The writing on the passenger side rearview mirror of most vehicles in the USA says “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear” and according to Wikipedia its “because while these mirrors’ convexity gives them a useful field of view, it also makes objects appear smaller….”
In a word, it’s about perspective. As a child I was always amazed by this fact. The cars seemed so far away and then they came up beside me so fast! Those were the days before cell phones and iPads.. I wonder if kids today even pay any attention to such things. But that’s a discussion for a different day.
Time is a lot like those mirrors, aren’t they? Things always seem different looking back in time than what they do in the present, don’t they? Talk to most anyone above thirty years old and they will tell you how much better life was in their younger days than it is now, and how fast time crept up on them. What they say might be true or it might be a bit exaggerated as they look back the way they remember it.
And so it is with today’s Hyper-Landmarkers dealing with Baptist history and current Baptists. Read a good Baptist history book such as John T. Christian’s two volume set (“A History of the Baptists”) or even W.A. Jarrell’s “Baptist Church Perpetuity” and you will find many different Baptists by many different names going all the way back through history. Most Baptists are quite happy to claim them as part of their heritage in spite of their faults, or in spite of the fact that not every one of those links in the chain matches the other in every point. They are quite happy to make charts with those names in spite of the fact that they would not have any fellowship with them because of doctrinal differences if they were here today.
In other words, their view is different looking through that rearview mirror at history than what it is looking in the next lane in the present.
I do believe there is a line of churches going all the way back to the first church in Jerusalem, but I say, if you’re going to admit them into our history as “true churches” of times gone by, then you need to be consistent and admit them as “true churches” today. If you want to deny them to be “true churches” today, then you should deny them to be “true churches” of the past. Either way, there needs to be consistency.
There’s a need for a shift in perspective and consistency. Even going back 100 years or so, it seems like the Baptists used to work together a lot better than they do now.
To be clear, the modern hyper-landmarker has isolated himself to a point that he believes his – and only his – “kind” of Baptist church is the “only true church” and all others are “false.” Yet, he is faced with many problems in his position, including…
- …when he flat out refuses fellowship with any Baptist who believes in a universal church. (J.M. Pendleton believed in a universal church, and still was able to do much for the landmark movement. Read his booklet on An Old Landmark Reset and also his book on Christian Doctrines: A Compendium of Theology).
- …when he denies that any true church could possibly be in any convention or association. (Graves, Pendleton, and Dayton were all in the Southern Baptist Convention.)
- …when he says the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (sometimes called the 1689 Confession) is a heretical confession. (It was the confession of the Particular Baptists in England and the Philadelphia Baptist Association in America from which many of our churches came from. Although you may not agree with it in every point, I would recommend getting a copy and studying it. Solid Ground Christian Books sells a paperback or a leather bound copy for a great price. )
There are others I could list, but I will leave these three for now. You, the reader, can check these with the pages of history. The modern landmark movement has grown into something that is much different than what it was originally. So much so, that if Graves, Dayton, or Pendleton were alive today, they would not be welcome in most Landmark Baptist churches!
Baptists are a diverse group of people with churches spread out over 2000 years of history and all over this world. We don’t always see eye to eye on everything but someday we’ll all be in the presence of the Lord and He will straighten all of us out. It’s a great blessing when we can have some fellowship now together with other brethren, and who knows we might enjoy it!