Novatian

Were the Novations Early Baptists?

Were the Novatians Baptists? Many Baptists like to claim the Novatians as their own. Landmarkers believe the Novatians were Baptists through and through. For example, J.R. Graves (1880) declared “that all the churches of Christ, before the ‘apostasy,’ which took place in the third and fourth centuries…were what are now called Baptist churches” (Old Landmarkism: What is It? Kindle Locations 2235-2236).

Thomas Armitage, the great Baptist historian, rightly said this was a rash characterization (1890, p. 482). If the Novatians cannot be claimed as direct descendants, can they be claimed as the distant spiritual kin of modern-day Baptists? Some Baptists would agree.

Much of what has been written of the Novatians by Baptists of any stripe is at best a gloss, and at worst completely incorrect. As an example of the latter, G.H. Orchard, a Landmarkist, wrote (1855):

One Novatian, a presbyter in the church of Rome, strongly opposed the readmission of apostates, but he was not successful…. Novatian, with every considerate person, was disgusted with the hasty admission of such apostates to communion, and with the conduct of many pastors, who were more concerned about numbers than purity of communion. (p. 53)

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