In the last post, I quoted passages from the first volume of Alexander Campbell’s The Christian Baptist in which he describes how we planned to unite all Christendom. Over and over, Campbell and Walter Scott, the Restoration Movement’s first missionary, declared their plan, being that –
this peerless fact, that “Jesus is the Christ,” forms the sole bond of union among the holy brethren, and is also the means through faith for increasing the body of Christ in the earth
This is the same principle we find in Thomas Campbell’s “Declaration and Address” from 1809 –
Nay, it would be adopting the very means, by which the bewildered church has, for hundreds of years past, been rending and dividing herself into fractions; for Christ’s sake, and for the truth’s sake; though the first and foundation truth of our christianity is union with him, and the very next to it in order, union with each other in him–”that we receive each other, as Christ has also received us, to the glory of God.” For this is his commandment that we believe in his son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him–and hereby we know that he dwelleth in us, by the spirit which he hath given us”–even the spirit of faith, and of love, and of a sound mind. And surely this should suffice us. But how to love, and receive our brother; as we believe and hope Christ has received both him and us, and yet refuse to hold communion with him, is, we confess, a mystery too deep for us.
This story is from the Autobiography of Barton W. Stone. It’s his last sermon, in which he quotes Paul to explain his understanding of Christianity –
He opens the New Testament, and reads from the 20th of Acts, commencing with the 17th verse, to the 21st, inclusive:–”And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility, and many tears, and temptations which befell me, by the lying in wait of the Jews. And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.” Perhaps I do not exaggerate when I say that in reading these few verses his utterance was obstructed by his feelings a dozen times. Tears started in his aged eyes and flowed plentifully down his furrowed cheeks. The effect was overwhelming. His tears spoke volumes–they spoke to every heart and were responded to in tears from every eye, eloquent of the deep feeling of every heart. Who that considers the circumstances of this parting scene can wonder at the deep feeling manifested upon the occasion.
pp. 114-115 (1847). Stone summarizes his teaching, as did Paul, as faith in Jesus and repentance toward God.
Early on, the boundary markers were set wide — wide enough that the founders of the Restoration Movement genuinely thought they might draw in all Christendom. They required only faith in Jesus and repentance. Period.
You see, the Restoration Movement was not about instrumental or a cappella music. It wasn’t about weekly communion. It was about unity.
The Restorers rejected denominational creeds and confessions, not because they didn’t think we should write down what we believe, but because in those days creeds and confessions were barriers to fellowship. A Calvinist could not even take communion until he confirmed belief in the confession of his denomination.
And it wasn’t that the creeds or confessions were necessarily wrong. It was that they were something other than faith and repentance. Therefore, making a creed or confession a fellowship issue separated brother from brother.
However, things changed.
Alexander Campbell learned that First Century baptism was by immersion, and had himself and his family immersed by a Baptist pastor. Years later, while working on a debate, he concluded that baptism is for remission of sins, and began to teach this within the new movement.
However, as the Lunenburg correspondence shows, Campbell did not see baptism as a barrier to salvation. And he accepted Baptist baptism, despite its misunderstanding of its purpose, as shown in the Richmond correspondence.
Therefore, while baptism became a central doctrine of the Movement, it did not move the boundary markers.
In fact, we don’t see any real movement until the second and third generation of editor-bishops — preachers of influence due to editing periodicals. What happened, I think, is the Movement absorbed a great number of Baptists from the same cultural pool that produce the Landmark Baptist movement in the 1850s — but with roots going back to the 17th Century.
This is from the Wikipedia –
Scholars have offered several proposed definitions of Landmarkism, most of which agree on several fundamental aspects of the movement, but nevertheless differ at significant points.
Points of consensus
Most theologians and historians who have dealt with Landmarkism have agreed that the following ecclesiological convictions were inherent to the system:
The exclusive validity of Baptist churches
Although different champions of the Landmark Baptist cause have identified different required characteristics, or “marks,” that validate a legitimate Baptist church, all varieties of Landmarkism stipulate that legitimate Baptist churches are the only legitimate churches. According to Landmarkism, congregations of other denominational varieties are merely religious gatherings, or “societies,” with no claim to the title “church.”
The invalidity of non-Baptist churchly acts Landmark Baptists have refused to recognize as valid any baptisms or ordinations performed in circumstances other than under the auspices of a Baptist church. Thus, Landmark Baptists have declined to allow non-Baptists to preach in Landmark Baptist churches and have required prospective members who have received “pedobaptism” or “alien immersion” to be baptized by a Baptist church before receiving them into membership.
Expressed as a syllogism, the Landmark Baptist argument is:
Major premise: To be valid, Christian ordinations and baptisms must be performed by a valid New Testament church.
Minor premise: Only valid Baptist churches are valid New Testament churches.
Conclusion: Therefore, only ordinations and baptisms performed by valid Baptist churches are valid Christian ordinations and baptisms.
Beyond this basic argument, scholars have proposed other elements as inherent to Landmarkism, but these do not enjoy the same scholarly consensus as the foregoing ecclesiological kernel.
Baptist successionism is a theological theory concerning Baptist history prior to 1609. Many prominent Baptist historians up through the nineteenth century emphasized in some manner the antiquity of Baptist ideas. This was an exercise in apologetics, designed to debunk criticisms of Baptist thought as a more contemporary innovation. In particular, Baptist historians labored to demonstrate the antiquity of believer’s baptism and, to some degree, of congregationalist church governance.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, most Landmark Baptists adopted English Baptist pastor G. H. Orchard’s assertion in his book, A Concise of the Baptists (1838), that actual organized Baptist congregations had existed at all times throughout the preceding centuries all the way back to the New Testament era. Orchard wrote:
“During the first three centuries, Christian congregations, all over the East, subsisted in separate independent bodies, unsupported by government, and consequently without any secular power over one another. All this time they were Baptist churches…” —G. H. Orchard
Believing that their origins predate those even of Roman Catholicism/Eastern Orthodoxy (having both been one before the East-West Schism in 1054 AD), Landmark Baptists have generally refused to refer to themselves as Protestants (Note that Church Succession has no connection with the doctrine of Apostolic Succession to which Landmarkists do not ascribe). Not all Landmark Baptists subscribed to this particular concept of Baptist history, but it did come to dominate Landmark Baptist thinking about Baptist origins.
Does any of this sound familiar? It seems clear that the Restoration Movement absorbed adherents of Landmarkism and so absorbed much of its doctrine. In fact, I suspect that early debates between Restoration and Landmark preachers were about who had the right marks, who really was founded on Pentecost, with the Restoration preachers buying the general arguments and trying to steal the Landmark claim to be the first and only church. Hence, Acts 2:38 gained its legendary importance in part because both groups claimed to have been founded on Pentecost.
I should add that the idea of a particular God-given number of “acts of worship” has deep roots in Baptist theology. The Separate Baptists and General Baptists remained separate denominations for many years because they disagreed on the right number of acts of worship.
One distinction was in the number of ordinances or rites observed by the Separates. The nine rites were baptism, the Lord’s supper, love feasts, laying on of hands, washing feet, anointing the sick, the right hand of fellowship, kiss of charity, and devoting children. Not all the churches practiced all nine of these, but most churches practiced more than the two ordinances generally held by the Regular Baptists — baptism and the Lord’s supper.
The Landmark Baptists had their own list as well.
By the way, the center of Landmark teaching and influence was Nashville, Tennessee.
As I’ve noted on several occasions, the Regulative Principle, the teaching that Biblical silences are prohibitions, is a teaching of John Calvin and his disciples. The Baptists in that part of the world were Calvinists.
At the same time we were absorbing Baptist theology (which they later rejected), we also had some editor-bishops who introduced much of the legalism we suffer from today –
For if both of these men be true Christians neither more nor less, evidently there cannot exist between them even a nominal, to say nothing of a real difference. … Consequently they are now, be it supposed, Christians strictly according to the Bible; that is, they mentally accept and in heart hold, as the matter of their faith, precisely and only what the Bible certainly teaches; they do and practice what, and only what, it either expressly or by precedent enjoins; in spirit, temper, and disposition, they are exactly what it requires; and as to names, they wear none save those which it imposes.
Here we see the idea of “tests of fellowship” greatly expanded beyond the teachings of Stone and Campbell, already going to the opposite extreme. The Campbells counseled that the church’s practice be only what is commanded or established by example, but this was no test of fellowship. In Lard’s writings, however, having the right name and practices establishes who is saved.
A similar approach to fellowship is found in the writings of Benjamin Franklin. In 1877 he wrote about the difference between moral and positive commands in “Positive Divine Laws.” Franklin reasoned that commands that are not based on standards of moral behavior are “positive” commands, that is, they are the law solely because God says so, whereas moral law does not require any special revelation.
God’s grace covers mistakes in obedience to the moral law–no one is perfect–but the positive commands are a test of faith and must be obeyed perfectly on threat of condemnation.
In a 1868 article, Franklin teaches, perhaps for the first time in Restoration Movement history, the notion that the one true church is defined by certain marks:
I. A body, or community, not built on the foundation which God laid, is not the community which the Lord calls “my Church.”
II. A community not founded and established in the right place, is not the Church of Christ.
III. A community not founded at the right time, is not the kingdom of Christ.
IV. No church can be the true Church not founded by the proper persons, Christ and the apostles.
V. A kingdom, with any other law than the one given by the head of the Church, is not the kingdom of Christ.
VI. Any community labeled with a foreign name, or a name not found to designate the body of Christ, in the New Testament, is not the kingdom of God.
Here we see a particularly radical departure from the teachings of Stone and the Campbells, who taught that the only marks of the church were faith in Jesus and baptism. Indeed, we find here the truly repugnant teaching that God cares more about arbitrary rules than moral rules, more about sacrifice than mercy.
The Movement’s history would quickly show the fruit produced by these teachings.
Instruments were first introduced into worship in 1851. But it wasn’t until after the death of Alexander Campbell that the second-generation editor-bishops began to craft a theology that would damn those who practiced any error in worship. And it wasn’t until 1889 that emotions became so strong that actual separation occurred.
You see, it took that long for the editor-bishops to convert a part of the Movement to new kind of unity — a unity based on the creeds of the editor-bishops. By 1889, we’d become what we’d been founded to oppose.
I’m quite happy being a part of the Restoration Movement. It’s just that a great many Churches of Christ are not.