is about what is Biblical and what is Baptist."

Like the line drawn over Dr. Klouda?

Anonymous said...


Thanks! I'll keep you updated. Btw, this is a non-clinical, non-ministry job. If the hours work out right, I will operate the hospital switchboard in the evening shift. My pastor is working with me to get the necessary certification to be a hospital chaplain at Missouri Baptist Hospital which is also next to the seminary. The Lord has a plan L's. I can't see it yet, but I see Him working. :)


I am using a subsidized federal loan for seminary and did as well to get a B.A. in Religion at Missouri Baptist University. I wish I could say seminary was cheap enough to pay for it out of pocket. It is cheaper than University, but still a bit more. This is why I am going to work full time during seminary. I have only worked PT over the last 3 years. (Pastoring was sort of full time but only PT pay) Now its time for me to start paying the piper. :)

Jeff said...

Kevin, I was referring to Southern Baptist Seminaries. They were dirt cheap when I went thru them, and there was no reason to get a loan.

Anonymous said...

I find it kinda funny that a Fundie is raising concerns over an increase in Landmarkism.

Some words come to mind: pot, kettle, black.

Christiane said...


It sounds like the Good Lord has placed you in the midst of a very nurturing situation. What a location for a seminary, next to two hospitals!

And you will receive hospital chaplain training and certification at the Baptist Hospital! This is wonderful.
I have often thought that hospital chaplains performed a very special ministry of loving-kindness to suffering people.

And you are near some good restaurants. Meat loaf sandwiches! They are a favorite of my own son who would pass up a steak dinner for meat loaf and mashed potatoes any day. :)

But working full-time. And taking classes, with all the requisite course requirements: that will be a great drain on your strength.

Seek a way to find time to rest and to pray in peace. Try not to work seven days a week. God will renew your energy. You will see.
Love, L's

P.S. I think you will enjoy the give and take of debating theology with your fellow students. Try to find some kind of exercise to round out all of your other obligations so as to keep balance.
And find a mentor that is a person of deep faith.
Just a little maternal advice.
Love, L's

Rex Ray said...

What is ‘Landmarkism?
1. Does it mean ‘Baptists’ are the only ones going to heaven?
2. Does it mean ‘Baptists’ go back to the teachings of Jesus?

I believe number ‘one’ is so ridiculous it shouldn’t even be discussed.

But I believe number ‘two’ with all my heart.

To find where Baptists started, you must find where Catholics started because I believe they started at the same time in the hearts of early Christians.

Early Christians had different backgrounds with ingrained beliefs.

Some were Pharisees and believed they were the ‘rulers’ of the Jews, and when they became Christians they still felt like some Baptist preachers today in that the pastor is to be the ‘ruler of the church’ as preached by Criswell…hero of fundamentalists.

These Christian Pharisees were known as a ‘party’ or ‘sect’ as in Acts 15:5:

“But some of the believers from the party of the Pharisees…” (Holman)
“But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees…” (NLT)

It’s been said, “Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.”

Do you think anyone changed their ‘doctrine’ at the conclusion of Acts 15? Peter and Paul didn’t, and I don’t think the sect of Pharisees did either.

I believe after Peter, Paul, and James died they gained ‘control’ and their descendants ruled until they were baptizing babies for salvation in 251 AD.

That’s when their opponents said ‘enough is enough’ and they withdrew fellowship and were given the hated name of Anabaptist because they rejected baptizing babies into the kingdom of heaven.

Just think how hated they were for ‘letting their sweet babies that died go to hell.

The Christians that followed the sect were named Catholics in 313 AD.

Jeff said...

Fundamentalism and Landmarkism do not always go together.

Jeff said...

Kevin, When I was in the Dmin program at CTS, it was about 250 per credit hour.

Steve said...

I was caught up in the Landmark struggles in Western Kentucky three years ago. The biggest issue on the table there was Alien Immersion. When our church decided to allow a lady to join our church, who had been baptized by immersion at a Cumberland Presbyterian church, the proverbial death blow was dealt. Of course, no one in the Graves County Baptist Association had an issue with the scores we allowed to join who had be baptized by other denominations, but had joined another Baptist church somewhere in the past. These “letter movers” came from a church of like faith and order. Ha! Sure.
I was branded a heretic. And the lead proponent of my being tarred and feathered was Bill Dotson, who nominated Wylie Drake for 2nd Vice President. Now there is a Landmarkist, my friend. It has never failed to amaze me how a Landmarkist can freely associate with non-Landmarkist’s on the state and national convention levels, but refuse to even acknowledge the presence of one at the local associational meeting. In fact, the night I was called a heretic, after the meeting I went to shake Bill’s hand, and he turned his back to me. I was shunned, I guess.
I tell you the truth, Landmarkism is a curse that needs to be avoided.


Anonymous said...


Did you finish the program? I do not know about the DMin but the credit hour cost for the MDiv is 435.00, but I and most other MDiv students qualify for the 50% off Ministry Leadership Scholarship. So 217.50 is fairly in line with the same at an SBC seminary. I was impressed that a PCA seminary would give this Southern Baptist boy the same scholarship reserved only for Southern Baptists at SBC seminaries.

To be honest, the SBC needs about 3 more seminaries. The ones we have are just getting too big. I chose Covenant in part for its size.

Btw, I am a member of Temple Baptist Church too...well another one anyway. :)

John Fariss said...

Jeff, you said, "John, I am not sure you could get Federal Loans in seminaries at any time. I was in seminary in 1987-1991
and it was so cheap you didn't need a loan." That was my thought too, but I did not want to speak to something I had no personal knowledge of.

You also suggested, "Perhaps now that they have colleges they need loans." Maybe so, again, I don't know. But if they do. . . why? Isn't what's sauce for the goose also sauce for the gander? I understand the original reason for refusing to allow Federal loans in seminary was to avoid any governmental interference in church matters, and that should be a concern regardless of the educational level (bachelor's or master's). Does anyone know if the SBC seminary-related colleges do this?


I agree with you more often than not, but I think this one is off base. Maybe you could argue that there were dissenters from what evolved into the Catholic church at an early time; maybe. But as often as not, those "dissenters" were pretty far out theologically themselves: modalists, gnostics, monarchianists, cathars, etc. Although occasionally you find a few points of similarity between some of these groups and what modern Baptists believe (after all, Scripture says there is nothing new under the heaven), you really cannot derive either Baptist or Anabaptists at so early a date as you suggest. The Landmarkists (and to an extent, the Primitive Baptists did) so to their satisfaction, but their conclusions have not held up under historical scrutiny.


Rex Ray said...

The ‘dissenters’ in Acts 15 became the majority as Paul was told in Acts 21:20-22:

“You know, dear brother, how many thousands of Jews have also believed, and they all follow the law of Moses very seriously. But the Jewish believers here in Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They’ve heard that you teach them not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs. What should we do? They will certainly hear that you have come.”

Paul’s life was in danger from the majority of Christians. The majority added Jesus to their laws for salvation, and their doctrine was ‘Jesus plus works’, while Paul and Baptist doctrine is ‘Jesus plus nothing’.

Why was J.M. Carroll’s Trail of Blood accepted as Baptist doctrine until the C/R took over?

It’s a shame for Baptists today to refuse to acknowledge our ancestors that died that we might have the faith of our ‘fathers’ in Jesus.

Jeff said...


Why was J.M. Carroll’s Trail of Blood accepted as Baptist doctrine until the C/R took over?

I wasn't aware it was accepted. I have never heard of it till I went to seminary.

BTW, I am PK from a SBC church.

Anonymous said...

Perpetuity Theory:

“Baptists have always existed since the time of Christ.” This view is generally associated with “Landmarkism” which asserts that the practice of believer’s baptism is definitional to a true church and thus a church that doesn’t practice the rite is therefore not a true church. But since, as Jesus said, the true Church would stand through all time (Matt.16:18) there must have been Baptist churches all along. The most famous advocate of this perspective was James Milton Carroll (pastor and president of Oklahoma Baptist University and Howard Payne University) who wrote the definitive treatment of this idea in a pamphlet entitled “The Trail of Blood”. The most serious problems for this theory are the highly dubious Landmarkism that undergirds it and the heretical nature of many of the groups identified as proto-Baptists.
[Apostles à Baptists]

Continental Anabaptist Theory:

“Baptists are an outgrowth of the Anabaptists which came into being as the left-most fringe of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century in continental Europe.” This view recognizes the similarity between modern Baptists and 16th century Anabaptists (as represented by men such as Balthasar Hubmaier and Menno Simons) in such matters as church government and believer’s baptism. Similarly, it takes serious account of the close temporal connection between the rise of the two groups. However, there are significant differences between mainstream Baptists and historical Anabaptists in terms of both political theory and geographical distribution that makes a simple development from one to the other unlikely.
[Apostles à Classical Church à Catholic Church à Anabaptists à Baptists]

British Separatist Theory:

“Baptists are a splinter group that developed in the aftermath of the English Reformation in the 17th century.” This view is based largely on the recorded history of the earliest known self-identifying Baptist church. This congregation was initially led by John Smyth, a former Anglican priest, who had converted to, essentially, Congregationalism. The church fled to the Netherlands to escape persecution and subsequently embraced believer’s baptism as articulated by the Mennonites. Upon Smyth’s death the congregation split with some joining the Mennonites and the rest moving back to England to establish the first Baptist church now known to us.
[Apostles à Classical Church à Catholic Church à Anglicanism à Separatists à Baptists]

Anonymous said...

How the ritual of Baptism came to be.

Before Christianity:

Originally Baptism was a purification ritual adapted from the Jewish faith and performed by the priests at the temple to make someone who was deemed as unclean back into being clean and presentable in the eyes of God. This could be from touching an unclean person, the dealing with the dead or diseased, being with a woman during menstruation, or any number of other things that the Torah had determined as ‘unclean’. The ritual had the person being cleansed bringing the appropriate offering, such as doves, lambs, or sometimes simply just grains, to the priest and having the priest say the appropriate words to God before ‘washing’ the unclean person in the waters, oils, and/or perfumes at the temple. This procedure was symbolic of the uncleanliness going from the person to the water, therefore allowing the person being baptized to enter the Temple for worship on Saturday as the holy day.

Early Christianity:

At the start of Christianity, being as it was at that time a small cult branching from the mother religion of Judaism, they kept the practice of washing away the sins through the symbolic act, as Jesus was washed and performed the washing from John the Baptist. They did not ask for an offering to the priest, just a vow and oath of belief in the Christian religion and all that they stood for.

Most Baptisms from the early 30s AD until the Roman Empire took control of the religion in the early 300s AD were done in rivers. Anywhere from a few (25 to 50) up to thousands reportedly, usually entire families from the new born and children through the parents, Aunts and Uncles, to grandparents and the extremely aged. They were performed mostly the same with the convert being completely nude as two priests helped them enter the body of water on one side, two in the middle submerging them as the word of baptism were offered to God on the recipients behalf, and two more aiding the new member into a white robe (symbolic of the white light of the Holy Spirit that was now within them) as they exited on the other side of the river completing the ceremony it was also symbolic of the new rebirth of the individual as the waters of the river representing the waters of child birthing.

The Influence of Rome:

After the Roman Empire had its influences into the early Catholic doctrine the new converts were required to be clothed as the only real change that the ritual was to undergo at that time. Baptism went for many years without change until the Catholic Church made the distinction that full immersion was no longer necessary in 1311 at the Council of Ravenna. They determined that full immersion was unnecessary and the term ‘pouring’ was the new accepted way of performing the baptism. Many denominations chose to go back to the immersion technique after the reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Anonymous said...

What do the Roman Catholic Councils say?
Council of Nice, A.D. 325: "He who is baptized descends indeed, obnoxious to sins, and held with the corruptions of slavery; but he ascends free from the slavery of sins, a son of God, heir-yea, co-heir-with Christ, having put on Christ, as it is written, 'As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ'."
Fourth Council of Toledo, A.D. 633: "For shunning the schism (trine immersion) or the use of an heretical practice, we observe a single immersion in baptism . . . For the immersion in the waters is a descent, as it were into the grave; and, again, the emersion from the waters is a resurrection."

Council of Worms, A.D. 868: "While some priests baptized with three immersions, and others with one, a schism was raised, endangering the unity of the church "

Council of Tribur, A.D. 895: "Trine immersion is an imitation of the three days burial, and the rising again out of the water is an image of Christ rising from the grave."

The Synod of Cologne, A.D. 1280: "He who baptizes, when he immerses the candidate in water, shall neither add to the words, or take away from them, or change them."

Council of Ravenna, A.D. 1311: "Baptism is to be administered by tribe immersion or aspersion."

Have you noted that first trine immersion was called an "heretical practice," and then accepted. That immersion only was accepted, and then, for the first time, in 1311 pouring was accepted. The main thing to be noted is that only immersion was the practice for 1300 years.

What some preachers had to say:
(From Twentieth Century Christian, 1962)
John Calvin, Presbyterian: "The word baptize signifies to immerse. It is certain that immersion was the practice of the primitive church."

Martin Luther, Lutheran: "Baptism is a Greek word and may be translated immerse. I would have those who are to be baptized to be altogether dipped."

John Wesley, Methodist: "Buried with him in baptism-alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion."

Wall, Episcopalian: "Immersion was in all probability the way in which our blessed Savior, and for certain the way by which the ancient Christians received their baptism."

Brenner, Catholic: "For thirteen hundred years was baptism an immersion of the person under water."

Macknight, Presbyterian: "In baptism the baptized person is buried under the water. Christ submitted to be baptized, that is, to be buried under water."

Whitfield, Methodist: "It is certain that the word of our text, Romans 6:4, alludes to the manner of baptizing by immersion."

What does the New Testament say?
Acts 8:36: ". . . they came unto a certain water . . ." It is only natural that a person who intended to be immersed must come to enough water to do so. Never do we find a single case in the New Testament of water being brought to a person who was going to be baptized.
Acts 8:38: ". . . and they both went down into the water . . ." It is necessary for immersion that both the one to be baptized and the one doing the baptizing go down into the water. This would not be necessary in sprinkling or pouring.

Acts 8:39: ". . . they came up out of the water . . ." Both must come up out of the water once having gone into the water. This would not be necessary in the case of sprinkling or pouring.

Romans 6:4: ". . . buried therefore with him by baptism into death . . ."

Colossians 2:12: ". . . buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him . . ." Baptism is described in these two verses as a burial. When something is buried it is completely covered or submerged.

Only immersion can fit the description of a burial. One is not buried in baptism when water is sprinkled or poured over his head. Then too, only one who is buried in water can be raised up out of it. No person can be raised from a few drops of water.

In the study of the many other examples to be found in the New Testament we find that those who were baptized were immersed. Much water was needed, going down into the water and coming up out of the water, is very evident. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the baptism of the New Testament is immersion.

Is Baptism commanded?
Acts 10:48: We find that Peter commanded people to be baptized, for he ".... commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." We also find Peter preaching for the first time, after the establishment of the church, to those who had crucified Christ. These Jews from all nations were cut to the heart for what they had done to Christ Jesus. They asked the Apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" We find that Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:37, 38).
Now, go back over the statements of the early Christians, and other authorities, and note that these agree with the scriptures. You have the right to believe or reject what Jesus said: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16).

John Fariss said...


Maybe in some places, especially in "the west" (the modern southwest and what was regarded as the "western frontier" in the early and mid-19th Century, places like Kentucky, western Tennessee, Arkansaw, and later Texas and the Indian Territory, i.e., Oklahoma), some (many?) Baptist churches believed that Carroll's "Trail of Blood" was Baptist doctrine. However, it was never acepted widely in the broader Baptist family. It just did not make much of an impact among Baptist churches in the northeast or on the eastern seaboard, or among those that derived from the Charleston Tradition. Furthermore, because of the Baptist distinctive of local church autonomy, it is very difficult for anything to be "Baptist doctrine" as a large group, but only in individual churches. Among Southern Baptists, the 1925 BF&M was the first thing which could arguably be considered that, and whether to call it "doctrine" can be debated. If you are from an area where the "Trail of Blood" tended to be accepted, I would respectfully suggest that is the lens through which you view Baptist history; however, it just is not so in the wider view of Baptist history and in other areas, so consequently, it should not be understood as "Baptist doctrine" without a whole lot of qualification.

Although my immediate family was not active in church, we identified ourselves with the (Southern) Baptist church; and my grandparents and many aunts and uncles were active in Baptist churches in Georgia and Alabama, but like Jeff, I never even heard of Carroll or the Trail of Blood until I went to seminary and encountered it through historical studies.

As anony at 3:05 PM points out there have been three competing theories of the origins of Baptists: the Landmark view that churches which believe like Baptists have existed in perpetuity (and there are some difference there, some holding that these groups were Baptist in everything but name, and others believeing only that these churches held some doctrines in common with what later became Baptists); the Anabaptist origin theory, which holds that modern Baptists derived from the German Anabaptist movement; and the Seperatist view, that Baptists originated with English separatists who though the Reformation in England did not go far enough (although conceding that they may have been influenced to some degree by the Anabaptists)--and these seperatists gave rise to not only Baptists, but also Puritans, and even Presbyterians in Britian. The problem with the first, as anony points out, is while some of these early groups did have some points of doctrine that is similar to modern Baptists, they also had some very divergent views, which Baptists today would have no problem calling heretical, as well as that there is no continuity between most of these groups. The second view has similar problems; the German Anabaptists did hold to Believer's baptism (hence the name Anabaptists, or Re-Baptizeers), but they also believed in radical redistribution of wealth, by force when necessary, and if killing a rich landowner was part of that necessity, OK, so be it. Someone--I forget who--once wrote a book "proving" the Anabaptists became Baptists by their names. However, it was thin evidence. If you have an German Anabaptist named Johann Schmitt in 1580 and an English Baptist named John Smith in 1610, is is because Schmitt immigrated and Anglicized his name, or just because they are both common names in their respective countries? In the absence of further evidence (of which there is none), the simplest explanation must be accepted, which is that the names are coincidence. That leaves the Seperatist origin theory. The "trail" from John Smythe and Thomas Helwys to the English Baptists of half a century later is fairly well documented--quite well in comparison to the Landmark and Anabaptist views actually. And the trail from London to the Southern Baptist Convention then is unquestioned. So with all due respect to both you and Dr. Carroll, because there is just no evidence of the perpetuity theory for Baptist churches, it is not accepted.


Allie said...

I've heard of the Trail of Blood - in fact at the early age of 10 or 11 I had my very own copy. I think I tried to read it and didn't quite understand it.

Awhile back I came across Wade's blog and read some interesting blog posts I finally figured out what I found so wrong with the church I grew up in - I didn't know that their particular brand of theology had a name - Landmarkism - and now I get the giggles when I think about all of the Landmark Missionary Baptist churches I have heard about through the years.

As someone who grew up in a Landmark based church and as an adult chose to go to a Southern Baptist Church (which by the way my family was sorely disappointed in my bad choice in churches!) I am disheartened that there are people who think this is a good thing or don't realize the implications of this shift.

This may not be true of all Landmark churches, and this is colored by a child's understanding, but these are some of the things I had to overcome as an adult:

1)Baptisms are only true if performed by that church.

2)Universal church? What's that? Oh you mean all Christians? No, no, no - you are so wrong there. No siree... if you aren't a Missionary Baptist, you aren't saved... or its very unlikely! Oh you said a sinner's prayer? You were baptized? By a Missionary Baptist? No? Well then you aren't truly baptized. Yes, you'll be in Heaven... but you aren't apart of the Bride of Christ... no siree. Better join our church and get baptized if you wanna be part of the Bride and the true Church.

And so on and so on and so on.

While Landmarkism, by its very nature encourages the local church to band together, it does so at the sacrifice of fellowship with other Christians (unless they happen to be in the same association).

With a shift towards Landmarkism in the SBC churches, it will only be a matter of time before there are some major splits within the association.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, John and Rex:

This is a great conversation, and conducted with such a good spirit, too.

My studies in religious history at a Baptist college in the late 70s are consistent with Jeff's and John's understanding, i.e. that Baptists in the U.S. are the progeny of English Separatism.

I heard of Carroll and the Trail of Blood from my history proof. He did not subscribe to it, and I got the impression that Landmarkism died out as signficant force around 1900 or shortly thereafter.

I have never met a Landmarker. I have met plenty of independent Baptists, but none of them were Landmarkers.


Christiane said...

Some people need to feel 'connected' to the early Christians. Well, we ALL are.
The 'ekklesia', the Body of Christ, unites all Christians of all time in union with Christ and with each other.

The divisions between us are man-made and will not be permanent.
There will be a resolution of all this division someday.
In the meantime, focus on what is shared and what needs to be done.
The broken world needs Christ.
Does it matter that the person who brings Him to those in need is not 'in your denomination'?
He is more than our divisions.
He is more than the sum of all of us together.

Keep focus on Christ at the center of our faith and go out and bring Him to a hurting world who waits for His Blessing.

When a 'church' cares more for excluding 'heretics' than it does for converting others to Christ, then something sacred has been lost in that church.

The ancient prayer:

"Jesus Christ, Son, Savior, have mercy on us." can be said by all Christians. He is our Unity.
He is our Center. We are united in Him and no doctrine can separate us from each other in the Body of Christ.

So, be peaceful. When the "time" comes, and people are ready, these divisions will cease, but it will take the work of the Holy Spirit to bring this about.

Christ cannot be divided up among us. All who follow His call belong to His 'Ekklesia', the Body of Christ, of which He is the Head.

Christ was there at the beginning of 'Christianity'. The 'Ekklesia' is His.
He will be there when He calls His "Ekkesia' to Him on the Day of the Lord.

An very ancient hymn prays:

"Let us recall that in our midst
Dwells God's begotten Son
As members of His Body joined
We are in Him made One
No race nor creed can love exclude
If honored be God's Name
And let us love each other well
Whose Father is the Same."

May it be so. :)

Love, L's

linda said...

My home church was SBC and somewhat Landmark--not totally, but somewhat.

I do see Landmarkers inroads into the SBC as a possible blessing.

Whether one agrees with Landmark teachings or not, the willingness to break fellowship with what one considers heretical teachings or actions may infuse much needed "backbone".

Case in point: I fully agree that some Christians read the Bible and believe it forbids women pastors. I fully agree others read the Bible and believe it allows them. I am dismayed by the attitude that whether or not to ordain women (or men!) should be decided by consensus or popular vote.

The same applies to any of the other issues plaguing the convention today.

Some Christians use scripture to justify infant baptism. Baptists do not accept it on scriptural grounds. Both groups will likely be in heaven, but it is not wrong per se for Baptists to insist on believer's baptism by immersion. For that matter, if the SBC or any other group decides to accept only their own baptisms for church membership, they have the right to do so. It affects no one's standing with the Almighty. Anyone not wanting to submit to that baptism is free to refuse it.

My sarcastic first response was intended to take to the extreme some of the arguments being used on this blog for women's ordination.

Perhaps God does NOT limit the pastorate to only men. But IF He does, no one is going to go to hell because women were not available to pastor some rural church. IF He puts that restriction on, He will supply.

As for the high cost of training in seminary, I have no idea. I have heard men with bachelor's degrees refuse to consider a call to a specific rural church because it could not pay enough to pay off their student loans.

I was hoping the sarcasm would move discussion past the church of Oprah--the "I feel" and "but what if" and back to the "thus sayeth the Lord." (Even though I fully believe not a one of us responding here is infallible in our understanding of that infallible Scripture.)

So I guess I don't care (sorry, historians, landmarkers, anti-landmarkers) what the consensus of the church has been in any and all specific ages regarding any or all of these topics.

I care mightily what the Word of God says. And hope those of you with more skill in it, more education in it, or more understanding of it will educate me in that Word instead of determining what is right by what puts more kiesters in the pew.

Keep it up--you make me think!

John Fariss said...

Louis & Christine,

Thanks! I hope Rex was not hurt by my comments. I believe that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable; and even when those are points with which I disagree with someone, therre may well be other points--more points--of agreement with them.

35 or so years ago, I had a friend who was a child psychiatrist. She told me that when she was called on to assess the intelligence of a child too young to take any sort of standardized IQ test, she simply asked the child, "What are the similarities between an ant and a person?" She said anyone could come up with differences; but a mark of intelligence was to notice similarities; the more the child could find, the more intelligent the child was. I somnetimes forget that, but I try always to return to it.

Blessings to you all.


John Fariss said...

Dear Linda,

We Baptists have never had a problem breaking fellowship with those with whom we disagree. Granted, it is more often over the color of the sanctuary walls or whether or not to replace the worn, moth-eaten, dark green carpet in the back hallway that Granny donated, but still, there is no lack of backbone in most Baptist churches over breaking fellowship. In fact, most of the churches I have served (four out of five) still have scars and injuries from such breaks in fellowship. I just don't see how an infusion of Landmarkism can possibly do any Baptist church any good, no more than an infusion of Phariseeism would.

And when you speak of voting about whether or not to ordain women--I need a clarification here. Are you speaking of a church bowing to worldly expectations, or about the traditional Baptist polity of the democracy of the congregation? If the former, I agree with you. But if the latter, we are simply speaking about congregational interpretation of Scripture.

And yes, any group can set its own standards for admission, at least in America. That that we have a right to do so does not necessarily mean it is (Biblically) right.

I heartily agree with your statement, "not a one of us responding here is infallible in our understanding of that infallible Scripture." Amen, sister. Preach on! Oh, er, I mean. . . .


Anonymous said...

I think that most forms of exclusivism, like Landmarkism and like the Calvinist position on "the elect", is propelled by an underlying weird sense of arrogance. There is a gratification that comes from feeling, "I'm on the inside but you're not. Sorry."

Anonymous said...

And as the Bible says, those who take the high seats now will be asked to move lower, and the humble will be raised up to the higher seats.

God knows.
The proud have their day now, looking down on everyone else.
But the Lord will have the final say in who comes into His Kingdom.

Anonymous said...

"the Calvinist position on "the elect..."


How is that different than the bible's position on "the elect"?

News flash...this just in...It is VERY exclusive.

Modern evangelism and the lack of biblical preaching has only made it seem all inclusive.

The gospel is not all inclusive.

Anonymous said...

The 'elect' (self-elected) will get a rude awakening at judgment.

And the rest of us can't wait to see the smug fry.

Rex Ray said...

John and others,
You’re right that I went too far in saying The Trail of Blood was Baptist doctrine. Sometimes we judge everyone in having the same experiences that we have had.

Now, young people believe Baptists are classified as Protestant, but us old people were taught that Baptists were never in the Catholic Church and are not Protestant. My father taught us when we were asked if we were Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish to answer none of the above because we were Baptists.

It used to be that Carroll’s picture and his ‘chart’ of 2,000 years hung on the wall at SWBTS, but it doesn’t anymore.

I believe Carroll got the boot because his take on Third John didn’t line up with inerrancy. He said history recorded John was martyred by being boiled in oil before the three John and Revelation was written.

Carroll said history recorded John the Elder was living at that time.

Would Clinton be introduced as the former Governor of Arkansas or the former President of the United States?

I always wondered why the author of Second and Third John called himself the elder if he was an apostle.

No, I’m not upset or anything. Started taping a large size church, and been busy. I’ve enjoyed the conversation.

Rex Ray said...

You said, “I agree with you more often than not, but I think this one is off base.”

Here is another one you probably won’t agree with. In fact, it will move me in some people’s eyes that I have progressed from moderate to liberal to heretic. :)

I agree with what Carroll wrote in his Trail of Blood:

“The first of these changes from New Testament teachings embraced both policy and doctrine. In the first two centuries the individual churches rapidly multiplied and some of the earlier ones, such as Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, etc., grew to be very large; Jerusalem, for instance, had many thousand members (Acts 2:41; 4:4, 5:14), possibly 25,000 or even 50,000 or more. These great churches necessarily had many preachers or elders (Acts 20:17). Some of the bishops or pastors began to assume authority not given them in the New Testament. They began to claim authority over other and smaller churches. They, with their many elders, began to lord it over God's heritage (III John 9). Here was the beginning of an error which has grown and multiplied into many other seriously hurtful errors. Here was the beginning of different orders in the ministry running up finally to what is practiced now by others as well as Catholics. Here began what resulted in an entire change from the original democratic policy and government of the early churches. This irregularity began in a small way, even before the close of the second century. This was possibly the first serious departure from the New Testament church order.”

Well John, there you have it. It could be argued that Carroll was saying that Diotrephes was the ‘bad guy’ in “III John 9”, but he was the leader of a small church. Carroll said this was an example of a large church lording it over a small church.

To back up Carroll saying, “Some of the bishops began to assume authority not given them in the New Testament” analyze what the second bishop of Antioch wrote Mary as recorded in Wheaton College:
“We ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself.”

Back to III John verse 6: “They have told the church…” verse 9 “I sent a brief letter to the church…”

What church did the elder refer to, and what church was he an elder in? Probably Jerusalem huh?

‘Birth of Christianity’ page 466: “James was the authoritative leader of the Jerusalem mother-church, which was operating two major missions, one to the Jews and one to the pagans. In a combined community, such as that at Antioch, Christian Judaism had to prevail over Christian paganism.”
Wonder if James ‘appointed’ the second bishop of Antioch?

Paul argued with men teaching circumcision for salvation in Acts 15:1. These men came from the Jerusalem Church (Acts 15:24) “We understand that some men from here have trouble you and upset you with their teaching.”
And (Galatians 2:12) “When he first arrive, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles any more. He was afraid…”

OK, III John verse 9 (Living Bible) “I sent a brief letter to the church abut this, but proud Diotrephes, who loves to push himself forward as the leader of the Christians there, does not admit my authority over him and refuses to listen to me.” Verse 10: “When I come I will tell you some of the things he is doing and what wicked things he is saying about me and what insulting language he is using. He not only refuses to welcome the missionary travelers himself, but tells others not to, and when they do he tries to put them out of the church.”

Could it be that these “travelers” were like the ones that Paul called “spies”? “Who came to spy on us and see what freedom we enjoyed in Christ Jesus, as to whether we obeyed the Jewish laws or not.” (Galatians 2:4)

History records Diotrephes publicly denouncing the ones who came from the large church. Was he practicing what Paul taught: “Let God’ curse fall on anyone…who preaches any other way to be saved” (Galatians 1:8)

Was the elder preaching another way to be saved when he wrote: “Beware of…losing the prize [Heaven?] that you and I have been working so hard to get [Faith plus works?]…if you wander beyond the teachings of Christ [stop doing works?] you will leave God behind [Going to hell?].” (II John 1:8-10)

If my view was correct, how close would Wade be to Diotrephes in denouncing leaders? :)

Anonymous said...

3 John 9-11

"1:9 I wrote unto the church [T: congregation]: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. qtext

1:10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember [G: call to your remembrance; BT: declare] his deeds which he doeth, prating against us [G: prattling against us; BT: jesting on us] with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth [GBT: thrusteth] them out of the church [T: congregation]. qtext

1:11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good [GBT: well] is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen [BT: seeth not] God. qtext

Rex Ray said...

Glad you agree. :)

John Fariss said...

Hi Rex,

One man's honest interpreter is another's heretic. You're in good company, as some are always eager to accuse others of heresy, even when historical theology does not back them up.

Thanks for the conversation. FYI, I do not doubt the Biblical record, but it sounds to me as though Dr. Carroll was making a number of asumptions, otherwise lacking from verifiable, historical sources. I took the time yesterday to skim through a couple of J.R. Grave's books, and was reminded of how angry his writings were, and how he used written "bullying" tactics to make his points, much like the old joke about some preacher's notes reading, "Point weak--shout louder." Based on your quotes, it sounds to me like Dr. Carroll was saying, "It was this way" when the most that the extent facts would logically sustain was, "It could have been this way." And while I appreciate what your father said--and it certainly sounds as though it was influenced by Landmark teachings--I just don't see the reality of that in the historical record. And a lot of credible Baptists historians, from William Whitsett to at least Leon McBeth have concluded that the Landmark understanding is way off base.

Will be out of town the next couple of days, so God bless!


Only By His Grace said...


I love the discussion. I disagree with you "a little" on your approach to the Anabaptist. They were a very diversified group. Any group that practiced emersion were called Anabaptist which was a derogatory term applied to them by Roman Catholics, Lutheran, Presbyterians and especially Congregationalist.

When some of us call our Baptist roots "Anabaptist," we are referring to four genesis groups with the first group having the most influence: Swiss Brethren, Amish, Mennonite (Menno Simons) and Hutterites (John Hutter). All four of these groups are still thriving, today, especially in the US.

If you study the teachings of some of their great theologians such as Balthasar Hubmaier and Peter Reidemann and the influence of those such as Menno Simons and George Blaurock you will find that they were diversified in doctrine in many tertiary teachings such as common ownership of property, dress code and a few other things. Except for the doctrine of Security of the Believer (using the Calvinist term), they were all in agreement that baptism was by immersion, followed a public statement of faith in Christ; the absolute separation of church and state, and the Lord's Supper was emblematic over against the doctrine of transubstantiation, consubstantiation and insubstantiation (basic approaches of the Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Lutheran Churches as I understand them).

The one great thing that they had in common was they were not allowed to do violence to any human being for any reason whatsoever, not even for personal self-defense or the defense of their families. They were pacifists in the strictest sense of the term.

We must be very careful in grouping all who immersed during the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries under one umbrella of Anabaptist. There were some really far out radical groups called Anabaptist that had nothing in common with the four groups I previously mentioned as those who believed in "free love," "multiple wives," "earth kingdom building by force," and other things.

I really enjoy your comments and perspectives concerning SBC history. You have a very good balance.

Phil in Norman.

John Fariss said...


Point well taken. You are exactly right that many divergent groups were called "Anabaptist" by their adversaries when they had relatively little in common except their understanding of baptism. I would also concede that the early English Baptists were probably influenced to some degree by various Anabaptist groups, although exactly how much is probably lost in the mists of time. Thanks.