The Role of Tradition in Baptist Identity

The Role of Tradition in Baptist Identity

The Role of Tradition in Baptist Identity

William H. Brackney

Lecture, Baptist Heritage Series1
Campbellsville University
March 3, 2008

            Baptists, like most Christian groups, have certain elements in their mantras that are celebrated and affirmed generation after generation.  One of these is sola scriptura!  This usually means that the Bible is the sole rule of our faith and practice, even as too many Baptists disregard the fact that this was Luther‘s idea before it was our's.  We are said to be "people of the Book," non-creedal, anti-establishmentarian, etc.

            Since the 19th Century, those of us who live in the mainstream of Baptist space have run energetically away from any hint of landmarkism which we understand to be equivalent with a misreading of Christian history, a kind of Baptist successionism, and an arrogant denominational exclusivism.  Yet practically, the tendency is still present: Baptists continue to experience a kind of historical "flying leap" that catapults us over the reformers and the medieval and Patristic churches to the primitive church of the New Testament.  As one of my mentors observed years ago, we implicitly follow the historiographical lead of the Anabaptists at this point, positing a "fall" of the church in the fourth century or earlier from which the true churches must ever recover.

            Here we have parted company with other important branches of Christian family.  Anglicans have a strong tradition in the episcopacy and the Book of Common PrayerLutherans have Luther and the Augsburg Confession.  Presbyterians likewise hearken to their form of government and the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Congregationalists have a three hundred year old confessional and consociational heritage, and even the Quakers posit their connectedness with George Fox.  Methodists have John Wesley's Sermons and Charles' hymns and have even accorded a place of honor to tradition in their theological quadrilateral.  We teach our seminary students about this, but deny it strongly for ourselves.

            We must also recognize, however, especially since the mid-twentieth century, that both Southern and American Baptists have engaged in no small amount of educational efforts in Baptist identity-making.  This has ranged from listing Baptist to publishing major books on Baptist history that connect modern Baptists either with the radical reformers or the Puritan-Separatists of the early seventeenth century.  As the sands of denominational institutions and associations have changed, we often defend such constructs with great vigor as though our very survival depended upon them.  We have four major apologetic outlets that help us to accomplish this objective: the Baptist Historical Society (UK), the American Baptist Historical Society, the Baptist History and Heritage Society, the Baptist Standard Bearer, and the Particular Baptist Press.

            The question I want to deal with in this lecture is, "Is there a viable Baptist tradition and can we legitimately use tradition in the articulation of our identity?”  In pursuing this topic, we shall look at what role tradition plays in Scripture and the Christian heritage; along the way, we shall recall the problem of the Radical Reformers in eschewing all forms of tradition; yet, ironically, we are able to uncover an unmistakable Baptist tradition.  This will leave us with the renewed question, namely, "how do we to this reality?

            First, a working definition of tradition is appropriate.  Theologian James Wm. McClendon had it right when he defined tradition as "the entire complex of doctrines, practices, patterns of life and liturgy that constitute a religion or segment of one."2  These may be implicit or deliberately articulated.  Tradition is not an authority over the religion, but a descriptor of its process or character.  Among Free Churches and dissenters, tradition can become a sensitive issue because it suggests an overarching authority not unlike Scripture.

The Biblical and Theological Bases of Tradition

            Tradition has a noble and usable character in biblical narrative.  In the books of the Torah, the tradition was found in the covenants and ultimately the Law.  What God swore to Abraham, he reinforced to Isaac and Jacob, until it was a tradition in their names.  Through Moses, God spoke the commandments, the Levitical statutes, and the covenants.  God commanded his people to remember his statutes and practice them diligently (Deut. 6).  In the prophetic usage, there are numerous references to calling Israel back to its spiritual foundations, as in the fifth century: "But you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of Hosts, and so I will make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you have not kept my ways but have shown partiality in your instruction" (Mal. 2:8-9 NRSV).

            In the teachings of Jesus, our Lord repeatedly made use of the tradition of the Law and the Prophets to affirm his teachings and yet He moved in new directions of instruction.  Recall his words to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, "Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill" (Mt. 5:17 NRSB).

            Likewise several New Testament writers give evidence of the growth of traditions in the early church.  The Greek term paradosis is in the text of the New Testament (I Cor. 15:3).  Paul, for instance, wrote to the Corinthians about the foundation that he had laid in "Jesus Christ and him crucified."  He held that he had laid the foundation in Corinth, and others who would build upon  it  should  take heed to be consistent with what Paul had taught  (I Cor.  2:  2; 5-10; 15:3-8).  In the Jerusalem church under James' leadership, there was a tradition that in many ways mimicked contemporary Jewish tradition: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (Jas. 1:27).  Then there is the Baptist-oft- quoted tradition laid out in the Epistle to the Hebrews: "leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection from the dead, and of eternal judgment.  And this we will do, if God permits" (Heb. 6:1, 2).

            Scholars of second and third century Christianity note that several traditions had emerged early in the apostolic period that ranged from matters of worship and leadership to belief.  One sees the evolution of Lord's Day worship in a pattern of prayers, readings of canonical gospels and correspondence, offerings, the breaking of bread, and exhortation.  A musical tradition was clearly in place in the first century: psalms, hymns, and gospel songs.  One takes important note of the confessional statements emerging like "Jesus  Christ,  Savior  and  Lord," "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures," and "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."  Finally, it is clear that by the end of the second century, separate traditions of prophets and teachers (Antioch) and apostles and elders (Jerusalem) had become a monarchical episcopacy (Rome).

            The great Glasgow historian of Christianity's first five centuries, W. H. C. Frend, details the developing tradition of the churches from Jerusalem to North Africa, Asia, and Europe.  He reminds us that diverse streams and subcultures of the Christian movement held fast to a central core of doctrine and affirmations.  These became embodied in the creeds and conciliar teachings of the Church Fathers.  It is what historians and theologians today refer to as "apostolic tradition," the "Rule of Faith (regula fides)," or the "Great Tradition of the Churches."  Our confessions of faith are replete with references to this body of enduring truth.

            Tradition is not, in and of itself, anathema to bible-based believers or valid historical theology; rather it is a predictable  and useful part of our character as New Testament style Judaeo-Christians.

The Problem of the Free Churches

            Franklin H. Littell in his great work, The Anabaptist Vision of the Church (1958), detailed the problem of the Free Churches with respect to tradition.  Those churches that emerged from the so-called radical or Left wing of the Reformation held to a primitivist understanding of the early church that held it up as a Golden Age.  The characteristics of the New Testament church included peace and non-coercion in the spread of the gospel, communalism, and simplicity.3

            With the coming of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, however, a "Fall" occurred.  The pristine nature of the New Testament church was corrupted by worldliness and a lust for power.  Anabaptists saw this Fall as evidenced in a union of church and state, coercion in matters of conscience, even with the use of weapons by so-called Christian powers, a dead formalism that grew in worship, a corrupt and morally defective clergy class, a lust for power in the institutional church, and a complacent church more comfortable in the world than against materialism.  The Fall of Christendom was complete and, for centuries, irreversible.  Only with a remnant, seeking to restore a faithful church was the Fall to be reversed.4  Other motifs like the pilgrim, seen in John Bunyan's Pilgrim’s Progress (1675?) and Benjamin Keach's The Glorious Lover (1685), became part of the faithful Free Church ideal.

            Part of what modern Baptists inherit, then, from their Anabaptist forbears  is an antagonism to tradition which equates easily with a concept of the "Constantinian Church."  This is the impact especially of those interpreters like many landmarkists as well as mainstream Baptist historians (William R. Estep) who have adopted an Anabaptist kinship theory of Baptist origins.5

The Making of a Baptist Tradition

            But, then the passage of time and the relative triumph of Post-Reformation Protestantism gave opportunity to groups like Baptists to develop.  A literary heritage came forth, including confessions of faith, an enduring congregational life, organized missionary propagation and outreach, and the establishment of institutions and organizations, published historical accounts, all of which combined to assert an identity.  It would be a denial of historical reality to claim that Baptists had not intentionally created their own niche in the Christian tradition even as early as 1800, let alone now.  So, what does it look like?

            My graduate school mentor always advised starting with the obvious.  With Baptists, that's in the name.  The first English congregations that were gathered took a variety of names like Churches of Christ, Churches According to Gospel Order, etc.  But before long, our friends, especially the Presbyterians (cf. Marius D'Assigny, c.1650) called us by our practice of believer's baptism.  By the 1640s immersion was added to the identity and our churches easily had a tradition born  that  we  remained: the Baptists.  There were varieties, General, Particular, Seventh Day, Leg of Mutton, etc., but what they all had in common was the practice of believer‘s baptism by immersion and the experience it symbolized.  This defining symbolic rite had to do with our ancestors' appreciation for religious experience, our doctrine of the church, and our Christology.  To use the generic term, we were sacramentalists.6  Our churches, associations, confessions, and ministers adopted the tradition formally in confessional statements and we embraced the name  (and what went with it) as well by the mid-seventeenth century.  Until the last two decades, being called "Baptist" was the most obvious mark of a Baptist tradition we had; that is, until for various reasons some congregations in the English-speaking world began to soft-peddle the term "Baptist" and some dropped it altogether in favor of community churches, fellowships or the like.  Little wonder that the sense of Baptist tradition overall slipped dramatically among these churches.7

            There are several additional elements that easily constitute an identifiable Baptist tradition.  High on the list I would place our dissenter character.  This is the all-important contextual factor.  Whether one posits a 16th or 17th Century era for our origins, all agree somewhat happily that we were part of an overall reaction to the prevailing Protestant Christianity of these centuries that was perceived as problematic.  We tell stories, somewhat exaggerated, of our ancestors who were persecuted and martyred by abusive establishmentarians.  We identify with the other  groups of Oxford historian Christopher Hill's "World Turned Upside Down": Seekers, Diggers, Ranters, the Family of Love, Sabbatarians, millennialists, Levellers, Quakers, and of course, the "ana-baptists."  These are our real cousins and if we look carefully at the early leadership of the major Baptist groups, there was a good deal of fluidity among these dissenter sects.  By the Restoration Period, Baptists had common cause with Presbyterians and Independents, and Unitarians and Quakers as the Dissenting Denominations.  We worked with these groups to achieve government recognition of our churches and political rights.  We shared meetinghouses with them, and in some cases copied their confessions of faith pretty carefully.  This dissenter identity was reinforced in the American colonies where we enjoyed a perverse fame by standing against the established "Standing Order" Congregationalists in New England and the Church of England in the middle and southern colonies.  This has grown to be an important layer in our tradition, even where we are in a regional majority as in the nineteenth-century American South.  (As an aside, I believe our dissenting identity may have something to do with our socio-economic status as essentially working-class folk, farmers, shopkeepers and laborers, now become a middle class in North America.)

            Third, one notes the foundational biblicism of Baptists.  Baptists are certainly not the only Christians to maintain high scriptural authority, but like all those in the Age of the Reformations we have a particular orientation to scripture that was set in place in the 17th Century.  We have never been known for a uniform, controlling systematic theology, despite the achievements of writers like Thomas Grantham, John Gill, and Andrew Fuller.  But our expositors, mostly pastors, tended to use scripture in consistent patterns.  Baptists were drawn to the New Testament over the Old, and more often to the epistles over the gospels.  We tended to allegorize the Old Testament, while interpreting prophetic passages in a literal, futuristic way.  We were not inclined to pacifism, communalism or hierarchialism.  We see in scripture a twofold structure of ministry and we define ecclesia basically as a local assembly.  Our theological method draws  first directly upon the content of Scripture and only  secondarily upon theological deduction.  To paraphrase a timeworn Baptist principle, "the Bible is our first rule of faith and practice."

            Organizationally, Baptists are a congregational church polity.  In many respects Baptists set aside the theological discussions of the Reformers concerning the visible and invisible churches, preferring to speak mostly of the visible church.  They emphasized that the visible church is seen in a local congregation of believers which is empowered by Christ.  As one confession put it, "Christ hath here on earth a spiritual Kingdom which is the Church, as it is visible to us…a company of visible saints called and separated from the world…"8  This has guaranteed diversity of opinion and expression and a tougher road toward extra-congregational consensus.  In a somewhat Christomonistic orientation, six of 52 articles of that early statement connect the church directly with Christ: "Every church has power given them from Christ for their better well-being."9

            Baptists are theologically a confessional people.  Those who promote the idea that Baptists are complete freethinkers have not read our historical documents.  From John Smyth and Thomas Helwys through the establishment of our first associations and the transplantation of our faith and life to North America, we are confessional.  While we argue over which confession we want to cite on a given issue, patterns have emerged: London (1644, 1677), Philadelphia (1742), New Hampshire (1832), and the Baptist Faith and Message revisions (1925, 1963, 2000).  It is part of our tradition to arrive voluntarily at a theological consensus, write it down, publish it and affirm it when disputes arise, and typically at the times when we give credentials to our leadership (ordinations).

            Religious liberty has been a cherished ideal, but one which has been somewhat discolored by the twentieth century.  When the stories are told of Roger Williams (a "sometime  Baptist"), Isaac Backus, Thomas Goold, and Obadiah Holmes in Massachusetts, William Screven in Maine and later South Carolina, John Leland and James Ireland in Virginia, or of those soldiers of the faith in Russia, China or Burma, we proudly proclaim our tradition of religious liberty.  It is acceptable as long as it is heroic and historical.  Where our tradition of religious liberty creates fuzziness or downright difficulty is in defense of the separation of church and state when faith-based initiatives are being asserted, or where one of our groups feels the onslaught of unacceptable theological views or a teacher in a theological school steps beyond the reasonable bounds of orthodoxy.  We know from recent history that Baptists can become as intolerant as any other denomination…

            Voluntarism, while not a household term, expresses something very important in Baptist character.  Here a genetic trace back to the Anabaptists is noticeable.  It refers to the capability in every human being to make choices freely.  It assumes that the grace of God is freely given as an offer.  It is based upon the example of Christ who voluntarily submitted himself to the cross (Phil 2:8).  As the theology of voluntarism goes, a person voluntarily accepts Christ as Savior, and voluntarily joins a believer's congregation.  In turn, that congregation voluntarily selects and joins associations with which it wants to identify, and all such relationships are defined by voluntary covenants.  A favorite piece of Baptist artwork is the picture of Christ knocking at a garden door: there is no external handle on the door.  Ironically, few Baptists picked up the pacifist corollary in the voluntarist theology of the Radical Reformers.

            Voluntarist theology is paralleled in church-state relations by the oft-quoted belief that Baptists cherish, "a free church in a free state."10  Early in the voluntary church movement in nineteenth-century England, Baptists were staunch supporters of religious voluntarism and an end to any form of an established church.  In the American context, separation of church and state and individual accountability before God have become part of the mantra of Baptists.  Since the eighteenth century, Baptists have become synonymous in the religious realm with 'separation.'  Isaac Backus and John Leland were among the first to declare this position both with their writings and with life experience in standing against coercive civil authorities.  There are varying degrees of separation, some wanting the proverbial wall of separation to remain inviolate, while others desire to influence government positively through faith-based initiatives.  What all Baptists are certain of is that the local congregation is to be protected from interference of any kind, governmental or ecclesiastical, and that the individual's accountability before God remains uninterrupted by any temporal authority.  It is fair to say that  Baptists view all government with suspicion in matters of religious sentiments: as Thomas Helwys put it, "men's religion to God is betwixt God and themselves."11

            Baptists have ever been champions of religious experience.  Moving clearly beyond their more confessional cousins in the Reformed stream, Baptists have valued religious experience in three ways: baptism, the Lord‘s Supper [and foot-washing], the laying on of hands, and in personal conversion narratives.  By 1650 when the fully- developed practice of believer's baptism by immersion could be seen in both major branches of the movement, it was obvious that Baptists wanted all new believers to undergo this uniform experience.  In celebrating the Lord's Supper, Baptists followed an anamnetic understanding resembling that of Huldrych Zwingli where the Supper is an enacted drama.  Small numbers of Primitive and Freewill Baptists still attach foot washing to the Supper.  In the procedures for new baptizands and ordination, moreover, Baptists honored the laying on of hands, which has powerful 'tactile' significance as one recent Baptist theologian has argued.  But, most vividly of all, Baptists place a high priority on details of personal spiritual struggle and conversion to Christ.  From one very different set of circumstances to another, Baptists can sense a common denominator of evangelical experience in a personal testimony.  Often a range of latitude in doctrine can be allowed, "if only one loves Jesus."

            Finally, allow me to suggest that Baptists have always been somewhat ecclesially exclusivist.  Some would prefer the term "primitivism" and it has been observed that there is a small bit of primitivism in all Baptists and we see it most clearly in our doctrine of the  church.  Our inheritance from the radical wing of the Reformation reminds us that we are in pursuit of the true church, the church of the New Testament.  In this regard, John Smyth defined his congregation as a "true church of true believers."  What that inherently suggests is that we have a jaundiced orientation to other Christians and churches.  Our ecclesiology holds that the Holy Spirit has gathered us into congregations as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. He is in our midst.  We have a natural disinclination toward binding affiliations and like to speak  of  cooperation only with churches of "like faith and order."  Our administration of the ordinances suggests we want all of our members to experience believer‘s baptism, preferably in a Baptist congregation.  Virtually the only place this has opened up is within the evangelical framework where we are prepared to cooperate with others who have a high view of scripture, eschew liberal theological trends, and keep the fire of mission and evangelism burning brightly.  From time to time  we  are even chafed there, though, because of the position we have taken on baptism and local church governance.

            What that all amounts to is a deep sense that if ideal Christians are defined by a plain understanding of scripture and as faithful members of local congregations, Baptists are the purest form of ecclesia under heaven.  Let us not be too harsh in our denunciations of J. R. Graves, Ben Bogard, J. M. Pendleton, Amos Dayton, or the mythical character "Theodosia Ernest"!

            This, then, is the profile of our Baptist tradition.

Bury It! Or Claim It?

            If there is an identifiable tradition, what are we to do with it?

            As a denominational family, we disagree about this important question.  On the one hand, some Baptists are giving greater priority to one or more aspects of the tradition and in so doing have become assertive or even militant in defense of  select principles.  This is the position of  most continuing to be fully affiliated with the Southern Baptist family as well as the major reactions we have seen in the Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  At the same time, other Baptists seem not to be clear in affirming their whole tradition, either because they are unhappy with cultural accommodations to the tradition, or because they, like Anabaptists sense a "Golden Age" from which true Baptists have fallen.  If one looks carefully at some of the literature coming out of certain quarters, it would appear that the Golden Age was the 17th Century when Calvinistic thought was dominant among English and American Baptists.  This is the position of the Founders Movement, our Reformed or Sovereign Grace cousins, and historically also that of Primitive or Old School Baptists.  Yet other groups have blended their Baptist heritage with either cultural (African-American Baptists) or ecumenical elements (American Baptists) to achieve a flavor of Christian identity that suits their purposes.

            What are we to do with all this material that is lying about our ecclesial household?  Is it useful to us or should we have a huge theological and ecclesiastical yard sale?  Living and ministering in what some have called a 'post-denominational' or 'post-Christian' era suggests some necessary strategies.

            I would argue that the tradition is very useful to us.  It charts our way in a sea of religious complexity and cynicism.  But, some of the tools will have to be sharpened and some may have to be set aside.  Let me conclude with what that might involve and some speculation about what Baptists with a usable sense of their tradition might look like.

            If we are going to be faithful to our pilgrimage as a distinct people of God, we cannot and should not lessen our commitment to the authority of Scripture, our Christocentrism, the primacy of the local congregation, the relevance of religious experience, and our overall distrust of religious establishments and mischievous governments.  We are always at our best as dissenters or the loyal opposition.

            But we do need to modify some of our other habits and tendencies.

            Underlying a sense of whom we are, I hope will be a lessened spirit of exclusivism.  Baptists should not forget that they are part of the Christian family.  We hold the great doctrines of the apostles and early councils in common with the Church Fathers, and we claim the name of Jesus Christ with Christian believers everywhere of whatever stripe.  More to the point, we have learned through the advance of the evangelical movement that we have co-laborers that are very much like us.  Evangelicals have a high view of scripture, they hold Christ high as crucified Savior and Risen Lord, they sense a missionary imperative and they value Christian experience.  Evangelicals are a variegated lot in terms of their polities and ordinances, and we easily fit into that differentiating pattern.12  So, I'm with Leo Garrett and others in asserting that Baptists are evangelicals and need to look and sound that way without losing what is important to us.  In fact, it's plain that evangelicals embrace us and find us among their most ardent supporters.  We belong in that larger category unashamedly, and we bring a vast numerical strength to that collective witness.

            I would next hope that we can again wholeheartedly embrace our dissenting character.  The cloak of majoritarianism does not fit us well.  Baptists are more effective at contending for something than managing it.  We can be incisive in our biblical critiques of institutions and yet, when given the opportunity to lead, we are as corrupt as any fallen instrument.  In this regard, we need to remember that it is an important part of our tradition to be a layperson's church.  A clergy-dominant, hierarchical and politicized elite class of leaders does not serve us well.  It was lay-preachers, a few she-preachers, shopkeepers, farmers and artisans who wrote our confessions, started and supported our missions, and gave rise to our institutions.  I'm  not  in  any  way denigrating those called to full-time ministry; I'm merely underscoring the value of the whole people of God. That's a major part of Baptist tradition.

            Baptists have a renewed contribution to make in the area of human rights advocacy.  Too much of this discussion involves Christians of the old magisterial churches.  It is our spiritual forebears, who declared religious liberty to be a basic human right, yet recently we have been less clear in our advocacy of separation of church and state, and we have been timid in asserting unqualified religious freedom.  Other organizations like PAOU and Amnesty International have bypassed us in both instances.  Beyond our classic position on religious liberty, how do we square off with other human rights and responsibilities, so much the discourse of our times?  We are told by leading ethicists that religion can no longer be a resource for human rights because religion is by nature divisive.  Human rights language has become a particular domain of lawyers and secular philosophers.  But, Baptists must ask, how can that be when we are made in the image of God?  We have work to do, borne of our own tradition.

            Lastly, we need to adjust our ecclesiology.  Specifically, we need to speak less of the autonomy of local churches and more of the associational principle.  This was the subject of a recent Baptist international theological conference in Germany.  The relatively late-in-time "doctrine" of congregational autonomy has often bred obscurantism, authoritarian leadership at the local level, and a penchant for extreme individualism, as well as being an excuse for lack of accountability to the extended Body of Christ.  In Baptist tradition, the independence of local congregations has to be taken in tandem with the need to associate with others of like faith and order.  It involves both conversation and cooperation.  By debating and challenging each other within our tradition (and staying at the table!), the tradition becomes stronger  and  more  useful.  By cooperating and regularly "associating" with each other, we fulfill more effectively the imperatives  of  the  gospel.

            The associational principle also leads to engagement.  A generation ago Baptist leaders and thinkers were heavily engaged in dialogue with other Christians and beginning to be active in interfaith work.  Theological narrowness and intimidation have denied us our rightful place at these tables and that is unfortunate.  Instead, Pentecostals, Christian and Missionary Alliance, and various conglomerates of evangelicals now take up many of those opportunities.  Our international body, the Baptist World Alliance, needs to expand its theological conversations to include other Protestants as well.  May I challenge schools like Dallas Baptist University to become a center for dialogue and engagement of Baptists and other Christians?

            Allow me to make this last observation: there is space for, and interest in, historic Baptist principles; in fact they have been adopted wholesale by a significant number of Christian and even non-Christians worldwide.  What is ironic is that the fountainhead of those principles in these days is seemingly unable or unwilling (or both) as yet to sustain itself as a unifying vision.  We need each other.  We share the same heritage, or if you will allow me the term, "tradition."  Let us continue the conversation.

            Allow scripture to be the last word: "We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us." (II Cor. 4:7 NRSV)



            1 This lecture was first given for the 2007 George Gallup Lectures at Dallas Baptist University.
            2 James Wm McClendon, Jr., Doctrine: Systematic Theology, Volume 2 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), p. 470.
            3 Franklin H. Littell, The Anabaptist Vision of the Church (Boston: Starr King Press, 1958). Note that the Baptist Standard-Bearer has
produced in 1997 a second edition of this work as part of its "Dissent and Nonconformity  Series."
            4 Ibid, pp. 58-65.
            5 Anabaptists and Baptists are not the only interpreters who are oriented to a Fall. The prominent Canadian United Church theologian, Douglas John Hall, sees this as a major watershed. See his Thinking the Faith: Christian Theology in a North American Context (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), pp. 200-202.
            6 Here I follow the lead of Daniel Day Williams in his now classic essay, "The Mystery of the Baptists" in Foundations 1:6-9, n1, 1958.
            7 On this matter of congregational nomenclature, in the 1960s a movement in the northeastern U.S. moved among congregations that federated with United Church of Christ congregations, independent churches and community churches to drop denominational distinctives in order to serve a broad base of local constituency. As one result of the fundamentalist resurgence in the S.B.C., more moderate churches began to downplay the use of Baptist as well. In the ultimate irony, perhaps under influence of the Independent Fundamentalist Churches, very conservative churches also dropped the term "Baptist." This has occurred in the Canadian conventions as well.
            8 First London Confession, Art. XXXIII, in Baptist Confessions of Faith, edited by William L. Lumpkin (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1963), p. 165.
            9 Ibid., p. 155 (Art. XXXVI).
            10 See the statement in the "American Baptist Bill of Rights," in Brackney, Baptist Life and Thought, p. 424.
            11 Thomas Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mistery of Iniquity (London: 1612), p. 69.
            12 I have a broader definition of evangelical than most. I include not only those who are Evangelical in the organizational sense but also those within mainline churches who consider themselves evangelical. See my essay, "Are Baptists Evangelicals? The Question Revisited" in Theology in Context: Essays in Honor of James Leo Garrett, edited by William H. Brackney (Macon: National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, 2005).