THE ORIGIN OF BAPTISTS By ROSCO BRONG
Former Dean of Lexington Baptist College
"HERITAGE SERIES" OF S.B.C. TRAINING UNION
SELLS BIRTHRIGHT FOR MESS OF POTTAGE
"The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?" (Lu. 20:4.) "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and oftheSon, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Mat. 28:18-20.)
The origin of Baptists is not primarily a matter of profane history, but of inspired revelation. Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to His own word, built His own church, promised that the gates of hades would not prevail against it, gave it a worldwide commission, and declared that He is with it "all the days until the complete finish of the age." If this church that Jesus built was not, in concrete reality, what would today be called a Baptist church, then Baptists ought to find out what kind of church it was and by all means, at any cost, return from our schisms to that kind of church that Jesus tells us He is with.
When we abandon the authority of God’s word for the Babel of profane history and human tradition, there is no logical stopping place for nominal Christianity short of abject subservience to the pope of Rome, since the preponderance of human testimony in numbers, wealth, and power is overwhelmingly on his side.
In the April 2,1964, issue of the Western Recorder, a paper which in past generations promoted Baptist (that is, Bible) truth, appeared an article headed "The Origin of Baptists" by one Glen Lee Greene, who, according to a footnote, "is a graduate of Louisiana College and New Orleans Baptist Seminary." The same footnote informs us that "He wrote this series of articles on Baptist Heritage at the request of the Training Union.
More and more it is becoming apparent that the opinions set forth in Bro. Greene’s article are not mere personal aberrations, but represent the prevailing view of present Southern Baptist Convention officialdom, which is fast selling out the proper blood-bought heritage of Baptists for the red pottage of popular pleasure in the alluring deceptions of modern Babylon and her adulterous daughters.
What s In A Name?
The first paragraph of Bro. Greene’s article reads as follows: "Jesus did not give the church a formal name. Men not only named it, they divided and changed it. Historical evolvement produced changes, either good or bad, right or wrong. The course of Christian history was affected by crises and tensions both within and without the Christian movement. No church today conforms in every detail to, nor carries on its work exactly like, the New Testament church. This is not possible, necessary, or desirable." Obviously the writer, though for his own reasons he avoided the word "evolution" and used "evolvement" instead, does not believe that Jesus built His church, but that whatever he might call a church is a product of evolution, which he chooses to call evolvement.
The reference to conformity "in every detail" is senseless. No two creatures of God, no two men, even no two snowflakes, are exactly alike "in every detail." But the variations among individual men are of a different order from the distinction between men and apes. So the variations among individual churches of the New Testament kind are of a different order from the distinction between such churches and the so-called churches of human
Quoting Bro. Greene further, "According to Matthew, whose Gospel is the only one that refers to the subject, Jesus used the word church three times (once in Matthew 16:18 and twice in Matthew 18:17). Primitive Christianity produced a rapid development of Christian communities. Church organization and worship remained simple. There was no central administrative authority and no uniformity in local church organization." It is not true that Matthew’s Gospel "is the only one that refers to the subject." It is true that the word "church" (Gr. "ekklesia") does not occur in the other three Gospels.
Continuing to quote, the third paragraph reads: "Majority and minority movements soon emerged within the one Christian fold. The big church, the mainstream or majority of the Christian movement, had powerful champions in the great centers of population, which attracted able, ambitious leaders. These leaders, the bishops, jealously strove for the extension of their own authority. They were extremely competitive bishops. This majority movement was largely held together through its insistence that it was the one true, catholic (universal) church. The minority, however, was fragmented. In various forms it reacted against the majority movement’s claim to be the sole custodian and interpreter of the divine revelation." Just what Bro. Greene means by "one Christian fold" and by "the big church" is perhaps known to him. As to "the one true, catholic (universal) church," such a thing is foreign to the New Testament, and all true Bible believers must immediately reject it as a MONSTROUS FRAUD, regardless of whether it be a majority or a minority of what Bro. Greene calls "the Christian movement."
Sects and Succession
Under this subhead Bro. Greene says (fourth paragraph): "Twin ideas, the apostolical succession of the clergy and the historical succession of the church, were invented to bolster the pretensions of an ecclesiastical power structure. Apostolical succession refers to an effort to validate the ordination of a clergyman by attempting to trace the ancestry of that ordination in an unbroken line of valid ordinations back to the apostles. Historical succession refers to an effort to validate the existence of a church by attempting to trace the ancestry of that church as a clearly definable historical entity in a valid and unbroken line back to New Testament times."
Here we have a cunning and sneaky attempt to reduce the promises of Christ to the level of the pretensions of Antichrist. We have no more need of validating the existence of one of Christ’s churches by tracing its ancestry through human records back to New Testament times than I have of validating my own existence by tracing my ancestry through genealogical records back to Adam. I am persuaded from God s word, and need no further proof, that as I bear in myself the likeness of my first father Adam, I am therefore his descendant, and no product of evolution from apes or other beasts. So with a church: if it is of the New Testament kind, it is no accident or freak of nature, and no product of evolution or evolvement. It is this kind of church because Jesus promised to preserve His church and to be with it to the end of the age. Human genealogies and church histories may be interesting and valuable records and studies, but absence or loss of records cannot nullify the facts of life.
Myths and Sects
This subhead is mine, but the next two paragraphs are Nos. 5 and 6 in Bro. Greene’s article: "Actually almost nothing is known of some of the apostles, and even less of the men they might have ordained, if any. In its zeal for catholicity the majority movement made serious compromises; it altered the New Testament faith. Moreover, in an alliance with government, it sought to enforce conformity and to crush opposition. Its claims of apostolicity and succession notwithstanding, its self-projected image as a monolistic [monolithic?] structure embracing and speaking for the whole of Christianity has remained but a myth.”
"Sectarian Christianity, on the other hand, has not been without its partisans who asserted some form of succession on behalf of the minority. These views lack convincing historical proof regardless of which side their advocates may be on. Despite their tendency to splinter and to proliferate, the sects in the minority camp were generally marked by a common denominator: the affirmation of a warmhearted, evangelical New Testament faith."
At least Bro. Greene recognizes that "the majority movement" (by which apparently he means Roman Catholicism) "altered the New Testament faith." But like the Reformers and unlike Job, he seems to believe that men can bring a clean thing out of an unclean. (Job 14:4.) Use of the word "myth" to characterize popish claims could be rather damaging to the efforts of seminary apologists to persuade the more fundamental brethren that references to the "myths" of the Bible are not intended to cast doubt on the truth of Biblical narrative. But when Bro. Greene writes of "sectarian Christianity," he is guilty of gross confusion of terms, since Catholicism is itself the most sectarian of all so-called Christianity. And "the affirmation of a warmhearted, evangelical New Testament faith" cannot properly be called sectarian at all. “Convincing historical proof” is, of course, a mere matter of opinion.
"Baptists arose out of Separatism, the extremist, sectarian wing of the English Reformation." So Bro. Greene begins his seventh paragraph. If I believed that, I would do as Roger Williams did: stop pretending to be a Baptist and become a "seeker." But to continue quoting paragraph 7: "Although organized as a distinctly recognizable group early in the seventeenth century, they undoubtedly inherited a tradition of dissent and numerous principles cherished by earlier sects. In particular they owe much to the Anabaptists (rebaptizers), to whom the epithet Anabaptist was applied because they rejected infant baptism and insisted on the baptism of believers. Yet there were significant differences between Baptists and Anabaptists. For example, in 1525, Hubmaier, an Anabaptist, baptized more than three hundred men by using a milk pail filled with water. Imagine what would happen if a church today allowed that to occur and then attempted to affiliate with one of our Baptist associations in Louisiana!"
How naive can you get? These statements sound as if all people, churches, or religious groups called by the same name were practically identical in doctrine and practice! Any informed person knows that there are many churches today using the Baptist name that vigorously disclaim any kinship or fellowship with other so-called Baptist churches. And so with other tags or labels that have been put on different churches or religious groups. In fact, most of the people called Anabaptists practiced immersion. The historical fiction quoted above is no more fair or true than it would be to accuse Baptists in this country and in this generation of having generally abandoned scriptural baptism on no more evidence than that a few so-called Baptist churches have become community or open-membership religious societies.
"The Name Baptist "
Paragraphs 7 to 10 of Bro. Greene’s article carried the above subhead. I have already quoted No. 7; Nos. 8 to 10 follow: "Anabaptists and Mennonites (Dutch Anabaptists) have never admitted any close identity with Baptists.
English Baptists very clearly rejected the name Anabaptist when it was applied to them in derision. "Many persons even today quite incorrectly assume that Baptists originated with John the Baptist and that the origin of the name Baptist can be traced to that venerable forerunner of Christ. In the case of John, his name probably should be rendered John the Baptizer. He was given that name because he baptized. Baptists took their name to denote that they had been baptized.”
"One reason why early English Baptists rejected the name Anabaptist was that they did not believe they had been rebaptized; they rejected any baptism but that for believers only. Thus the word Baptist came to connote both the rites of immersion and the evangelical significance of that rite. At first various names were used: Baptized Congregations, Baptized Churches of Christ, etc. Eventually the word "Baptized" came into disuse and the shorter form Baptist had become the accepted title by the opening of the nineteenth century."
No reader could guess from the above quotation that John the Baptist was a man sent from God (Jn. 1:6) to baptize in
water (Jn. 1:33), and that his baptism was good enough for Jesus (Mat. 3:13-17), Who endorsed it as a baptism from heaven (Lu. 20:4-8). Nor could anyone guess from Bro. Greene s denial of the Baptist
heritage that Jesus commissioned His church to continue the practice of this one baptism with the assurance, "Behold, I am with you all the days until the complete finish of the age."
Certainly no intelligent Baptist will contend that this or any other mere name is vital to the identity of a New Testament church, but at least until recent years Baptists generally have been willing to bear the reproach of Christ (Heb. 13:13) and to stand against the world in the testimony of His word. We have come upon sad days when men who call themselves Baptists join in the chorus of infidelity to honor the harlot daughters of Babylon above the virgin bride of Christ.
"Are Baptists Protestants?"
By this time the reader should be prepared for Bro. Greene s eleventh and concluding paragraph: "The term Protestant was used in Germany in 1529 to designate the Lutheran minority which entered a formal protest against discriminatory legislation that would have practically abolished the Lutheran territorial churches. It soon came to mean the entire Reformation movement to restore primitive Christianity. Used loosely today, it refers to those Christian denominations that are not Catholic. Baptists have drawn upon, and contributed to, the evangelical Reformation tradition. Identified in roots and sympathies with the minority movement, they need not take offense when classed as Protestants in a contemporary sense.”
Baptists who have learned from history that Protestants, given the power, persecuted Baptists as cruelly as Rome ever did cannot help being reminded of Jesus words in Mat. 23:28-31: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets."
So the compromising Baptists of our day, professing a Protestant-Catholic-Jewish-Pagan ancestry, are witnesses against themselves that they are spiritually the children of those who have persecuted true Baptists over a bloody trail through nearly 20 centuries.
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