Concerning Baptist Successionism: Montanists, Albigenses, and Paulicians (Oh My!)
There is a notable view of Church History known as “Landmarkism”. This is a theory that states that the Baptist denomination has an unbroken chain of Apostolic Succession from Peter to modern times. This theory goes by many names, such as Baptist Successionism, Baptist Perpetuity, and “The Trail of Blood”. The error of the Landmarkists is presented in a chart made by James Milton Carroll in 1931 in his book The Trail of Blood (For which this doctrine is named).
This error leads one to end up rejecting historically sound teachers and groups, while embracing historically heretical groups. The Landmarkists cite their succession as following, among others, the Montanists, Cathari, Paulicians, and Albigenses. Each of these groups taught anti-Christian heresy. The Montanists famously taught a new prophecy, denying the sufficiency of Scripture and promoting new revelation. The Catharist sect (And their Sub-Sect, the Albigenses) taught Marcionism, claiming that there are two separate gods in the Bible and the Old Testament god was evil. It also taught Dualism, which states that all physical things are evil and all spiritual things are good. The Paulicians were a group of Adoptionists, claiming that Jesus wasn’t eternally God but instead became God at some point in his life.
Furthermore, this theology makes the same error as Rome when reading Matthew 16. Like Rome, they claim that the rock upon which Jesus builds His Church in verse 18. However, the Greek words used for “Peter” and “rock” are two different words. The word used for Peter is “Petros“, which is defined as, “a stone (pebble), such as a small rock found along a pathway.” (Source) However, the word used for rock is “petra“, which is defined as, “solid or native rock, rising up through the earth.” (Source) These are two distinct words. Peter (“Petros” – the pebble) is not the petra (solid stone rising through the earth). Rather, it is Peter’s confession that the Church is built upon.
Baptist Successionism ignores Church History and rejects historical theology. Where they claim there is a line of succession, I only see a line of heresy that breaks when it reaches the Puritans, the Baptists, and the Waldenses. There is a line of succession, but it isn’t from the Montanists to the Baptists. It is from Early Christians to Modern Christians. They are united by a common confession, the true petra upon which the Church is built. I would much rather have the legacy of the historic Church than have the legacy of historic cults, such as the Montanists, the Cathari, and the Paulicians.
[Contributed by Brandon C. Hines]