committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

A CRITIQUE OF THE ENGLISH
SEPARATIST DESCENT THEORY IN
BAPTIST HISTORIOGRAPHY

 

SPECIAL NOTE

The current document, entitled "A Critique of the English Separatist Descent Theory in Baptist Historiography," was produced as a thesis for the Master of Arts degree at Baylor University, Waco, Texas, many years ago--back in 1966 to be exact!

At the suggestion of several friends I have elected to publish it as an Html document. I beg the patience and indulgence of the reader relative to errors. Since I had to scan a thirty-year-old-document, I am sure that many errors are present. And . . . after I got started, I did this work in a hurry! Accordingly, I ask any friend who happens to find these errors, to let me know about them. I will thankfully make the needed corrections.

Also I am sure that much more research has been published since I made this study. I would welcome any suggestions relative to other research and discoveries which would add to or otherwise change my work and conclusions.

As you read the document, please note the following suggestions:

Thank you very much for your interest. If you want to write me, please write to the following address:

prbryan@bmaweb.net

Philip R. Bryan, Ph.D.
Jacksonville, Texas
December 1998

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The author wishes to express appreciation to Baylor University Professors Glenn 0. Hilburn, James E. Wood, Jr., and Lyle C. Brown for their patience and helpful directions which enabled him to conduct proper research, to evaluate critically and compile his findings, and to put his findings and conclusions in acceptable form. Moreover, Mrs. Mary Hughes, who came to the rescue on short notice, deserves special commendation for her editing and typing. Especially helpful in securing necessary research materials were the Baylor University Library staff, particularly Mrs. Jean Tolbert, Tidwell Bible Librarian, and Miss Estaline Cox, Reference and Documents Librarian. The author is grateful to President Gerald D. Kellar and Dean W. J. Dorman of the North American Theological Seminary of Jacksonville, Texas, for arranging his teaching schedule in a manner which permitted him to pursue his graduate studies at Baylor University, 1964-1966.

The genesis of the thesis actually began in the academic year of 1964-1965. In seminars of Professors C. W. Christian and James E. Wood, Jr., the author presented reports delineating various aspects of sixteenth century Anabaptist theology. Being a Baptist, the author began to speculate concerning the precise relationship of seventeenth century English Baptists and Continental Anabaptists. Resultant growing interest in these movements and subsequent conferences with Professors Wood and Hilburn led to the selection, in October, 1965, of the following study. Since a detailed exposition of the three basic theories of Baptist origins would have been of greater scope than desirable in a thesis for a Master of Arts degree, the study was limited, therefore, to "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.

 

Chapter 1  Theories of Baptist Origins

Chapter 2 Methodology and Sources of English Separatist Descent Historians

Chapter 3 Denial of Organic Identification of Baptists with Anabaptists

Chapter 4 Denial of Theological Identification of Baptists with Anabaptists

Chapter 5 Summary and Critique

Bibliography

Abstract

Acknowledgments

 

 
 
The Reformed Reader Home Page 


Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved