- Series: ATLA Monograph Series (Book 32)
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Scarecrow Press; Revised edition (November 17, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0810836815
- ISBN-13: 978-0810836815
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,150,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Baptist Successionism Paperback – November 17, 1999
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...an important contribution...it is difficult to see how the historical argument could be any better presented than has been done by James McGoldrick. (Founders Journal)
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Most successionist writers commit the error of jumping to conclusions when examining the ancient sects that were seen as the forerunners of current day Baptists. They focus on the fact that these groups operated outside the established church and had practices that are similar to modern day Baptists (such as credobaptism-only, a rejection of icons, denying a clergy-laity distinction, gathering outside of normal church buildings for worship etc.) and also note that many of them were severely oppressed by the state church. These realities, combined with Christ’s declaration ‘you will be hated by all for my name's sake’ (Matt 10:22) has lead these writers to conclude the sects in question must have been the inheritors of the true apostolic faith. McGoldrick, however, does his best to examine what these groups actually believed and it becomes apparent that these historical sects have beliefs that are incompatible with Baptist ideology. He uses primary sources from the particular groups as much as possible and when stuck with hostile sources, he ensures that the evidence comes from several witness who have no apparent connection, separated by time, to substantiate his claim. He easily proves, for instance, the Montanists and the Novatians were not Baptists but rather Catholics who broke from the larger church over the issue of dealing with the growing moral compromise in her ranks. Examining groups such as the Waldensians, Cathars, and Bogomils is more difficult given that much of the information from the groups comes from sources biased against them but in end, he ably illustrates that the Waldensians were Catholics who eventually morphed into evangelicals and the Bogomils and Cathars were gnostic cults who have no place even in Christedom itself. If his research does not outright refute the claim that Group X was part of the Baptist lineage, he at very least casts serious doubts over it.
I am personally of the persuasion that no single church on earth can claim to have a direct link back to the original apostles, least of all the baptistic movements. McGoldrick’s book has largely convinced me of that. A great book overall if you have an interest in proper church history.
The scholarship is excellent, as McGoldrick is careful to use original sources when possible, and when not, he honestly addresses the credibility of his secondary sources and is careful to extensively footnote everything.
For this purpose I am greatly indebted, as the book is useful to this end as well. The fact that McGoldrick misunderstands Catholic soteriology can be forgiven, as that was not the scope of this work. I highly recommend this to every honest Christian, regardless of denominational affiliation.
Even though the extensive research into Church history of the last century should render the latter choice as a hopeless one, it is unfortunately all too common within a subculture where conspiracy theories are taken seriously as historical evidence. Through numerous error filled volumes (e.g., J. M. Carroll's Trail of Blood), revisionist histories have been constructed wherein a supposed alternate strain of Christianity conforming to the faith of the Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Oneness Pentecostals, etc. (according to whomever is doing the reconstruction) is traced in opposition to the known Church of history. This "other" church supposedly can be followed through dissident groups who were persecuted by the Church as heretics but who were in actuality the "true Christians".
James Edward McGoldrick deals with the claims of the "Landmark Baptist" movement (where many heretical movements are considered persecuted historical Baptists) in Baptist Successionism. As a former adherent of the movement, McGoldrick understands the appeal of the revisionist product - after all, how can one claim to follow the true Christian faith when history shows your beliefs to have their roots a millennia and a half after the Resurrection? Has the grace of God not been operating all these centuries? Has God taken a vacation?
Revisionism claims to solve this by placing a rival Church of God alongside the corrupted so-called Church (whose "apostasy" is usually blamed on the Emperor Constantine). Of course, one cannot argue from silence and so candidates for the "true Church" are needed and found in various known dissident (and frequently heretical) sects throughout history. The effort has been so persuasive in some circles that some Baptists now believe they are not actually Protestants but can in fact trace their history back to the Apostolic Church in an unbroken succession.
McGoldrick, a professor of history at Cedarville College, was swept up by such views as an undergraduate but in his later investigations into Church history discovered them to be historically untenable. Such revisionism usually centers on one or two beliefs wherein a certain dissident group might agree with them as opposed to the historic Church, but ignores the greater picture whereby such groups by and large do not resemble Baptists or any other Protestants at all and their motivations for agreeing upon certain issues has nothing to do with Baptist principles. His analysis is comprehensive, impressive, and irrefutable - there were no Baptists prior to the Protestant Reformation and efforts to project Baptist beliefs upon the groups commonly cited are based on wishful thinking.
Dissident group after dissident group are placed under the historical microscope: Montanists, Novations, Paulicans, Bogomils, Petrobrusians, Arnoldists, Henricians, Albigenses, and Waldenses. Each group is shown to have no basic affinity to standard Baptist doctrine. Some were in schism on certain issues from the larger Church but had far more in common with them than anything we would consider Baptist. Others were so tainted by dualism as to only be "Christian" in a nominal sense. In no case is any group even remotely attached to Baptist beliefs and practices. McGoldrick also includes a refutation of the claim that St. Patrick was a Baptist. This contention is ridiculous but it shows how revisionists argue from silence (St. Patrick wrote very little and so they argue since he never endorsed certain Catholic doctrines in writing, he must be a Baptist) to produce Baptists ex nihilo. He then considers the claim that the Anabaptists were in the Baptist succession. That one could make such claims for a movement known to have sprung from the radical end of the Protestant Reformation is a mystery to all but those with successionist blinders, but McGoldrick patiently examines the claim and easily refutes it. Endings with a careful review of the true history of the Baptist movement, he concludes the obvious - Baptists are Protestants.
One might consider it unfortunate that a book needed to be written to demonstrate such a well established fact. However, given the trusting nature of many Christians and the ignorance of Church history within much of Protestantism, McGoldrick is to be commended for taking the time to answer these claims and perhaps inoculating others from their allure. Although aimed at the Baptist successionist movement, it also answers similar claims from any group purporting to be the "other Church". McGoldrick's unanswerable reply is "What other church?"