Saturday, January 17, 2009

Prayer Blog - 1/17/2009

John Guthrie (JDG), a church member whom I had visited in the hospital on Thursday died today. He was 96.

Here is his obituary as it appeared in the Knoxville News-Sentinel:

GUTHRIE, JOHN DORRIS - age 96 of Knoxville Tennessee, went home to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Saturday morning January 17, 2009. He was a member of Central Baptist Church of Bearden. He taught Sunday school for thirty five years and was Deacon for Life. John was born in Paris Tennessee in 1913. John married his sweetheart, Joan, three months before leaving for the South Pacific for 34 months to serve in WWII. After returning they started a family and he graduated from Peabody University School of Law. He was an attorney for the Veteran's Administration working with the Federal Government for 40 years and retired at age 91. In 1957 he moved his family from Nashville to Knoxville. He enjoyed life to the fullest; he was known for his gardening, passion for the Vols, love for his Lord and his family. He is survived by a loving family, his wife Joan of 66 years and son and daughter-in-law John and Robin Guthrie; daughter and son-in-law Janet and Bill Young; daughter and son-in-law, Jane and Rod Wellman; son and daughter-in-law, Joe and Sallie Guthrie; daughter and son-in-law, Jeanie and Wayne Smith; son and daughter-in-law, Jim and Laura Guthrie; grandchildren: Eileen Boroughs, Anne Thomas, Michael Wellman, Jennifer Wellman, Sarah Byrd, Eli Byrd, Nathan Smith, Natalie Smith, David Guthrie, Deborah Guthrie; great grandchildren: Isaak Bing, Jonah Thomas, and Billy Boroughs. Memorial gifts can be made to the Mission Fund at Central Baptist Church of Bearden. The family will receive friends at Central Baptist Church of Bearden Tuesday night from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. Funeral services will follow at 7:00 pm. Graveside service will be Wednesday at 2:00 pm at Highland Memorial Cemetery in the mausoleum chapel. You can view Mr. Guthrie's online guestbook at

Bible Trivia - 1/17/2009

Question: What Biblical name means “rock”?

Answer: Peter or Cephas. (John 1:42)

Comments: Peter's given name was Simon but Jesus renamed him Peter. (Matthew 16:18, John 1:42) Cephas is the Aramaic equivalent of the Greek Petros. Both names literally mean "rock." As such, Peter's name could accurately be translated "Rocky".

He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter). (John 1:42, NASB)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Word of the Day - 1/16/2009


Caudate means having a tail or taillike appendage.

There has been much debate as to what arcane creature of Job 40 known as the Behemoth actually is. What cannot be denied is that it is caudated.

"He bends his tail like a cedar;
The sinews of his thighs are knit together." (Job 40:17, NASB)

Note: This image of Behemoth and and her counterpart Leviathan was illustrated by William Blake (1757-1827).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/16/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Wednesday-Thursday, January 14-15th, 2009, Part 2

-On Thursday night, WAM, KLTW, RAW, and I met without KJW. This is significant as part of the rationale for the gathering was so that WAM could deliver KJW’s Christmas gift -Yumi, a 16" plush doll that speaks both English and Japanese. KJW was a late scratch as it made sense for her to spend the night with her aunt PWC who had picked her up shortly before we arrived.

-In spite of KJW’s notable absence, we still had a good time. KLTW had planned on cooking chicken and dumplings (one of my favorites). In fact, she actually did. Unfortunately, she bought a new brand of chicken which evaporated in the cooking process making her uncertain as to whether she had enough food for us all. Actually, she was not entirely sure she had enough to satisfy WAM.

-Instead we ate at Mangia Pizza & More. While talking, KLTW relayed a story in which she once noted that Jesus was a plumber. For an even more random quote, check out the WAM Quote of the Day.

-We then returned to RAW’s home where we played two games of Po-Ke-No. Though the game has several variations, the one we played was no different than Bingo. RAW won the first game while I won the second. This is significant as it well known that KLTW is a cheater.

-After playing the game, we watched the Eddie Izzard DVD “Glorious”. The British transvestite comedian filmed this routine in 1997. WAM was the only one of the group unfamiliar with Izzard and he seemed to enjoy the act as much of the rest of us. If you have not heard Izzard's brand of humor, I highly recommend him.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/16/2009, Part 1

News & Notes from Wednesday-Thursday, January 14-15th, 2009

-I had a very prosaic Wednesday highlighted by meals at Soccer Taco with JTH and at Applebees with my father. (Note: There were several hours between meals.) While at Soccer Taco, I was subjected to repeatedly reliving the Tennessee basketball team’s loss from the previous night as countless highlights of Jodie Meeks record setting performance played throughout the meal.

-On Thursday, I conducted MLM’s hospital visits as he was recovering from having one of his front teeth replaced the previous day. I made visits at Baptist Hospital West, UT Medical Center, and St. Mary’s Medical Center.

-My first stop was at Baptist West where I visited with the families of BPD and JDG. I first stopped in Room 418 to visit BPD. She was asleep when I arrived but I did talk to her husband ,LND. He goes by “Chic” (like the animal, not the fashion term, though he was a well dressed man). Their minister and friend ALF had already been making daily visits. In a very nice way, I got the impression that since they had ALF, what did they need me for? I write this to document what a great pastor ALF is.

-I then made my way to JDG’s room. JDG is a 96-year old who had improperly ingested food on Sunday and had developed pneumonia. I talked at length with his caretaker, Michelle, and his daughter, Jane. Jane wondered if we could have someone sit with her mother. I relayed the message back to the church.

-I then hit the interstate to UT Medical Center for a far more uplifting visit. Not only did I get this pass to perpetually validate my parking at the hospital, but I visited CELJ in room 311 - the maternity ward. I got to chat with her mother, TEL (a friend and a member of my parents’ Sunday School class) and see her beautiful baby boy, Gavin O'Brien Jones. At what point does it become inappropriate to call a male beautiful? I figured in the case of a newborn, the descriptor is still acceptable.

-Also at UT, I tried to visit MBF. (See this Prayer Blog from January 9th> for details.) Thankfully she had been moved from room 1012 to a rehabilitation facility. Continue to keep her in your prayers.

-My final stop was at St. Mary’s where I visited the room of Ewing “Tex” Hight (EBH). His grandson, ACH, and I grew up together. He was in rehabilitation when I arrived but I got to meet his wife, DJH. In what might be deemed a miracle (should I ever be nominated for sainthood), I found Room 333 in the maze that is St. Mary’s with no difficulty. I am fairly certain that I parked illegally...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 1/15/2009

Associated Baptist Press
January 15, 2009 · (09-8)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Liberals, evangelicals call for common agenda on abortion, sexuality (904 words)
Ecumenical groups says stimulus package should include the poor (530 words)
Surve: Protestants no more loyal to denomination than toothpaste brand (568 words)

Liberals, evangelicals call for common agenda on abortion, sexuality
By Bob Allen (904 words)

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Progressive and evangelical leaders have joined together to propose shared policy solutions on issues that have long divided left and right in the so-called culture wars.

Two years ago Third Way, a non-profit think tank that supports equality for gays and reproductive choice for women, joined forces with Faith in Public Life, a coalition seeking to broaden the evangelical social agenda beyond issues of abortion and homosexuality. The two groups began discussing how to "change the culture wars into culture discussion," said Rachel Laser, culture program director at Third Way.

On Jan. 15 the two groups rolled out a consensus governing agenda aimed at reducing abortion by addressing the reasons women choose to abort. It also attempts to balance protecting the rights of gays and lesbians in the workplace with allowing religious employers to discriminate in hiring on the basis of their religious beliefs.

"The culture wars have been characterized by vilifying those who differ from us on provocative issues and treating them as traitors and threats," said Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Florida and one-time president-elect of the Christian Coalition. "I believe we can end those wars by thinking of our differences as ways we can learn from each other and advance without compromising core values."

After a telephone conference call with reporters, the activists planned to meet with President-elect Obama's transition team and members of Congress about what Laser described as "a roadmap for how to put and end to the culture wars."

The joint agenda calls for reducing the number of abortions through policies like comprehensive sex education that includes teaching abstinence, improved access to contraception for low-income women, expanded healthcare for pregnant women and new families, and encouraging adoption.

It supports policies making it illegal to fire or refuse to hire or promote employees based on their sexual orientation, with "a clear exemption" for faith-based employers.

The shared agenda also opposes torture and calls for comprehensive immigration reform that secures America's borders while providing a path to earned citizenship. The immigration proposal also calls for a guest-worker program and for keeping the families of undocumented workers together.

Robert Jones of Third Way called it "a genuinely new path for the country." For evangelicals, he said, it "heralds the arrival of a second wave of the evangelical center." The first wave, he explained, was comprised of evangelicals who called for the broadening their brethren's moral agenda beyond issues of abortion and homosexuality. The second wave involves "re-engaging with these important and difficult issues with new eyes and ears."

David Gushee, an ethics professor at Mercer University and a regular columnist for Associated Baptist Press, said the four issues "may seem to represent quite different or even unrelated concerns," but at the core of all is "concern for human dignity."

"Human dignity is just another way of saying that each human being is to be treated with the respect that they deserve as objects of God's infinite and merciful love," Gushee said.

Recently the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention announced a defensive agenda for the Obama administration -- opposing the Freedom of Choice Act relaxing restrictions on abortion, fighting legislation like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that it says would "normalize" homosexuality, and opposing adding sexual orientation and gender identity to categories protected under federal hate-crimes legislation.

Jonathan Merritt, spokesman for an ad hoc group calling itself the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative, said he is proud of his denomination's "unwavering stance" on moral issues, but Southern Baptists must also live out other faith tenets like compassion, charity and respect for human rights.

"We should maintain our convictions on those matters where conscience demands that we part ways," Merritt said. "However, we must accept the promise that people of mutual goodwill can find shared values and goals. For far too long, we have allowed the common good to be sacrificed on the altar of our disagreements."

Merritt said he supports making abortion illegal -- but, in the meantime, wants to reduce the number of abortions.

"It is easy to call one's self pro-life," Merritt said. "The difficult thing is to put feet to our faith and begin working with real people in real communities -- to see that faith made tangible, and lives saved."

Gushee acknowledged that some evangelicals might view employment rights for gays and lesbians as controversial, but he supports protections for sexual minorities "because denying someone a job in a secular workplace due to their sexual orientation violates human dignity and serves no public purpose."

Laser said the two groups still disagree on many issues, but discussion focused only on finding specific and concrete solutions where they could find common ground.

Early on, she said, even many in her own organization thought the compromise effort would fail. "We're very proud of how far we've come in our governing agenda," she said.

"This governing agenda is a beginning and not an end," she added. "There will be much more in the future."

Merritt, the son of former Southern Baptist Convention president James Merritt, said he counts himself among the generation of younger evangelicals who have "turned away from self-serving partisanship" and seek "a rapid infusion of civility and grace into a political culture where faith has often produced divisiveness."

"I support this agenda because I am a Southern Baptist," Merritt said, "not in spite of that fact."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Ecumenical group says stimulus package should include the poor
By Robert Marus (530 words)

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- The nation's most broadly ecumenical Christian group is urging the new administration of President-elect Obama to include help for the poor in any economic-stimulus package.

Leaders of Christian Churches Together in the USA met with journalists, members of Congress and the Obama transition team Jan. 15 in Washington to implore them not to let the new economic concerns of the middle and upper classes crowd out the ongoing travails of the nation's poorest citizens.

It is typical of political leaders to focus on the middle class, and we too care about the middle class," Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, said at a press conference announcing the push. "However, it is our religious responsibility to make sure the poor -- who are so close to the heart of God -- are not left out and left behind in this severe economic crisis. They are already in crisis, so we don't recall Jesus saying, 'I was in the middle class and I lost my 401(K).'"

Wes Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, said he was part of a similar group that discussed poverty issues eight years ago with then-incoming President Bush and his transition team.

"Eight years have passed, much has changed," he said. "Poverty in many parts of the world has seen some such reduction, as in Africa. But in the United States, four million people more have fallen into poverty."

Formed in 2005, Christian Churches Together includes diverse mainline Protestant, African-American Protestant, evangelical and Pentecostal Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox denominations, as well as parachurch organizations.

The American Baptist Churches USA, National Baptist Convention USA, National Baptist Convention of America and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship all belong to CCT. Other Baptist groups -- including the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Progressive National Baptist Convention -- are either considering or in the process of joining.

William Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention USA, told reporters one of the broad Christian principles giving the group common ground was God's concern for the poor.

"We really can't be true to the integrity of our calling and our Christ without addressing the issue of poverty," he said. "Because, as our theological statement says, he was rich, but became poor for our sake."

The leaders said the organization does not advocate specific policy proposals, but agreed on the principle of including poverty-reduction provisions in the stimulus package.

Some denominations and organizations within CCT, however, have offered specific policy proposals.

For example, the Christian anti-poverty group Bread For the World is asking Congress and Obama to include provisions boosting benefit levels for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) by 15 percent for the next two years. They are also asking for a significant funding boost for fiscal year 2009 for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition-subsidy program, as well as a boost in federal funding for food banks.

Other member organizations in CCT have advocated strongly for an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, which the House of Representatives passed Jan. 14. The program provides federally subsidized health insurance to children whose families can't afford it.

Robert Marus is managing editor and Washington bureau chief for Associated Baptist Press.

Survey: Protestants no more loyal to denomination than toothpaste brand
By Bob Allen (568 words)

PHOENIX (ABP) -- Protestants in the United States are about as loyal to their brand of toothpaste as their denomination, according to one research firm.

A new poll by Ellison Research asked churchgoers who attend worship services at least once a month the denomination of the church they most often attend. Instead of broad terms like Baptist or Methodist, the survey asked for specific denominational brands, like "Southern Baptist" or "Free Will Baptist." Researchers then asked respondents what role that denomination would play if they had to find a new church.

Just 16 percent of Protestants surveyed said they are exclusively loyal to one denomination, while half (51 percent) preferred one denomination but would be open to another. By comparison, 22 percent of Protestants said they would use only one brand of toothpaste and 42 percent indicated a preference for one brand while being open to others.

Similar levels of brand loyalty exist for bathroom tissue (19 percent would consider only one brand and 40 percent had a preferred brand), pain reliever (16 percent and 42 percent, respectively) and soft drinks (14 percent and 56 percent).

Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, said religious denominations face what most companies face in trying to develop brand loyalty -- consumers with many different options who may not perceive strong differences among them.

"Church denominations certainly are not the same as hotels or soft drinks, but some of the same rules apply," Sellers said. "The brands that develop stronger loyalty tend to do a better job of differentiating themselves from other brands and demonstrating key elements of the brand very clearly."

Bill Leonard, dean of the divinity school at Wake Forest University, called the research a "bizarre, yet telling illustration" of what scholars have known for decades.

"Fewer religious Americans think of their primary religious identity in terms of a denominational identity," Leonard said. "Loyalty to local congregations as the primary source of religious identity seems to be increasingly normative."

He added, "Many folks can switch denominations as readily as toothpaste, I suspect."

Six in 10 active Catholics said they would attend only one denomination, but researchers said the gap between Protestants and Catholics on the issue might be due less to brand loyalty than the number of choices. Unlike Catholics, Protestants in the United States can choose from many denominational groups similar in doctrine and practice.

People who worship at non-denominational churches show higher loyalty to remaining non-denominational than other Protestants show to their mother church. Twenty-nine percent of current non-denominational worshipers said they would attend only a non-denominational church, while 32 percent said they had a preference but would consider joining a church affiliated with a denomination.

Evangelicals were a little more sectarian than Protestants in general. Nineteen percent said they would consider only one denomination, 50 percent have a preference but wouldn't rule out a different choice, and 11 percent said they don't really pay attention to the denomination when they consider what church to attend.

Overall, 11 percent of Americans said they have a small number of denominations they would consider, with no particular preference among them. Another 6 percent said they had no particular preference, but there are some denominations they would avoid. Nine percent said the denomination doesn't matter.

Ellison said denominational leaders "face many of the same challenges as do the leaders of brands such as Coke, Chevrolet, or Home Depot" in attracting worshipers.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Prayer Blog - 1/15/2009, #5

My cousin, JEV, is schduled to return to school tomorrow at Pellissippi State Technical Community College. He is enrolled in two core classes, English and math. In the past, he has experienced panic attacks and not been able to enter the building. Please keep him and his education in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 1/15/2009, #4

-CELJ gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Gavin O'Brien Jones, at the UT Medical Center. Praise God! Keep the mother and child in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 1/15/2009, #3

-96 year-old church member JDG is at Baptist Hospital West suffering from pneumonia. The prognosis is not good. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 1/15/2009, #2

-This afternoon, I visited church member BDP at Baptist Hospital West where she was being treated for a serious illness. Please keep her and her husband, Chic, in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 1/15/2009

Yesterday (January 14th), MLM had one of his front teeth removed. He is recovering nicely and has copious quantities of soup at his disposal. Keep his continued recovering in your prayers.

WAM Quote of the Day - 1/15/2009

Tonight WAM ate with myself, KLTW and RAW at Mangia Pizza & More. While there, the subject of absolutes arose. WAM’s contribution:

“Mussolini was an evil, evil man but he kept the trains running on time.”

Word of the Day - 1/15/2009


Parricide is the act of killing one's father, mother, or other close relative.

Sennacherib, the Assyrian king who led the siege on Jerusalem, ultimately became the victim of parricide. (II Kings 19:37, II Chronicles 32:21; Isaiah 37:38)

It came about as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons killed him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place. (Isaiah 37:38, NASB)

Note: This woodcut depicting Senaccherib's death was published by Johann Christoph Weigel (1654-1726) in 1695.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 1/14/2009

Associated Baptist Press
January 14, 2009 · (09-7)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Faith leaders urge Obama to ban torture on Inauguration Day (616 words)
Deadly Zimbabwe cholera outbreak crime against humanity, group says (606 words)
Dan Goodman, N.C. seminary professor, dies suddenly (389 words)
Opinion: Thoughts on protecting the sanctity of marriage (789 words)

Faith leaders urge Obama to ban torture on Inauguration Day
By Bob Allen (616 words)

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A broad coalition of faith leaders has written a letter asking President-elect Barack Obama to make banning torture one of his first acts in office.

Thirty-three leaders from Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions asked Obama to "restore our nation's moral standing in the world" by signing an executive order rejecting the practice of torture by the United States. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture issued the letter to Obama's presidential transition team Jan. 9.

NRCAT recently launched a campaign titled Countdown to End Torture: 10 Days of Prayer aimed at unifying the religious community in a final push urging the president-elect to make ending torture one of his first priorities.

A clock on the NRCAT website started on Jan. 11, the seventh anniversary of the opening of the U.S. detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It will tick backward until Jan. 20, in hopes that the new president will sign an executive order before it reaches 00:00:00.

If he doesn't, the clock will start ticking forward, counting the hours until Obama changes policies of the Bush administration regarding the use of techniques the Geneva Conventions consider torture in interrogating suspected terrorists.

The coalition is also asking houses of worship to pray in worship services between Jan. 11 and the inauguration for an end to U.S.-sponsored torture. A two-sided bulletin insert carries a prayer printed on one side and information about a Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty issued along with the letter.

The letter asked Obama to issue a torture ban order on Inauguration Day or as soon afterward as possible in order to "help the United States to regain the moral high ground and restore our credibility within the international community at this critical time."

"While we represent a wide diversity of America's faith traditions, we all believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all human life," the leaders wrote. "Respect for the dignity of every person must serve as the foundation for security, justice and peace. Torture is incompatible with the tenets of our faiths and is contrary to international and U.S. law."

The attached declaration of principles urges a "Golden Rule" standard for torture, meaning the United States will not authorize any methods of interrogation that it would deem unacceptable if used against Americans.

It also calls for establishing one national standard for treatment of prisoners. Currently the U.S. Army Field Manual sets one standard for interrogation techniques, while the CIA uses another.

Other proposed reforms include allowing detainees access to courts, videotaping interrogations and holding accountable any official who implements or fails to prevent the use of torture.

Signers of the letter included leaders from a variety of Christian denominations. Baptist signers were David Gushee, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights; Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA; and Stan Hastey, minister for missions and ecumenism for the Alliance of Baptists.

Following a Jan. 14 telephone press conference announcing the initiative, an NRCAT delegation planned to meet with members of Obama's transition team to emphasize the message in the letter.

The meetings took place the same day the Washington Post published a front-page story noting that the Bush administration's top official in charge of determining whether Guantanamo Bay detainees should be brought to trial determined that at least one detainee had been tortured by U.S. officials. Susan Crawford, a lifelong Republican, said Mohammed al-Qatani -- whom federal officials claim intended to be the 20th highjacker in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks -- had undergone severe interrogation techniques that threatened his life.

Bush administration officials have repeatedly denied that the United States engages in torture.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Deadly Zimbabwe cholera outbreak crime against humanity, group says
By Robert Marus (606 words)

NEW YORK (ABP) -- The cholera outbreak that has killed thousands in Zimbabwe should be considered a crime against humanity and laid at the feet of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, an international doctors' group said in a new report.

Physicians for Human Rights released the report at Jan. 13 press conferences in New York and South Africa. In a preface to the 54-page document, the group "rightly calls into question the legitimacy of a regime that, in the report's words, has abrogated the most basic state functions in protecting the health of the population."

The preface was signed by former Irish premier and U.N. human-rights officer Mary Robinson, retired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and former U.N. chief prosecutor Richard Goldstone. It notes, "As the report documents, the Mugabe regime has used any means at its disposal, including politicizing the health sector, to maintain its hold on power. Instead of fulfilling its obligation to progressively realize the right to health for the people of Zimbabwe, the government has taken the country backwards, which has enabled the destruction of health, water, and sanitation -- all with fatal consequences."

The document is the product of a December trip to Zimbabwe by a group of four human-rights activists, including two public-health physicians. It details the gradual destruction of the nation's public-health system -- once considered one of the best in Africa -- to the point where virtually all hospitals are closed and the most basic public sanitation and health needs go unmet.

Zimbabwe has been in an economic free-fall since 2000, when Mugabe's regime began seizing the country's largely white-owned corporate farms. Food productivity in a nation once considered the breadbasket of southern Africa has plummeted along with average life expectancy, which is now the lowest in the world at 36 years of age. Meanwhile, malnutrition, inflation and unemployment have soared.

The breakdown of sanitation infrastructure following nationalization of municipal water systems has led to the cholera outbreak. There is virtually no clean drinking or bathing water in many areas of the country.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 40,000 Zimbabweans have contracted cholera from water-borne bacteria. On the day the report was released, the group confirmed that Zimbabwe's death toll from cholera has exceeded 2,000.

The report recommended that the U.N. take over Zimbabwe's public-health system, and that the Mugabe regime be investigated by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

"Heedless of concern for the population of Zimbabwe from world leaders and groups such as PHR [Physicians for Human Rights], the government has denied access to the country, detained journalists, tortured human-rights activists, and even refused visas to former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and [South African human-rights activist and wife of Nelson Mandela] Graça Machel," the report continued.

"PHR's team members legally entered the country and were transparent about the purpose of conducting a health assessment. Nevertheless, the government apparently planned and then falsely reported their arrest at the end of the investigation. Such actions are a desperate attempt by Robert Mugabe to conceal the appalling situation of his country's people and to prevent the world from knowing how his government's malignant policies have led to the destruction of infrastructure, widespread disease, torture, and death."

Mugabe has blamed Western sanctions against his regime for the food shortages that have contributed to Zimbabwe's public-health disaster. His government has been deadlocked since September on a power-sharing agreement with the chief opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

"The Mugabe regime has used any means at its disposal, including the politicization of the health sector, to maintain its hold on power," the report said.

Robert Marus is managing editor and Washington bureau chief for Associated Baptist Press.

Dan Goodman, N.C. seminary professor, dies suddenly
By ABP staff (389 words)

BOILING SPRINGS, N.c. (ABP) -- A 40-year-old professor at a North Carolina Baptist divinity school died unexpectedly Jan. 13.

Gardner-Webb University officials released a statement saying Dan Goodman, the Bob D. Shepherd Chair of New Testament Interpretation at the college's M. Christopher White School of Divinity, had died suddenly. Details on the cause of death were incomplete as of press time for this story.

His funeral was scheduled for 11 a.m. Jan. 15th at Boiling Springs (N.C.) Baptist Church, where Goodman was a member.

"The Gardner-Webb University family has been profoundly saddened by the loss of Dr. Dan Goodman," said Frank Bonner, Gardner-Webb's president since 2005. "He was loved and admired by students, faculty, staff and all who knew him.

"Dr. Goodman was all that a university family could wish or hope for -- a great teacher, an outstanding scholar and a wonderful colleague."

Goodman is the fourth staff or faculty member at Gardner-Webb to die in the past 30 months, three of them unexpectedly.

Sid Haton, director athletic bands and instructor in music, died on campus Sept. 18, 2008. In June of 2006 the school's vice president for development, David Boan, was killed in a car accident and Bruce Rabon, assistant vice president for development, died from cancer.

Goodman joined the faculty of the divinity school in the fall of 2003 as associate professor of New Testament. Prior to coming to North Carolina, he was associate professor of New Testament Studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida, where he was twice named professor of the year.

In 2004, Goodman was one of only ten seminary professors nationwide to be awarded the Theological Scholars Grant from the Association of Theological Schools and the Lilly Foundation. The award recognized his project on the history of Baptist-Jewish relations.

Goodman regularly contributed to book reviews and journals. His primary research interests included Christian origins, Jesus and the gospels, hermeneutics, and Jewish-Christian dialogue. He also served as an interim pastor in Baptist churches in New York, New Jersey, Florida and North Carolina.

Rabbi Irving Greenberg, former chairman of the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington and a national leader in Jewish-Christian dialogue, described Goodman as "an up-and-coming scholar" and "a leader in the new vision of interpretation and learning."

He is survived by a wife and two sons, ages 11 and 15.

Opinion: Thoughts on protecting the sanctity of marriage
By David Gushee (789 words)

(ABP) -- As I write this column, Jeanie and I are preparing to gather with a half-dozen young couples at church to begin a marriage class. For six weeks we will meet together to discuss ways that these nearly- and newlyweds can strengthen their marriages at their earliest stage.

Helping couples build lasting and happy Christian marriages is clearly an appropriate and significant task of the local church. There can be no controversy about this work as there is in so much else that the church says and does. Here the church pastors her sheep, guiding them in the way they should go. With the Spirit's help, and on the basis of sound biblical principles and empirical data, the church can make a concrete difference in the lives of couples -- and the children (and the churches, and the society) whose well-being depends on them.

Reviewing some of the literature about marriage over these last few weeks has offered a reminder of the paradoxical simplicity and complexity of marriage.

At one level, it seems relatively simple to find one person you love, to decide to make a life together, and then to do so until death comes. Certainly, most of us seek the formation of such a relationship at one time or another in our lives. But managing the human-relations challenge of sustaining such a bond happily over a lifetime appears beyond the abilities of a majority of people in our time. Trying to understand why that seems to be the case is one entry point into the complexity of marriage.

How the institution of marriage is understood is one of our best windows into the character of a community, a church or a society. Contemporary American marriage is an uneasy mosaic containing ancient, modern, and even postmodern fragments.

We are a half-religious society, so many Americans still see marriage as a religious institution and draw some (often attenuated) understanding of their marital obligations from religious values. We are a romantic society, much attracted to dreams of "happily ever after," so most couples enter marriage placing high value on romantic love. We are a sexualized society, so sexual satisfaction is at the forefront of our attention in marriage. We are an individualistic society, so marriage among us lacks the sturdiness created by earlier understandings of covenant obligations. We are an egalitarian society -- dependent for the most part on two wage earners in each household-- so marriage requires the juggling of the dreams and responsibilities of two busy-and-stressed strivers. We are a consumer society now facing economic crisis, so marriages are often shadowed by profound financial pressures.

The church often teaches marriage classes based on relationship books written by psychologists and counselors. These assume -- and often do not comment on -- the social and historical realities I just outlined. They seek to teach couples how to become adept at the communication, conflict-resolution, financial-management, sexual, romantic and parenting challenges that face every marriage. They usually warn spouses that failure to become skilled at handling these challenges can lead to marital dissatisfaction and often to divorce. They don't say that many of these kinds of expectations for marriage are relatively new, and that they test the relational and interpersonal abilities of many people beyond their capacities -- for we are all in various ways flawed, limited and damaged.

Jeanie and I will attempt to offer a blend of ancient and modern perspectives. We will call couples back to at least one version of a biblical theology of marriage, which I usually summarize in the categories of creation, covenant, community and kingdom. We were made by God as creatures needing to give and receive love. In covenant, we bind ourselves before God to live with one other person for the whole of our lives.

This forms a new community of two-become-one -- and eventually two-become-one-become-three, and often four, and five, as children flow from and into this community (the health and well-being of which affect the entire society). Christian families finally must come to understand that they do not exist for themselves, but for others and especially for God's reign. We are kingdom people, and our marriages must be oriented to God's kingdom and not just our own joy.

Maximizing such joy does require a growing skill in all kinds of practical areas outlined in marriage books. These skills must be taught in marriage classes -- but always under the horizon of a richly biblical understanding of God's intent for marriage, such as covenant permanence, so that our marriages are not constantly shadowed by the fear of failure and abandonment.

How do we protect what is often called the "sanctity of marriage?" One couple at a time, in the local church.

-- David Gushee is distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University.

Word of the Day - 1/14/2009


A scourge is a whip or lash, especially for the infliction of punishment or torture.

A scourge is te only weapon Jesus is recorded to have held in Scripture. He used it in John's account of the cleansing of the temple. Though he constructed the scourge, there is no record of him using it on a person.

And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; (John 2:15, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/14/2009, Part 3

News & Notes from Tuesday, January 13th, 2009, Part 2

-I spent Tuesday night on University of Tennessee campus, first for class and then for a basketball game.

-On Tuesday night, I attended the first night of my class Ethical Issues in Adult Education (a.k.a. EP 527). RGB is teaching the class. It will be an applied ethics course as opposed to conceptual.

-The class was moved from the Bailey Education Complex to room 115 of the Humanities Building as the size of the class enlarged significantly once MHZ’s classes were cancelled for the semester.

-The class met from 5:05-7:35 so I had some time to kill before the Tennessee basketball game tipped off at 9 pm. I decided to drop my bags off at my vehicle and the walk over to Thompson-Boling Arena early.

-Knowing that we would get out of the game late, I decided to eat. I purchased a hot dog and a water. The hot dog cost $3.50 and the water was $4! The water was not bottled water, but rather out of the tap. I am not sure what alarmed me more, the prices themselves or the fact that the water cost more than the hot dog. At what point does/did this constitute gouging?

-I did get to watch the team warmup for the first time all year and was introduced to (subjected to?) some new hip-hop music (new to me anyway). The two songs that stood out were Ludacris’ “I Do It For Hip-Hop” and T.I.’s “Swing Ya Rag (Louis Rag)”. The chorus of the latter is as follows:

“Alright, okay, I don't dance, no way
I just take my Louis rag out and wave it round in the air
Take my Gucci rag out and wave it round in the air (X2)

-Eventually, I was joined by MPW and RAW to watch the Vols play Kentucky. The game had a big game feel with Bruce Pearl making a rare appearance in his orange sports coat.

-ALK was at the game but did not join us as she had during the last game, a loss. I texted her as follows: "If you feel like company and causing the team to lose, come and visit. :)"

-On this night we were privy to one of the most impressive shooting exhibitions I have ever seen: 54 points including ten three-point buckets. Unfortunately, the player did not play for the Vols. Jodie Meeks broke the Kentucky record for most points in a single game. Dan Issel had the previous mark of 53 set in 1970. The ten three-pointers were also a school-record. The sad thing is that most of the shots were well defended.

-Despite the fact that the rest of the team scored only 36 points, Kentucky won the game 90-72. After having gone two seasons without losing at home, the Vols lost for the second time in a row in Thompson-Boling.

-On the plus side, I may try to sell my ticket to a Kentucky fan on eBay...

-The halftime performance was Ted Bowen's trained dogs highlighted by Jumping Jack the Maniac, a frisbee catching dog in a Superman cape. Fittingly, the act hailed from Metropolis (Minnesota).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/14/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Tuesday, January 13th, 2009, Part 1

-On Tuesday morning, I worked a shift at the Hope Resource Center. Both of my appointments showed up, sort of. The second client actually signed up for his significant other, but I count that, making my streak five in a row.

-I did make a mistake with the first client. I took the female form into the counseling session as opposed to the male one. The first question asks the client about her last menstrual cycle. You will be pleased to know that there were no problems with his... Actually, I was pleased I had done so well ad libbing the interview.

-I thoroughly enjoyed my shift. After Carla joined the team last week, another new girl named Becca joined this time. She used the word “sassy”. Naturally, I liked her.

-Immediately after my shift, I rushed to the University of Tennessee Medical Center where my grandfather was scheduled to undergo radiation treatments in hopes of eliminating his prostate cancer. I rushed without needing to as I arrived before my grandparents.

-While at the hospital I bought two OUTLIVE t-shirts, one for me and one for ALK. The shirts help the UT Medical Center fight against cancer. This was the program that provided the early diagnosis for Tennessee basketball star Chris Lofton prior to last season and his signature is on the back of the shirt. I like Lofton and hate cancer so it seemed like a noble cause. Fans are being asked to wear the shirt to the Florida game on January 31st.

-My uncle JHV, my aunt MCVD, my grandparents and I congregated in the waiting room. My father was not there as he was recovering from a cold and did not want to contaminate the area.

-We were allowed to sit with my grandfather while he awaited surgery one at a time so JHV, MCVD, and I took turns. I enjoyed talking to him. I pumped him for all the advice he could muster. He relayed a lot of his life story. It either kept his mind off the procedure or made him think he was dying. It was definitely one of the two.

-While waiting I met two of his nurses, Kirsta and Mary Jane. He was pleased that both of urologists T. Preston Shepherd and Dr. Green were there. When they asked if he had any questions, he asked if they had a warranty. I was proud of him.

-When the procedure began, we all ate a late lunch at the Allspice Café, the hospital’s in-house restaurant. My sandwich was good, especially for hospital food. There we were joined by my mother who had worked a shift at Children’s Hospital earlier in the day.

-The procedure went well. 93 radiation pellets were inserted into his body. We will not know if they were effective for a few months. There was also a 15% chance that he would have to have a catheter after the procedure. On this day, all went as well as could have been hoped.

-When I learned my grandfather had done well, I left to attend class at UT.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/14/2009, Part 1

News & Notes from Monday, January 12th, 2009

-On Monday night, I visited with KLTW, KJW, and RAW.

-We played with KJW in her room. It was a musical night as KJW danced to “If You’re Happy and You Know It” as played on the MP3 player her aunt had gotten her for Christmas. She later played the guitar. (KJW would want it noted that she is wearing her favorite pajamas in this photo.)

-I then joined the MoFoS crew (EA, JTH, TJK, ALK, and JBT) at Applebees.

-I arrived first and ran into my old friend JS, who coaches basketball at Roane State Community College. His team is getting a lot of national media coverage as a 73-year old named Ken Mink is playing for his team. The guy has actually scored in games too. To access an article on Mink from the Knoxville News-Sentinel, click here.

-JS was well, having just returned from a victory that improved his team's record to 10-7.

-Amy was our waitress as AFH had called in sick. AFH has evidently had a religious revival over the Christmas break. She has gotten a religious tattoo on her wrist and is participating in a 21-day fast.

-We celebrated JTH’s birthday from the day before. Amy rang a bell and presented him with an unwanted complimentary alcoholic beverage called a Sex With an Alligator. He decided not to let it go to waste. When he began acting peculiar (even more so than normal), he refused any further alcohol.

-The big news from Monday was that my aunt MCVD had secured tickets to the inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20th. She wondered if I wanted to go. Of course I did!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 1/13/2009

Associated Baptist Press
January 13, 2009 · (09-6)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Baptists, Muslims dialogue a step in right direction (977 words)
U.S. team's mission changes after Costa Rica earthquake (601 words)

Baptists, Muslims say dialogue a step in right direction
By Bob Allen

NEWTON CENTER, Mass. (ABP) -- Several dozen Baptists and Muslims gathered Jan. 9-11 to repair a relationship better known for harsh anti-Islamic rhetoric by high-profile Baptist preachers than by dialogue or cooperation.

Stan Hastey, a Baptist member of the task force that planned the event, called it a "seminal but certainly promising" opportunity for improving a Baptist-Muslim dialogue marred by demonization of Islam in the post-9/11 United States.

He noted some of recent years' more combative pronouncements about Islam by prominent Baptists. They include a 2002 statement by former Southern Baptist Convention President Jerry Vines calling the Prophet Muhammad a "demon-possessed pedophile" and evangelist Franklin Graham's description of Islam as "an evil and wicked religion" in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The event was held at the Islamic Center of Boston and Andover Newton Theological School in nearby Newton Center, Mass. Scholars from each tradition offered presentations on their own faith's holy book, doctrines and practices. Conversations centered around the theme of both traditions' emphasis on love of neighbor.

Participants said the interfaith gathering began with a Middle Eastern meal and fellowship Friday night at the Islamic center and ended with a Baptist-style worship service on Sunday morning.

The idea for the dialogue began in 2007, when Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, visited the Republic of Georgia and Lebanon. Baptist and Muslim leaders in both places implored him to seek to improve relations between the two faith groups in the United States.

Medley convened other Baptists, including Hastey, minister for missions and ecumenism for the Alliance of Baptists, to a preliminary meeting in 2007. It was held in conjunction with joint meetings of the ABC/USA and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Washington that summer.

Another participant in that meeting was Rob Sellers, a professor at Logson Seminary at Hardin-Simmons University, a Texas Baptist institution. Sellers, CBF's formal representative in the dialogue, said the organizers reached a consensus early on that any talks should focus on Baptist-Muslim relations rather than involvement in broader Christian-Muslim dialogue. They did that to "make the important point that there are other kinds of Baptists than those who get the headlines," Sellers said.

The Baptists found a willing partner in Sayyid Syeed, national interfaith director of the Islamic Society of North America.

Syeed said U.S. Muslims and Baptists share commonalities including commitment to separation of church and state and respect for religious tolerance, but "there are people on both sides who speak louder than others and demonize each others' religions and ensure the two stay apart."

"This can be addressed only if we create forums and situations that help the well-meaning Muslims and Baptists to come closer and recognize their passionate allies in each other," Syeed said in an e-mail interview. "We can jointly work to fight against injustice, poverty, death and disease rather than be ignorantly scared of each other and further contribute to injustice and tyranny around the globe."

Charles Kimball, director of the religious-studies program at the University of Oklahoma, told participants in the recent dialogue that Islam has presented Christians with unique challenges since the time of Muhammad.

He said recent events, starting with the 1979-81 Iranian hostage crisis and the rise of violent extremism in the name of Islam, have fed a popular image that Islam is inherently violent and dangerous. Often, he noted, Christian leaders have jumped on the Islam-is-violent bandwagon.

Kimball said a more appropriate Christian response to Muslims is education, dialogue and cooperation in community efforts.
Kimball said in many communities around the country, Jews, Christians and Muslims have come together to build Habitat for Humanity Houses and work on problems like public education, crime and prison reform. As the nation's second-largest faith group, Kimball said Baptists should be at the forefront of such efforts.

In another paper presented at the dialogue, Sellers cited traditions common to both Muslims and Baptists including championing religious liberty, meeting human needs, advocating for justice and educating the people.

Other Baptist groups represented in the talks included the Progressive National Baptist Convention and Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention, both predominantly African-American Baptist bodies.

Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, professor of sociology and African-American studies at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, identified "seeds and connections" between Islam and the experiences of Baptist-derived slave communities in the South. Such connections led to the rise of African-American groups like the Nation of Islam.

She said those connections, such as an emphasis on prayer and other black Baptist commonalities with Islam less prominent in the white Baptist traditions, have an important role to play in cultivating and strengthening future Baptist and Muslim ties.

"We need to foster dialogue that allows us to see ourselves in the other, affirm what we share, and speak respectfully and gently about those things over which we must agree to disagree," Gilkes said.

Hastey said the entire event in Boston "was exemplary of how this kind of dialogue" could take place in the future. "I think it's important new ground that has potential of being significant," he said.

Sellers said next steps in the dialogue process are unclear, but both parties are committed to moving forward. "We've just had wonderful encounters with this group of Muslim leaders," he said. "It really is exciting. I think it's quite historic, and I hope it will be the beginning of a long relationship."

The event follows on the heels of a formal response from BWA leaders to a 2007 overture to Christians from a broad group of Islamic thinkers. Called "A Common Word Between Us and You," the Muslim scholars' document has inspired other responses from centrist and progressive evangelicals. Those responses, in turn have drawn some criticism from conservative evangelicals.

The BWA letter affirmed much of the Muslim initiative, while noting important theological differences like the Trinity that Baptists regard as non-negotiable.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press

U.S. team's mission changes after Costa Rica earthquake
By Bob Allen

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) -- Ten mission volunteers in Costa Rica to provide safe drinking water and vision clinics turned to disaster relief when a 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit Jan. 9.

Nineteen people were confirmed dead and 23 missing as of Jan. 12 from the quake that hit near the Poas volcano, a popular tourist destination 25 miles from the Costa Rican capital of San Jose.

A PureWater PureLife team that was finishing the installation of a water system and conducting a vision clinic in Costa Rica at the time changed its itinerary after the temblor struck. Instead of moving to another part of the country, the volunteers from the non-profit faith-based organization EDGE Outreach in Louisville, Ky., decided to stay put and respond to needs of about 350 families cut off in the village of San Miguel de Sarapique.

The team refocused efforts on providing emergency relief for the next 10 days to an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 residents without food or safe water.

Mark Hogg, executive director of EDGE Outreach, said the town has no electric service or potable water. A factory that had employed 600 people collapsed.

Hogg said three miniature water-treatment plants will provide 1,200 gallons of pure water per hour, while a feeding operation will seek to serve at least one hot meal per person for 10 days. He said the operation will cost $35,000, and about $22,000 has been raised so far.

"It's really not a lot, when you think about 1,200 or 1,300 have water and food for a few days," he said. The water equipment will stay behind, allowing residents to produce clean drinking water for themselves long after the volunteers are gone.

"Our water work is all about empowerment," said Hogg, a business entrepreneur and former youth minister who started a non-profit charity in 1995 and has been doing water purification since 2001.

While people in developed countries take safe drinking water for granted, in developing countries 25,000 people die, on average, every day from water-borne diseases like cholera. Diarrhea is the world's second-leading cause of infant deaths. The World Heath Organization says 80 percent of all global illnesses can be attributed to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation.

Hogg said some mission groups travel long distances to drill a well but forget about purification, leaving residents at risk.

PureWater PureLife teams bring along a portable purifying machine that fits in a suitcase. The device uses table salt and electricity from a 12-volt battery to make chlorine, which kills water-borne bacteria. Volunteers are trained not only to set up the purifiers, but to repair United Nations wells needing service.

Shipments also include appropriate containers for the safe exchange of water. People exchange their old container for a new one that has been sanitized, reducing the risk of contamination from a dirty bucket or jar.

The team is ecumenical, with Protestant and Catholic members, but there are Baptist connections. Three members of the team hail from Kentucky Baptist congregations -- Crestwood Baptist Church and Phos Hilaron Church in Louisville, and Berea, Ky., Baptist Church. Each of those churches provided financial assistance, along with Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville. Team members worshiped at Crescent Hill before embarking on the trip and were sent off with prayers and blessings from the congregation.

Hogg attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and belongs to a Baptist church. D.E. Adams, a musician popular at Baptist gatherings over the years, manages the organization's website and computer technology.

Links to the ministry appear on websites of both the Kentucky Baptist Convention and and Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.


An error in the fourth paragraph of the Jan. 12 ABP story, "Who founded the Baptist movement - John Smyth or John the Baptist?" incorrectly identified the location of Baptist Missionary Association Seminary as Jacksonville, Fla. The school is actually located in Jacksonville, Texas.

Word of the Day - 1/13/2009


A votary is a person who is bound by solemn religious vows, as a monk or a nun.

Samson was commissioned before birth to be a type of votary known as a Nazirite.

" For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines." (Judges 13:5, NASB)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 1/12/2009

Associated Baptist Press
January 12, 2009 · (09-5)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Historians trace beginnings of Baptist movement back 400 years (1,004 words)
Scholars disagree on Anabaptist, Baptist connection (674 words)
Baptist influence on history of U.S., world a mixed bag, historians say (876 words)
Baptist history a continuing search for the New Testament church (664 words)
Baptists celebrate past with an eye to the future (1,014 words)
Who founded the Baptist movement -- John Smyth or John the Baptist? (775 words)
Historians debate reasons for rise of Landmarkism in 19th century (639 words)

Historians trace beginning of Baptist movement back 400 years
By Ken Camp

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (ABP) -- Some Christians before 1609 held what many refer to as distinctively Baptist beliefs. Baptists in 1609 practiced believer's baptism, but they didn't immerse. Even so, most church historians agree Baptists emerged as a distinct movement 400 years ago.

From their beginning, Baptists have been characterized by a restless pursuit of God's truth, Bill Leonard said.

"Historically, the Baptist movement began in a time of great political and religious turmoil, when individuals and churches were searching for the ultimate revelation. Many were willing to relinquish once-cherished beliefs and practices when convinced that a greater and more biblical truth had been discovered," Leonard, dean at Wake Forest University Divinity School, wrote in Baptist Ways: A History.

"Such theological inquisitiveness led Baptist founder John Smyth to move from Anglicanism to Puritan Separatism in his quest for the true church. He then elected to administer believer's baptism to himself -- an act that marked the beginning of the Baptist movement."

Some Baptists claim John the Baptist as their founder -- an idea that gained popularity among the Landmark Baptist movement of the 19th century but was not limited to it. But most historians highlight Smyth's role in 1608-1609.

Smyth -- a former Anglican priest -- served as pastor of a Puritan Separatist congregation in Gainesborough, England. To escape persecution during the reign of King James, Smyth and his congregation fled in 1608 to Amsterdam. There they worshiped in a bake house owned by Mennonites, a Dutch Anabaptist group.

Baptism for believers only, not infants

After a year or so, Smyth became convinced the New Testament taught baptism for believers only, not infants. He baptized himself, disbanded the congregation and reconstituted the church as a gathered church of baptized believers -- generally considered the first Baptist church.

Church historians disagree about how closely Baptists can link their heritage to the earlier Anabaptists.

"Whether Anabaptists were direct forebears of Baptists remains a subject of debate," historical theologian William Brackney wrote in A Genetic History of Baptist Thought. "Historical scholarship in the past half century indicates that influences went both ways between Anabaptists and English Puritan Separatists, at least geographically."

However, Brackney concluded, the exact degree of influence Anabaptist ideas had on what became the Baptist movement in England remains uncertain.

Leonard points to three distinct positions regarding the relationship between Baptists and Anabaptists.

"Successionists link Anabaptists and Baptists in direct lineage with little or no distinction between the two traditions. Others point to certain shared ideals joining the two groups in a 'spiritual affinity,'" Leonard wrote, noting advocates of the spiritual kinship position point to commonly-held beliefs and practices shared by Dutch Mennonites and early English Baptists. "Still others have denied substantial Anabaptist impact on Baptist origins."

Degrees of separation

Church historian Alan Lefever, director of the Texas Baptist Historical Collection, insists: "It's a question of degrees of separation. Of course, there was some Anabaptist influence. After all, the church was formed in a Dutch Anabaptist bakery. But the fact remains, what emerged from that bakery in 1609 was unlike anything Anabaptists were before or after."

William Estep, who taught church history for more than four decades at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, stressed the influence of Dutch Mennonites on the English Baptists. He noted the sharp break Smyth made with his Puritan past.

"Smyth ... forsook the Calvinism characteristic of the Puritans and Separatists for a view of the Crucifixion that emphasized that Christ died for all in order that those who would trust him for salvation would be saved," Estep wrote in Why Baptists? A Study of Baptist Faith and Heritage.

Smyth "adopted other Mennonite teachings as well," such as advocating separation of church and state and commitment to absolute religious liberty, Estep added. Ultimately, Smyth led his church to unite with the Waterlander Mennonite Church in Amsterdam.

But that move toward formal union with the Mennonites led Thomas Helwys to part company with Smyth. Helwys returned to England with some other members of the Amsterdam church, and he established the first Baptist church in England, in Spitalfields, near London, in 1611 -- another key date in Baptist history.

"In clear contrast to the Mennonites, Helwys believed that a Christian could be a magistrate, take oaths and support 'just war' rather than pacifism," Doug Weaver of Baylor University's religion department wrote in his new book, In Search of the New Testament Church: The Baptist Story.

Two distinct Baptist groups emerged

By the mid-1600s, two distinct Baptist groups emerged in England. General Baptists, who could trace their origin to the Helwys congregation, believed Christ died for all. Particular Baptists, true to their Calvinist Puritan roots, believed Christ died only for the elect.

"However, these two groups did not 'divide,'" Leon McBeth wrote in The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Rather, McBeth insisted, "they had quite different origins, at different times and places, and with different leaders."

Traditionally, many historians have credited the Particular Baptists with reinstituting the ancient practice of baptism by immersion around 1641. But like many aspects of Baptist history, some scholars dispute that assertion, pointing to evidence suggesting General Baptists immersed earlier than that date.

And to further complicate matters, some prominent Baptist scholars claim a direct Anabaptist influence on Particular Baptists.

Ethicist Glenn Stassen has pointed to striking similarities between the Particular Baptist First London Confession of 1644 and Dutch Anabaptist leader Menno Simons' work, The Foundation of Christian Doctrine.

Even so, one common characteristic of both Particular Baptists and General Baptists in the 1600s was their insistence they were Baptist, not Anabaptist. The First London Confession begins by identifying it as the generally held beliefs of the churches "commonly (though falsely) called Anabaptists."

"Early Baptists claimed over and over again that they were not Anabaptists," Weaver noted. "Mennonite distinctives -- pacifism and the denial of church membership to a civil magistrate -- never found a home in the fledgling Baptist movement.

"Some Anabaptist-Baptist influence was apparent, but a direct connection between English Separatism and the first Baptists -- both General and Particular Baptists -- seems the best way to explain the historical evidence."

Ken Camp is the managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.

Scholars disagree on Anabaptist, Baptist connection
By Bob Allen

DURHAM, N.C. (ABP) -- While much writing about Baptist history in the 20th century focused on what distinguishes Baptists from other Christians, a group of contemporary scholars believes the Baptist movement now needs to reconnect to its ecumenical roots.

Most modern Baptist historians mark the birth of the Baptist movement at 1609. A minority and often-controversial counterview argues the "true" baptistic church established by Christ and the apostles has existed, in one form or another, in unbroken succession since the New Testament apart from a corrupted Roman Catholic Church.

A small number of scholars put forth a third view. While not insisting on direct links between the Anabaptists and Baptist traditions as the Successionists do, they believe a kinship existed between early Baptists and Anabaptist communities that has been neglected, thus causing Baptists to marginalize themselves from the larger free-church family.

In a 1997 article, Curtis Freeman, now research professor and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School, said the Baptist movement grew out of a conviction that the true church is a believer's church, free to worship by the gospel of Jesus Christ and not by power conferred from the state.

Over time, he argued, those ideals were influenced by philosophers like John Locke and American notions of populism and revivalism, to produce a corrupted and individualist Baptist identity where "every tub must sit on its own bottom."

"Anabaptist" was a term applied to various movements that emerged in Europe in the 16th-century period called the Radical Reformation. From the Greek prefix "ana," which means "again," and the word "baptize," it means "re-baptizers." Viewed as heretics, the term was applied originally to the Anabaptists as a term of contempt, an epithet today comparable to "sect" or "cult."

Descendants of those who survived persecution today populate groups including the Amish, Mennonites, Church of the Brethren and some German Baptists.

There is no question the earliest Baptists interacted with Anabaptists in the Netherlands -- when John Smyth's group left England for Amsterdam, they met in a bake house owned by a member of a Waterlander Mennonite congregation -- but historians disagree over the extent of cross-pollination between the groups.

Smyth's self-baptism -- viewed at the time as scandalous -- suggested he was not convinced the Anabaptists represented a true church. He later began to question the validity of his own re-baptism, however, and was waiting to join the Mennonites when he died in 1612. Repenting of their baptism, Smyth and 31 church members asked to merge with the Mennonite congregation.

Ten members, including Thomas Helwys, a layman who helped finance the group's move from England, believed their believer's baptisms were valid. They split from Smyth's church and later returned to England, where -- in facing an oppressive environment -- they became stalwart advocates for religious liberty and the separation of church and state.

William Estep, a longtime professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary who died in 2000, said it is impossible to understand Baptist origins without studying Anabaptists. Estep claimed the earliest Baptists "were dependent on the Mennonites for the determinative features of what was to become known as Baptist faith and practice."

Glen Stassen, the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, contends a book by Menno Simons so shaped early Baptist confessions of faith that Baptists today ought to accept the Mennonite founder as a significant "parent."

Freeman said recent books have questioned whether the Helwys congregation survived and if it did, how much it influenced the mainstream of Baptist life. Most scholars today accept a "polygenetic" view of both the Anabaptist and Baptist traditions, meaning they probably grew from multiple streams instead of a single source, he said.

In collecting essays for a 1999 book titled Baptist Roots, Freeman and two co-authors included chapters from the 15th and 16th centuries by Anabaptist founders to provide a sense of the "connectedness with the larger free-church tradition."

They distinguished "Baptist" from "baptist," with the small "b" denoting "spiritual and theological kindred" with an extended denominational family.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Baptist influence on history of U.S., world a mixed bag, historians say
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Baptists' signal contribution to American and world history and political thought, historians almost unanimously agree, is their uncompromising emphasis on religious freedom.

But, they hasten to add, the doctrine of soul freedom that grounds Baptists' belief in religious liberty is the very reason Baptists of varying stripes have been found on both sides of subsequent political and social controversies.

"Baptists were among the first -- if not the first -- to say in English certainly by 1612 that God alone is judge of conscience, and therefore neither the government nor a religious establishment can judge the conscience of the heretic -- the people who believe the wrong things -- or the atheists -- the people who don't believe at all," said Baptist historian Bill Leonard, dean of the Wake Forest University Divinity School.

Baptists, Leonard said, "are really among the inventors of modern religious pluralism. They step way beyond mere toleration of second-class religious ideas to call for a full-blown religious pluralism."

But it wasn't out of a belief that all religions are equal. From their earliest roots, Baptists "continued to assert the uniqueness of their vision of the truth of not only Christianity, but their particular vision of the gospel," Leonard said. He noted, for example, in theological debates early Baptists "fought the Quakers as readily as they did atheists."

Nonetheless, in civil matters, Baptists "said everybody has the voice, and they said [neither] the state nor an official church can privilege a particular voice."

Primacy of the individual conscience

Historian Walter Shurden, retired director of the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University, said this belief in the primacy of the individual conscience is what animated early Baptists' advocacy for religious freedom.

"The Baptist people did not accidentally stumble upon the idea of religious liberty after years of opposing the idea; they were born crying for freedom of expression," he said, in a recent speech about 17th-century Baptist leader John Clarke.

Clarke co-founded both the colony of Rhode Island and the Newport, R.I., church that historians generally agree is the second-oldest Baptist congregation in the New World. He also helped secure, from the British crown, a charter for the colony that was the first governing document in the Western world to enshrine thoroughgoing religious freedom.

The idea of religious freedom and civil respect for multiple faiths and those of no faith at all was far more radical in the 17th century than it might seem to modern ears.

"There's one sense in which [early Baptists] participate in the breakup of the medieval conception of a Christian society, where to be born into a Christian state is to be automatically baptized into a Christian church -- and deviation from that is both heresy and treason," Leonard said.

Baptists' emphasis on the church being made up only of adult believers who have made an unforced decision to follow Christ on their own -- and on no civil authority interposing itself between the individual and God -- led to their commitment to safeguarding religious freedom for all.

Additionally, that emphasis lent itself to separating the realm of civil authority from the realm of religious authority -- the concept of church-state separation.

Encouraged the growth of democratic ideals

And, the historians said, the accompanying Baptist emphasis on individual and communal interpretation of Scripture required separation of civil and religious authority, and encouraged the growth of democratic ideals in the New World.

"If conscience is essential, then dissent is not far behind, because there are always those politically or religiously who want to dominate the landscape, be privileged and control voices," Leonard said. "And so at least early Baptists saw [the concepts of] a believers' church, conscience and dissent as very closely related -- inseparable, because one must always be vigilant."

Early Baptists not only secured religious freedom in the Rhode Island charter, but later fought -- alongside a coalition of Quakers, atheists, agnostics and other freethinkers -- to enshrine it in the new United States' Bill of Rights.

Beyond that, "We participated in and contributed to the 'democratization' -- the rights of the common folk to read the Bible, choose their own leaders, etc. -- of American religion and American society in general," said Baylor University professor Doug Weaver.

"Baptists were actually practicing some democratic principles in Baptist polity and worship -- individual conscience, democratic congregationalism and local-church independence, prophesying by lay members of the congregation -- before the tidal wave of the [democratization] of American life after the American Revolution."

But, Weaver and Leonard added, Baptists' emphasis on individual freedom and autonomy often led their descendants to be found on both sides of major political and social issues, depending on how they read Scripture.

For instance, Baptists were prominent on both sides of the slavery debate in the United States in the 19th century, as well as the 20th-century debate over segregation.

"We have contributed to American society in ways that we clearly wish we hadn't," Weaver said. "We have demonstrated, as much as any other religious group, the ability to be captive to our culture. Southern values, for example, in the areas of slavery and Jim Crow segregation defined and shaped the biblicist readings of the Bible in ways we find painfully obvious today but in earlier decades were considered biblically and patriotically faithful."

Robert Marus is manging editor and Washington bureau chief for Associated Baptist Press. Ken Camp, managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard, contributed to this story.

Baptist history a continuing search for the New Testament church
By Ken Camp

WACO, Texas (ABP) -- Some Baptists stress evangelism, and others emphasize the social gospel. Some believe Christ died for all people; others say Christ died only for the elect whom God predestined to salvation. Historically, some defended slavery; others championed civil rights.

Even a cursory look at Baptists reveals wide diversity in beliefs and practices. But Baylor University religion professor Doug Weaver believes a common thread has run throughout Baptist history: the desire to replicate the New Testament model of the church.

"Baptist history has often been a journey in search of the New Testament church. Many Baptists assumed that the New Testament only had one type of church structure, and they embodied it. However, this restorationism, this constant quest for the pure church, produced an ever-flowing stream of different readings of the Bible. One distinctive would be emphasized by one group, and then another group would emphasize something else," Weaver wrote in his recently published book, In Search of the New Testament Church: The Baptist Story.

Other historians have noted the importance Baptists have placed on modeling their practices and beliefs after the New Testament church.
In Baptist Ways: A History, Bill Leonard noted, "Biblicism led many Baptists to adhere to a strenuous 'primitivism,' a belief that the true church in any era is the one that best replicates the New Testament church."

William Brackney, writing in A Genetic History of Baptist Thought, said: "Among the Baptist theologians, Scripture was the starting point for a new doctrine of the church. They found the charter and practices of a New Testament form of Christianity in the Bible free from the corruption of ecclesiastic machinery."

Baptists share with Protestants in general a commitment to Scripture, Weaver noted. But they bring alongside that commitment to biblical authority a belief in the soul competency of every person and a fierce dedication to religious freedom.

"What is essential to being Baptists? It's the freedom to read the Scriptures and to say God can give a fresh word -- not a new revelation contrary to the Bible, but a fresh understanding from the Bible," Weaver said in an interview.

"The issue of conscience is crucial. The conscience of the individual has to be free to answer to God first and only secondarily to anyone else.... Emphasis on individual conscience, alongside the search for the New Testament church, is a distinctive way for us."

Baptists' emphasis on "unfettered conscience" has proved important because it "preserves or guarantees the right to dissent against conformity, whether it be from church or state," Weaver observed.
Adherence to that principle has resulted in "messy freedom," and most Baptists have accepted messiness as a price they have been willing to pay for liberty, Weaver added. Sometimes, that has cast Baptists in the role of troublemakers.

"Baptists have been dissenters. When we have been a dissenting minority, that has been the best of the Baptist tradition," he said.
Baptists have held in tension the role of the individual conscience before God and the role of the faith community in practicing discipline, he added.

"Individual conscience should always be honored, but in Baptist life, the local church acts as the 'bishop.' It surely can exclude the lonely prophet, but the lonely prophet and dissent were allowed because no one could come between a believer and God," Weaver said.

At their best, Baptists have honored individual conscience, biblical authority and belief in Jesus Christ as Lord, Weaver insisted.
He pointed to E.Y. Mullins, the early-20th-century Baptist theologian and author of The Axioms of Religion, who insisted truly born-again believers are "impelled" to be part of the church.

Weaver expressed hope Baptists in the future will find ways to honor both the role of the individual conscience and the community of faith.

"For the unfettered conscience to remain a vital principle for Baptists, we need to remember this dynamic of the individual and the church," he said.

"Freedom is messy," he said. "But that has been the Baptist tradition."

Ken Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.

Baptists celebrate past with an eye to the future
By Jim White

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) -- In 400 years, the Baptist movement has grown to 200,000 churches with more than 50 million members in countries around the world.

But even though Baptists globally continue to show statistical growth, the largest Baptist group in the United States -- the Southern Baptist Convention -- has reported declining membership, following a trend other U.S. denominations began reporting two decades earlier.

"Some have said this is the first membership decline ever. That is not true," said Southern Baptist statistician Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research, a branch of the SBC's publishing arm. "However, I believe this time is different. I believe that, unless we have a significant intervention, we have peaked, at least in regards to membership.

"Citing percentages of growth since 1950, Stetzer observed: "Our year-to-year growth has been in a constant trended decline, not for one year, but for decades. This is ... a 50-year trend."

Researchers cite several cultural and religious factors that play into the decline. Philip Jenkins asserted in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity that the Immigration Reform Act of 1965 was a major event overlooked by most researchers.

"As recently as 1970, Asian and Hispanic Americans accounted for only 8 percent of total births in the United States, but today, that figure has increased to more than 25 percent," Jenkins wrote.

"One reason for this transformation is that Latinos are generally much younger than longer-established populations. The national census of 2000 showed that the median age for Hispanics was about 26, younger than that of any other ethnic group, and far lower than the median age for Anglos, which stood at a venerable 38.5. By mid-century, 100 million Americans will claim Mexican origin."

Slow to respond

Rather than seize the demographic change as a missions opportunity, as a whole, Anglo Baptists have been slow to respond, some observers say.

To add further to the decline, while Baptists were not reaching the growth groups in the United States, their own birthrates were falling.
Baptist researcher Curt Watke, executive director of the Intercultural Institute for Contextual Ministry, points to the aging of the Baptist population and the related decline in the Anglo birthrate as cultural factors affecting growth in white Baptist churches.

Another factor -- discussed widely in church-growth circles -- suggests Baptists under 40 are disengaging themselves from denominational life and finding other affiliations more fulfilling.

Last year, former SBC president Frank Page received much notice and some criticism for saying, "If we don't start paying attention to the realities ... by the year 2030, we will be proud to have 20,000 rather than 44,000 Southern Baptist churches."

Current evidence suggests decline will be long-term without spiritual intervention. Programmatic approaches have failed. According to a recent report in USA Today, the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board spent $343,700 on a strategy called 'What Now' before pulling the plug.

"Another campaign, called 'Who Cares,' also fizzled," the newspaper reported. NAMB leaders hope their new evangelism effort, God's Plan for Sharing, or GPS, fares better.

A bright global future

But while future growth among Baptists in the United States is questionable, their global future looks brighter.

According to Baptist World Alliance figures, with Southern Baptist Convention statistics added for the United States, Baptists around the world have grown in number by 49 percent from 1990 to 2008. Baptists in Africa led all others in growth, increasing by 327 percent in that period.

Jenkins predicts the center of the Christian population will shift from North America and Europe to the Southern Hemisphere.

According to Jenkins, the Christianity of the future will incorporate some of the customs and practices of the regional population but will be biblically conservative, taking literally much that Westerners ignore.

"The denominations that are triumphing all across the global South are stalwartly traditional or even reactionary by the standards of the economically advanced nations. The churches that have made most dramatic progress in the global South have either been Roman Catholic, of a traditional and fideistic kind, or radical Protestant sects, evangelical or Pentecostal," Jenkins said.

"These newer churches preach deep personal faith and communal orthodoxy, mysticism and Puritanism, all founded on clear scriptural authority. They preach messages that, to a Westerner, appear simplistically charismatic, visionary and apocalyptic.

"In this thought-world, prophecy is an everyday reality, while faith-healing, exorcism and dream-visions are all basic components of religious sensibility. For better or worse, the dominant churches of the future could have much in common with those of medieval or early modern European times. On present evidence, a Southernized Christian future should be distinctly conservative."

Looking to the future

As Baptists plan their 400th anniversary celebrations, Bob Dale, author and recently retired associate executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, suggests they think ahead to the kind of celebration they want to have a generation from now.
Casting an eye to the future, Dale asks:

-- Will Baptists learn to become true partners of indigenous leaders -- globally and in the United States? Will they develop humility enough to learn from Third World churches?

-- Can Baptists change their win-lose Western mindset to a more Eastern challenge-response cooperative mindset?

-- Will Baptists in the West move beyond cultural prejudices and see Baptist cousins in developing nations as equals?

-- Will Baptists learn to read the Bible from its original Eastern roots rather than through the prisms of Western assumptions?

-- Will Baptists learn to relate to other large religious group in an ever-more-pluralistic world?

-- Will state conventions and associations become less absorbed with regional issues and more focused on world change, looking for the global dimensions of local concerns?

-- How soon will Baptists in the United States consider it shortsighted and foolish to speak only one language and be familiar with only one culture?

-- Can Baptists find ways to minister from the bigger cultural middle and let go of those on the narrower fringes who persist in fighting?

-- What if Baptists in the United States continue to focus on their needs and persist in the attitude: "As for me and my house, we will serve me and my house?"

Jim White is the editor of the Religious Herald, the newspaper of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.

Who founded the Baptist movement--John Smyth or John the Baptist?
By Ken Camp

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (ABP) -- Baptists who celebrate the 400th birthday of their denomination in 2009 miss the mark by about 1600 years, some Baptists insist.

Since Jesus founded his church during his earthly ministry and promised "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," so-called Landmark Baptists believe that means an unbroken line of church succession dating back to Christ's lifetime. And since John the Baptist immersed Jesus, the church Christ formed was a Baptist church, some add.

"Landmarkers believe that Jesus meant literally that his church would continue in an unbroken lineage until he returned," said John Penn, church history instructor at Missionary Baptist Seminary in Little Rock, Ark.

Landmark Baptists hold to their belief in church succession out of commitment to the veracity of Scripture and the claims of Christ, said Philip Bryan, president emeritus of Baptist Missionary Association Seminary in Jacksonville, Fla.

"The traditional Landmark Baptist position on the origin and continuation of the Lord's church is essentially one of doctrine and theology rather than history," Bryan said.

Baptists in perpetuity

Landmarkers believe in the perpetuity of the church Christ instituted -- "that there has never been a day since Christ founded his church when there was no scriptural church on earth, and that the church shall continue in existence until he comes again," he explained.

J.R. Graves spread Landmark Baptist teaching throughout the South and Southwest in the 1850s as editor of the Tennessee Baptist.

J.M. Pendleton perpetuated it for many generations through his Church Manual, a book still in print and sold by the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWay Christian Stores.

In the mid-20th century, Joe T. Odle of Mississippi taught the same principles in his Church Members Handbook, a popular booklet published by Broadman Press and used in Baptist Training Union classes throughout the South.

"No man this side of Christ can be named as the founder of Baptists. Nor can any date this side of his personal ministry, nor any place outside of Palestine, be set for their beginning," Odle wrote.

Many Landmark Baptists hold to the "Trail of Blood" teaching popularized by J.M. Carroll -- the belief that persecution was the mark of the true church throughout Christian history. W.H. Whitsitt was forced to resign from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1899 for daring to contradict unbroken succession.

In addition to an unbroken line of succession back to New Testament times, Landmark Baptists also believe in the primacy of the local church as the only biblical missionary-sending body, and in closed communion -- limiting the Lord's Supper just to Baptists or even to members of a specific Baptist congregation.

Landmarkers believe the true church that has existed since the time of Christ has not always borne the "Baptist" label, but it has exhibited certain distinguishing marks testifying to its validity. And for much of church history, one of those marks has been persecution.

The distinctive of persecution

"After the union of church and state, it is contrary to the teaching of Christ that any so-called church that enforced his teaching by persecution -- that is, by physical punishment, jailings and beatings -- could be considered his true church," Penn said.

"Landmarkers prefer to trace true succession through those groups who were persecuted than by those who inflicted physical suffering and death.... These groups were not called Baptists, but they bore the burden of preaching the truth."

Some of the dissenting Christians who were persecuted by the state church held "some strange or even heretical views," Penn acknowledged.

"However, it is also to be observed that they had their books burned, their houses pillaged, their Bibles confiscated and their children taken from them. Yet, in spite of this, they maintained a true witness," he said. "These dissenters kept the faith and passed it on to us."

Some Landmark Baptist historians note that while modern Baptists certainly do not hold identical views to Novatians, Waldenses and other ancient Christian groups who rejected infant baptism, they also differ significantly from early English Baptists, who did not practice baptism by immersion until about 1641.

"Assuming the validity of the Baptist belief that baptism by immersion is an absolute necessity for scriptural baptism, the accounts of the baptisms of John Smyth, the earliest Particular Baptists prior to the 1640s and even of Roger Williams disqualify such people from originating or continuing Baptist churches," Bryan said.

Gaps in the historical records require believers in any theory of Baptist origins to make a leap of faith, he insisted.

"We cannot show conclusively how modern Baptists sprang from the people who are usually believed to be the founders of the Baptist movement," he said.

"Those people were about 1,600 years late."

Ken Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.

Historians debate reasons for rise of Landmarkism in 19th century
By Ken Camp

WACO, Texas (ABP) -- All Landmark Baptists believe in church succession, at least to some degree, but not every Baptist holding that position is -- or was -- a Landmarker, according to Alan Lefever, director of the Texas Baptist Historical Collection.

Neither J.M. Carroll, author of The Trail of Blood defense of Landmarkism, nor his more-famous brother, B.H., was a Landmark Baptist in the truest sense, said Lefever, author of Fighting the Good Fight, a biography of B.H. Carroll.

J.M. Carroll was the Texas agent for the Foreign Mission Board, secretary of the Texas Baptist Education Commission and president of Howard Payne College.

B.H. Carroll was the founding president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

"If you label them Landmarkers, then you have to call them 'denominational Landmarkers,' and that's an oxymoron," Lefever said.

The Landmark emphasis on succession was "almost inevitable" for Baptists, considering their consistent desire to replicate the New Testament church, said Doug Weaver, a religion professor at Baylor University and author of the recently published book, In Search of the New Testament Church: The Baptist Story.

"Landmarkism built on themes and ideas already present in Baptist history. To say with confidence and biblicist certainty that you are restoring the New Testament faith and practice implies what Landmarkism makes specific: We are the embodiment of the New Testament church," Weaver said.

'Direct line of dissenters'

"Once you set up a dichotomy of a true church/false church, it becomes easy to identify false churches throughout history. I think that the development of the 'direct line of dissenters' occurs, at least in part, to combat an inferiority complex that comes from being a new group with no history or tradition. Thus, the Landmarkers can say: 'Hey, we are really older than all of you. We aren't Protestants.'"

Lefever disagrees with the notion Landmarkism was historically inevitable. Rather, he sees the Landmark movement as a direct response to Alexander Campbell, who taught baptismal regeneration and trumpeted the desire to restore the New Testament church. Campbell, a former Baptist, founded the movement out of which the modern-day Disciples of Christ denomination and the Churches of Christ -- a loose grouping of conservative, independent congregations -- developed.

"Landmarkism was a reaction to the Campbellite movement. It was like a vaccine to inoculate Baptists against Campbellite influence," he said, pointing out that it contained "just enough of the disease" to provide supposed protection.

"If Alexander Campbell had never come along, we'd never have had Landmarkism. There never would have been a need," Lefever insisted.

Competition with Campbellites

Both Lefever and Weaver explained the relationship between Baptists and the Campbell movement in terms of competition. A so-called Campbellite might say, "We have restored the New Testament church." But a Landmark Baptist could respond, "We are the New Testament church."

Weaver granted that Baptists share with Disciples of Christ and Churches of a Christ "a hermeneutic of restorationism," and Baptists in the 19th century certainly considered the Campbell-inspired movement a threat. He added the neo-Pentecostal movement of the early 20th century to that same category.

We claim apostolic authority for our practices ... especially baptism by immersion. But these groups do similar things. The Churches of Christ said, 'No musical instruments [in worship] because they aren't in the New Testament,' and the Pentecostals say, 'We have the full gospel found in the book of Acts,'" Weaver said.

"Because we have vied for the same mantle with similar methods -- biblical hermeneutics -- we have raised the stakes in the competition and thus increased tension."

Baptists and Church of Christ leaders have differed publicly, and often bitterly, to a large degree because they are so close in many respects, he added.

"It's sibling rivalry," Weaver said. "When someone is so much like you and you have so much in common, you tend to accentuate the differences."

Ken Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.