| Still, let it be said, that
our historical origins should never be a cause for devisiveness or division.
We are here in this day and this age. Let us leave such a history
so that those who follow us will have a good example in what we accomplished
for the Kingdom.
Is it possible that the Baptists
can trace themselves through an unbroken chain that goes back to the time
of John the Baptist?
It was J.M. Carroll who wrote
a booklet entitled, "The Trail of Blood," stating that baptistic churches
existed at all times outside of Roman Catholocism. Thus, this view
which is commonly refered to as "Landmarkism" argues that such churches
existed since the first century and, regardless of their many different
names, rejected Romantist doctrine, especially that of baptizing infants
as opposed to believers. However, the historical movements that the
Landmarkists site as being forerunners of the Baptists were those which
were actually heritical in doctrine; not by Romanist doctrine but according
to Biblical truth.
This view continues to enjoy
support for two reasons: 1) the normal desire of any movement to associate
itself with the original founders without any break in the chain that connects
us to them and 2) the truly historical fact that the Romanists have
been guilty throughout church history of persecuting (even unto death)
those Christians who took stands against their unscriptural practices.
In fact, this view is the once most frequently touted throughout the Internet,
thus, demonstrating its ongoing popularity amongst those who hold to it.
This view states that, although
no continuous chain of Baptistic churches can be proven, there is historical
evidence to indicate that Baptist doctrines can be seen throughout the
period between Christ and the beginning of the Anabaptist movement during
Thomas Crosby has been given
credit for formulating this view. He was one of the first Baptist
historians who wrote in the early 1700s. Along with those who have
followed him, their concern has been to prove the legitimacy of baptistic
doctrine in contrast to both Roman Catholocism and the many Protestant
movements that sprang out of it.
This view states that the
emergence of the Baptists out of the English Separatist movement
is based on the previous influence of the Anabaptists. Even though
the Anabaptists practiced extreme pacifism, communal sharing, and a very
optimistic view of human nature, the Baptists are still able to see much
else of their fundamental doctrines in what they believe to be their heritage
thanks to this early group of Bible believing Christians.
There is also a connection
that is made to the Dutch Mennonites who were, in fact, Anabaptists.
This group shared enough basic tenents with modern-day Baptists to see
the similarities; believer's baptism, separation of church and state, religious
This is a safe view in that
the previous two above are more challenging to prove because they span
over all of the centuries from the early church to the 1500s. Nevertheless,
it is simply one of the views and all four should be considered.
This view holds that the
modern-day Baptist is a direct result of the English Separatist movement,
which occurred when those who wanted a more pure form of church life seperated
themselves from the Church of England. Thus, the Puritans and Seperatists
developed very similar approaches to basic Bible doctrine.
This view puts forth the
idea that the influence of the Anabaptists upon the Baptists is minimal.
It traces the very first Baptist church to Amsterdam where Pastor John
Smyth organized it in 1609. The central doctrine that defined it
as a Baptist church was that of baptism for believers only. It was
not long before Thomas Helwys became the pastor and led the group to England
in 1611 (same year that the King James Version of the Bible was completed)
where, thanks to that country's Separatist influence, the group would be
able to exist with some reasonable sense of safety and security.
This is the view that has
the most acceptance amongst the Baptists.