Another Look at the SBC

In the past I have been very critical of the Southern Baptist Convention and their relatively newfound fascination with Anabaptism. Recently I have been rethinking my stance on the matter and the SBC in general when it relates to this subject. And I realized that I have a lot in common with them, and in light of some recent events this has become even clearer to me. Take for instance many of my beliefs that I attained from my study of the proto-Anabaptists would be considered conservative or as my progressive critics would most likely call “Fundamentalist” a point which I would vehemently disagree.

My belief model originates with the 16th century Anabaptists and therefore if it is “fundie” in nature then the designation applies to those men and women from the past as well. Wearing pejoratives goes with the Anabaptist territory. Another area that I share with this particular segment of the SBC is a passionate dislike of Calvinism and Reformed thought, which is inherent in Anabaptist thought. My last point I would like to bring attention to is a shared appreciation for the source material (whether it be in the original German or English translations). Who better to define Anabaptism than the Anabaptists themselves?

Now with that being said, I still have issues with the SBC when it relates to implying a historical connection with Anabaptism that can barely be made to begin with. And naturally I have issues with traditional views that the SBC held to for many years and some even today regarding war, military service, political involvement and issues relating to “race”. Now I know all SBC members do not approach those matters in the same fashion but those are still relevant issues that need addressing.

Last night I went ahead and purchased The Anabaptists and Contemporary Baptists: Restoring New Testament Christianity edited by Malcolm B. Yarnell III.


Not too long ago I was granted limited access to the work and from what I looked at it was a good effort. The authors actually went to the sources i.e. the original Anabaptists and took what they believed and tried to demonstrate how we can apply those teachings at present. I do not see that much today, in its place I see political and social ideology passed off as Anabaptism.

Going forward I think I am going to reach out to some of these Baptists and see what comes of it.


14 thoughts on “Another Look at the SBC

  1. Looks about like what I would expect from them. They’re not interested in the Anabaptist tradition just Hubmaier who gives them history and theology to justify their current errant paths.

  2. Thanks for this analysis Allen. I will be interested in your assessment of the book when you have it read. Wouldn’t it be great if the SBC would take Anabaptism in ALL its forms seriously? Especially related to peace and non-resistance! The discussions (or maybe arguments) of their Anabaptist roots could lead to this with the Spirit’s guidance and conviction.

    • Don

      As a matter of fact that’s what I would like to do but it’s tough to locate laymen Baptists that study Anabaptism. If I can get a dialogue going I would love for you to join in.

  3. That is a difficult endeavor. Most of the SBC peeps I know are still caught up in the Calvinism or Not groups, with only the “Anabaptist” friendly SBC’ers in the rigid anti-Calvin group.

  4. I may be one of those “regular” SBCers for whom you’re looking. I historically come from SBC churches and am currently an independent researcher on the Radical Reformation. Before attending Southwestern I had an interest in the subject and was first pleased to find they had a similar interest, however, I soon that the reason for their interest was different than my own. While I was primarily concerned with the group insofar as they could inform us in our commons struggle to find an identity for the church outside of Christian society, SWBTS was more concerned in its use as a Reformation heritage opposed to the reformed theology since that theology has been gaining favor among many influential SBC and evangelical leaders. You are quite right to see the connection between the two.
    I’d like to make two quick notes. Patterson, who is the primary personality behind this renewed interest in Anabaptism, does not take the approach of a historical connection, writing, “There is no intention to revive Landmarkism,” and, “The search for traceable succession and the barring of non-Baptists from discourse in Baptist churches are not worth the effort expended,” for a 2009 conference presentation. Rather he takes the view of “spiritual kinship,” which is to say that Christians in similar circumstances with a similar hermeneutic unsurprisingly came to very similar conclusion on many issues and this similarity forms the basis for which the two groups can learn from each other. Patterson is more complex than many give him credit for and I fear that many students have simplified his appreciation for the Anabaptist heritage as a crypto-landmarkism. A disavowal of the historical succession of Baptists from Anabaptism is the academic consensus, with no academic publications supporting the successionist theory in almost thirty years.
    The Hübmaier focus is an issue, certainly. An outside observer from Australia, commenting on the state of Hübmaier studies in a recent monograph, wrote, “There appears to be an agenda driving Hubmaier research originating from [SWBTS].” It is true that in Hübmaier Baptists find the Anabaptist most like themselves, although the constructive purpose seems to me to be little since in doing so one has merely found a historicized yes man. Nevertheless, Hübmaier need not be seen as an outsider to Anabaptism. John Roth, in his introduction to the January 2010 issue of the Mennonite Quarterly Review noted that Mennonite scholars had tended to disparage Hübmaier for not sharing their peace church convictions. But Roth also explained how sixteenth-century Anabaptists were not as predisposed against Hübmaier, using his writings extensively in their own defenses of believers’ baptism. Anabaptists of Hübmaier’s day apparently did not see the peace church but rather the believers’ church at the core of their identity (although some scholars today, J. Denny Weaver being the most prominent, are unwilling to accept the possibility of a sixteenth-century Anabaptism that did not see itself primarily as a peace church). Baptists find sixteenth-century Anabaptism welcoming because they see some of their own emphases stressed among those continental dissenters. Modern Anabaptists, however, do not see their own emphases stressed among contemporary Baptists. Even John Rempel, when first attending the conference that yielded the book that is this post’s subject, was curious why Baptists would care so much about the subject. I had the privilege of explaining this to Rempel, whose work, The Lord’s Supper in Anabaptism, is referenced with unusual frequency in SWBTS dissertations.
    Perhaps I’ve written more than is suitable for a mere blog comment, but I found this site today and look forward to going through it more. Perhaps I can be one of your dialogue partners along with Don in this.

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