[Chapter Review] Baptist Landmarkism

Garrett, James Leo Jr. “Baptist Landmarkism.” In Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study. 2009., Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2019. pp. 213-248.

Baptist Landmarkism is significant enough among Baptists in America, especially in the South, that even today’s Baptists around the world are affected. For example, in the Philippines, most Baptist Fundamentalists, Missionary Baptists, and Bible Baptists still believe the Landmark’s view of Baptist successionism. Moreover, the high church concept extends its ideology that only the “true” church—the true Baptist—is the bride of Christ; the rest are mere audiences during the heavenly wedding. What does it mean by Landmark?

James Leo Garrett (1925-2020), a prominent Baptist theologian from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, traced the Landmark history from a debate against pedobaptism—the validity and authority of baptism. Garrett emphasizes the Landmark Triumvirate: James Robinson Graves, James Madison Pendleton, and Amos Cooper Dayton—the warrior, the prophet, and the sword-bearer, respectively. Pendleton penned An Old Landmark Reset in 1854, answering the question, “if we can allow pedobaptists to preach in our pulpits?” The short answer is “no.” Likewise, Dayton contributed to the Landmark principle and used a common sense logic for the ecclesiastical authority in the validity of baptism against pedobaptists. Through this thought, the Baptist is argued to be the true church.

In Graves’ Old Landmarkism: What is It?, he gave the seven marks of an apostolically modeled church: (1) The Church and Kingdom of Christ is a Divine Institution, (2) It is a Visible Church, (3) Its Locality is upon this Earth, (4) It was a Local Organization, a Single Congregation, (5) Regenerate Membership, (6) Believer’s Baptism, and (7) close communion, the Lord’s Supper (223-224). All these seven marks point to what Pendleton, Dayton, and Graves thought was the Baptist church. Outside the Baptist church, there is no true church.

Moreover, their arguments became more robust against Presbyterians, Methodists, Roman Catholics, and Campbellites when aligned with Baptist successionism. This view presents that the Baptist church had been present during the apostolic times, and God had been preserving remnants of these faithful followers until the Anabaptists. The line from John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the apostles to the Early Church Fathers, Paulicians, Waldenses, and Anabaptists did not break, as they have argued.

Later on, though, Garrett did not include James Milton Carroll published a booklet from his lectures entitled the Trail of Blood in 1931. This booklet contains a chart of Baptists traced back to the time of Christ. Surprisingly, Baptist successionism had influenced many Christians and somehow revived and restored denominational commitment, especially in the South,

However, in the Southern Baptist seminaries, this view had been opposed by Baptist historians and scholars. They have argued for a Puritan-Separatist view of historical lineage instead of what Carroll and Graved had contended. Nowadays, plenty of publications support the latter view, which is more believable and accurate than what Baptist successionism offers. Some scholars would argue that their view is illogical, unscriptural, and lacks historical grounding. As a critical reviewer and minoring in Baptist history, the Puritan-Separatist lineage of Baptist is the correct view.

Nevertheless, since the book is about Baptist Theology, Garrett focuses on the theological context over the historical analysis. It is then perceived that the “high” church view of Baptist Landmarkism was influential during those years. This view did not only affect several Baptist churches; it even appealed to the convention level. The convention of Southern Baptists receives from churches as messengers of churches who contribute to cooperative missions.

Overall, Baptist Landmarkism resulted, even in several subtleties, in many Baptist churches’ view of close communion, true church baptism, high ecclesiology, and mission-contributing cooperative of convention level. Only baptized members can participate in the Lord’s Supper, and only baptized—immersed—believers in a Baptist church can be church members. It means that even if a Christian had been baptized elsewhere but if it is not a Baptist church—or baptistic—rebaptism becomes a requirement before one can be a member. Lastly, the Baptist church, as the true church, has the authority to baptize, conduct communion, and send out missionaries according to the Great Commission.

This chapter is informative for many Christian readers who need to understand the view of many Baptist fundamentalists, Landmarks, Baptist missionaries, and Bible Baptists. However, it would be more helpful if Garrett could extend the influence of Landmarkism during his time.


Published by JP Arceno

A Mere Christian, no other religion, but Christian church, call me a Catholic Christian ~ Richard Baxter

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