Baptists > History > Pre-Anabaptists
Can the Baptists trace their earliest history back to John the Baptist or must they be content with sometime during 1609?
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   There are four views which attempt to provide the historical origins of the Baptists.  Each one has a ring of truth but trying to prove one to be more accurate than the others is a challenge.
   If the arguments over our historical heritage were directed from the outside, that would be one thing.  Actually, it is we who are on the inside who cannot agree.  Perhaps one of the following views is accurate.  Then, again, maybe all are true to some varying degree.
   Still, let it be said, that our historical origins should never be a cause for devisiveness or division.  We are here in this day and this age.  Let us leave such a history so that those who follow us will have a good example in what we accomplished for the Kingdom.

Baptistic Succession
   Is it possible that the Baptists can trace themselves through an unbroken chain that goes back to the time of John the Baptist?
   It was J.M. Carroll who wrote a booklet entitled, "The Trail of Blood," stating that baptistic churches existed at all times outside of Roman Catholocism.  Thus, this view which is commonly refered to as "Landmarkism" argues that such churches existed since the first century and, regardless of their many different names, rejected Romantist doctrine, especially that of baptizing infants as opposed to believers.  However, the historical movements that the Landmarkists site as being forerunners of the Baptists were those which were actually heritical in doctrine; not by Romanist doctrine but according to Biblical truth.
   This view continues to enjoy support for two reasons: 1) the normal desire of any movement to associate itself with the original founders without any break in the chain that connects us to them and  2) the truly historical fact that the Romanists have been guilty throughout church history of persecuting (even unto death) those Christians who took stands against their unscriptural practices.  In fact, this view is the once most frequently touted throughout the Internet, thus, demonstrating its ongoing popularity amongst those who hold to it.

Baptistic Teaching
   This view states that, although no continuous chain of Baptistic churches can be proven, there is historical evidence to indicate that Baptist doctrines can be seen throughout the period between Christ and the beginning of the Anabaptist movement during the 1500s.
   Thomas Crosby has been given credit for formulating this view.  He was one of the first Baptist historians who wrote in the early 1700s.  Along with those who have followed him, their concern has been to prove the legitimacy of baptistic doctrine in contrast to both Roman Catholocism and the many Protestant movements that sprang out of it.

Anabaptist Influence
   This view states that the emergence of the Baptists out of  the English Separatist movement is based on the previous influence of the Anabaptists.  Even though the Anabaptists practiced extreme pacifism, communal sharing, and a very optimistic view of human nature, the Baptists are still able to see much else of their fundamental doctrines in what they believe to be their heritage thanks to this early group of Bible believing Christians.
   There is also a connection that is made to the Dutch Mennonites who were, in fact, Anabaptists.  This group shared enough basic tenents with modern-day Baptists to see the similarities; believer's baptism, separation of church and state, religious liberty, etc.
   This is a safe view in that the previous two above are more challenging to prove because they span over all of the centuries from the early church to the 1500s.  Nevertheless, it is simply one of the views and all four should be considered.

Baptist Separatists
   This view holds that the modern-day Baptist is a direct result of the English Separatist movement, which occurred when those who wanted a more pure form of church life seperated themselves from the Church of England.  Thus, the Puritans and Seperatists developed very similar approaches to basic Bible doctrine.
   This view puts forth the idea that the influence of the Anabaptists upon the Baptists is minimal.  It traces the very first Baptist church to Amsterdam where Pastor John Smyth organized it in 1609.  The central doctrine that defined it as a Baptist church was that of baptism for believers only.  It was not long before Thomas Helwys became the pastor and led the group to England in 1611 (same year that the King James Version of the Bible was completed) where, thanks to that country's Separatist influence, the group would be able to exist with some reasonable sense of safety and security.
   This is the view that has the most acceptance amongst the Baptists. 

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