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Home » Book Reviews » Book Review: [The first Baptist church in America: Two recent books reviewed] Did Roger Williams Start The First Baptist Church In America? Is the “Baptist Church the Bride of Christ? What About Landmarkism or the Baptist Church Succession Theory and Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance

Book Review: [The first Baptist church in America: Two recent books reviewed] Did Roger Williams Start The First Baptist Church In America? Is the “Baptist Church the Bride of Christ? What About Landmarkism or the Baptist Church Succession Theory and Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance

Book Review:

Did Roger Williams Start The First Baptist Church In America? Is the “Baptist Church the Bride of Christ? What About Landmarkism or the Baptist Church Succession Theory?
By Jim Fellure

Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance
By Pastor Joshua S. Davenport

For information on other books click: Books page of “Church and State Law”

Jerald Finney
Copyright © July 30, 2012

Preface

After this “Preface,” Finney will review (1) Did Roger Williams Start The First Baptist Church In America? Is the “Baptist Church the Bride of Christ? What About Landmarkism or the Baptist Church Succession Theory by Jim Fellure; and (2) Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance by Joshua S. Davenport. This preface will explain the importance of writing this review including important issues which are raised by Jim Fellure’s booklet and Finney’s belief as to which was the first Baptist church in America.

Jim Fellure wrote in Did Roger Williams Start the First Baptist Church In America? Is the “Baptist Church the Bride of Christ? What About Landmarkism or the Baptist Church Succession Theory: “Now brethren, please believe me when I say that it is not our intention to create contention and strife…. I will, however, as have historical Baptists, fight for one’s right to freedom of conscious, but I will also ‘earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.’”  Jerald Finney, the reviewer, seconds that by writing this review because the truth and the Glory of God are preeminent. Our Lord has instructed believers to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

Jim Fellure’s booklet started a debate in that it summarily deals with issues at the very heart of the faith which was once delivered to the saints. Joshua Davenport entered the debate and countered Brother Fellure with the publication of Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance.

The reviewer, Jerald Finney, attended the April 17-20, 2012 Baptist Heritage Revival Tour which was planned and executed by Evangelist Ted Alexander. A few days before he left for the tour, he came across a book he had in his library entitled Did Roger Williams Start the First Baptist Church In America? by Jim Fellure. Finney did not ask for or buy the book. Brother Fellure handed him a copy of the book in April, 2011 at a camp meeting, explaining that he did not realize that the publication of the book would start a firestorm. Perhaps reading the book just before attending the tour was a coincidence, or perhaps God wanted Finney to read it at that very time. At any rate, after reading the book, further study of relevant historical facts and consideration of biblical principles surrounding issues raised in the book was placed on his agenda. Fortunately, others, as he was to discover very soon, had already done and published such studies concerning, especially, Brother Fellure’s historical conclusions and the facts upon which he based those conclusions.

On the tour, Finney bought several books, two of which addressed the issue of which was the first Baptist church in America: Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance by Joshua S. Davenport and The First Baptist Church in America: Not Started by Roger Williams by J. R. Graves, first published in 1887. Finney read Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated on the tour bus. He later read The First Baptist Church in America: Not Started by Roger Williams. Brother Ted Alexander, the tour organizer and leader, did not ever address or discuss Brother Jim Fellure or his booklet, either to the entire group or to Finney individually.

Finney is always seeking truth on important issues relevant to the topic of separation of church and state. The subject of this book review is one which God has impressed upon him as a result of the above-mentioned events. In earnestly contending for the faith, Finney was compelled to write this review. As will become apparent as one reads this review, the issues raised by the search to find out which was the first Baptist church started in America are extremely important both doctrinally and historically. An open-minded honest search for truth in the matter should be the goal. Finney has based his conclusions on the Bible and historical facts, nothing more. He knows both Jim Fellure and Joshua Davenport and loves them both. Brother Fellure has been a friend for many years. Finney has known Brother Davenport only a short time, but has grown to love him as well.

The first Baptist church in America was started by either Roger Williams at Providence, Rhode Island, or Dr. John Clarke at Newport, Rhode Island. Searching for the answer to the question as to which of these churches was first is of immense significance because Roger Williams, when he arrived in Rhode Island, was immersed by a man who was not only himself unbaptized, unordained, and a member of no church; and then Williams, after being thus baptized and also being unordained except by the Anglican Church in England, baptized others and started what he temporarily called a Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island. Dr. John Clarke was baptized and ordained a Baptist and started a Baptist church in Newport, Rhode Island.

Brother Fellure concludes, among other things, that Roger Williams started the first Baptist church in America at Providence, Rhode Island. Brother Davenport concludes that Dr. John Clarke started the first Baptist church in America at Newport, Rhode Island. Two questions are inherent in the debate: (1) Was the church Roger Williams started a Baptist church in name only? (2) Which church was started first?

In answering the question of whether the church Roger Williams started was a Baptist church, other very important questions are implicated:

(1) Have the gates of hell prevailed against Christ’s church such that there was no continual succession of true churches? In other words, were there time periods in history since the beginning of New Testament churches during which no true churches existed?
(2) Are all so-called churches valid and biblically ordered, according to God and the Bible? If not, which churches are biblically valid and ordered? Is there a biblical order for the planting of a local church? If so, what is that order?
(3) Does the Bible teach an order for the ordination of pastors? For example, is it within God’s perfect will for a man to ordain himself? Is it within God’s perfect will for an unbaptized, unordained person to baptize and/or ordain another man? Is mail order ordination valid and/or within God’s perfect will?
(4) Is an ordination valid if administered by a man who believes that there is no biblical order for ordination?
(5) Is an ordination valid if conducted by some who were biblically ordained and baptized and some who were not (if there is a biblical order for ordination and baptism)?
(6) Did God set up a biblical order for baptism? Can a man who was unordained and unbaptized be baptized by an unordained, unbaptized man then administer valid baptism to others and form a biblically ordered church?  Quoting from The First Baptist Church in America: Not started by Roger Williams by J. R. Graves:

“Suppose a person, baptized by a man, who takes upon himself to preach the gospel, and proceeds to administer the ordinances without a regular call or ordination from any church, whether the person so baptized may be admitted into any orderly church—yea or nay?”

Can a person get saved, have a friend baptize him, baptize that person and others, and from that group form and pastor a biblically ordered church? Can an unsaved person have a friend baptize him, baptize that person and others, and from that group form and pastor a biblically ordered church?

(7) Can orderly ordinances come from disorderly ones (if there is a biblical order for ordinances)?
(8) Can orderly churches be planted by a disorderly church (if there is a biblical order for churches)?
(9) Does the Bible teach that God established both a universal invisible church and local autonomous churches (assemblies), or does the Bible teach the concept of the institution of the church and local autonomous churches?
(10) What are the true historical facts concerning the formation of the church in Providence by Roger Williams, Roger Williams’ view of the validity of that church, and the subsequent history of that church?
(11) What are the historical facts concerning the formation of the Baptist church at Newport and the subsequent history of that church?

Of course, some facts about history are subject to debate, and sometimes one cannot prove a fact or issue by a preponderance of the evidence, by clear and convincing evidence, or beyond a reasonable doubt (the highest standard in the legal system). The only way one can know some facts beyond all doubt is by being a witness. Sometimes, even then, one cannot know the truth for sure. One can correctly understand biblical principles but still be misled (1) by inaccurate facts, facts taken out of context, only some of the facts, or by a distortion of true facts; (2) by failing to look at all arguments (unless one looks at all facts and arguments, he definitely is in danger of coming to the wrong conclusion(s)); (3) or by failing to apply the true principles in the Word of God to the facts.

Finney is always open-minded on any issue and will consider all facts, doctrines, and positions in reaching his conclusions. After reading the books which are the subject of this review, having already built a sound foundation in the religious history of the colonies through thousands of hours of study, Finney is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Dr. John Clarke started the first Baptist Church in America. His conclusion is based upon facts and biblical principles. Furthermore, this question of who started the first Baptist church in America can be answered without resort to a reference to the Baptist Bride, Landmark, or Baptist church succession beliefs. Finney has not studied the Baptist Bride, Church succession, or Landmark positions, although he believes that the Bible teaches a continuing succession of true New Testament churches; in other words, by faith alone Finney believes in such a succession. He also believes that many facts, both circumstantial and concrete, demonstrate that there has never been a time in history that New Testament churches and the institution of the church (as opposed to false or non-New Testament churches and false institutions which label themselves “churches” and “the church”) since ordained by the Lord Jesus were non-existent. Finney believes Christ’s promise that the “gates of hell will not prevail against his church [that is, when correctly and contextually interpreted, the institution of the church and his local churches].”

Did Roger Williams Start The First Baptist Church In America? Is the “Baptist Church the Bride of Christ? What About Landmarkism or the Baptist Church Succession Theory?
by Jim Fellure

The title and subtitle to Brother Fellure’s booklet present not only one, but three, very important questions for a serious student of history and the Word of God. Does Brother Fellure successfully and convincingly answer the primary and secondary questions presented in his short, 22 page, double-spaced pamphlet? Is it necessary to address the sub-questions in order to answer the primary question?

Two important questions in the debate over which was the first Baptist church in America are:

(1) Was Roger Williams qualified to start a Baptist church or, put another way, was the church he started Baptist?
(2) Did Roger Williams start the church in Providence before John Clarke started the church in Newport?

The first question is important because Roger Williams was not ordained in a Baptist church (he was only ordained as an Anglican) and because of the order of his baptism. Williams was baptized by one of the men who joined him in Rhode Island. Williams then baptized that man and the others who became part of the church he started.

Roger WilliamsConcerning question 1 above, Brother Fellure concluded in his booklet that the church Roger Williams started was Baptist. He certainly did not biblically support that conclusion in any way except through explicit or implicit assertions such as: “Just trust me since I have studied these matters;” “You certainly can’t rationally believe otherwise because anyone who is saved is a member of the universal invisible church;” and “as a saved person, one is qualified to baptize.” Furthermore, he most likcely understands that his short and perfunctory defense of the “universal invisible church” position and his selective references to the Baptist Bride position and Landmarkism or Baptist Church Succession theory and his conclusions based thereon are in no way adequate to convince a serious student of history and the Word of God.

He asserts that opposition to his conclusions on these matters “has come from those who follow the Baptist Bride, Landmark, or the Baptist Church Succession philosophy.” However, those are not the only sources of opposition. Interestingly, among those who opposed Fellure’s conclusions concerning the authenticity of the church Williams started, as a matter of historical fact, was Roger Williams himself who made known his belief that the church was not authentic and withdrew therefrom a few weeks after starting it, as pointed out in many reliable historical works including the opposing work which is the subject of this review. This reviewer is among many who are not Baptist Briders, Landmarkers, or per se Baptist Successionists who are convinced that Brother Fellure’s conclusions are wrong. Brother Fellure also has asserted that James Beller, a pastor who opposes his view that Roger Williams started the First Baptist Church in America, is a “Brider.” Brother Beller wrote an open letter and published it over the internet. In that letter, Brother Beller replies to certain assertions made by Brother FellureSee En4 for the entire letter and the online link.

Brother Fellure’s analysis indicates that he believes that any baptism by a saved person, and even a baptism by an unsaved man, may be valid; perhaps he does not believe the latter, but if not, he needs to make clear what he believes concerning that issue and why. He also needs to give some convincing biblical reasoning to support his belief that one who is saved, yet unbaptized, can perform a biblically acceptable baptism. He quotes a few verses and states some conclusions and selected facts concerning baptism, ordination, the church, and other doctrines but does not give the issue and his conclusions anywhere near the degree of analysis needed to support his positions.

As to question 2, Brother Fellure concludes that Roger Williams started the church in Providence before Dr. John Clarke started the church at Newport. Even if one assumes or concludes, as does Brother Fellure, that the answer to question 1 above is that Williams was qualified to start a Baptist church, historical facts which are available from various  sources and which are presented in Joshua Davenport’s book which is reviewed below prove that Clarke started the Newport church before Williams started the Providence church. Fellure states on page 14 of his booklet:

“[O]ut of all the books and documents I have read, I have not found one historical record stating Dr. John Clarke started anyBaptist church before 1644. Some historians claim 1639 as the most probable date, but all records I have found agree Roger Williams did start the First Baptist Church in America.”

First Baptist Church Building of Providence, Rhode Island

First Baptist Church Building of Providence, Rhode Island

That statement alone totally discredits his analysis and proves that he is not qualified to write on the subject. There are many historical records which refute the conclusion that Roger Williams started the church in Providence before Dr. John Clarke started the Baptist church at Newport. In other words, Brother Fellure was not qualified to comment on the issue because, by his own admission as applied to all the facts, he did not know of and consider all the facts.

Brother Fellure not only fails to consider all the historical facts concerning the issue of who started the first Baptist church in America, he also, within this 22 page, 5 ¼ by 8 ½ inch double spaced book, addresses many other matters. 22 double spaced pages are woefully inadequate for such a task. In 22 short pages, Brother Fellure, among other things:

(1) attempts to discredit the followers of Baptist Bride, Landmark or Baptist Church succession “philosophies” who opposed his position that Roger Williams started the first Baptist church in America, proclaiming that their conclusions are guided by ulterior motives only. This was completely off point and unnecessary and to have any credibility would require a very voluminous and painstaking study and written refutation and not a few paragraphs interspersed within a very short, 22 page book;
(2) attempts to discredit the history utilized by the Baptist Succession theory (the author in his own studies has encountered facts which would refute some of Fellure’s cursory historical assertions about Baptist Succession);
(3) attempts to explain some parts of his version of the biblical doctrine of the church. The universal church doctrine of the Catholic and Protestant churches may not be the same as Brother Fellure’s version in all respects, but understanding and explaining any version of the doctrine requires a lot more than a few paragraphs out of a 22 page pamphlet. He summarily describes his versions of both a universal invisible church versus local autonomous New Testament churches. All these matters have been painstakingly analyzed by serious students of the Word over the centuries. Brother Fellure does a disservice to the cause of Christ in this ill-conceived effort. Serious biblical study (perhaps aided by the study of relevant scholarly works) would be required for a believer to arrive at correct conclusions concerning the issues he raises.

To comprehensively address the universal invisible church theory would be a voluminous undertaking, but one of Brother Fellure’s statements will be summarily addressed. On page 4, he writes:

“Where Victory Baptist Press differs with such a philosophy is that out of the fifteen times the word ‘Baptist’ is used in the Bible, it is always referring to John, the man who was baptizing, and there is no indication John was starting a church, and when Jesus said ‘upon this rock I will build my church…’ (Matthew 16.18), He was not referring to a local Baptist Church, He was referring to the ‘church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven…’ (Hebrews 12:23). ‘…written is heaven’ is a very interesting phrase. It would be hard to support the idea that God will wait until a saved person is baptized in water by a ‘qualified Baptist’ to write their name in heaven.”

The reviewer agrees that when one is saved, his name is written in the “book of life.”  However, please notice that Brother Fellure makes a quantum leap in his statement in the above paragraph in his supposed identification of the church Jesus was referring to in Matthew 16.18. He quotes one verse, Hebrews 12.23, to make his point, but he does not refer to any context. Hebrews 12.22-24, which includes the immediate contest of Hebrews 12.23, states:

“22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. 23  To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinking, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

Clearly, “the church of the firstborn” spoken of in verse 23 exists at the time of “the city of the living God and the heavenly Jerusalem,” and in the presence of “an innumerable company of angels” (see verse 22). Historic Baptists have never believed that a universal visible or invisible church, a city of God and the Kingdom operate at present. From what he says in his booklet, it appears that Brother Fellure, at least to some degree, agrees with Catholic and Protestant doctrines of the church; while necessarily disagreeing with the historical Baptist and biblical position. Finney believes that not only the verses surrounding Hebrews 12.23, but also all verses in the New Testament which deal with the doctrine of the church, disprove his version of “church of the firstborn,” and universal invisible church.” For example, the Lord Jesus stood among the seven golden candlesticks and wrote a message to each.  (See Revelation 1.9-3.22; those “candlesticks” are local churches, not a universal invisible church (Revelation 1.20). That said, the reviewer knows that this brief review is no more adequate to explain the doctrine of the church than are the few paragraphs in Brother Fellure’s booklet, but a few insights are appropriate.)

Furthermore, the name “Baptist” is just an identifier used by many Baptist authors to refer to those churches, although not always called “Baptist,” which, since the time of Christ, held to, at all costs, certain principles which have been called “Baptist distinctives.”

For the last ten years, the reviewer has done and continues to do extensive biblical studies and, during the course of those studies, has pondered upon on the doctrine of the church. He agrees with Pastor Jason Cooley that the New Testament speaks of no “true” church (as it is called by C. I. Scofield), or “universal invisible (or visible) church” terms adopted by Catholicism, Protestantism, and by many modern churches including so-called Fundamental Independent Baptist churches.  When the Bible speaks of “the church,” it is referring to the institution of the church which consists of all local autonomous assemblies in which born again believers are instructed to be baptized, to be added to the institution of the church (in a local autonomous assembly), to observe the Lord’s supper, and to exercise their God-given gifts as they glorify God by growing in spiritual knowledge and obeying and following the Lord Jesus Christ and his precepts.

In other words, when the New Testament refers to “the church,” it is referring to the institution of the church. Can a universal visible or invisible church have a pastor, teachers, etc. who are functioning? How can they function as an all-encompassing visible or invisible institution? Are the local churches then subject to or part of an alleged “universal visible or invisible church?” If so, how can that be since the Bible in no way explains the organization, methods, jurisdiction, etc. of such such a universal institution—only local autonomous churches? Does God desire that a person be saved and remain only in a universal church and not a local autonomous New Testament church? Is it within God’s perfect will for a person to be saved and then to become, or remain, a member of a spiritual harlot who claims to be a church (but only God can remove a candlestick, but he has warned that He will do so in some cases) or even a non-New Testament church? Of course, there are no perfect churches, but one can glean principles from the Bible to guide him in his search for a New Testament church or to help him disciple new converts on finding and joining with a New Testament church and many other important matters. Is it God’s will for one, in his attempts to lead others to the Lord, to state, “I am not concerned about which church you attend. I am only concerned about your eternal salvation”?

The questions and insights in the preceding paragraph are very important because one must believe in some type of “universal church” in order to buy the conclusion that Roger Williams started a Baptist church. Finney believes that “universal church” doctrine makes no sense biblically or in reality.

(4) states (notice, in relation to local autonomous churches), “If a Church is found today believing and practicing the same thing the churches believed and practiced 2000 years ago, I would not assume they were linked to each other through an unbroken chain of Baptist Church Succession. My assumption would be that both churches had been influenced by the truths of the same Book.” Must one’s conclusion on this matter be based upon Jim Fellure’s or any other person’s assumption? One can be influenced by the truths of the Bible but still be in error on any number of biblical doctrines. How much does a church have to be “influenced” by the truths of the Bible to be either within or outside the will of God as to organization, practice, methodology, etc.? In examining whether a church believes and practices the same thing the churches believed and practiced 2000 years ago, one must answer many questions such as:

(a) What was the New Testament model for planting a church? What New Testament church was first started by an unordained man who was baptized by another unordained unbaptized man, and who then baptized that man and others and formed a church which believed and practiced the things a New Testament church was to believe and practice?
(b) What is to be the biblically acceptable motive of church members for giving: one’s love for God or for some other reason such as, partially or wholly, a tax deduction? Biblically, to whom are tithes and offerings given: to the Lord Jesus Christ for His purposes or to, for example, a non-profit, incorporated, 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization? Is the church (which is the body made up of individual members) the giver or the receiver?
(c) What is the biblically correct view of pastoral leadership?
(d) What about the exercise of gifts by members of the local church body? Certainly exercise of such gifts cannot take place in an invisible organization; the exercise must be in a local assembly.
(e) What is the role of deacons? What place would deacons have in an invisible body?
(f) What is the biblical order, if any, concerning, for example, ordination, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the marriage of a man and a woman, the marriage of Christ and His church, etc.?
(g) What about the doctrine of separation including separation of church and state? All New Testament churches in the Bible and thereafter have believed in and practiced separation of church and state. Is a church which combines with state through incorporation and/or through 501(c)(3) tax exempt status practicing the same thing the churches believed and practiced 2000 years ago?
(h) What are the biblical principles for organization of a church?
(i) Is there a biblical order concerning the methods practiced by a church? For example, is it within God’s perfect will for a church to utilize business and/or worldly methods which conflict with the methodology laid out in the Bible in reaching its goals? To what extent?

(5) raises the issue of the definition of a Baptist church.
(6) raises the issue of whether the Baptist Bride, Landmark, and Baptist Church Succession theories are true. Can this debate be decided upon biblical teaching and/or facts? Does one have to trash the Baptist Bride position, Landmarkism, and the belief in church Succession to prove that Roger Williams started the First Baptist church in America?
(7) raises the issue of whether there is a proper order for churches, baptism, ordination, etc. What should a church do should she, from a study of Scripture, decide that she is not biblically ordered? See Endnotes 1 and 2 examples of what some churches have done if out of order as to ordination and baptism.
(8) quotes from doctrinal statements of two Baptist churches who follow the “Baptist Bride of Baptist Church Succession” theory (pp. 2-3). He assumes that those brief statements will be sufficient to discredit those theories.

In addition to his conclusions about the “universal invisible church,” the Baptist Bride position and Landmarkism or the Baptist Succession theory which raise the above questions, Brother Fellure presents quotes from some records of history to support his position that Roger Williams started the church at Providence before Dr. John Clarke started the church at Newport. Finney, in his book God Betrayed (see pages 241-242) which was published in 2008, pointed out that the issue was factually disputed and that Dr. John Clarke may have started a Baptist church in Newport Rhode Island in 1838, but did not do further study on the issue at that time. That was written in the midst of a voluminous study of the issue of separation of church and state in which Finney came across, in the natural course of his studies, some disputed facts on the issue of which was the first Baptist church in America. Certainly one who has done a serious historical study of the facts would have come across at least some of those facts.

Brother Fellure states on page 20 of his booklet: “At Victory Press we have no intention of ‘revising’ history or reading into the historical records events that did not happen in order to promote our agenda,” yet he does just that plus more which is not in the interest of serious study in the name of Christ. This is a hard thing to say to a man the reviewer loves, but it is something that must be said. Brother Fellure’s booklet is a result of either a biased selection of facts or incomplete research. Now that Brother Davenport has published his reply, Brother Fellure has access to many facts which he did not consider when writing his book.

Brother Fellure is put on alert, by this review, of the folly of his offering. He states that his pamphlet is an “expanded edition;” but a study of his booklet by one who has some understanding of biblical doctrine and Baptist history reveals that he has bitten off more than he can chew in such a short publication. The task he assumes requires a treatise, not a tract. Whether he will do the research needed to uphold his conclusions and publish the results thereof remains to be seen. This reviewer believes that the Bible, history, and honesty render that an impossible task.

Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance
by Pastor Joshua S. Davenport

First Baptist Church building of Newport, Rhode Island

First Baptist Church building of Newport, Rhode Island

Pastor Joshua Davenport’s book shows a keen understanding of the issue presented and its importance. He backs up his position that Dr. John Clarke founded the first Baptist church in America with studied facts and analyses. Davenport bases his conclusion that the Newport church started by Dr. John Clarke in 1638 was the first Baptist church in America on historical research and facts. His conclusions are enhanced by correctly recorded citations of the historical sources he relies upon. Many other sources could be cited to support Brother Davenport’s conclusion, but the reviewer does not expect that anyone has the time to cover all possible sources. Finney is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Baptist History IN AMERICA is correct factually and historically and proves that the church started by Dr. John Clarke in Newport, Rhode Island was the first Baptist church in America, even should one consider the church started by Roger Williams to be a Baptist church.

Dr. John Clarke

Dr. John Clarke

Brother Davenport does not address Landmarkism, the Baptist Bride theory, or Baptist Church succession, but “a matter of mere historical correctness and facts.” Like any good advocate who believes in the factual and doctrinal truth of his position on a very important issue, he considers some facts concerning Jim Fellure’s possible personal motivation for writing his booklet. Then he gives the four necessary categories of facts that need to be considered in order for the issue to be correctly understood. His well-documented facts are very persuasive in supporting his conclusion.

In addition to the facts, Davenport explains the importance of the issue and the importance of accurate facts. He correctly and with great insight points out that “Once one starts changing history, one changes who he is, where he came from and where he is going.” As he explains, (1) “Integrity for Historical Correctness is at Stake. (2) Proper Examples of Doctrinal Soundness is at Stake. In this section, Davenport gives his argument for a biblical order for baptism. (3) Regard for our Baptist Heritage and Identity is at Stake. (4) Historical Influence on American Principles is at Stake.” In this last section, Davenport declares something which Finney discovered himself after an intensive study over several years: “One cannot truly understand American history until he understands Baptist history.”

Finney, without equivocation, recommends that all true Baptists read and study Davenport’s jewel, Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance. This booklet is the kind of writing and teaching those seeking the truth of the matter need to read and digest, and the quality of writing that needs to come forth from one who is contending for the faith. From a foundation of intense study over many years, Finney attests to Davenport’s biblical, historical, and analytical acuity. See En3 for information on books by Jerald Finney.

Endnotes

En1. The following concerning ordination is from J. A. Shackelford, Compendium of Baptist History (Louisville, Kentucky: Press Baptist Book Concern, 1892 (Reprint), pp. 123-124. (Can be ordered from Local Church Bible Publishers):

“‘Commenius, who published a synopsis of the discipline of the churches of Bohemia, dwells particularly upon this article and shows that ‘a stated ministry was always considered as a matter of great importance among the Waldensean churches.’ A dreadful persecution broke out among the Bohemian brethren in the days of Commenius, which produced such havoc among them that he himself ‘was the only surviving bishop that escaped.’ The scattered brethren, in process of time, elected three persons as qualified for the pastoral office, but ‘found themselves greatly perplexed about their ordination.’

“‘Having understood that there were some Waldensean churches on the confines of Moravia and Austria, to satisfy their own scruples, as well as those of others, they resolved to send Michael Zambergius, one of their pastors, with two other persons to find out those Waldenses, and give them an account of what has passed among them, and especially to ask their advice upon the matter in hand. They met with one Stephen, a Waldensean bishop, who sent for others also residing in that quarter, with whom they had a conference upon the doctrines of the gospel, and the state of their churches, and by them the said three pastors were ordained by the imposition of hands. ‘Hence,’ says Dr. Allix, ‘it is abundantly evident, that as the Waldenses have preserved the faith that was committed to them, so have they been as careful to preserve entire among them the ancient discipline of the church.’

“These Waldensean brethren regarded regular ordination so much of importance, that they sent the three brethren some five or six hundred miles that they might be ‘examined upon the doctrines of the gospel,’ and receive ordination at the hands of a regularly ordained ministry. In this way have the pure doctrines of the gospel been preserved through all ages.”

En2. From the May 12 entry concerning baptism of This Day in Baptist History Past, “The Conversion of a Church”:

The Congregational church in Sedgwick, Maine, had enjoyed the ministry of the Reverend Danil Merrill for twelve years. During which time it became one of the largest of the denomination’s churches in the state. However, when several of his ministerial students became Baptists, the rev. Mr. Merrill determined to restudy the matter of baptism and write a book on the subject which would protect against such losses, and such a volume would be invaluable to many in refuting what he considered heresy taught by the Baptists. After more than two years of studying the scriptures he concluded that the Bible did not support his long-held position of sprinkling.

The matter came to a head when a group of children were presented to be sprinkled and the pastor could no longer with good conscience perform the rite. For several months Merrill continued in agony of heart for, as he confessed, he “could not bear the idea of being called one .

On February 28, 1805, after a series of sermons on the biblical mode of baptism, the congregation voted unanimously to call for a council of Baptist ministers to administer New Testament immersion, to constitute them as a Baptist church, and to ordain Daniel Merrill as their pastor. In all, sixty-six candidates were baptized on May 13, 1805, and nineteen more were baptized on the following day.

En3. Notice that two of Finney’s books listed below have already been fully reproduced on the “Separation of Church and State Law” website; links are included below. Also, God Betrayed has already been reproduced in audio form on the website, and much of the book is already reproduced, in written form, on the website. Soon, all the books will be in written form on the website. Finney is concerned with imparting truth, not with making money, in his God-called “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry. If one does not want to buy the books, but wishes to read them, he can do so at no cost.

God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The biblical Principles and the American Application (Link to preview of God Betrayed): may be ordered from Amazon by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Amazon.com or from Barnes and Nobel by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Barnes and Noble. All books by Jerald Finney as well as many of the books he has referenced and read may also be ordered by left clicking “Books” (on the “Church and State Law” website) or directly from Amazon by going to the following links: (1) Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses (Kindle only) which has been reproduced on the “Separation of Church and State Law” website at Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses; (2) The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls (Kindle only) which has been reproduced on the “Separation of Church and State Law” website at The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls; (3) Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? (Link to preview of Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities?) which can also be ordered by clicking the following Barnes and Noble link: Separation of Church and State on Barnes and Noble.

En4. Letter from James Beller replying to assertions made by Jim Fellure in his booklet. The online link to this e-mail is: http://www.21tnt.com/index.php?view=article&catid=47:ancient-nature-of-the-baptists&id=25:a-letter-to-jim-fellure-of-victory-baptist-press&format=pdf

1 / 3A Letter to Jim Fellure of Victory Baptist Press

March 13, 2011

Bro. Fellure,

Thank you for your time on the phone on March 3, 2011. I had called to clarify some things with you concerning the “Open Letter To Those Who have Questioned Our Stand On The Baptist Bride, Lankmarkism, or Baptist Church Succession Theory,” which was dated March 3, 2011. This email letter was sent to over 15,000 recipients and, as I shared with you, had references to me, describing me as a Baptist “brider.” In this you linked me with a group of people I do not represent. I mean no disrespect in this short answer and I believe you to be a good man, but I mean to try to set the record straight.

Even though I am not a part of this group, nor have I ever denominated myself as a “landmarker,” you painted me as such. As I mentioned on the phone, I would have wished you had contacted me before you painted me with such a broad brush.  I will say that some of what is called “landmarkism” I embrace, as do a large number of independent Baptists. For instance, our church does not accept immersions for membership from any organization that has its roots in the Roman Catholic, or catholic Reformed. This is an ancient practice. We also believe in the local church as the only church found in the Bible. We also believe strongly that churches are to birth churches. We also, like many, many Baptists believe in the succession of principles. This was believed by Henry D’Anvers, Theilman Van Braght, Charles Spurgeon and the late David L. Cummins. This is nothing new. You seem to misunderstand both “brider” and “landmark” positions, mixing them together.  I am going to answer your letter in detail at a latter time, but you promised me a retraction:

1. On page 2 you write:

“The Baptist Bible Fellowship, the Bible Baptist Fellowship, the World Baptist Fellowship, and the Independent Baptist Fellowship International can all trace their history back to Dr. J. Frank Norris, an ordained Southern Baptist pastor who left the SBC and promoted and influenced the independent, fundamental Baptist movement. Men such as Dr. John R. Rice, Dr. Jack Hyles, Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. Harold Sightler, Dr. Shelton Smith, Lester Roloff and many others had their roots in the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention has its roots in the American Baptist Convention, which is linked back to Roger Williams and the First Baptist Church in America at Providence, Rhode, Island.“ It is a grievous error to claim “the independent, fundamental Baptist movement…had their roots in the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention has its roots in the American Baptist Convention, which is linked back to Roger Williams and the First Baptist Church in America at Providence, Rhode, Island.” ANY Baptist historian, Cathcart, Armitage, McBeth, etc. knows the SBC has its roots in the Separate Baptist Revival through Shubal Stearns. Stearns was baptized by Wait Palmer and the line of baptism does go back to Newport, Rhode Island. However, all that aside, you…

2. On page 3 state:

“The Landmark theory would teach that not one of the pastors mentioned previously, or the converts that were saved and baptized under their ministry, are legitimate Baptists, and none of them will be in the Bride of Christ.”

I know of no “landmarker” that believes this and even if they did, I don’t believe it and have never said such a thing. But you make me one of the number that would say this by…

3. Writing on page 3:

“Some writers that follow the Landmark theory have some great historical information. Examples of two of these mens’ books are, The Trail of Blood, by J. M. Carroll, which VBP prints and sells, and America in Crimson Red, by Brother James Beller which we sell in our bookstore.”

You have made me a companion of those you claim “would teach that not one of the pastors mentioned previously, or the converts that were saved and baptized under their ministry, are legitimate Baptists, and none of them will be in the Bride of Christ.”

I do not believe this, nor do I know of any “landmarker” who believes it either. You made me out to say things I have never said, nor believed.

Bro. Fellure, you said you would print a retraction, but instead you re-sent the same email letter on March 10 (even though it was still dated March 3). Is this a retraction?

James Beller


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