Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Believers Baptism: Dying for Naught

...The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain... Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863. (emphasis mine).

Just as we should remember the sacrifice of the soldiers who have bled and died to give us our freedom, we as Southern Baptists need to remember those who went before us and gave their lives for Our Lord and for their faithfulness to the Scriptures. I believe that there are those within our Convention that have in all practicality, relegated our forerunners to have died in vain.

Last month was the 482nd anniversary of the death of Felix Manz, one of the first Anabaptist Martyrs. It was on a cold January 5th, 1527, that Manz's hands were bound to his knees, with the stick thrust between arms and legs and then thrown into the icy waters of the Limmat River in Zurich. Manz's death, as well as other Anabaptist martyrs, are in essence being rendered as needless and for naught, by our ecumenical loving and/or Presbyterian leaning brethren within the Southern Baptist Convention. I do not believe that these two groups have the same goals and agenda. But some in both camps seem to share a limited acceptance of paedobaptism, though stating that they personally hold to believers baptism.

I think the martyr's deaths are diminished by those willing to affirm that which the martyrs denied: paedobaptism. Let me put it another way: Would today's Baptist be willing to suffer horrendous torture and die a martyrs death to faithfully uphold believers baptism and it alone? I think most would not. Would today's Baptist be willing to accept some into their church as a member, who sincerely believed their infant baptism to be biblically justified? Would they invite them to share in the Lord's table? It is happening within our Convention today, though historically and categorically rejected by Baptists as un-biblical. There are some who seem so willing to abandon one of the primary reasons such a great price was paid by our Anabaptist forerunners: Faithfulness to The Great Commission and Obedience to the Command of Christ to only baptize disciples (i.e. believers baptism). If they can so easily lay aside the importance of obeying Christ's command, then by their actions they are declaring these deaths to have been hollow and pointless. Either Manz (and all who gave their lives for this essential doctrine) were right, and died for the truth of Scripture or they should have capitulated. The ecumenical Baptists of today (which is an oxymoron) can not proclaim that Manz and others died for Christ in a just cause and yet accept false “baptisms” for which the martyrs rejected and willingly died for.

This ecumenical Baptist movement is troubling and most of all surprising. The “presbyterian” movement is not as surprising, as we do share much in common theologically. Believers only baptism is not one of them, and thus a point of division. I hold them as dear brothers and sisters in Christ, but who are in serious theological error and agree with the need to divide in order for us to be faithful to Scripture. Our history as part of a greater Baptist community has stood against theological appeasement since the earliest days of the Reformation as well as by our English Baptist forefathers. In recent years the Conservative Resurgence turned back a movement that was leading us to theological liberalism. Yet, here we are again, having to defend within our own Convention, Baptist Distinctives that Scripture clearly teaches. Believers Baptism is not the only cherished doctrine that is currently under attack from within our own ranks. It is not even the most prominent attack. It is however the most illogical one, because WE ARE BAPTISTS. Our very name identifies us as being a people like Manz and others, who believe that the only valid biblical baptism is believers baptism!

At this point, I must make clear that I do understand the difference between the Anabaptists (whom I call our forerunners) and our English Baptist forefathers. I agree with Dr. Malcolm Yarnell in “The Heart of a Baptist” when he states: Of the four Reformation era traditions just mentioned, Baptists come closest to the Anabaptists, for we are their theological heirs, even if we may or may not claim to be their direct historical heirs. I am a Christ-follower first, and unashamedly a Baptist by conviction. I agree with those who have gone before us, both Baptist and Anabaptist, who were convinced that Believers Baptism is a doctrine not only worth fighting for, it is worth dividing over, and yes, worth dying for. There is something about their conviction to the fundamental truth of Scripture that appeals to me.

Several men and women were martyred for their faith in Christ during the 16th Century, many for following Christ's command regarding baptism. Our non-protestant radical reformation forerunners died for a just cause: Fulfilling The Great Commission of Christ and obeying all that He commanded. Any “baptism” that is not immersion of a believer has failed to obey Christ and has failed to obey The Great Commission.

I wish I could ask Manz and Sattler and others what they think of Baptists who have in all practicality declared their deaths meaningless and pointless. I do not believe that these men and women died for naught. But it will be for naught for Southern Baptists if we do not turn back those that seek to take us away from obeying Christ. It will be for naught if we do not follow their example of faithfully holding to the Scriptures no matter the cost.

Below are some short accounts of a few of those that paid the ultimate price for a doctrine that Baptists have always held near and dear. Remember what they did for Christ and for those of us that came after them.

Huldrych Zwingli's successor Heinrich Bullinger wrote of Felix Manz:

As he came down from the Wellenberg to the fish market, and was led through the shambles to the boat, he praised God that he was about to die for His truth. For Anabaptism was right, and founded on the Word of God, and Christ had foretold that His followers would suffer for the truth’s sake. And the like discourse he urged much, contradicting the preacher who attended him. On the way his mother and brother came to him, and exhorted him to be stedfast; and he persevered in his folly, even to the end. When he was bound upon the hurdle, and was about to be thrown into the stream by the executioner, he sang with a loud voice: ‘In manus Tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum.’ (‘Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.’) And herewith was he drawn into the water by the executioner, and drowned.

From Wikipedia

Please read what Martyrs Mirror has to say about a few of those who were martyred for believers baptism:

George Blaurock: On the day Manz was martyred, Blaurock was severely beaten and permanently expelled from Zürich. He kept moving, laboring at Bern, Biel, the Grisons, and Appenzell. After his arrest and 4th banishment in April of 1527, Blaurock left Switzerland never to return. From here he turned to the Tyrol. In 1529 he became the pastor of the church in Adige Valley, after their former pastor, Michael Kürschner, was burned at the stake. Blaurock conducted a very successful ministry in Tyrol. Many believers were baptized and churches founded. In August he and Hans Langegger were arrested by Innsbruck authorities. While in captivity they were tortured for information. On September 6, 1529, Blaurock and Langegger were burned at the stake near Klausen.

Dirk Willems: Dirk was imprisoned in Netherlands; escaped through window by rope. Prison guard chased Dirk across frozen river. Dirk crosses safely; guard fell through ice. Dirk rescued guard, who captured him. Dirk was burned at stake. Remembered as compassionate Christian who risked recapture to save pursuer.

Hans Bret: Anabaptist baker in Netherlands; imprisoned & tortured for teaching Anabaptist faith. His letters to his mother detail torture. Before being burned at stake, tongue screw was used to silence him. Pastor retrieved screw; married Hans’ mother: screw became family heirloom.

Michael Sattler: Arrested; charged with violations of Catholic doctrine & practice. Asked for debate; prosecutor replied: “You rascal of a monk, should we dispute with you? The hangman shall dispute with you” 20 May 1527, martyred. Tongue cut out; Chained to wagon; Flesh torn with hot tongs; Bound to ladder; bag of gunpowder around his neck; pushed into fire; Prayed for persecutors. Wife Margaretha was drowned 8 days later.

Balthasar Hubmaier: 10 March 1528, in Vienna, burned at stake with sulphur & gunpowder rubbed into his beard. “O dear brothers, pray God that he will give me patience in this my suffering. I will die in the Christian faith.” Wife Elizabeth drowned in Danube 3 days later.

In the booklet Who Were the Anabaptists, we see that not only were these faithful believers tortured and killed by Roman Catholics, but by “evangelical” Protestants as well.

One of the very few things on which most Protestants and Catholics agreed at this time was the persecution of Anabaptists! As a rule, Catholics burned them, but Protestants drowned or beheaded them.

The Anabaptists criticised Luther, Zwingli and the other Reformers for being ‘halfway men’, afraid to follow through what they knew from Scripture to be right. They were convinced that the Bible was authoritative for ethics and the shape of the church as well as for doctrine, which many Reformers seemed unwilling to admit.

The Anabaptist movement was drowned in blood in many parts of Europe, but their courageous martrydoms attracted many people to their teachings – so much so that the authorities sometimes resorted to tongue-screws to silence Anabaptist on route to their execution. ...15-year old Adriaen searches through the ashes to find the tongue-screw used on his mother, Maeyken Wens. Hubmaier spoke for all Anabaptists when he said: “Truth is immortal. You may burn a man to death for heresy, but if he believes the truth, you have not destroyed it.”

I invite you to read more on Michael Sattler:

Michael Sattler was captured by the Roman Catholic authorities in Horb, tried on May 17, 1527 at Rottenburg, and was martyred on May 21, 1527. "On the morning of that day this noble man of God, in sight of horrible torture, prayed for his judges and persecutors and admonished the people to repentance. He endured the inhuman torture stipulated in the sentence. Then his mangled body was tied to a ladder. He prayed again for his persecutors while the ladder was placed upon the stake. He had promised his friends to give them a sign from the burning stake, to show that he remained steadfast to the end, enduring it all willingly for Christ. The fire having severed the cords wherewith he was bound, he lifted up his hand for a sign to them. Soon it was noticed that his spirit had taken its flight to be with Him whom he had steadfastly confessed under the most excruciating torture, a true hero of the faith.

Mennonites In Europe, John Horsch, Rod and Staff Publishers, Inc., 1942, 1995, pp.70-78.

...Michael Sattler, [an Anabaptist]...was 'committed to the executioner...[and taken] to the square and they first cut out his tongue, and then forged him fast to a wagon and there with glowing iron tongues twice tear pieces from his body, then on the way to the site of execution five times more as above and then burn his body to powder as an arch-heretic' [?]...Sattler, who had given a true and skillful testimony at the trial, was thus handled. Even after the pieces were torn from his body and a part of his tongue cut out, Sattler still prayed for his persecutors and admonished the officials to repent and be converted. As he was dying, Sattler raised the two fore-fingers of his hands giving the signal to the brethren, as he had arranged, that a martyr's death was bearable. From his seared lips, the crowd heard him say, 'Father, I commend my spirit into Thy hands.' Then he fell asleep.

The Noble Army of "Heretics", Bill Jackson, Colonial Baptist Press and on the web, pp. 27-28.

Then there was George Wagner:

When he was delivered over to the executioner and led into the middle of the city, this excellent man said, “This day will I confess my God to the glory of Christ Jesus, that such happiness is afforded me in the sight of all the world.” His face was not pale nor were his eyes distorted. With a smile playing on his lips he went to the fire, where the executioner bound him to the ladder and hung a bag of gunpowder around his neck. And when he had taken leave of a Christian brother, he was thrust into the fire, and calmly yielded up his spirit to Christ, February 8, 1527.

J. Newton Brown's book, Memorials of Baptist Martyrs


Benji Ramsaur said...


You said "Believers Baptism is not the only cherished doctrine that is currently under attack from within our own ranks."

Who is attacking believer's baptism amongst Southern Baptists?

Ron Phillips, Sr. said...


Sorry about the delay in posting your comment. I have moderation enabled for articles after they have been posted for 14 days. I did not see the email that a post was waiting moderation.

In the paragraph above the quote you are asking about, I stated: Would today's Baptist be willing to accept some into their church as a member, who sincerely believed their infant baptism to be biblically justified? Would they invite them to share in the Lord's table? It is happening within our Convention today, though historically and categorically rejected by Baptists as un-biblical.

I do not have time tonight and search for links, but there are several discussions in the blog world regarding just that. Apparently Tom Ascol has member(s) who have not been biblically baptized. Les Puryear has stated that he is amenable to paedobaptism (he since qualified his statement when running for SBC President). I can not remember who, but I remember someone stating that if a person was sincerely convinced their paedobaptism was biblically valid, that they would accept that.

I stand by my statement that baptism is under attack within our own ranks. This includes the attack on historic (BFM 1925, 1963, and 2000) statements on the ordinance of Baptism as an ordinance of the church.


Ron P.

Randy Lucas said...


I hope you will read this blog by a former Baptist, turned Reformed paedo-baptist, as it expresses much of what I would hope to express to you in response to your comments. I will not claim that I realized my hermeneutic is wrong (as I have a hard time spelling hermeneutic). However, the idea that I was looking at things backward and not seeing the bigger picture because I was convinced of certain details without seeing a bigger picture, or knowing that one existed.

I think that the largest issue in the Southern Baptist Convention is not that people aren't standing up for credo-baptism alone, but that most Baptists have no education in church history, theology, or ecclesiology.

As a former Southern Baptist turned Reformed paedo-baptist Presbyterian, my biggest regret from my Baptist days is that I was not educated on what being Baptist meant (primarily being pre-tribulation, pre-millienial, and dispensational). In 30 years of being Baptist, attending a Baptist University, and being a Baptist minister, I learned nothing (or at least not enough) about these things to know what they meant. Once God revealed the bigger picture of the Covenant to me through Scripture, it finally all made sense. I'm not saying it answered every question, that would be arrogant. But for the first time in my life, I truly believe the bible now defines my personal theology, and I can now explain my personal theology using the bible. There is much freedom in that.

I do not seek to be a "Reformed Baptist", because Baptists are not Reformed by definition (that would require being Covenantal). I think you are right to argue that Baptists should stand up for Baptist doctrine. However, I think your first obstacle is going to be a) defining what Baptist doctrine is (is it Calvinist or Areminian? Pre-Trib/Post-Trib? Dispensational or Covenantal (or New Covenantal)? Is this difficult or impossible to define with respect to autonomy of the local church and priesthood of the believer?), and b) educating Baptists in Baptist doctrine once it is clear. I do not believe the Baptist Faith and Message to be a clear guide on any of these details of the faith, nor a good guide to a big-picture view of the bible and theology. It is my view that you can believe any of the above positions and be a Southern Baptist. Typically the Southern Baptist position is a non-position.

I have no doubt you can pick a handful of Southern Baptist churches in my city this Sunday, visit each one, and here polar opposite of these and other doctrinal views being preached from the pulpits of each. You have to get Baptists to agree and understand what being Baptist is before you can expect them to stand up for anything (in harmony). I hope this comes across in the most humble way, but I hope it does come across.

My advice in three lines:
1) Southern Baptists, decide what you believe and what you do not believe.
2) Southern Baptists, educate your brethren in what a Baptist believes and does not believe.
3) Southern Baptists, stand up for what you believe.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Ron Phillips, Sr. said...


Thanks for stopping by. I looked at the site, and it is similar to other Baptists who have left for reformed or Presbyterian churches.

"Baptist" Theology at it's best seeks to be Biblical in application of the Word of God. This would include ecclesiology (church), sotierology (salvation), and so forth. That is why I am a Baptist, particularly Southern Baptist. I would go further than you and say that many Southern Baptists are ignorant of Church history, theology and ecclesiology. But that is endemic of every denomination and convention. However, though Church history is important, preaching the Word of God should be the focus of Worship and "Bible" study, not Church history nor Church tradition. That is the failing of many mainline denominations in that they have forsaken the Word of God.

I would disagree with you that being Baptist meant (primarily being pre-tribulation, pre-millienial, and dispensational. Eschatological views have almost nothing to do with defining a Baptist. I do wish that your experience was not the norm, but unfortunately, the battle for the Bible has been lost in some of our universities. I think you are incorrect that Baptists have to agree on Calvinism, Tribulation views etc. The Baptist "tent" is big enough for all within those views. For example, I am neither an Arminian nor a Calvinist (5 point). I am a Biblicist. What defines a Baptist, in my mind, is Biblical theology and ecclesiology. That is why we can not compromise Christ's Great Commission and His Command to make disciples and Baptize (immerse) them. Anything else is disobedience. I gladly accept the term Baptist that the Reformers and Catholics meant as a term of derision.

The Baptist Faith and Message (BFM) is not meant to be used as a creed, but it is our Confession of what we believe. It is not a "maximal" document by any means. The preamble to the BFM 2000 states in part: Baptists are a people of deep beliefs and cherished doctrines. Throughout our history we have been a confessional people, adopting statements of faith as a witness to our beliefs and a pledge of our faithfulness to the doctrines revealed in Holy Scripture. Further... That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. and it further adds... That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. and finally... That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience..

The following paragraphs in the preamble succinctly makes the point:
Baptists cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches. We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers, affirming together both our liberty in Christ and our accountability to each other under the Word of God.

Baptist churches, associations, and general bodies have adopted confessions of faith as a witness to the world, and as instruments of doctrinal accountability. We are not embarrassed to state before the world that these are doctrines we hold precious and as essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice.
(Emphasis of the various preamble statements in the preceding paragraphs are all mine.)

Southern Baptists have decided what we believe: The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is what we as a convention of churches hold as essential. I concur that we do need to do a better job at educating about those essential beliefs. But I do not believe that Baptists have failed to stand up for what we believe. We turned back a movement towards liberal theology in our convention and seminaries though again, I wish we had won all the battles for our institutions, colleges, universities and state conventions.

Randy, finally, I want to commend you for your honesty. You stated I do not seek to be a "Reformed Baptist", because Baptists are not Reformed by definition... Unfortunately, we do have some who believe as you do, but will not be honest and admit that they basically are not really a Baptist in practice and belief, except that they are a member of a Southern Baptist Church. I believe you to have more integrity than they.


Ron P.