A recent poster wrote to me that he is not a Protestant, but a Baptist. This is puzzling as it is not only incorrect, but it underpins one of Baptists’ many unbiblical beliefs: that they are the original church that Jesus instituted. Over time it became corrupt and when the term “Baptists” came to be used in the 1500s, it was a return to early, 1st century Christianity.

Baptists often use a work by J. M. Carroll, “The Trail of Blood,” published in 1931. Carroll gives his view of church history in order to justify a sort of Baptist succession where none exists. It is a seriously flawed rendering of church history, because of Carroll’s willingness to embrace heretics of virtually any stripe and claim them for the Baptist lineage, as long as they weren’t traditional Catholics.

Some of these include the Donatists and Novatians. I am quoting this from http://www.shasta.com/sphaws/trail.html. I quote it here as most of the links on the original page are broken.

The problem with the Donatists & Novatians is that they were perhaps TOO CATHOLIC! They definitely weren’t Baptists in theology or outlook.

Novatians and Donatists apparently arose as a result of the Roman persecutions and the issue of how to deal with apostates.

The Novatians apparently were fully Catholic in everything EXCEPT one thing: Novatians would not allow apostates back into the Church at all! The Catholics would readmit upon severe penance. Furthermore, Novatian himself apparently tried to set himself up as Pope…hardly what a Baptist minister would do.

Donatists apparently arose from the belief that the validity of the Sacraments depended on the personal worthiness of the priest. Donatists apparently were Catholic in everything except one thing: Donatists denied the validity of the Catholic clergy, apparently because some might have been ordained by former apostates. Donatists demanded a ‘pure’ clergy for the Sacraments to be valid. Consequently, Donatists rebaptised Catholic converts who entered Donatist Churches, but it apparently had nothing to do with “believer’s baptism.”

The actual 1st century church, when looked at honestly and open-mindedly, reveals a primitive, yet decidedly Catholic Church. This is not just coming from someone who is Catholic and trying to justify myself. I have a nearly 30-year background as a Baptist myself, active in my local Baptist church(es), serving as a Librarian, Sunday School teacher, and as Deacon. When I gave an honest look at Church history, I was so overwhelmingly shocked at what I found that it led me to the Catholic Church. I also feel not a little betrayed at how dishonest the Baptist view of Church history is, along with its deliberate deceitful portrayal of Catholicism.

Take a look at Clement of Rome. Clement was ordained by Peter himself. He was young enough to have known many of the Apostles. He later became the third or fourth pope depending on which critic you listen to. As a pope mentioned so early in history, the earlier popes must have been alive, and leading the Church during the lifetime of the Apostle John, and possibly Paul, who died sometime after Peter. John’s writings are some of the latest of the New Testament, yet he never speaks out against the “growing menace of the papacy.”

Instead we have Clement, the first of the Church Fathers actually promoting Apostolic succession and church hierarchy. His 1st letter to the Corinthians was written because the churches had rebelled against the appointed bishop and tried to set up its own. In chapters 42-44 he uses the example of Moses writing down the law, and says that the prophets are his successors. Then he uses the story of when the Israelites were jealous of Aaron and his status as the chosen high priest. Moses had Aaron and the twelve tribes place rods in the Tabernacle and left them there overnight and the the rod of Aaron was found not only to have blossomed, but even to be bearing fruit.

“What do you think, loved ones? That Moses did not know in advance this would happen? Of course he knew. But he did this so that there might be no disorderliness in Israel…So too our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that strife would arise over the office of the bishop. For this reason, since they understood perfectly well in advance what would happen, they appointed those we have already mentioned; and afterwards they added a codicil to the effect that if these should die, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. Thus we do not think it right to remove from the ministry those who were appointed by them (the dissenters), or, afterwards, by other reputable men, with the entire church giving its approval…Indeed we commit no little sin if we remove from the bishop’s office those who offer the gifts (the Eucharist) in a blameless and holy way.” (Clement, 2005). (emphasis mine)

Clement then even talks to the Corinthians about the letters that “that blessed apostle, Paul” had written to them earlier concerning a similar issue. Notice that he is not rebelling against Paul’s teaching. He is in conformity with it. This is hardly the voice of someone who is rebelling again the Christian church and trying to set up a separate Catholicity.

He completely destroys several Baptist beliefs. First, there is a hierarchy in the priesthood, second that there is Apostolic succession of the offices, third, that the priests (Gr. Presbyters or pastors) are appointed, not voted in by the congregation.

Note: when Baptists recite the Nicene Creed and get to the line, “one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church” they use “Catholic” in the strict “universal” church sense rather than what we know of as the Catholic Church. To a Baptist, “apostolic” simply means based on the teaching of the apostles, which they violate because they refuse any Apostolic teaching that comes from extra-biblical sources.

Later, in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians he says something else that negates another Baptist doctrine, that once a person is “saved” they are always saved and can never lose their salvation. “As for those who do not keep the seal of their baptism, he says, ‘their worm will not die nor their fire be extinguished; and they will be a spectacle for all to see.’” (Clement, 2005).

Next look at Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius was a student of the apostles Peter and John. He knew them, studied with them, and was nurtured by them. Peter chose Ignatius as his successor as the Bishop of Syria. This is a man who knew the Apostles teaching intimately and yet he promotes a dogma that no Baptist could bring himself to believe, that the bread and wine at communion actually become the body and blood of our Precious Lord.

But take note of those who spout false opinions about the gracious gift of Jesus Christ that has come to us, and see how they are opposed to the mind of God…They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, since they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, which suffered on behalf of our sins and which the Father raised in kindness. And so those who dispute the gift of God perish while still arguing the point. It would be better for them to engage in acts of love, that they may also rise up. And so it is fitting to avoid such people and not even to speak about them, either privately or in public, but instead to pay attention to the prophets, and especially to the gospel, in which the passion is clearly shown to us and the resurrection is perfected. But flee divisions as the beginning of evils. (Ignatius, 2005).

There is much more that I could cite, but I’m tired of typing for now. As you can see, the early church was most definitely not Baptist.

Works Cited

Clement. (2005). First letter of Clement to the Corinthians. In B. D. Ehrman
(Ed.), The Apostolic Fathers: Vol. 1. I Clement, III Clement, Ignatius,
Polycarp, Didachae (chap. 42-45). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
(Original work published 2003)

Clement. (2005). Second letter of Clement to the Corinthians. In B. D. Ehrman
(Ed.), The Apostolic Fathers: Vol. 1. I Clement, III Clement, Ignatius,
Polycarp, Didachae (chap. 42-45). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
(Original work published 2003)

Ignatius. (2005). Letter of Ignatius to the Smyrneans. In B. D. Ehrman
(Ed.), The Apostolic Fathers: Vol. 1. I Clement, III Clement, Ignatius,
Polycarp, Didachae (chap. 42-45). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
(Original work published 2003)