Long held claims of believers should be questioned and verified. Left unchallenged, it will eventually breed legalism and anti-intellectualism that will bring reproach to the church . Pastors and preachers our duty is to do research for facts to back up those claims. Pastor Zigfred Diaz did just that and he shared what he uncovered about Baptist Successionism. Baptist successionism, perpetuity and landmarkism are claims by some (but not all) Baptist specifically by Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) or Bible Baptist (which they are called here in the Philippines). DG connected with him and he answered some of our inquiries about this controversial subject.
Delighting Grace: Please tell us who you are and your background.
Zigfred Diaz: Actually I wear several hats at the same time so to speak. But among the things I do is that I pastor a Southern Baptist Church (Reformed), I am also a lawyer, entrepreneur, senior manager, financial planner, investments specialist. My full profile can be seen at my personal blog at: http://www.zdiaz.com/about/
Delighting Grace: Whats the reason why you wrote something about Baptist successionism?
Zigfred Diaz: I grew up in an Independent Baptist Church. We were taught Baptist Successionism since I was a kid. For a long time I’vebelieved it to be true. However as I matured both in my spiritual life and in my thinking there were some things about it that really did not make any sense logically nor does it seemed to be backed by the Scriptures and even the evidence. I soon read materials on the matter but was not able to really dig deeper. I wanted to investigate the matter further but it seems that time has not permitted me. Although I pastor a church, I do feel that my particular calling is to equip the saints through teaching and writing as I consider both as God’s gift to me wherein I can be a more effective minster to the body of Christ.
In order to be more effective in that one, I decided to enroll at Veritas International University, School of Apologetics where I am currently pursuing my Master’s degree in Divinity major in Christian Apologetics. The areas of theological studies that I am very interested on is Apologetics, church history, textual criticism and biblical archeology. I took the subject “Church History” last summer. We were required to write a 25 page paper on our chosen church history subject. Since the subject on Baptist Successionism piqued my interest, I decided to do research and write about Baptist it.
I actually chose that particular topic for three reasons. First, because most church history books are focused on the main story of Christianity with Baptist church history being only some sort of a sub-topic. There are books and articles written on it, but I feel that more research can be and should be done on the subject. Secondly because I wanted to counter the wrong teachings of Baptist Successionism, Perpetuity and Landmarkism since it has caused so much damage to the body of Christ and to Baptist church history as it has produced a group of elitist Baptist who think they are right when in truth is that what they hold on to is based on false claims. Not only that, I also want to counter this wrong teaching because it has produced a lot of Baptist Christians who do not even know how to think and evaluate critically and logically this matter and to do research to see if what is being claimed is backed by the evidence.
Delighting Grace: What do think are the reasons why some of our Baptist brethren hold on this teaching?
Zigfred Diaz: Mainly because of a lot of those who hold on to this is misinformed and because of other factors which I will discuss later. This teaching is very popular among independent Baptist, missionary Baptist, primitive Baptist and some Southern Baptist. As I mentioned I come from an independent Baptist church. The ironic thing about most Independent Baptist is that they tell you to bring your Bible to church to check if what your pastor is saying is true. But what’s funny is that if you start to question things, you either get told to shut up or you will branded as a “rebel”, “backslider”, “liberal” and all the other beautiful adjectives that could possibly be labeled to you. :-D. I am sad to say that a lot of these churches seem to promote some kind of anti-intellectualism.
So in a lot of these churches when people start to question Baptist Successionism, they get criticized for questioning it. So they will just back down and will be forced to swallow whatever they had been fed. Few of us who could not take it anymore eventually transferred to other Baptist groups. However I know a lot who chose to remain on the inside but they do have sincere questions and doubt about certain issues like Baptist Successionism. However I think they would not want to bail out of the group considering that they already have friends and family there. It’s hard to uproot somebody growing up in the culture. So in this sense I understand why some people chose to remain in there and continue to somehow “swallow” the wrong things taught to them when in reality they have some doubt and objections about it. It is indeed hard to be ostracized by the majority in these groups who believe in Baptist Successionism.
Delighting Grace: What are the reactions of people when they hear or read your paper regarding the Trail of Blood?
Zigfred Diaz: The Trail of Blood is the most popular work on Baptist Successionism hence when I wrote a paper against it, it really caused quite a stir. Well thank God I haven’t encountered any violent reactions that has led to physical harm :-D. But I’ve been called the beautiful adjectives that I mentioned. We Filipinos are of course none confrontational and when I met those from my former denomination they of course did not mention their objections to what I have written. However I know that a lot of them have expressed displeasure because of what I have written. I know this because I am administrator of a Facebook group named “Baptist Theological Forum” which has currently more than 2,000 members from different Baptist groups mainly from the Philippines.
A lot of my friends and acquaintances from my previous church and denomination are there and they have definitely read what I have wrote as I posted it there. Some of them do tell me that they find my paper interesting. The greatest blessing I receive is that that there are those from my former denomination that tell me that I am right. Those from independent Baptist churches who I do not know personally and I have engaged with in the forum, do fight tooth and nail for Baptist Successionism. I do take the time to answer them and show them what is wrong with it and how the Trail of Blood is based on false claims, half truths and even outright lies.
Delighting Grace: Read the paper you have written. Its short and its spot on. Will you consider publishing this paper?
Zigfred Diaz: Thanks. Yes I am considering publishing it. However most seminaries and organizations only accept publication from people on the inside. So I have yet to find a seminary or organization that accepts publications from people outside their organization. If there is one do let me know and I will publish it in that journal. Our seminary still does not have a journal but if it will have one in the future, I will publish it there.
Delighting Grace: Please tell us the process in writing Battling Baptist Bogus Beliefs.
Zigfred Diaz: First, I asked my professor if I can write about the subject then he gave me approval and asked me to submit a list of references that I will be using. Next I read books, articles, write ups etc. on the subject from both sides and carefully evaluated the arguments and the evidences of both. Afterwards I went to the Baptist Theological Forum and other Theological chat groups and asked other pastors regarding the subject. That was really very helpful because part three of my paper would not have been completed without me doing such. For quite some time, I was asking a lot of Baptist who claims to have an unbroken lineage of their church to the New Testament church to give me a copy of such lineage. To my surprise nobody wanted to give it to me not even some persons and groups who claimed they have it. So that really fueled my confidence that such lineage either does not exist or that they were unsure of its accuracy.
Finally somebody in the Baptist Theological Forum gave me their church lineage and another pastor, a personal friend of mine was kind enough to give me their church lineage. I actually used those two lineages in my paper and I back check the references given if they were true. Well for those who have not read my paper you will have to find out the answer :-D. Actually the part I liked most in my paper is that last part where I debunked the church lineages that was given to me. I liked that part because I had fun searching for the references and checking if what is being said there is true or not. It is really fun and exhilarating to uncover the truth.
Delighting Grace: Wow. How does a Christian avoid falling to errors like Landmarkism?
Zigfred Diaz: Christians must not just swallow immediately whatever is being taught to them. God gave us brains to think. Not to use it properly is a grave insult to Him. We must critically evaluate properly anything that is thrown at us. We must think logically and check if whatever is being claimed is backed by the evidence. Not only that we must learn the tools on how to do to scholarly research and evaluate truth claims. Each discipline has its own tools to do proper research. Historians have the historical method, Anthropologist have ethnography and other social science tools, Archeology has archeological principles and methods, Textual Criticism has rules and even pastors must follow the basic rules of exegesis to properly interpret Scriptures !
Above all there is the basic principles of logic. This is not “worldly” knowledge as some Baptist groups would want us to think. The source of all this knowledge is God. Further in this century, information is freely and readily available. When I did research in my paper to back check the references in the church lineage that was given to me, I mostly searched for those references online. They are all freely available in the internet ! We must learn to utilize these resources properly. All of these are gifts from God.
I teach critical thinking at a Christian High School and I wish that this subject is also taught in Bible schools. I am very much dismayed and flabbergasted that even pastors share fake news in Facebook! If these pastors believe in fake news which is just so easy to check online,surely they will have a hard time discerning fake news from the past ! The Trail of Blood and the claims of Baptist Successionism, perpetuity and Landmarksim are fake news from the past. Christians especially pastors should learn to be discerning. We are God’s people and we have the Holy Spirit with us who will teach us all things. We should be the most lucid and discerning thinkers.
Delighting Grace: Where do you go from here pastor? What are you’re plans in the future concerning this issue?
Zigfred Diaz: Actually I plan to write a book someday with the same title. (I like the title.When I write papers, I usually take time to whip up a fancy title) It will be a series of books discussing Baptist bogus beliefs. I have two topics now for this series of books. The first volume will deal with Baptist Successionism and the second volume will be on the issue of KJV Onlyism, also an issue close to my heart as a lot of my brethren in my previous denomination still hold on to this wrong belief. (I have written a paper on the logical fallacies of KJV Onlyism) I will think of more topic as time goes by.
By the way, books countering Baptist Successionism are now a bit dated and historians dealing with the subject are aging or has gone home with the Lord. For example Dr. Leon McBeth who wrote “The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness” published in 1986 was one of the most comprehensive and accurate work on Baptist Church History. In his book he discussed the issue of Baptist Successionism perpetuity and landmarkism. He died last 2013. McBeth was distinguished professor of Church History for 45 years at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary and has served as chairman of the Texas Baptist Historical Committee Baptist Convention, and as president of the Southern Baptist Historical Society. He also experienced being a pastor in several churches. McBeth was considered the foremost Baptist historian in the 20th century.
Former Baptist Pastor, renowned church historian and seminary professor, Dr. James Edward McGoldrick author of “Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History” is now in his senior years. His book, published in 1999 is one of the main reference for my paper and is the probably the only book to date that counters point by point and directly the work of J.M Caroll’s Trail of Blood.
These great scholars used by God needs to have somebody pick up where the left off. We need more scholars researching the subject so that false claims will be countered and that the true Baptist Church History will be known by the generations to come.
Delighting Grace: Thank you pastor for your time. Please invite our readers to check out and download your free paper Battling Baptist Bogus Beliefs.
Zigfred Diaz: Sure! I was planning to put it up in Academia but if I do that, the journals won’t allow me to publish with them. So I am a bit reluctant. That is why I have only one published worked in Academia. I have a lot of papers that I haven’t put up in Academia dealing with several subjects from Anthropology, Archeology and Theology.
Anyway, you can all download it in this link. Please feel free to share it without asking for my permission. The truth needs to come out on this issue freely!