Dr. Joe Early Jr. speaks of first Baptist Thomas Helwys at Lecture Series at CU

Dr. Joe Early Jr. speaks of first Baptist Thomas Helwys at Lecture Series at CU

March 5, 2013
For Immediate Release

By Samantha Stevenson, student news writer

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky.-- Dr. Joe Early Jr., assistant professor of theology at Campbellsville University, centered his address around Thomas Helwys, the first permanent Baptist in church history, for Campbellsville University’s Baptist Heritage Lecture Series Feb. 26.

 
Dr. Joe Early Jr. spoke on Thomas Helwys at the CU Baptist Heritage
Lecture Series. (Campbellsville University Photo by Joan
C. McKinney)

Early spoke on Helwys’ apocalyptic nature of his writings in the Badgett Academic Support Center. He told the audience about Helwys’ research and similarities Helwys points out between the biblical references to the apocalypse and the Church of England and Roman Catholicism in the late 15th and early 16th century.


Early said Helwys was introduced at an early age to apocalyptic teachings and how they could be related to England. His father Edmund Helwys had been inspired by England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Helwys saw in the defeat of the Catholic-Spanish forced by the Protestant-English forces events that reminded him of the battle of Armageddon in Revelation.



“In particular, he equated Queen Elizabeth with the ‘women dressed in the sun’ and ‘the dragon’ with the pope. Thomas’s eschatology was not only similar to that of his father, but moved well beyond him,” Early said.

The majority of Helwys’ apocalyptic writings are found in his most influential book, “A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity.” Early said, “This book has traditionally been interpreted as the first English expression of a desire for freedom of conscience in religious matters. Helwys believed that the religious events occurring in England were pointing toward an eminent Apocalypse. He believed that few in England realized what was occurring.

His book, “A Short Declaration,” is his attempt at drawing these evil entities out into the open before it was too late for those in England and throughout the world that had been deceived.

Early also noted the powerful parallels to the Roman Catholic Church and the apocalyptic references in the Bible.

“Though Helwys does not explicitly state it, he seems to have identified the pope with the ‘man of sin’ as noted in 2 Corinthians 6:15-16,” Early said.

“If the pope is the man of sin then it is impossible for Christ to be the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Helwys noted that ‘the man of sin cannot sit with God, as God, in the temple of God.’

“If the pope claims to be the spiritual head of the church, then Christ can’t be. God does not share His throne. Yet, the pope ‘sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God,’” Early quoted Helwys.

Other issues presented at this lecture included the Church of England’s “Book of Common Prayer,” and Helwys’ interpretation and idea of the purpose of prayer. Helwys also believed that the Puritans were false prophets and “belonged to the second beast,” Early said.

Early said Helwys performed the first believers’ baptism. Helwys was against the idea of catholic baptism, which occurs shortly after birth, claiming that it was impossible for an infant to have faith.

Early said, in article 13 of the Declaration of Faith of the English People Remaining in Amsterdam, Helwys said “every church is to receive in all their members by baptism upon the confession of their faith and sins wrought by the preaching of the gospel under conviction.”

Because of this realization, Early said, Helwys started the tradition of baptism as we know it today.

Early said Helwys left England but later returned in 1612 when he formed the first Baptist Church at Spitafields outside of the London walls. Helwys sent a copy of his book, “Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity” to King James I. Early said Helwys may have had the king in mind when he wrote the book because of the tone and the last few paragraphs were addressed specifically to the king.

In these passages, Helwys reminded the king that though he is the king’s servant, Helwys had to tell the king that he supported the abomination of desolation in the Anglican Church; therefore, making the king guilty of supporting the second beast.

“Helwys then begged for freedom of religion so the king will not continue to aid the second beast by leading astray those who are forced to be a part of the Anglican Church… Convincing him was the only chance to rescue those who were being led astray (from the biblical truth),” Early said.

Helwys did not get the proper satisfaction from King James, and was sentenced to life in Newgate prison, where he died a martyr for freedom of conscience around 1615.

Early hopes Thomas Helwys is remembered for his dedication to the truth and his perseverance for the freedom of conscience.

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 3,600 students offering 63 undergraduate options, 17 master’s degrees, five postgraduate areas and eight pre-professional programs. The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.

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