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A CRITIQUE OF THE ENGLISH
SEPARATIST DESCENT THEORY IN
BAPTIST HISTORIOGRAPHY

ABSTRACT

This thesis is limited to a consideration of the English Separatist descent theory, one of three theories of Baptist origins which have emerged in the past two hundred years. After introducing briefly the chief affirmations and leading advocates of the successionist and Anabaptist spiritual kinship theories respectively, brief biographical sketches of six English Separatist descent historians are presented. The second chapter discusses the sources and methodology used by these historians as well as the issues facing them. Chapters three and four delineate the historical data English Separatist descent advocates used to substantiate their denials of organic and theological identification of Baptists with Anabaptists (successionist and Anabaptist spiritual kinship theories). A concluding chapter gives a critical appraisal of English Separatist descent historians' methodology, sources, affirmations, and denials. The investigation reveals that these historians generally followed their goal of objectivity and scientific methodology; however, they occasionally committed methodological errors not consistent with their goal. Moreover, historical facts substantiate some of the affirmations and denials of the theory; other facts, however, inconsistent with the theology have been discovered. Theological presuppositions have apparently influence English Separatist descent historians in formulating their conclusions. The author's final assessment is that theological considerations actually have formed the differences in interpretation among advocates of all three theories and will continue to do so. The conclusion of the thesis is that a wise course, therefore, would be for advocates of these theories to admit that, granted the validity of their theological convictions, their theory of Baptist origins only approximates historical fact.

 
 
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