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Peculiar is a word that comes to mind. Purejoy is just nutty, IMHO. His vision has brought the SBC nothing but division and error.

"A confession of our loyalty to the Bible is not enough. The most radical denials of biblical truth frequently coexist with a professed regard for the authority and testimony of the Bible. When men use the very words of the Bible to promote heresy, when the Word of truth is perverted to serve error, nothing less than a confession of Faith will serve publicly to draw the lines between truth and error. ...

Nevertheless, our confessions are not inherently sacrosanct or beyond revision and improvement; and, of course, church history did not stop in the seventeenth century. We are faced with errors today which those who drew up the great confessions were not faced with and which they did not explicitly address in the confessions, but it is a task to be undertaken with extreme caution. ...
A confession is a useful means for the public affirmation and defense of truth...(it) serves as a public standard of fellowship and discipline...(and it) serves as a concise standard by which to evaluate ministers of the Word." R. P. Martin in Samuel E. Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, (Evangelical Press, 1989), p9-23.

peter lumpkins


First, judging a responsible historian "nutty" but doing so under the rubric of humility qualifies nicely for the "What a Georgia hoot!" award. Congratulations.

Second, no, Purefoy's vision did not bring us "nothing but division and error." In fact, Purefoy's so-called "vision" as you put it was but a descriptive observation about the Baptist movement, having no power to cause anything really. If we've reaped "nothing but division and error" one cannot blame such on free church theology principles but biblical infidelity and moral rebellion.

Third, were it not for the free church principles Purefoy observed in Baptists, we'd all by law most likely belong to the Reformed state church we inherited from the Magisterial Reformers.


With that, I am...

Jon McManus

Purefoy stated about Baptist "They are not shackled by a human creed, and have no Confession of Faith, and no Book of Discipline, but the New Testament"**" So we only have the New Testament but what does it teach? We need to be sure not to answer that question, because you would be stating your system of beliefs and that would be a creed. Then we would need to go join some other denomination because Baptist don't have statements about their beliefs.

I wonder what a average Baptist would state they believe about the trinity. Can't use a creed to answer because Baptist don't use creeds. It probably isn't that important. The important thing is that we all believe the New Testament! Crud! I just stated what I believe. Maybe I'll go try being a Jehovah's Witness.

peter lumpkins


Thanks. Well, if you prefer the type of reductio ad absurdum contribution you logged to be indicative of your view, understand that axe can sling both ways, for if one must depend upon creeds to interpret Scripture, then one is left with a hollowed out sufficiency of Scripture. That is, Scripture itself is necessary but insufficient to provide someone with adequate spiritual truth. But if Scripture is insufficient, then it follows sola scriptura is also insufficient. But if sola scriptura is insufficient, maybe we should try the Catholic communion.

Perhaps a better approach would be to attempt to understand precisely what Purefoy and other early Baptists like him meant to suggest by strongly affirming they were not shackled by human creed, have no Confession, and no Book of Discipline, but the NT before passing such non sequitur judgment.

With that, I am...

A.M. Mallett

I encounter this claim among Baptists a lot, that they have no creeds and confessions that guide their faith. Yet, Baptist confessions are perhaps the most numerous of all. I can think of twenty or perhaps thirty various English and American Confessions of Faith that give me cause to think that the author is not presenting a fair perspective. Of course I may be completely wrong with regard to his intentions but it strikes me as puzzling.

peter lumpkins


I fully understand. The language of the earlier Baptists about 'no creed but the NT' seems either odd or less 'revolutionary' than in our era. While it's certainly true Baptists have produced, in your words, "perhaps the most numerous [confessions] of all," historically, Baptists have insisted on a clear distinction between confessions and creeds, or expressing confessions on the one hand, and creedalism on the other. Baptists insist no particular Baptist confession represents all Baptists. Rather, any single confession expressed only represents the individual Baptists who were assembled at the time the confession was adopted. Other Baptists may choose or choose not to adopt it. People constantly talk about Baptists arguing with one another. True. Our heritage of owning no confession toward which we point as a creed lends itself to such bickering. Welcome to the Baptists!

Great observation, A.M.

Have a glorious Lord's Day tomorrow.

With that, I am...


Normally I - being a 5 point Calvinst Baptist after the manner of John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon and William Carey, disagree with Peter Lumpkins and his dogged attempts to marginalize those like me within and ultimately drive us out of the Southern Baptist Convention, but in this case I will endorse his statement (though I am suspicious of his intent) made by this post.

Simply speaking, when George Purefoy wrote of "They are not shackled by a human creed and have no Confession of Faith, and no Book of Discipline, but the New Testament", the context was of state church Europe, and England in particular. That context seems removed to us, having grown up in a nation with First Amendment protections almost from its establishment. But Purefoy was making statements with respect to an environment where Bunyan could spend 12 years of his life in jail because he refused to bow to the creeds, confessions and discipline books of his place and time, and upon being released from prison Bunyan refused a government position because it would have required his using the power of the state to persecute dissenters the way that he himself was persecuted!

Purefoy is not referencing the fact that most evangelical and fundamental church teach according to the apostles' creed and similar. He is not claiming that Baptists reject received instruction from those who ran the race before us; that we have no "rule of the faith." Instead, he is contrasting the American Baptist movement with the religious (and political) situation in England and a lot of other places where one could have been fined, banished, imprisoned, or burned at the stake for refusing to confess adherence to some creed before a church or government official, or for running afoul to some book of discipline.

Context is everything, and in the interest of making "peculiar" rejoinders, it seems as if the context of Purefoy's words were ignored. Well, to be better illuminated by the intent of Purefoy (and I hope was also the intent of Lumpkins, but again I doubt it) I refer to to this work by the 5 point Calvinist Leonard Verduin, The Reformers And Their Stepchildren.

peter lumpkins


First, it’s questionable at best Bunyan was a 5-point Calvinist. Scholars are not agreed on such an assertion. Second, it’s questionable whether Bunyan was a Baptist. Third, it’s argumentative to suggest I “dogged[ly] attempt to marginalize those like [you] within and ultimately drive [you] out of the Southern Baptist Convention” without a shred of evidence (not to mention such has nothing to do with the posted quote by Purefoy). Frankly, I know very little to nothing about you. Even more, I advocate driving no one out of the convention. If you’ve got proof of such nonsense, produce it. If all you have is your statement, don’t bring it back up again unless you’re willing to show otherwise. My contention is and has been with specifically aggressive Calvinism which makes a part of its visionary thrust to “reform” the SBC to its alleged exclusively strong Calvinistic origins. I’ve been extremely clear about this, Job.

Fourth, do not again log on questioning my motives on this site—“though I am suspicious of his intent.” If I am mistaken about Purefoy or any other citation, produce the evidence. But stop the personal insults and deal with the ideas.

Fifth, you suggest I skewed (or ignored) the context of the Purefoy statement. You alternatively suggest Purefoy was referencing the “state church” in Europe and “England in particular”…circumstances, according to you, where “Bunyan could spend 12 years of his life in jail because he refused to bow to the creeds, confessions and discipline books…” You further indicate Purefoy was “contrasting the American Baptist movement with the religious (and political) situation in England and a lot of other places where one could have been fined, banished, imprisoned, or burned at the stake…” concluding “the context of Purefoy's words were [sic] ignored.” Really, Job?

Well, if you can show but a slither of what you’ve just stated from the context where the quote above is embedded I’m sure both the readers and myself would appreciate it. I challenge anyone to check the source and validate what you’ve just stated is the context I "ignored." In the first place, Purefoy himself was a North Carolinian by birth and may have never served outside NC.

Second, Purefoy decidedly was unconcerned about the “state church” of England. He references neither the Church of England in the context I cited nor does he ever mention Bunyan in his entire book. Third, Purefoy is writing a history of Sandy Creek Association and is therefore not interested in “state-church” issues (except perhaps as a single issue which he may quote directly relating to Sandy Creek; however, I found nothing even mentioned about the issue at all). Fourth, what Purefoy was doing in the context I cited was as follows:

Purefoy lists some “rites” commonly found among Sandy Creek Baptists in its earlier history but conspicuously absent from their contemporary practice (i.e. at Purefoy’s time of writing): “In its early history, this association held many sentiments of a peculiar nature which do not now prevail…” Among those practices include washing of feet, anointing the sick, kiss of charity, eldresses, deaconesses, and weekly communion.

Moving on, Purefoy approvingly quotes the Baptist historian Benedict that it should not be supposed that all the churches practiced all the “rites,” nor was there rejection from those churches which did practice all the “rites” against those churches that did not. Instead the principle of God’s wisdom in making his churches “independent bodies” was invoked. Why? Purefoy insists it was because:

“Where each congregation is an independent church, if a part of the Churches embrace erroneous views, it does not disseminate itself through all the churches, and sooner or later the pure leaven will leaven the whole body. This is strikingly exemplified in the history of the first Baptist churches in the eastern part of this state, as has already been shown” (embolden added).

As is easily seen, Purefoy isn’t concerned with persecution, England, Church of England, or Bunyan in the Bedford jail. Instead he focuses on Carolina and the practices of the Baptists there.

Afterward, Purefoy cites the paragraph I quoted in the original piece above about the two “peculiarities” found among Baptists which, he believes, display their ecclesiastical genius. The first one is a mere restating of the idea of “independent bodies”: “That each church is an independent body…” The second specifically states his observation pertaining to opposition to creeds. Not a single hint of the context you mentioned, Job.

Hence, one can only conclude one of us is wrong here. If I am wrong, then you’re going to have to demonstrate precisely how, from Purefoy’s words, you get the context of which you accuse me of ignoring.

Finally, had you considered another well-established fact, Job, you would not be here accusing me of ignoring context (and apparently intentionally ignoring context!). Almost all Baptist historians agree that Sandy Creek Baptists particularly and Separate Baptists generally had an incipient aversion to creeds and confessions. If this is so, then Purefoy’s statement fits very nicely in the history of Sandy Creek.

Interestingly, Spurgeon spoke accordingly to what Purefoy had in mind:

If Christians are what they ought to be, they depend upon God alone in their church capacity. God’s word is their only creed: they do not add to it anything whatever-no, not a sentence, a gloss, or a thought. They have greatly erred who look upon anything as the authoritative standard of faith but God’s own word. I hear you say, “Do you not respect the Thirty-nine Articles?” …it makes no difference to the fact that the church of God is not bound to any faith but that which God himself has revealed. “But the Westminster Assembly’s Confession?” It must be treated in the same manner. That summary of doctrine is very admirable; but human creeds, as such, have nothing on earth to do with me. The point I have to do with is this, What does God say? What does his Word say? Within the covers of the Bible you find all theology. Nothing outside of this Book is binding on a Christian man as doctrine in the least degree whatever. The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Christians.” (Vol 29, pp 892-93)

Even for all this, Job, the truth is, I never offered a nuanced interpretation of Purefoy other than suggesting Purefoy “capture[ed] the spirit of free churchmen in both pre-Reformation and post-Reformation eras of ecclesial history” a reality I most certainly think is demonstrable, demonstrable from the very book you cite--Verduin’s Stepchildren—a book I happily agree to recommend to all who’d like a reliable historical narrative about Free Church theology (surprisingly written by an Reformed Church of America historian), a narrative exceptionally friendly toward the Anabaptist movement while revealing some hard-to-accept realities about the magisterial Reformers—at least hard-to-accept by those who think the Reformers were the “true” ecclesial revolutionaries.

If you log on again, either produce the context you allege I skewed and/or ignored pertaining to Purefoy’s statement or don’t bother logging on. Thanks.

With that, I am…


Chris Gilliam

WOW, Job, your mini-narrative make you look more like a post modernist. It is rather unfortunate that this kind of reasoned reinterpretation is arising by the droves in many of the YRR patterns of thinking. If being reformed skews your view of documented history then, I think this is exactly what Purefoy is arguing, namely that the NT is the grid to judge the creeds and confessions, not visa vi. I am far from anti-reformed, and am not to proud to say I can learn from Peter, things which I might otherwise know not.

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