A Brief Critique of “The Trail of Blood” by J. M. Carroll

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TylerR's picture

Editor

I have heard about this book. I believe it is a favorite among IFB Pastors, and I have frequently seen it stocked at churches over the years. I also read or heard, somewhere, that it was shoddy history and not worth my time.

Does it promote Landmark-ism or the Baptist Brider madness? Is that an angle that Carroll was going for?

I have recently grabbed a host of Baptist history material, from Leon McBeth and others. I won't be reading Trail of Tears for authentic history anytime soon, unless somebody here gives me a different take on it.

The reviewer's bold assertion that the Baptist church cannot be traced back to the Book of Acts is interesting. If he is speaking against a Landmark or Brider mentality, then I agree with him. If he is denying faithful that Christians baptized by immersion in the Book of Acts after salvation, then he is surely wrong (Acts 2:41)!

I'll skim through Trail of Tears tonight.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Tyler,

 

Yes to both Landmarkism and Briders claiming authenticity from Trail of Blood. And yes to Jim's characterization of it as hokum (never knew how to spell that).

 

Leon McBeth is excellent - accurate and fun to read (at least to a pastor and a history teacher) Smile He actually has a history and a companion volume out (sorry, not able to get titles off my bookshelf right now) that I have used teaching Baptist/church history.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Chip:

I believe you're referriing to the history volume The Baptist Heritage and the companion volume A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage. I have them both, just haven't read them. I love history, but haven't delved into church history yet. I am taking a graduate survey of Christian History this semester and am really looking forward to it.

Since you're in education, Chip, do you know of any Seminaries with good post-grad programs in Church History? I am thinking of going that route in the years to come.  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I can only speak in generalities, but I have been pretty impressed with Detroit (where I almost ended up moving myself), Central in MN, Masters and SBTS. I have had quite a bot of good interaction with men from BJ, MBBC and Faith as well. Charlie would probably be a better resource on this as he seems much better informed in higher education than I am.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Todd Bowditch's picture

TylerR wrote:

I have heard about this book. I believe it is a favorite among IFB Pastors, and I have frequently seen it stocked at churches over the years. I also read or heard, somewhere, that it was shoddy history and not worth my time.

Does it promote Landmark-ism or the Baptist Brider madness? Is that an angle that Carroll was going for?

I have recently grabbed a host of Baptist history material, from Leon McBeth and others. I won't be reading Trail of Tears for authentic history anytime soon, unless somebody here gives me a different take on it.

The reviewer's bold assertion that the Baptist church cannot be traced back to the Book of Acts is interesting. If he is speaking against a Landmark or Brider mentality, then I agree with him. If he is denying faithful that Christians baptized by immersion in the Book of Acts after salvation, then he is surely wrong (Acts 2:41)!

I'll skim through Trail of Tears tonight.

Tyler, "Trail of Tears" is a reference to the forced migration of 1000's of Native Americans from their native lands in the Southern United States...it is a blight in American History.

Less notable, less historical, but equally appalling is the anachronistic "Trail of Blood" by Carroll. It is a wonderful piece of historical revisionism. It is completely bereft of academic research and blatantly disregards the actual details of history. Somehow, Carroll finds 2000 years of Baptist history, whereas most scholarly works focus on the 400 years of actual Baptist history. Unflappable in the singularity of his position, Carroll spends a scant 90 pages developing his thoughts.  Other than that...it is a good book.

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

TylerR's picture

Editor

Todd:

I was not in my right mind when I wrote that!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Todd Bowditch's picture

I figured as much...I just like being "that guy" sometimes.... Smile

MBBC doesn't have a church history program (though Dave Saxon is an excellent church historian and I highly recommend any of his classes). Bob Jones does have a dedicated church history program. If I'm not mistaken, Southern also  has a very good church history program.

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

TylerR's picture

Editor

That was the second ridiculous mistake I made in a post this afternoon. I work nights, got up a few hours ago and scanned SI while I woke up. That's probably not a good idea without espresso in the future!

I am taking my graduate survey with Saxon this semester. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Rob Fall's picture

From what I hear, Trail of Blood is made up of the handouts and charts Carroll used in his lectures on the subject,  Thus, it leaves a lot of what he said in person out. So, at best, it's a Reader's Digest version of Baptist History.

 Me, back in the Dark Ages (1977-1981), I learned the Spiritual Kinship Theory as taught by Dr. Richard Weeks at Maranatha. Our text was John Christian's A History of the Baptists.  Pastoral Studies majors were encouraged to also purchase Thomas Armitage's Baptist History.   The SKT posits modern day Baptists have kinship back through the years and various movements to the churches of Acts.  It rejects the "Chain Link Theory" because there are no surviving physical links back before the +/-1400s.  It also rejects the "English Separatists Theory" as this would include the RCC in the Baptist lineage.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Joel Tetreau's picture

Fred,

Fantastic work on Landmark-ism. I'd like permission to copy the article and include that in a class I'm teaching here at SVBC in the summer.

Is it right that MBBC and Seminary's view of Baptist History is a kind of mix between Anabaptist Kinship and English Separatist view? Is there a diversity there on the question of Baptist heritage with the faculty?

Just curious,

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

josh p's picture

Myron Houghton wrote his dissertation on the subject of Lendmarkism. It is supposed to be excellent.

KevinM's picture

Kevin Bauder has an excellent chapter on Landmarkism in his new Baptist Distinctives and New Testament Church Order,available from your friends at Regular Baptist Press.

And yes, Myron Houghton's Dallas dissertation is excellent: The Place of Baptism in the Theology of James Robinson Graves (1971).

dmyers's picture

When I was a junior at BJU in 1980, having made the decision based on personal study that I should leave the Church of the Nazarene because I could no longer affirm that it was possible to lose your salvation, the pastor of the IFB church I was attending gave me a copy of The Trail of Blood to read.  Even as an uninformed kid, it was obvious to me that this was bunk history.  It actually caused a bit of a mental pause in my progression from Nazarene to Baptist -- did I really want to align myself with a group that would accept and even tout such stuff?  Ultimately, I had to go with the doctrine I was seeing in the Bible, while hoping that not all Baptists would be as blind or agenda-driven in their history.  Though I continued to attend that church until graduation (the pastor was an old friend of my fiance's), I tried to be careful about the churches my wife and I attended after graduating and moving on.  In the main, I think we succeeded; at least no one in our subsequent churches ever recommended The Trail of Blood.

jimcarwest's picture

Thank you, Fred Moritz, for linking us to the MBBC Journal article, which was a very useful analysis of the errors of Landmarkism.

Rob Fall's picture

Having sat under Dr. Weeks (who Dr. M cited in his second to last paragraph), I'd say there is a "black hole" somewhere in the English Channel that swallowed up any extent evidence of any direct ties between the British Isles and the Continent.  As for your second question, I have no idea in the post Cedarholm era.

On a side note, Dr. Moritz cited James M. Graves.  One of Graves' colleagues was James M. Pendleton.  Though a Kentuckian, Pendleton was a Unionist and and abolitionist.  He moved North in 1862 and later was on the faculty of Crozer Theological Seminary.

Joel Tetreau wrote:

Fred,

Fantastic work on Landmark-ism. I'd like permission to copy the article and include that in a class I'm teaching here at SVBC in the summer.

Is it right that MBBC and Seminary's view of Baptist History is a kind of mix between Anabaptist Kinship and English Separatist view? Is there a diversity there on the question of Baptist heritage with the faculty?

Just curious,

Straight Ahead!

jt

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

TylerR's picture

Editor

Joel T asked:

Is it right that MBBC and Seminary's view of Baptist History is a kind of mix between Anabaptist Kinship and English Separatist view? Is there a diversity there on the question of Baptist heritage with the faculty?

I'll email the Maranatha Seminary Dean and ask. I know too little about Baptist history at this point to comment. I'll let you folks know.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Todd Bowditch's picture

It's a little split at MBBC...

The seminary as whole is more in line with a blended view of English Separatism with a limited spiritual kinship.

David Saxon, the resident church historian is a strong proponent of the English Separatist position. Oats and Moritz probably are the most sympathetic to the spiritual kinship position in the seminary, though neither would be as meticulously dogmatic on it as Weeks was. Oats and Moritz give more credence to the development of Baptist thought from Anabaptist roots and they recognize some incipient Baptistic-icism in early groups.

I could look at my class notes to confirm....but speculation from imperfect recollection feels more appropriate in this situation.

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

TylerR's picture

Editor

I provided Rob Fall's and Joel T's comments to Dr. Larry Oats at Maranatha. Here is his response:

These are accurate statements. We believe that there have always been churches, since the first in Jerusalem, that have held to the truth of Scripture; these are our spiritual "kin."

We realize that no one used the term "Baptist" until after the Reformation, so I usually speak of a prereformation biblical movement, the radical reformers in the reformation, and the modern Baptist movement. To argue that there were no "baptistic" churches before the Reformation would argue one of two points - either 1) there were no biblical churches between the rise of Catholicism and the Reformation or if there were then 2) Baptists today are not biblical.

Maranatha has always rejected the Landmark position (Dr. Moritz had an article on that in a recent Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal). While we believe that Christ's declaration in Matt 16 promised that true churches would always be present, we do not believe that anyone can trace a line of churches directly descending from Jerusalem.

 

If anyone has more questions, you can just call up the Seminary office and ask.
 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Rob Fall's picture

Sometimes, it's a matter of siblings.  Other times,  the kinship is a matter of cousinship (first second, third, fourth, ect.).  And sometimes you need a DNA test to see if there is a relationship.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

J.Schmitz's picture

In Dr. Beale's Baptist History class at BJU, I still remember him telling us that he once investigated The Trail of Blood in his research. He could not find a single original document cited in the book. He made clear to us that there was no basis for many of the claims made in it, and like this critique, pointed out that Baptists today would have some severe problems with many of the groups he claims for ancestry.

A previous pastor of mine would often correct people discussing church history by saying, "But Baptists aren't Protestants." A lot of confusion usually ensued. He attributed this teaching to his time at MBBC in the 70's. In this view, lending credence to the Protestants means: 1) Since they were "protesting" Catholicism, God's truth was effectively lost in the dark ages, and 2) The Protestants didn't get everything right, so therefore we can't claim them as spiritual forbears (Calvin and Luther with sacraments, etc.)

It's odd that these people are willing to embrace outright heretics in their ancient spiritual lineage, but Calvin and Luther must be avoided at all costs.