"To testify the gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20:24
**PUBLISHED AS A MISSION PROJECT OF PILGRIMS HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH**
Bouquets and Brickbats
Texas: Greetings. I enjoyed part of the July issue of your paper. Unfortunately, during collation, I ended up with 2 copies of the sheet with page 5, and no copies of the sheet with page 3. Would it be possible for you to mail me the missing page? I am sure that I will enjoy the missing pages as well as the others.
Thanks for the clear-cut analysis and exposition concerning Chain Link Ecclesiology.
USA: OnLineNow recently visited your site and in recognition of it's quality and uniqueness, we wanted to personally invite you to "Add Your Link, Free" to OnLineNow World Wide Directories.
GEORGIA: A friend of mine has seen your paper and would like to receive it. He is a Baptist minister but is not pastoring at this time.
Am fully behind you in your debate (?) with Bro. Joe Wilson. I must say that I have found myself in a kind of minority here in south Georgia. My pastor, and in some of the churches that I preach, they are fully behind Bro. Joe...It's sad for Bro. Joe is leading some of these men down a path that goes nowhere except to bring dissension among the churches.
I just wish the Baptist would quit fighting among themselves ( and I mean of course those who are truly Old Landmarkist)...and begin to work together...
Keep up the good work...
ALASKA: I trust that you will keep up the good work that your doing with the GP&P. I agree with you on the discussion that your having with Brother Wilson.
MISSOURI: Last night I read your article in the GP&P entitled "Chain Link Ecclesiology" and was greatly blessed. Let me encourage you to combine the article in the May 1, 1997 edition with the one in the July 1, 1997 edition and print them as a booklet. I would love to distribute copies at our church's upcoming annual Sovereign Grace Conference. I would also love to give copies to my "Reformed Baptist" friends to answer their stereotyped caricature of Landmarkers as all being Linked Chain Successionists.
NEW MEXICO: Brother Camp your webpage was a blessing and a virtual gold mine of Scriptural reading material. I enjoyed it very much. I would like to be placed on your mailing list for the The Grace Proclamator & Promulgator. May The Lord continue to bless His work through you.
IOWA: I appreciated your article on the "chain-link" controversy in this month's issue of The GP&P. What you set forth was what you, Bro. Maddox and Bro. Huffman taught me at IMBI. This whole discussion raises other questions that most of us have been afraid to ask because of peer pressure, etc. I am certain that I have rebaptized many people who came to us from other Baptist churches that had valid baptism. We have all unchurched many congregations by calling them "unscriptural" when in reality they were "irregular" or "unorthodox" in some practices. I'm certain that most of the Neo-Landmark churches would not accept the baptism of any of the seven churches of Asia and would label the church at Corinth as "unscriptural."
I would like to share a couple of references with you:
J.A. Shackelford's Compendium of Baptist History (1892), Chapter XXI deals with Church Succession. He states on page 261: "We have traced the Baptists by their principles, and have found them existing, under different names, but holding to the same doctrines, from the days of the apostles to the present time. It is not necessary for the preservation of their history, to show a continuation of churches during all this time, for the principles which characterize these people could not have been perpetuated without existing organizations at the same time. One of the most important principles of Baptists is the belief that a church of Christ is a body of believers, convened together in covenant relations, for the objects and ends to be attained by the gospel of Christ. "
On page 264:
"But where did the Welsh Baptists come from? Mr. Ray says: "No living historian, whether friend or foe, can find the origin of the Welsh Baptists this side of the apostles" (Baptist Succession, p. 446.)
In the introduction of Forty Years of Pioneer Life, Memoir of John Mason Peck DD (Edited from His Journals and Correspondence by Rufus Babcock) Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale (1965). Paul M. Harrison writes:
"But the crucial question for the Baptists and the one which distinguished them most clearly from the frontier Methodists was centered in the issue of ecclesiastical polity and the problem of authority. According to traditional Baptist polity, the saying attributed to Jesus, 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there will I be also,' signifies the existence of a fully legitimated church in the local situation and without any formal connection with other churches. In fact, it was believed (and still is maintained by a powerful minority) that any formal connection involving authority and requiring subordination and superordination, constituted a corruption of the gospel.. Thus according to traditional Baptist polity the local congregation is fully empowered to choose, license, and ordain a minister and to conduct all its spiritual and material affairs without reference to any other person or group. " (p. L).
OHIO: Thank you for the effort you put in the organization of the article in TGP&P on Chain Link Succession. As you probably know, I am very familiar with these positions taken by Baptists. I hope you are familiar with my tract on "The Need For A Mother Church." In that tract, I propose that for the sake of identification and organization the mother-church method be used. I believe it is a good method in our day of denominational chaos and confusion. I do not in that tract propagate a "chain link" that can be physically road-mapped to Jerusalem.
However, I am not a little confused by one aspect of your article. Perhaps you can enlighten me on it.
You quote Roy Mason, who says, "I do not believe that it is necessary to have a linked succession of baptisms in order to have valid baptism." You make that quotation in a way that makes me believe that you think that he is right in that statement.
Of course, I do not believe that anyone can physically link his baptism back to the time of Christ (that would be foolish to even think); but I am hard pressed to think that somewhere some baptisms were "unlinked" and were still scriptural.
Scriptural baptism is necessary for church membership. So, if a baptism is "unlinked" from other scriptural baptisms; wouldn't it be unscriptural baptism?
By the same token, you say in your conclusion, "This editor ... believes that the promise that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against it' has been kept and that there has not been a day from the origin of that first church until now that there was not a church, or churches that were contending for the faith once delivered to the saints."
If I were to give a definition of "chain-link" succession, that would be almost the exact words that I would use. That's what I call "chain-link" succession. I don't believe there are very many preachers who are na´ve enough to think that they can trace their churches physically back to Christ. I know many chain-link believers who think it would be worthless to try such an impossible task. In my mind, that is not what "chain-link" succession means. It simply means that there were always scriptural churches through all ages.
The idea of "chain link" simply means that they are linked by like doctrine and purpose. On the other hand, I do believe that if data were available on all of these churches, it would not be an impossible task to link them together as one chain of doctrinal and practical perpetuity.
In my tract, I do propose a church vote and an arm of authority. I suppose that's where you differ with my idea. In doing so, though, I am not saying that that has always happened or had to happen. In the New Testament, the church was persecuted and scattered. They went about preaching the gospel, and people were saved. There was no doubt, because of their preaching the gospel, that they were the same as the Jerusalem church. This was not just an arbitrary setting up of a church in a different location. This was done out of necessity; and the Jerusalem church would have no problem accepting these churches as true churches, mainly because the apostles were still around to bring the churches together into one realm of doctrine. Today I believe that the "mother church" method is best.
I hope we are not here splitting hairs, and I do not in any means intend to be supercilious; but I don't understand what all the fuss is about. Perhaps I am missing something here.
EDITORS NOTE: Other than the use of the "mother church" terminology, I am in full agreement with the principles of church succession set forth by the brother. He reminded me that I needed to publish a disclaimer concerning some of the things quoted in the last issue. I had intended to publish such at the end of the article but forgot to. While printing the paper I realized I had not done so. I had already published the article to our WebSite so I immediately went to it with the following disclaimer. This was added the day I printed the last issue of the paper and is printed here to clarify the matter. A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: I do not want the reader to think that I endorse all that these men said. I do not believe churches are born out of the dust. I believe there must be Scripturally baptized folks to organize a Baptist church and one cannot receive Scriptural baptism from and unbaptized person, as some claim. This does away with the possibility of spontaneous church origins. I quote these men to show that these reputable Baptists did not believe there must be a vote of one church to start another in each and every instance, as some claim.
VIRGINIA: I just took time out to re-read your most recent article on chain-link succession and found it very enjoyable. You have done an excellent job. At the same time, I received Brother Milburn Cockrell's paper today and read his article on church organization. His view seems to me to fall midway between your view and Joe Wilson's position. In his article, Brother Cockrell mentions that there are three different ideas among American Baptists about church organization, as follows:
Any gathering of believers (baptized or not) is a true church.
Any group of baptized believers can form a church without the aid of another church or an ordained minister from an already established church.
A church can dismiss members for the purpose of forming another church, or send forth a missionary from their church to organize churches.
Only liberal "Baptists" would accept the first Idea stated above. The second view seems to reflect your position. The third position is, no doubt, Brother Cockrell's view. Joe Wilson's view is very similar to Brother Cockrell's position, but it appears to go slightly beyond it, requiring a formal vote from a "mother" church for a "daughter" church to actually be born. Perhaps Brother Cockrell's position is really the same as Joe Wilson's view, since Brother Cockrell's position requires a formal vote from an existing church for another church to come into existence. It could be that Brother Cockrell just avoids the "mother-daughter" terminology, because it smacks of Roman Catholicism. What do you think about the similarities and differences in their positions? (Ed. Note: I am not sure if they differ or agree on this matter. Time will probably reveal since Bro. Cockrell is writing on the matter again in a coming issue. RWC, Editor.)
I am fairly certain that Brother Cockrell believes that the church at Antioch was "mothered" or formally organized by the church at Jerusalem. If I remember correctly what he has written before, he is of the opinion that the church at Jerusalem voted to send Barnabas to formally organize the Antiochian church (Acts 11:22-24). Some have pointed out the fact that the group of believers at Antioch was not called a "church" until after Barnabas had arrived and carried out the will of the Jerusalem congregation (v. 26). What is your opinion of this explanation? (Ed. Note: It requires interpolation of ones position upon the Scripture. Neither were Christians called Christians until Antioch. The same argument could be used to say there were no Christians until they were called Christians at Antioch. Jesus was not called The Son of Man until he had begun his personal ministry. Surely no one would affirm he was not the Son of Man until he was called that. Jesus used the word church generically or institutionally in Mat. 16:18; but he did not use it specifically of the first church till Mat. 18:15-18. Surely no sound Baptist will argue there was no church before Mat. 18:15-18. (RWC, Editor).
I have discussed this issue with _________, a godly man who has become a very close friend of mine. If I have understood him correctly, he agrees with the third position given above. He mentioned that the second position (your view) would make it possible for church members to get mad at their pastor for preaching the truth and then just go down the road to start another church by covenanting together as a new body. What do you think about this potential problem with your view? It seems to me that this is already happening, and has been occurring for a long time, among those who hold to Brother Cockrell's or Joe Wilson's view. They always manage to get church authority from some church out there somewhere, and too often it appears to me to be based upon personality conflicts. In the end, we can be sure that the only thing that really matters is what the Bible actually teaches on this subject. Right and wrong are not determined by pragmatic considerations. (ED. Note: You are exactly right on this. Setting up hypothetical cases on what might or does happen does not answer the matter. It is like the fellow who argues that a church should use grape juice in the Lords Supper because some alcoholic might join the church and fall off the wagon on the small amount of alcohol in a little cup of wine taken in the Lords Supper. Or, it is like the lady in Stuttgart, Arkansas, who asked me if she could be sprinkled because she was afraid to have her head put under water. Such arguments sidestep the issue. RWC, Editor).
My position on this controversial issue is very close to your own, with a strong, heavy emphasis upon the following words from your article: "It is the conviction of this editor that it may be wise, expedient, and well, in the present circumstances, for new churches to be formed through arms that are extended by other Scriptural churches wherever possible and practical."
I do believe that churches should be started by other churches, and that they always will be, at least in an informal sense. Since only Scripturally-baptized individuals can form a new church, there will always be an informal link between churches through the baptisms that they have administered. I do not believe that any individual or group of individuals has the right to institute baptism de novo, but those who administer Scriptural baptism will always have first received Scriptural baptism themselves. The only exception that I can see to this is John the Baptist. Do you agree or disagree with this point? (Ed. Note: I agree. I believe the real "link" between true churches is baptism and doctrinal identity. That is succession with which I agree and which I strongly affirm in my preaching and teaching. RWC, Editor).
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Last updated on Friday, March 04, 2011