Thursday, February 09, 2006

Stratton on Ascol on York

Gene Bridges informed me of a refutation of my use of Keach and Booth as examples of Baptist leaders whose testimonies stands against the new IMB guidelines on baptism. Both men were baptized in Arminian churches and later became Calvinist Baptist pastors.

Here is a comment by Ben Stratton left on Steve McCoy's blog:

I asked a Missionary Baptist preacher friend of mine who is a former General Baptist pastor and a student of General Baptist history about Tom Ascol dilemma of Keach and Booth. His answer is very interesting:

"The Orthodox Creed of 1678-79 probably qualifies as the leading English General Baptist confession of faith. Here is what it says about the perseverance of God's saints:
'Those that are effectually called, according to God's eternal purpose, being justified by faith, do receive such a measure of the holy unction from the Holy Spirit, by which they shall certainly persevere unto eternal life.; "
The major issue for the English General Baptists was the nature of the atonement. On the perseverance of the saints, (eternal Security) they were in agreement with the Particular Baptists. The same was true of the early American General Baptists such as Benoni Stinson.

This in effect nullifies Tom Ascol's examples from Baptist history. Their baptisms were perfectly in line with the new IMB policy.

Not quite. The Orthodox Creed was not an Assembly confession but derived from churches in the Midlands. It hardly qualifies as "the leading English General Baptist confession of faith." Furthermore, to measure Keach's early Arminianism by it is anachronistic since Keach was a well-established Particular Baptist by the time that document was produced. It was issued in 1678 on the heels of the 1677 (later published in 1689) Second London Baptist Confession and sought to demonstrate how far these General Baptist churches could go with their Calvinistic brethren's beliefs. Indeed, the preface of this confession states its purpose as being to "unite and confirm all true protestants in the fundamental articles of the Christian religion, against the errors and heresies of the church of Rome." General Baptist historian, Adam Taylor, in his History of the English General Baptists, says this about the pervasive view of apostasy held by the General Baptist churches: "Amongst other motives which they urged, to engage professors to a holy circumspection of conduct, a powerful one was, the fear of final apostacy (sic)." He goes on to say about the Orthodox Creed, "For we have not found any of this denomination, except the authors of the Orthodox Creed [who were 54 in number], who maintained the doctrine of the impossibility of true believers falling from grace" (217).

In addition, William Lumpkin says that this confession "does not appear to have enjoyed large influence beyond the Midlands" (Baptist Confessions of Faith, 296).

Far more influential and typical of General Baptist belief was the Standard Confession. It was first adopted by the General Assembly of General Baptists meeting in London in 1660.

XVIII. That such who are true Believers, even Branches in Christ the Vine, (and that in his account, whom he exhorts to a bide in him, John 15. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.) or such who have charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of Faith unfeigned, 1 Tim. 1. 5. may nevertheless for want of watchfulness, swerve and I turn aside from the same, vers. 6, 7. and become as withered Branches, cast into the fire and burned, John. 15. 6. But such who add un to their Faith Vertue, and unto .Vertue Knowledge, and unto Know ledge Temperance, &c. 2 Pet. 1 5, 6, 7. such shall never fall, vers. 8, 9, 10. 'tis impossible for all the false Christs, and false Prophets, that are, and are to come, to deceive such, for they are kept by the power of God, through Faith unto Salvation, 1 Pet. 1. 5.

I hope this helps clarify the discussion and serves as an ample refutation of Statton's attempt to dismiss Keach and Booth as Baptist witnesses against the new IMB guidelines on baptism.


Bill Moore said...

Good response, Tom, and exactly right. Historical support for the IMB trustees position is practically non-existent, outside of Landmarkism.

I haven't been following the blogs that extensively, so I guess I'm missing something. How did the whole issue of the IMB trustees' taking a position on candidates' baptism and private tongues praying come about? What has been put forth by the trustees as the reason for making these matters an issue, anyway?


Tom said...


A friend of mine who is a former trustee told me that he is the one responsible for drafting the new guidelines on baptism. He explained that it was a two year process provoked, as I remember, by candidates who had been baptized, by immersion, as believers, in Methodist churches. The new guidelines were adopted to address this. He told me all this privately. I have yet to see anything publicly set forth as the rationale of the trustees. There have been a few efforts to defend the step. The most substantive one that I have seen is Hershael York's.

Others may have more information about the trustee's thinking. This is all I know about it.

Bill Moore said...


Thanks. It strikes me that there is a whole disconnect here. I wish we were as concerned about baptizing true converts in our churches as we are with the church where converts are baptized.

When we observe the great numbers of children under the age of 6 years being baptized in SBC churches, we have to admit that the paedobaptists really have nothing on us. In addition, young persons and adults are baptized after inviting Jesus to come into their lives, whatever that is supposed to mean. What a mess.


Jason Sampler said...


Would you please email me at iustitiafide AT I would like to discuss some things with you concerning something you have mentioned but I do not have your email address.

Jason Sampler

Perry McCall said...

Long time reader…first time commenter!!
I want to first avoid any misunderstanding. I support Tom’s position and I am enjoying the serious historical and biblical reflections on the issue of baptism. I agree that a policy proposal such as this must be responded to faithfully. I support the work of Founders, Phil Newton, Todd Wilson, Malone, Mohler, Norman, Nettles, ect.
My complaint is that we are forced to respond to such a policy. My Stars!! When will the madness stop? The skirmish, battle, and war have been won. Is our confessional requirement not enough? Do they want us to add to the BF&M again? Is there a rampant move toward the rejection of eternal security in SBC life? Yes, the IMB is not a Church and can hold to a more restrictive policy than a Church can. But where is the wisdom? Why put us through the agony?
The collective belief that there must be something done to raise up a new generation of SBC leaders who will engage in the cause of Christ through the cooperative efforts of our convention is correct. I want to be apart of that generation. However, the reality check better set in with denominational leaders and boards that this generation is not checking out because they reject the “Baptist Way” or the concept of cooperative missions. We are simply not going to choose sides in old battles or fight new irrelevant ones. Yes, doctrine is relevant. However, this debate in SBC life is irrelevant or it should be. We have far more dangerous doctrinal threats to the Church. We should be gathering the wagons against pragmatism and the downgrade of the gospel found in the post-modern repackaged social gospel! Instead, the trustees have forced this issue upon us. Great job Tom and commenters on fighting the good fight for the faith. Again, we are thankful for the foundation laid and the victory won by the previous generation. But if we are faced with year end and year out battles of this nature, then I am afraid that the next generation is going to pave a new path to travel the Baptist Way for the cause of Christ. A rejection of the SBC way as being the best Baptist way is a real conversation being had by young conservative evangelical Baptist pastors. The old guard better wake up!!

Scripture Searcher said...

I have been reading (over and over) to be certain I understood all the sincere contributions so many of the brethren have offered regarding the current,over- heated discussion about the qualifications of those who serve as missionaries (both national and international) with the SBC.

I seriously (very seriously)
doubt that our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would have participated in such hair-splitting words of fury signifying almost nothing! (Read again and again I Corinthians 13)

Get real,dear brothers,and cease wasting your time and effort with this topic,and begin sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ ~ with the daily fervent prayers that Satan will cry as the truth of JOHN 6:37 is fulfilled ~ and it will be fulfilled with or without the efforts of Southern Baptists!

While Satan and the world laughs at most professing Christians and the paganS (religionists and secularists) smile and snicker, millions are dying
without having heard about Jesus Christ!!!

I have been through some of the old Landmark Baptist battles and can testify,
in hindsight, nothing worthwhile was accomplished for the glory, honor and praise of God!

Next, someone whose priorities are wrong, will revive the ancient controversy regarding the number of angels that can stand on the head of a needle - without falling off
and losing their ecclestical
reputation in the convention
- which God may bypass for another group to take His Truth to the world!

God forbid ~ and I write this in love! (Ephesians 4)

Scripture Searcher said...

If some of you hot-hearted brothers want to do something really worthwhile, in addition to my suggestion in the previous post, correct my misspelled words which were written in haste because I have a plane to catch and the airlines do not wait on guys like me.

I have an opportunity to witness to many for Jesus Christ and convet your love and prayers!

Ron said...

Scripture Searcher,

I cannot possibly agree with your assessment that this is a trivial issue that should be ignored and we should all go on our merry way. There are people in SBC churches who are now barred from becoming a missionary in their own church's denomination even though their local church has deemed their Baptism biblical. That is categarically wrong and deserves serious discussion and demands resolution. And deeper still it also goes to the heart of some of the deeper things Pastor Ascol has been bringing forward even before this happened with respect to the current relationship between the convention and the churches making it up.


David B. Hewitt said...

Hi, Ron.

My thoughts on the matter (though they may not be worth much) are that the issue SHOULD have been trivial. When it came up, the trustees should have looked at it and then shook their heads, dismissing it even before it got started. It really should never have been started, and I agree with Scripture Searcher in this -- the resulting arguments, refutations, misunderstandings, etc., are taking us away from other things that are, arguably, more important.

What is the motivation for this policy, or the motivation for refuting it? Is it for the glory of God, that our great and awesome, holy and righteous, perfect and mighty FATHER GOD be honored? Is HE our motivation, or are we spinning our wheels?

I am not speaking for anyone when I say that. I do not know the motivations of those in the IMB (though I am certainly suspect of their conclusions). I do not know the whole of the desires of anyone here. However, I do know my heart...and I dare say that far too often when I get involved in discussions like this that I get more interested in persuading someone in an argument than I am glorifying my Lord and Savior with what I say.

May God forgive me and restore my focus on Him, that whatever I do may glorify Him.

1 Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God's glory.

Soli Deo Gloria,
David B. Hewitt

steve w said...

TRIVIAL???? TRIVIAL???? I'd prefer to be involved in almost any Kingdom endeavors other than dealing with these new policies. But I cannot agree that the fight against these policies is trivial because they will keep many very qualified missionaries from being sent by the SBC. Why should we force qualified missionaries to affiliate with other mission agencies because of these needless, harmful and foolish policies?

I've grown up in the SBC. I'm 47 years old. I don't really want to be part of a denomination that would reject, because of these policies, missionaries that might come from my congregation. I'm Baptist. But if this is what it is going to mean to be a Southern Baptist, I just don't think I want to be that kind of Baptist.

If that's trivial, all the more reason all of us that think we're not the only ones going to heaven, and all of us that think missionaries shouldn't be rejected because of these anti-biblical policies, should perhaps pull out and not subject ourselves and our flocks to our biting and devouring denominational leaders.

We don't need the SBC denomination. God doesn't need the SBC denomination. There's so much good about the SBC denomination, I'd really like to remain part of it until the day I step into glory. But if trying to get qualified missionaries overseas is considered trivial, maybe I don't belong here.

And I don't think I'm the only one thinking like this.

David B. Hewitt said...

Hi, Steve.

You aren't the only one thinking like this; I'm sure of that. It saddens me that this is even an issue. I do agree with you that it is important that it is dealt with now that it has reared its head; I just wish it never had become an issue in the first place.

I do think you are right. With policies such as this in place, it can and likely will keep missionaries, who would otherwise be completely qualified, from serving in the International Mission Board; perhaps it has already done so.

Say I were to apply to the IMB. I'm not really sure, given these new policies, how they would look at me. I was baptized at a military chapel in Novato, California. It was by immersion (as all true baptism is), and was accepted by every Southern Baptist church I've been part of. Not only that, but NAMB apparently thought it good enough too, since I've already served with them! However, would the IMB think it good enough? You'd be hard pressed to find any kind of doctrinal statement for a military chapel. :)

Sadly, though I agree completely that there are many good things in the SBC, this is but another thing that strains the relationship of the SBC, its entities, and her churches. May God grant us wisdom and reconciliation as we seek His glory in all of this -- and may we truly seek His glory!

an unworthy slave of Christ,
David Hewitt

Chuck said...


(Man, it feels weird calling you Tom...blogs are so informal!) I want to thank you for continuing to post on this subject. As someone looking to working and teaching in a foreign context in the future, I have been trying to discern whether or not the IMB is a good option. A professor of mine (and my wife's childhood pastor) is a former IMB Trustee (in fact, I believe you know him)and he has been encouraging me to look into it before I make a decision. Your posts and dialogue are a great benefit, because I would never hear any of this apart from your blog. Keep it up!


Tony said...


As I read over the many opinions on this subject I realized that I may have not read the actual/entire IMB declaration. How do I get a copy of the policy change? To actually make a comment on what the IMB is actually doing I would think knowing not only what they have said but the meaning behind it would be a good thing.

One thing I am not so sure of is the importance of the one baptizing. Did John the Baptist have perfect theology, if not Jesus baptism may need to be revoked. I do not mean to make light of this but it is possible for one to be baptized by a person who is wrong in some aspect of theology, even eternal security, but not effect the one being baptized for various reason, one being due to being new in the Lord. I think in many ways a baptism in a non-southern Baptist church may be more valid, at times, than some who are baptized at the drop of a hat in many SBC churches. There are SBC pastors that espouse a belief in eternal security but their theology when worked out denies such a doctrine. What happens if one was baptized outside of the SBC but can not show the theological bent of the church at the time or the pastor that baptized them? Do they need to be re-baptized?

I am just trying to get a handle on this. Between not knowing what the actual policy being proposed is and needing to think through the implications from a scriptural perspective there much work to be done.

Again thanks Tom for the information on this subject and the debate it has stirred.

R. L. Vaughn said...

I arrived late in the discussion, and am beginning with the assumption that the "Booth" is Abraham Booth.

Assuming so, J. H. Grime includes an interesting "Booth" incident in his "History of Alien Immersion and Valid Baptism". In 1787 the Philadelphia Assn received a query about baptisms by unbaptized adminstrators, which they answered in 1788 were "null and void". (pp. 28-29).

In 1791 the association received an appeal from Abraham Booth to rescind that action/opinion. The question was taken up again in 1792, with the following results. "A query respecting the validity of baptism by an unordained and unbaptized administrator, referred in the sixth of October 5, in our minutes of last year, was taken up and determined in the negative."

Concerning Booth and Keach, I personally will not consider the matter settled until I find what was held by them and/or their baptizers as General Baptists.

R. L. Vaughn said...

John Asplund's "Annual Register of the Baptist Denomination in North America" (1791, reprinted Church History Research and Archives, Lafayetter, TN, 1979) should add a little fodder for the discussion. Although he points out several differences in the Baptists included, his set-up of the book seems to imply, IMO, that all of those included were recognized as Baptists.

But the fact that queries and objections were made concerning certain baptisms, over a period of a number of years, indicates these Baptists did have in their minds that some immersions could be "null and void". The fact that "Free Will" Baptist baptisms were not immediately rejected does not in itself prove that the concept in wrong. Many decisions in Baptist life play out over a period of years -- including the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention!

For example, Missionary Baptists and Primitive Baptists were one body until the 1820-40 division. After that it appears the majority on both sides began to reject the baptisms of the other, whether correctly so or not. Today, I doubt any Primitive Baptists could be induced to accept Missionary Baptist baptism, and at least in my area, Missionary Baptists generally return the favor. Yet Rufus C. Burleson (a landmarker and evidently an ancestor of Wade), answering a question of whether he believed Primitive Baptist immersions were valid, agree they were, writing (among other things), "...our Primitive or 'Hardshell' brethren have never rejected any ordinance or doctrine of the Baptist Church, as founded by Christ and the apostles..." (Baptist and Reflector, April 28, 1892, as quoted in "The Baptists in All Ages" by Elders J. S. Newman and Ariel West, 1940)

My rambling point is, I suppose, that things take time to develop, as did the division of MB's and PB's, and the rejection of baptisms perhaps flows "naturally" from that distance, and probably did so as FWB's and MB's drifted further and further apart. This is no proof one way or another, just an attempt at understanding why what was originally accepted was later rejected. IMO, Landmarkism in not the only answer, as seen in R. C. Burleson's landmark answer concerning Primitive Baptists. Certainly the Landmark position would promote and solidify objection to Free Will Baptist baptism.

Theo said...

I found an interesting web site that discussed the historical importance of the administrator of baptism in Baptist churches:

Editor's note: The following quotes from Spencer's History are given in chronological order. ]

Spencer's A History Of Kentucky Baptists
Vol. II, 1886
1800 TATES CREEK ASSOC. There was a query: "Is an immersion by a Pedobaptist scriptural?" Answer: "No" [p. 19].

1801 SALEM ASSOC. The question as to whether it is consistent with good order for a minister to hear experiences and baptize within the bounds of a church, without its consent, was posponed, and subsequently answered in the negative [p. 50].

1802 The question of what constitutes valid Baptism was brought before the ELKHORN ASSOC. Query from South Elkhorn: "What constitutes valid baptism?" Answer: "The administrator ought to have been baptized himself by immersion, legally called to preach the gospel [and] ordained as the Scriptures dictate; and the candidate for baptism should make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and be baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by dipping the whole body in water" [p. 16].

1806 STOCKTONS VALLEY ASSOC. One of the queries resolved was: "If a person has been baptized by a minister In disorder, have we any right to received such person, on such baptism?" The answer: "No." [p. 213].

1812 SALEM ASSOC. The following query from Little Union: "Doubts have arisen in our Baptist society, whether persons baptized (immersed) by a Baptist preacher, not ordained, should be rebaptized before they are received into our churches?" Answer: "We believe each church is the most proper tribunal to determine the qualifications of her members, and that baptism is not rightly administered by anyone except a regularly ordained minister" [p. 53].

1817 STOCKTONS VALLEY ASSOC. Query from Caseys Fork church: "What shall be done with persons suing for fellowship with us, upon the baptism of other denominations, and not complying with the order of the Baptists?" Answer: "We advise that such persons should be baptized in an orderly manner, agreeable to the order of the Baptist church" [pp. 214-5].

1818 LITTLE RIVER ASSOC. Query from the Salem church: "What shall be done in the reception of a member, dismissed from a church not in our faith and order, but he having faith in his baptism?" Answer: "We advise the church to receive him on a profession of his faith in Christ, and baptize him agreeably to our order" [p. 207].

1822 NORTH BEND ASSOC. Query from Licking church: "Whether that is gospel baptism which is not administered by an ordained Baptist minister, to a believer, by immersion?" Answer: "We believe that baptism, only, a gospel one, which is received by immersion, on profession of faith, and administered by one who has been baptized, himself, believing that to be the only scriptural mode, and duly authorized to administer that ordinance." [pp. 144-5].

1836 LITTLE RIVER ASSOC. Query from the West Union church: "Shall we receive a member in full membership, who has been immersed by a Pedobaptist?" Answer: "We think not" [p. 272].

1871 RUSSELLS CREEK ASSOC. At its session numbering 32 churches, there was an expression on "alien baptism."
Resolved: "That the Association does not consider any person baptized, unless he has been immersed in water, in the name of the Trinity, by the authority of a regularly organized Baptist church" [p. 203].

1874 A council of five associations was called in 1873, which met at Mount Zion church, Overton County, TN on April 10, 1874 to discuss some of the subjects that had of late agitated the churches. Messengers from STOCKTONS VALLEY, SOUTH CONCORD AND HAIWASSEE ASSOC. responded. The subjects discussed were alien immersion, the spread of the gospel, the support of the ministry, and a uniform system of correspondence. The conclusions of the council, together with the arguments by which they were supported, were embodied in the report of a committee, which is a lengthy paper of very decided ability. It was decided that baptism is valid only when the subject is a believer, the administrator, one authorized by a Scriptural church, the element water, the formula, that given in the Commission, and the action immersion. [p. 218].

Darby said...

It seems to me this issue has always been with us in SBC life. It's just that now, it's hitting closer to home for more people. The mission boards have a restriction against divorced men from missionary service. They also ask if one smokes or believes casual drinking is okay. As an SBC church planter, I've had problems with this position. Here's why: It's not biblical. The church is the only body that Christ gave authority to appoint elders. And at root, missionaries better be elder qualified! To be qualified as an elder is a local congregation's call, not a mission board. I don't believe the church was given the authority to delegate the assessment and selection process of elders to those outside a local church. So the boards are going to continue to dictate to local congregations how they're going to do business until enough SBC folk wake up to what Scripture says about elders. In my opinion, the boards should train and send those folk that local congregations qualify. I understand that there must be a training process. In the worst case scenarios where a potential missionary is just not making the grade in his training, he's sent back to his local church with tears. But this calous, bureauatic method of dealing with missionary candidates is more in keeping with the federal government than the church of Jesus Christ.

slecrone said...

Though I am in sympathy with the importance of maintaining a scriptural order in baptism, reflected by the IMB's decision, I think Darby makes a very important point. Darby, I've been thinking along the same line. Frankly, those who sincerely strive to maintain what they believe to be a scriptural order in the administrator for baptism are usually those who carefully recognize that the church of Jesus Christ is the final earthly arbitrator in kingdom work. Please don't misunderstand. Our Master is Lord, His Spirit gifts and calls, but I know some of you men have read enough of the early Baptist writings to know that Baptists have generally believed that the church recognizes God's hand and gifting and then sends His men out. If we believe in ordination to ministry and setting apart to service, this is basic. We are our King's agents, submitting to His will and seeking to promote His cause on earth. Otherwise the church is merely a convenience, rather than an empowered and authorized body and God ordained organization. I don't believe there is any Biblical evidence of a church delegating what has been committed to her trust.