Have Landmark Baptists made any helpful contributions to the Christian tradition?  

Have Landmark Baptists made any helpful contributions to the Christian tradition?  

By Ben Stratton

Recently Dr. Jason Duesing, provost at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, made the statement, “Whereas Baptists, at times, have made unhelpful contributions to the Christian tradition throughout their history (see the Landmark movement as one example).”  This quote was found in the first paragraph of his article “A High View of a Low and Free Church” published on Baptist Press.  Is this statement true?  Have Landmark Baptists only made “unhelpful contributions” to the Christian tradition?  Let’s examine this question:

1.  Landmark Baptists have made the helpful contribution of keeping older Baptist histories and theologies in print.  One major modern Baptist History publisher even declared that if it wasn’t for the Landmark Baptists, there wouldn’t be much interest in old Baptist books.  Who else has reprinted Thomas Armitage or Thomas Crosby’s “History of Baptists”?  Indeed it was a Landmark Baptist who first reprinted James P. Boyce’s “Abstract of Systematic Theology” and from which Ernest Reisinger got the idea to distribute the book to seminary graduates.

2. Landmark Baptists have made the helpful contribution of founding dozens of theological schools where pastors and missionaries have been trained.  This includes B.H. Carroll’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, John T. Christian at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the Hall-Moody Bible Institute in Tennessee (named after two landmarkers – J.N. Hall and J.B. Moody), and Mid-Continent Baptist Bible College in west Kentucky.  Many others could be named.

3. Landmark Baptists have made the helpful contribution of sending out hundreds of missionaries to the far corners of the earth.  J.F. Love, former Corresponding Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, said that the First Baptist Church of Murray, Kentucky (pastored by H. Boyce Taylor, a noted Landmark Baptist) was the greatest missionary church since the New Testament.  Taylor sent out dozens of home and foreign missionaries, including the first Southern Baptist missionaries to Peru and Chile.

4. Landmark Baptists have made the helpful contribution of making Christians aware of the Anabaptists.  Even today when most think of the Reformation, Calvin, Luther, Knox, and Zwingli get the majority of the attention.  Yet historically it has been the Landmark Baptists pointing people to the life and work of men such as Balthasar Hubmaier, Conrad Grebel, Menno Simons, Pilgrim Marpeck, and others.  If it were not for the Landmark Baptists, these men would be largely ignored for the magisterial reformers.

5. Landmark Baptists have made the helpful contribution of strengthening the doctrinal convictions of multitudes of Christians.  Joseph E. Brown, then Governor of Georgia, said of J.R. Graves, “There is one man who has done more than any fifty men now living to enable the Baptists of America to know their own history and their own principles, and to make the world know them, and that man is the brother on my right.”  As one seminary professor says, “Landmarkers put iron into the Baptist blood.”  Whatever can be said of Landmark Baptists they believed in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible and held their biblical convictions strongly.  Even today in the areas where Landmarkism was once dominant, there are fewer CBF churches than in areas where Landmarkism was less prevalent.

However if I had to guess, I would say that Dr. Duesing is primarily referring to the Landmark movement’s insistence on Baptist perpetuity or succession as being their main “unhelpful contribution” to the Christian tradition.  Yet even here, his statement has problems. For example:

1. It wasn’t the Landmark movement who invented the idea of Baptist perpetuity.   This idea can be found in the writings of men such as Jessie Mercer and Israel Roberds who declared these things when J.R. Graves was just a boy in Vermont.  Even the liberal anti-Landmark historian Morgan Patterson admitted that J.R. Graves and the Landmark Baptists did not invent the idea of Baptist succession.

2. Also it wasn’t solely the Landmark Baptists who defended the idea of Baptist perpetuity.  This view of Baptist origins can be found in the writings of Charles Spurgeon (“we are the old apostolic Church that have never bowed to the yoke of princes yet; we, known among men, in all ages, by various names, such as Donatists, Novatians, Paulicians, Petrobrussians, Cathari, Arnoldists, Hussites, Waldenses, Lollards, and Anabaptists, have always contended for the purity of the Church, and her distinctness and separation from human government”), the Primitive Baptists (Hassell’s, “History of the Church of God”), the General Baptists (Ollie Latch, Woods, etc.) and even Northern Baptists such as R.J.W. Buckland.  While Landmark Baptists may have been the most vocal in championing Baptist perpetuity, this view was held by the majority of all Baptists from the 17th to the 19th century.

3. While most modern church historians will cast aside the idea of Baptist perpetuity, the idea will not go away.  Nor should it without a more thorough investigation.  Sadly few are willing to study it. For example while the writings of such English Baptists as Benjamin Keach are being reprinted and rediscovered today, how many Baptists know of Henry D’Anvers?  The noted 17th Century English Particular Baptist believed in Baptist perpetuity through the older Anabaptists and authored works teaching this.  Yet his writings are largely ignored today.

Outside of his first paragraph, I enjoyed and agreed with Dr. Duesing’s article.  However he doesn’t need to carelessly attack Landmark Baptists.  One need not be a Landmark Baptist or hold to all of their doctrinal and historical conclusions to agree that they have made many helpful contributions to the Christian tradition.


How Well Do You Know Kentucky Baptist History?

1. Where is the oldest Baptist meeting house still standing in Kentucky?

2. What Baptist preacher baptized Isaac McCoy, the greatest Indian missionary who ever lived?

3. What Baptist preacher is given credit for baptizing George Washington?

4. What Baptist preacher became Governor of Kentucky?

5. What Kentucky Baptist preacher helped ordain J.R. Graves to the ministry?

6. What individual born in Lincoln County, Kentucky has a University named for him in Texas?

7. Which President of the United States once owned over 90,000 acres in Kentucky?

8. What former Baptist meeting house still stands on Runnymede Farm in Bourbon County, Kentucky?

9. What Baptist preacher did Thomas Jefferson say influenced him concerning the best plan of Government for Kentucky?

10. Who baptized Abraham Lincoln’s father?

11. What future automobile manufacturing company brought the headstone for Abraham Lincoln’s mother?

12. What outlaw’s father was an original trustee of William Jewell College?

The answers to these questions and much more are in the new book: “The First Fifty Baptist Churches in Kentucky” by Mickey Winter

223 pages, hardback. $10 postpaid.

Order from the author:
Mickey Winter
135 Oak Drive
Waynesburg, KY 40489
(606) 386-1453

E.C. Routh on Baptists Through the Ages

“Soon, there emerged the heresies of baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, the dominance of certain bishops over other  bishops, the control of religion by the State, and the persecution of dissenters.  But all the way along, even through the Dark Ages, there were groups of believers who, like their Lord, endured the cross, despising the shame.  They were called various names, but they were true to the only  Name, the Name above every name, by which sinners may be saved and saints sustained and strengthened.  Whatever their name, they believed in soul-liberty, salvation by grace, a regenerated church  membership, the priesthood of believers, believer’s baptism, and separation of Church and State.  They blazed a trail ofttimes marked by the blood of their devotion to the Word of God.”  E.C. Routh 

Eugene Coke Routh (1874-1966) served as editor of Southern Baptist publications for 41 years.  This included the “Baptist Standard” (1912-1927), the “Oklahoma Baptist Messenger” (1928-1943) and the “Commission” (1944-1948).   This quote shows that even as late at the mid-twentieth century, many leading Southern Baptists still held to some form of Baptist perpetuity and the Trail of Blood.  The above quote is from his 1951 book “Who Are They,” page 67.  It is from the chapter “Who Are The Baptists?”



Baptist Succession in 1674

“By all which ye see by plentiful Evidence, that Christ hath not been without His Witnesses in every age, not only to defend and assert the true, but to impugn, and to reject (yet, even to death itself) the false Baptism.  In so much that we are not left without good testimony of a series of succession, that by God’s providence hath even kept afoot, of this great ordinance of believer’s baptism ever since the first times.”   Henry D’Anvers, 1674

(Henry D’Anvers {?-1686} was an English Baptist preacher and author.  The above quote is from pages 321-322 in his work “A Treatise of Baptism” first published in London in 1674.  Notice that D’Anvers believed that from the days of the New Testament until the present, Christ hath had a “succession” of His people who rejected false infant baptism by sprinkling and held to believer’s baptism by immersion.  Like other Baptists of the 1600’s, 1700’s, and 1800’s, D’Anvers held to the Trail of Blood view of Baptist history and origins.)

Elder S.G. Shepard, Dr. W.O. Carver’s father-in-law

“Bro. J.H. Grime was followed by Elder S.G. Shepard, the old man fiery and eloquent.  Colonel Shepard, as he is called, is said to have professed religion behind the famous rock fence in the battle of Gettysburg at the junction of the battle when the tide turned in favor of the Union army.  Bro. Shepard’s address was full of interest. One statement that he gave with emphasis was that, in spite of all that had been said and written to the contrary, he believed there was an unbroken continuity of regular Baptist Churches through the ages back to the apostles. Bro. Shepard was twice the pastor of Mt. Olivet Church. He is the father-in-law of Prof. W.O. Carver of Louisville, Ky.”    – John T. Oakley

(Dr. William Owen Carver {1868-1954} was a long time professor of missions at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  He was also one of the first professors to support liberalism in the seminary.  It is interesting to note that his father-in-law was such a staunch Baptist pastor in Tennessee.  The quote is from the Baptist and Reflector newspaper, May 9, 1901.   Oakley was describing the 100 year anniversary service of the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church of Leeville, Tennessee.  Both Oakley and Grime were leading pastors, debtors, and authors among the Baptists of Middle and West Tennessee.)

Why Regard John Smyth as the Founder of the Baptists?

Why regard John Smyth as the founder of the Baptists?  Why?

1.  He wasn’t the first to baptize only believers.  Why not regard  Balthasar Hubmaier, Conrad Grebel, or Michael Sattler as the founder?  They baptized only believers long before John Smyth.

2.  He probably didn’t baptize by immersion, so the doctrinal connection to modern Baptists is weak at best.  Even if you are willing to overlook immersion, why not look to the Anabaptists instead?

3.  He wasn’t the first Englishman to baptize only believers.  There were Anabaptists in England long before 1609.  For proof please see John T. Christian’s History of the Baptists, volume 1, chapter 15 – The Baptists of the Reformation Period in England – http://www.pbministries.org/History/John%20T.%20Christian/vol1/history_15.htm

4.  He didn’t start a church that lasted.  There are no churches in existence today that have a historical connection to him.  If you say, well he did start a believer’s baptism church – it still wasn’t the first one.  See #1 and #3.

Wendell H. Rone on Baptist Origins

“Baptists have with one voice denied connection with the Roman apostasy and have claimed their origin as a church from Jesus Christ and the Apostles.” Wendell H. Rone

(Wendell H. Rone {1913-2003} was a noted Kentucky Baptist pastor, author, historian, and professor. Bro. Rone graduated from Southern Seminary in 1939 with a Th.M. He pastored numerous churches in western Kentucky and served Southern Baptists in a number of denominational positions. He served as both professor and president of Mid-Continent Baptist Bible College in western Kentucky and authored a number of books, included the well-known “Baptist Faith and Roman Catholicism”. The following quote is from page 29 of this excellent book.)