Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Baptist Successionism Part 4: 1400-1600, 17th-19th Centuries, and Conclusion

I recommend reading parts 1, 2, and 3 first. In the section dealing with the period from 1400-1600 Carroll gives a brief survey of the history of the Reformation. Some of what he says is true, some is not. But I'm mostly concerned with his claims about the anabaptists. From Carroll's writings you get the impression that anabaptists were persecuted simply because they would not baptize babies. But this is not true. Many anabaptists were violent revolutionaries who taught forms of socialism and taught that the wealthy should be stripped of their wealth. For further reading on some of the atrocities commited by the anabaptists and their promotion of immorality click here.

Carroll then gives a survey of the time period between the 17th-19th Centuries. For some reason in this section Carroll writes:

11. I quote a very significant statement from the Schaff- Herzogg Encyclopedia, under "History of Baptists in Europe," Vol. 1, page 210, "The Baptists appeared first in Switzerland about 1523, where they were persecuted by Zwingle and the Romanists. They are found in the following years, 1525-1530, with large churches fully organized, in Southern Germany, Tyrol and in middle Germany. In all these places persecutions made their lives bitter."

(Note--that all this is prior to the founding of the Protestant churches--Lutheran, Episcopal, or Presbyterian.)

We continue the quotation--

"Moravia promised a home of greater freedom, and thither many Baptists migrated, only to find their hopes deceived. After 1534 they were numerous in Northern Germany, Holland, Belgium, and the Walloon provinces. They increased even during Alva's rule, in the low countries, and developed a wonderful missionary zeal." (Note--"Missionary Zeal." And yet some folks say that the "Hardshells" are primitive Baptists.)

Where did these Baptists come from? They did not come out of the Catholics during the Reformation. They had large churches prior to the Reformation.

The quotation that Carroll gives says the Bapitsts first appeared in 1523. This seems to contradict his earlier statements that the Baptists have existed in continual succession since the time of the Apostles. I have not been able to locate the original quote in Schaff-Herzog but it could be from some earlier edition. Carroll claims that the 1523 date makes the Baptists older than the Reformation churches. But Luther nailed the 95 theses in 1517 and by 1521 there was already the beginnings of the Lutheran church. Zwingli began his ministry in 1519 and most regard the Swiss anabaptists as being disciples of Zwingli who went further than Zwingli did.

In Conclusion, at best Carroll is an extraordinarily poor historian, at worst he is an extraordinarily dishonest historian. I suspect there is a mixture of both. When trying to locate the origins of the various quotations provided by Carroll, I came across similar quotes in other Baptist publications. I noticed that over time these quotations would get longer and longer and more and more pro-Baptist. In another 100, if the trend continues, the Hosius quote will probably have a line in it about how much he wished he could become a Baptist.

When people are concerned about the truth they don't need to do these silly things. But when people become more concerned with maintaining a particular institution or tradition than the truth, they will always lie to protect the institution or traditon. The historical reality is that the anti-infant baptism movement arose in the 1100s, died off after a couple hundred years, and re-emerged around the time of the Reformation.

The truth is that the New Testament does not limit baptism to a particular age group. It doesn't specifically say "Baptize babies" but it doesn't specifically say "Baptize ninety year old women" either. The Apostles were told in Matthew 28 to disciple the nations by baptizing them. Babies are people too and are part of the nations and this was recognized by almost everyone throughout church history.

The anti-infant baptism is only a symptom of a larger problem. The anti-infant baptism position is based on a misunderstanding of what faith is and what the sacraments are. The vast majority of those who take an anti-infant baptism position  believe that infants are incapable of faith. The Scriptures say that faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8). The Scriptures give several accounts of faith in the womb and faith in nursing infants. The only way to enter the kingdom of God is through faith. When infants are brought to Jesus the disciples want to turn the infants away but Jesus tells them that these infants belong to the kingdom of God. He even tells His disciples that anyone who wants to enter the kingdom of God must be like these children. He doesn't tell the children to grow up. He tells the adults to be like these children.

The anti-infant baptism is based on a false teaching of what baptism is. According to the Scriptures, baptism is "for the forgiveness of sins" and "baptism now saves you." According to the anti-infant Baptist, baptism is a testimony of your faith. It's a work that you perform. They have exalted their tradition above the Scriptures. The anti-infant Baptist will tell you that pouring water on a baby won't do anything for the baby. They don't understand that baptism isn't just water, it's God's Word with water and God's Word does what it says. When God said, "Let there be light" there was light. His Word was not just some outward testimony of what had already taken place.

The anti-infant Baptist puts anti-infant baptism at the center of their theology. Carroll provides a list of "Fundamental Doctrines":

1. A spiritual Church, Christ its founder, its only head and law giver.

2. Its ordinances, only two, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. They are typical and memorial, not saving.

3. Its officers, only two, bishops or pastors and deacons; they are servants of the church.

4. Its Government, a pure Democracy, and that executive only, never legislative.

5. Its laws and doctrines: The New Testament and that only.

6. Its members. Believers only, they saved by grace, not works, through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.

7. Its requirements. Believers on entering the church to be baptized, that by immersion, then obedience and loyalty to all New Testament laws.

8. The various churches--separate and independent in their execution of laws and discipline and in their responsibilities to God--but cooperative in work.

9. Complete separation of Church and State.

10. Absolute Religious liberty for all.
You'll notice that Jesus is not at the center of this theology. He's mentioned in the first line but he is simply the founder, head, and law giver. There is nothing about the Deity of Christ or the atonement. Some of the groups that Carroll traces his lineage through deny the Trinity or the Deity of Christ. There are Baptist denominations that are full of people who don't seem to agree on anything except that babies should not be baptized.

But if we place our faith in Christ instead of anti-infant Baptism things look much different. We no longer need to construct these foolish genealogies. Instead we can trust Christ and His Word. If we actually believe God's Word we will see what sinners we really are and won't be amazed that God's Word can save babies.

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