On Landmarkism, Campbellism, and Fundamentalism

8:56 pm | Uncategorized

In an earlier post, I had asked a number of questions for understanding Fundamentalism, its history, and its place in contemporary culture. Specifically, I asked, “How did a movement dedicated to defending the inspiration of Scripture and the possibility of miracles slowly become hijacked by Landmarkists, Hard-Shellism, and Peter Ruckman’s King James Onlyism through the 1950s and 1960s?”

Almost as if someone had anticipated this question, a blog has been posting specifically on the subject of Landmarkism: A Southern Baptist History Primer [HT: Jeff Downs]. This blog explains in some detail what Landmarkism is, what it teaches, and responds to those errors. Mainly, J. R. Graves’ booklet The Trail of Blood promotes the concept of an unbroken line of Biblical tradition connecting Baptists back to the apostles, and denying or minimalizing the connections of Baptist history with the Reformation. Whether or not J. R. Graves’ himself believed that only Baptists were true Christians, for many who read his booklet the impression left behind was that only the Baptists could rightly be called Christian.

For a detailed treatment of these historical issues, Dr. Chad Brand recommended James Tull, High Church Baptists in the South (Mercer Press).

A parallel discussion on the AR-Talk mailing list discusses a similar doctrinal problem that exists with the Church of Christ (CoC, or alternatively ‘Campbellism’). A subscriber asked “I need some reputable resources on the theological problems with Churches of Christ. From what I recall (not my area of expertise or experience) these include baptismal regeneration, which I think has to be through CoC baptism. Does it follow that no one can be saved outside CoC? How do they regard other churches (’denominations’)?”

One of the best explanations of Church of Christ theology I have found is Leroy Brownlow’s Why I am a member of the Church of Christ. Brownlow is a proponent of baptismal regeneration. The last chapter deals with the question about salvation outside the Church of Christ more directly. Because the CoC does not recognize the fact that it is a denomination, but rather the true expression of the church, they tend toward extreme exclusivism in practice. That is to say, only those who are baptized in the CoC (other baptisms are not recognized) and who are members of the CoC have salvation. Other churches are seen in a particularly negative light.

One of the best responses to CoC theology I have found is by Bob L. Ross, Campbellism: Its History and Heresies. Although Ross does tend to get on the bad side of some folks, I highly recommend his analysis of CoC theology. Very few others that I am aware of give much attention to Campbellism. Though, there is some treatment and response to CoC soteriology in Dr. Norman Geisler’s Systematic Theology Volume 3 (see pp. 489-504).

My experience in working with folks who are coming out from a CoC background is that they ask a ton of good theological questions, learn to play the guitar, and develop a passion for instrumental worship. In addition to the theological questions, it is helpful to talk about spiritual abuse (a whole other topic) and explain the doctrine of grace.

Tom Smith added: “One good book which provide some excellent historical background to the movement and it’s doctrinal evolution is ‘The Stone-Campbell Movement‘ by Leroy Garrett published by College Press (ISBN 0-89900-059-2).”

It seems that the same kinds of theological mistakes are repeated again and again. The temptation to restore a purer order of Christianity than can be found in the Reformation is a temptation to extreme exclusivism and separatism, and the first step on the road that denies the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the universal church. It is a temptation to step beyond the pale of orthodoxy.




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Comment on May 22, 2006 @ 9:30 pm


Thanks for the link and your kind words.
This is actually a published booklet now, but there are only 1000 copies, as the publication was donated by some folks at an SBC church in Oklahoma. I’ll have 100 copies at the SBC in NC in June. 900 are being established, so I understand, to key figures in the SBC, 30 of which are the signatories of the Memphis Declaration.

My booklet is specifically aimed at folks who don’t know what Landmarkism is because they don’t hail from places where it has gained much influence. For example, in NC, we have just a couple true Landmark churches, though I’ve heard some Baptist successionism taught here and there. If you or I say, “That sounds like Landmarkism” here in NC, folks are clueless. Ergo, when they hear or read a blogger say “The new baptism policies at the International Mission Board smack of Landmarkism” they are equally clueless. I was asked to write a popular, easy to read and understand history for that reason. To make it relevant, as you’ll see in the last chapter, I’ll tie it all together in the present day.

Along the way, I’m also addressing other issues that are of current interest in the SBC. These include the actual definition of hyper-Calvinism in the wake of anti-Calvinist attacks accusing traditional Reformed Baptists and Amyraldians in the SBC of being hypers; Campbellism (easy believism and the use of sacramental “sinners prayers” in place of baptismal regeneration and a functionally Unitarian soteriology are fundamentally Campbellite ideas which have reared their heads in the highly revivalistic Baptist churches (it is functionally Unitarian to make God depend on man’s faith for the Father to elect and to depend on man’s faith to also regenerate–only the cross of the Son is in view, plus there is usually no doctrine of prevenient grace underwriting this, unlike traditional Arminianism, and the “wooing” is merely the preaching of the gospel itself, ergo, functional Unitarianism–add a sacramental prayer, aisle walking, etc. and you end up with sacramentalism; you’ve replaced baptism with these new rites, ergo Neo-Campbellitism); also principled dissent (there’s a discussion on B.H. Carroll’s behavior during the Whitsett Controversy coming up in the next chapter), and even, in the last chapter, the dishonest statisical reporting that goes on in the modern SBC. I even defend 5-Point Arminianism and the legitimacy of Free Will Baptist baptism, in view of the new IMB baptism policy, precisely because I’m a Five-Point Calvinist. I think the rejection of FWB baptism is hyper-Calvinistic in principle, and, in the last chapter, I document this.

I’m glad you’re enjoying the read. It should be complete by the end of the week. If you know any messengers going to the SBC in NC in June, please direct them to this URL and tell them to pay careful attention.

God Bless!



Comment on May 22, 2006 @ 9:42 pm

Also, if you notice, in the 3rd chapter, I’ve also hit on an antecedent to the KJVO movement you mention above, namely the Bible Society controversy of the early 19th century between Paedobaptists and Baptists.

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