The Formation of the Primitive Baptist Movement.
Historical research on the Primitive Baptists has, until recently, been generally limited to those inside the movement. Beginning in the 1990s, however, a few non-Primitive Baptists began to examine the movement through dissertation research. Jeff Taylor's Baylor University dissertation recently was published as The Formation of the Primitive Baptists Movement.
Taylor's new book examines the origin and self-identity of the Primitive Baptists by examining the writings from three major periodicals, The Primitive Baptist, Signs of the Times, and The Christian Doctrinal Advocate and Spiritual Monitor. Three categories provide the framework for Taylor's definition of the Primitive Baptists: the relation of the church to history, the relation of the church to the world, and the relation of the church to God.
A short opening chapter examines the historical background of the formation of the movement. Here he offers a limited analysis of the growing denominationalism among Baptists, following Baptist historian David Benedict's lead. In a short section on antimissionism, Taylor describes the work of John Taylor, John Leland, and Daniel Parker. Chapters two, three, and four comprise the heart of Taylor's thesis, and in these chapters, he examines each relationship category already mentioned. The final chapter offers conclusions followed by a set of appendices that include several documents relating to the Kehukee Association and the Black Rock Address of 1832, a watershed document for Primitive Baptists.
Taylor rightly asserts that Primitive Baptists were convinced that they were a part of the true churches that had existed throughout history. Primitive Baptists were distinguished from the Churches of Christ because, as Taylor points out, they "saw themselves as a movement to conserve truth, not to restore something that had been lost" (p. 61). Understanding how Primitive Baptists saw themselves in relation to the world remains a complicated task. The worldliness which Primitive Baptists railed against seemed to be found most readily among those whom they previously counted as brothers in Christ. Those who were apostate could return if they returned to the biblical model for church life.
Perhaps the primary tenet of Primitive Baptists' self-identity is that they understood the Bible, not as a "ruler by which to measure innovative approaches," but rather as a "blueprint and model for the Church" (p. 101). A special approach to ecclesiology was not only important for Primitive Baptists, it was the essential way in which they remained the true church.
Taylor raises some other important theological issues that could be further explored. Primitive Baptist soteriology all but eliminated the need for preaching in order to assert God's sovereignty. Taylor does not mention that the exaggerated localism was due, in part, to the lack of any understanding of a universal church among Primitive Baptists. The tenuous relationship between John Leland and the Primitive Baptists needs further explication. Leland proves that one could be "primitivist" and not be Calvinist. Furthermore, by limiting himself to the three periodicals, Taylor left out valuable source material such as John Watson's The Old Baptist Test, an important Primitive Baptist work.--Michael Dain, adjunct professor of history, Dallas Baptist University, Dallas, Texas.
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|Publication:||Baptist History and Heritage|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2005|
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