Not "When is a Christian not a Christian?" That is, in and of itself, a valid question. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is indeed a Christian. I'm not exclusively talking about false professions. Mormons, for example, claim to be Christians but are not. But that is for another post someday.
Instead, I'm asking the similar question, "When is a church not a church?"
The old Landmark Baptists asked this question and answered that only Baptist churches are really churches. Their reply has drawn upon them great criticism. I, too, criticize this answer as a poor one.
But I notice this: Those who criticize the Landmark answer refuse to propose an alternative. If compromise of the Baptist Distinctives does not invalidate the existence of a church, then what does? Does anything?
I hope to inaugurate some discussion of this topic. I'm going to dedicate the next few posts to an exploration of the biblical basis for church validity/invalidity, the history of Baptist thought on this topic, and contemporary issues surrounding this item of ecclesiology.
In the end, I hope to propose an alternative to the Landmark system.