Landmark Baptists


Yesterday I gave a lecture on Protestantism to the teacher participating in the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History Princeton Seminar.  I tried to get them to see that when the Bible is translated into the vernacular and can be read by the people, the people will come up with different interpretations and thus different denominations.  I joked, “Last time I checked there were more than 100 kinds of Baptists.”

The Landmark Baptists are one of those groups.  Here is a taste of Sarah Laskow’s Atlas Obscura piece on this interesting Baptist group:

“Landmarkism” started in the 1850s, when immigrants were bringing varied ideas about Christianity to America and Baptists were raising questions about religious authority. Of all these churches, competing against each other, which was the one true path to God? James Robinson Graves, the publisher of the Tennessee Baptist newspaper, along with a handful of like-minded men, began arguing that only Baptists could claim this legitimacy. They backed up their claims with arguments about “church successionism,” tracing their beliefs and practices step-by-step, back to the beginnings of Christianity.

“Baptists had been historically a people who didn’t worry about their roots,” says Alan Lefever, director of the Texas Baptist Historical Collection. “Landmarkism came at a time that some Baptists were pointing out that we had only been around since the 1600s. To the Landmarkists, that wasn’t good enough.”

Read the entire piece here.

2 thoughts on “Landmark Baptists

  1. I grew up in Landmark Baptist churches. I started looking into the history of Landmarkism a few years ago that wasn’t the internal one I grew up on, and I messaged my friend who grew up IFB and said “I GREW UP IN A CULT, TOO!” To my dad’s credit, he taught me that doctrinally, there was no difference between us and Southern Baptists, that it was mainly a difference in how the churches funded missionaries. Which is both true and not.

    I inherited their books, and among them are not only the small Trail of Blood booklet, but an old (out of print) copy of a series of sermons that J.M. Carroll preached on the Trail of Blood. My mom told me not to let it out of my possession. After reading it, I became much less convinced of the “unbroken line” that he traced out.


  2. Oh, yeah. Them. Introduced to them by an Internet Monk posting many years ago.

    “The Trail of Blood” graphic up top illustrates the exact same view of church history as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Branch Davidians, CoGs, and every “us four, no more, Amen” splinter house church. To wit:

    The One True Church went off the rails into Apostasy and Heresy immediately after the last book of the Bible was written, and all was Apostate Romish Popery Mystery Babylon until OUR FOUNDER was Anointed by God to Fully Restore the Original New Testament Church Founded by Jesus Christ in 33 AD (i.e. Us and Us alone).

    The only difference is that the Landmarks try to maintain some sort of “Not Really Apostolic Succession” continuity with the trace at the bottom, tracing the Uncorrupted One True Faith through various convolutions and splinter groups ending in (of course) Themselves.


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