Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Powerful Rebuttal In Liberalism's Face: Office Of Landmark Studies

Today it was my great pleasure to spend the morning with Dr. Emir Caner, Dr. Thomas White, Dr. Malcolm Yarnell, and several other of the diligent scholars at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tonight, nearly eight hours after my return home, I'm still giddy with excitement about the things that we discussed. History is going to be made in the next few months, and if God is willing, the Southern Baptist Convention will never be the same again.

Next Fall, the Center for Theological Research will open the Office of Landmark Studies. The purpose of the office will be to develop and disseminate scholarly resources to begin the work of rebutting the fifty years of virulent anti-Landmark inaccuracies that have been foisted upon the Southern Baptist people by bitter academicians. Several factors make the timing of this action fortuitous, IMHO:

  1. Landmarkism was among the more resilient inoculations against liberalism in the SBC 100 years ago. With the most popular and powerful blog in the Southern Baptist Convention having become the leading standard bearer for the liberal position on the question of women pastors, there is a need for an organized and intensive voice in defense of sound Baptist theology. The Office of Landmark Studies will be able to employ the resources available at BaptistTheology.org to provide online rebuttals, while the Southwestern Journal of Theology will provide a presence in the academic world.
  2. The Office of Landmark Studies will have an opportunity to refine and correct antebellum and turn-of-the-century Landmarkism, reinvigorating its stronger points while cutting away some of its weaker aspects. For example, nineteenth-century Landmarkism was generally open to interaction with some Baptists affiliated with what is today the ABC. The intervening years have revealed Northern Baptists to be liberals—in large part, heretics. A renewed Landmarkism will be able to consider carefully the developments of the past century and have a more informed and critical view of so-called "Baptists" outside of the Southern Baptist Convention. Also, Graves-Dayton-Pendleton-type Landmarkism, like all of Southern Baptist history except for the past few years, was entirely beholden to the Democratic Party. Now that we have broken free of the stranglehold that the Democrats once had upon us, we have no intention of going back. Freed from these impediments, a new Landmarkism will be able to flourish like never before.
  3. I'm hoping that the founding of the Office of Landmark Studies will foreshadow an expansion of the Church History program at SWBTS. The core curriculum that you and I studied at SWBTS in the 80s or 90s was built around the idea of teaching four hundred years of Baptist History. The Baptist Heritage class needs to be split into two sections and greatly expanded to instruct students more fully about the English Baptists' robust antecedents who lived and served throughout the Patristic and Medieval periods.
  4. Southern Baptists have shown greater attention in recent years to the doctrine of the Kingdom of God. A still-ongoing program in SBC life is entitled "Empowering Kingdom Growth." But what is the Kingdom of God? Now—in the face of Barna's "Revolutionaries" and in the light of our own emphasis—is the time to remind the body of Christ that the Kingdom of God consists of the aggregate of New Testament Baptist Churches.

I attended the meeting in an advisory and encouraging role, but am thrilled to have walked away with a more tangible method for contributing to the project. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of SWBTS's relocation to Fort Worth, the seminary plans to release a revised and expanded edition of James Milton Carroll's classic work The Trail of Blood. I have agreed to edit this revision, which I hope to have in print and on the shelves at your local Lifeway Christian Store by mid-2009.


Tim Guthrie said...


Alan Cross said...

April Fools.

It was much too obvious. :)

Debbie Kaufman said...

My first thought was this has to be April Fool's . The scary thing is Tim's response. :)

Anonymous said...

This is funny and sad. The sad part is it's believability.

Anonymous said...

This is awesome! I'm excited about it too! I hope the other seminaries follow suit.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

One correction: the office was originally founded in 1908.

Bart Barber said...


it's = "it is"
its = 3rd person neuter plural possessive pronoun

Funny and sad: Sad that you haven't mastered the English language...funny that you had the foresight not to attach your name to it.

Les Puryear said...


You got me. I was shocked as I was reading this tome. Thank goodness for the less gullible of your readers in the comment section.

What is truly scary is that some of your commenters are just as gullible as I am and want to see this actually happen.


Scott Gordon said...


Prentice Fox said...

Landmarkism has become identified with Negative Connotations throughout much of Baptist History. If truly objective Scholars can reveal Positive contibutions; that wouls stimulate some exhilarating conversations between liberal and conservative theologians.  Let the Dialogues Begin !!

Tim Guthrie said...

You have got to be kidding me! Are you that one sided! :) :)

Ben Macklin said...

Finally, J.M. Carroll will be vindicated and given the place of respect and honor he deserves in the impressive array of Baptist theological giants.

Someday, Bart, I'll form the office of Bartian studies in your honor. We'll study agrarian revolt models of Baptist political unrest and other bucolic pursuits.

Your constituent,

Ben Macklin

Jonathon said...

Dr. Barber,

When you say that the Kingdom of God is made up of Baptist churches, do you mean to say that those outside of the Baptist realm are outside the Kingdom of God?

Tiffany Norris said...

I had the same question as Jonathon.
Surely you don't mean the Kingdom of God only consists of Baptist churches--"New Testament" or otherwise.

Anonymous said...


Well I'll be dad-gummed. I was already writing out my check for starting the project.

With that, I am...


volfan007 said...

jonathan and tiffany,

it's april fool's day.


Bart Barber said...

J. R. Graves taught that the Kingdom of God consisted of the aggregate of New Testament (Baptist) churches. Graves believed that there were genuine Christian believers in Methodist churches, Campbellite churches, Presbyterian churches, or even unaffiliated with any church at all. Graves believed that these Christians were outside the Kingdom of God so long as they remained separated from any New Testament church.

Bart Barber said...


The cheerleaders were in on the gag from the beginning and came on board for dramatic effect.

Jonathon said...


I was so scared you were serious. I was dreading it, but I was going to have to debate you on this....already working on my rebuttal. The thought of debating a Dr....well, for a simple college student...a daunting task. But, no worries now.


Matt said...

An April Fool's post regarding our SBC seminaries that doesn't involve personal attacks or the posting of selected, out-of-context excerpts from a deposition with the intent of imposing a specific impression upon the readers? This is an outrage!!!

Fred said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tiffany Norris said...

Yes, I understood that the post overall should be read in light of "the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other 364."
Just wanted clarification on that particular statement. Troubles me when any denomination thinks it has a corner on heaven. :)
(Sorry...I posted with my other account before.)

Anonymous said...

You may think this post is a joke.
But I have personally seen a photo of one of our SBC seminary professors bowing down before the tombstone of J. R. Graves. Apparently some sort of secret rite. I also heard that this same professor once spoke to Paige Patterson.
If that is not proof of a conspiracy, I don't know what is :-).

David R. Brumbelow

Bart Barber said...


Here's the tip-off for you:

P owerful
R ebuttal
I n
L iberalism's

F ace
O ffice
O f
L andmark
S tudies

Bart Barber said...


I believe, without apology, that consistently and conscientiously practiced Baptist theology (in some variant or another) puts one closer to the church described in the New Testament than does, for example, consistently and conscientiously practiced Methodist theology. And I'm willing to say so to whomever. That fact, all by itself, makes me a radical Landmarker in some people's books these days. Thus the joke.

There is a line at which a group becomes so distant from New Testament Christianity that no good reason exists to hope for the salvation of any who remain with that group (e.g., the Mormons). But that line falls far from the line delineating Baptists from others. Thus, we have brethren who are brethren indeed but are wrong (and I'm willing to say, are in unrepentant sin on some issues like infant sprinkling). But they are still Christians and are I hope to spend eternity with them (where they'll all be immersionists!).

As to my personal viewpoint on the boundaries of the Kingdom of God, I'm inclined to believe that it is essentially an eschatological concept, even if it is anticipated already in some partial spiritual sense. In my opinion, the journey is far too short from Graves's position to Rauschenbusch's (that rumbling from Memphis that you hear is J. R. Graves spinning in his sarcophagus).

We pray that God's kingdom will come on earth as it is in Heaven. In so praying we recognize both that it can and that it has not. I believe that it will, in God's good time.

Bart Barber said...


I should also clarify that J. M. Pendleton did not share J. M. Graves's viewpoint on the extent of the Kingdom of God.

GUNNY said...

Scope out my avatar. Get a GOOD LOOK at my face.

That's the new picture next to the definition of gullible in the dictionary.

Or as Wayne & Garth would say, "Fished in! Fished in!"

Les Puryear said...


Good one. Like I said, "You got me."


Wade Burleson said...

Really wonderful April Fool's joke! My word, and to think some might have actually believed that the most popular and powerful blog in the Southern Baptist Convention has become the leading standard bearer for the liberal position on the question of women pastors Obviously, it is the 'standard bearer for the conservative position on the question of women in ministry.' Thanks for acknowledging the joke!


Bart Barber said...


Don't let it go to your head. The most popular and powerful story on the news last night was a train wreck. Or was it a destructive tornado? Either way...

Wade Burleson said...

My Bart. A little testy are we?

Scott Gordon said...


wade's just like the others...

he doesn't get the joke either!

sola gratia!

Bart Barber said...

I thought I was being clever. My rapier wit, you know.

Jim Duggan said...

You referenced your rapier wit. A little word of advice that might help you with a few previous comments: never engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

Jonathon said...

Dr. Barber,

I noticed, while studying the subject of Landmarkism in light of your post, (I was trying to do research on how to rebuttal your kingdom of God thoughts), anyway, I noticed that your dissertation was credited by Wikipedia as challenging "the link between Landmarkism" and the subject of the SBC apportioning messangers on the basis of number of members and dollars given, which led to some controversies "provoked by Samuel Augustus Hayden and Benjamin M. Bogard. (See Wikipedia on Landmarkism)

I had no idea I was conversing with a famous SBC man. Awesome.

Anyway, on the Kingdom of God. I see it is as already not yet. George Eldon Ladd has written some great thoughts here. I see the Kingdom as already here in the sense that Christ has ushered it in at His first coming. He comes to reverse the effects of the fall and to restore the kingdom (which found perfect expression in Eden prior to Gen 3) to its rightful place.

When Christ comes healing the sick, making the lame walk, opening the eyes of the blind, He is doing more than saying He is the Logos. He is saying that in the kingdom He is going to establish the effects of the fall will be done away with. The kingdom will be restored in all its perfection and harmony. No disease, no sickness, no blidness, etc.

At the cross it looks like defeat, but it is actually the first stage of ultimate victory. At the cross the sin debt is paid, at the resurrection the power of sin and death is crushed, and at His second coming Jesus will cast all that are opposed to His rule into outer darkness. Thus ushereing in the kingdom of God fully and finally.

So, in one sense it is not here "finally", but it is here. I hope that made sense, I rambled and typed really fast.

Dave Miller said...

I was baffled, befuddled and bewildered.

Andrew H said...

Amen, Jonothan, on your post on the kingdom. Ladd has it right. What is sad about the April Fool's joke is that I actually wasn't surprised when I read about it. I thought that SWBTS would actually do something like that.

Ben Stratton said...

Bro. Bart,

I got all excited till I realized this was an April Fool's joke. I guess I'll have to put out the revised Trail of Blood myself.

Bart Barber said...


Whatever your personal views may be, your blog has become the leading advocate of the liberal view of women as pastors.