A Rebuttal of "Resetting the Landmark by Tom Ross," Part III

    Tom Ross then turns his attention to what he describes as "ALIEN IMMERSION". He describes this as: any false baptism that does not meet all the requirements of Scriptural baptism. He then makes the following accusation against the fundamental Protestant Churches : "Every one of these so called churches trace their authority to exist back to a human founder who probably
came out of a Protestant church...Their origins were never valid or clean because they were not started by a Scriptural Baptist church, therefore their immersions are void of authority which is why all true Baptists must regard them as invalid....The Anabaptists of old took this stand even before the mode of baptism ever became an issue." He then quotes from a W. M. Nevins , the author of Alien Baptism and the Baptists:
    "In 200 AD one hundred and thirty years after the death of Paul, when many who were almost contemporaneous of Paul were still alive, we find, according to the historians, THAT THE ANABAPTISTS AND HERETICAL SECTS that later went to form the Roman Catholic Church were quarreling about Baptism... The controversy arose because the Anabaptists would not accept as valid the immersion administered by these heretical sects, saying they had no authority to baptize and insisted on immersing the second time all that came to them from these heretical sects. Whereupon, these heretical sects were made angry, dubbed them Anabaptists and held some church councils on the matter."

    Now where did this idea come from? Did the man ever look up any proper documents? OR did he rely solely on the documents of the Gnostics and the heretical (Catholic idea of heresy) sects to come to such conclusions.He thinks he is very clever by referring to some Church councils but at the same time he is dismissing the works of a body of Christian men who have more integrity than the Anabaptists (still not named) and their sources. It also worth noting that Tom Ross continuously refers to Paul alone. He does not refer to St. Peter or the Apostles by name. It is as if he was saying that the True Church ala Baptist style was founded around Paul. That in itself is an interesting thought, because anyone knowing the story of the conversion of Paul knows that he was a persecutor of the early Christians and when he was struck by God, he was on his way to Damascus to round up more Christians. They would know that before his conversion he was Saul and that he had held the cloaks of the men who had stoned St. Stephan to death. hey would also know that he was instructed by St. Peter and the other apostles before he commenced his mission. Nevins, it would seem is another of the Baptist sources who lacks total credibility in his historical research. This was the period of great apologists such as Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus. However, the real historical documents do not back Nevins up. He has made up his history to suit the theology and philosophy of a faction within the Baptist Church.

(Please note I will cover the topic of the Paulicans and the Gnostics in another post. My Internet research has shown that there is a link between the Gnostics, the Paulicans, the Catharists, the Manicheans, the Bogomils, the Albigensians etc.)

Tom Ross had continued: "Baptists have always taken a strict and strong stance on baptism by rejecting all alien immersions as false and unscriptural. It was for this reason that our forefathers were hated, hounded, butchered, tortured and killed by Catholics and Protestants alike."

    Now what this little diatribe leaves out is that the sects to which he is claiming succession were not only the real heretics but they were also a threat to civil authority, they were responsible for murder, looting and general anarchy. They were not persecuted as claimed because of their strong baptistic beliefs. The evidence is available to prove that this position is not true.

Tom Ross later states: "Jesus only promised His perpetual presence to those churches who continue to teach their members to observe whatsoever He has commanded them . Jesus left the church at Loadicea because they were lukewarm and felt as though they needed nothing. They were unwilling to follow Jesus Christ which is why He was on the outside exhorting them to repent of their wickedness"

    Can anyone find me a Scriptural reference for the above ? There is no Biblical reference for this at all. Jesus in Lodaecia ? When ? Anyone ?

Ross continues: "It matters not how large a church may grow through the reception of alien immersion, if the presence of the Lord Jesus and his authority is not there the glory has departed and God has written Ichbod over the house...Many scoff and jeer at the strictness of the position of true Baptists concerning Baptism but we are merely taking heed to the solemn
warning Jesus gave in Matthew 5:19...How can true Baptists unite and walk together with those who believe in universal church heresy, salvation by works, baptismal regeneration, women preachers, extra-Biblical revelation and the Charismatic movement."

    Hmm.... They claim an association with Montanus, yet the reject the Charismatic movement. What an interesting twist.

    After futher exhortations regarding the "purity" of the True Baptists and alien immersions and the practices of the other Baptist Churches (which is aimed at the Southern Baptists) he then moves to the history of the Baptist position. Tom Ross begins by claiming Tertullion as a Baptist in the year 200 A.D. We know that Tertullion wrote apologies during his Catholic period but at some point he began to be swayed by the Montanists. However, he did not write his treatise as a Baptist, he wrote it as a Christian and a Catholic. So in this aspect I question the veracity of Tom Ross's historical research and knowledge. For he is claiming for his "True and Pure Baptist Church" a history which is non-existant. In a treatise titled "Baptism" written between 200 and 206 A.D. Tertullion wrote the following:

    "We have one and only one Baptism in accord with the Gospel of the Lord as well as with the letters of the Apostle inasmuch as he says: "one God, and one Baptism, and one Church in the heavens. The question however, of what is to be observed in regard to the heretics may be worthwhile treating. The assertion is made in our regard. Heretics, however have no fellowship in our discipline. That they are outsiders is testified by the very fact of their excommunication. I ought not recognize in their regard a precept binding upon me; for we and they have not one God nor one that is the same Christ. Therefore neither is their Baptism one with ours, because it is not the same" (Jurgens - The Faith of the Early Fathers).

Please note I have used the full quote relating to Tertullion. It seems that Tom Ross is using his name because Tertullion is known to have become a convert to Montanism.

Tom Ross then quotes another "historian" Neander, whom he claims to be learned, but again I doubt this man's veracity and accuracy in historical research:
"But here again it was a Roman bishop, Stephanus who instigated by the spirit of ecclesiastical arrogance, domination and zeal, without knowledge attached to this dispute a paramount importance. Hence towards the year 253 he issued a sentence of excommunication against the bishops of Asia Minor Cappadocia, Galatia and Cilicia stigmatizing them as Anabaptists, a name
however, they could affirm they did not deserve by their principles; for it was not their wish to administer second baptism to those who had been already baptized, but they contended that the previous baptism by heretics could not be recognized as a true one. These induced Cyprian the bishop to propose the point for discussion at two synods at Carthage in the year 255
A.D....and both assemblies declared in favour of Cyprian's views, that the baptism of heretics ought not to be regarded as valid."

Here we have the problem of intemperate language, for Neander has described Pope St. Stephan II as having the Spirit of "eccleisiastical arrogance, domination and zeal, (and) without knowledge. So now I will turn to some other resources to find out the truth of the dispute and the possible heresy which caused the excommunication of these bishops from the Catholic Church.
The best clues I have to the problems in North Africa which pre-date the heresy of the Donatists comes from : "Introduction to the Fathers of the Church". From this source I learn of the involvement of St Cyprian in a dispute with the Pope. The dispute arose after the persecution of Decius.

    Out of fear of martyrdom, many abjured their faith and gave in to the demand to offer sacrifice to the statue of the emperor and yet others sought to circumvent the problem by purchasing documents claiming that they had offered the sacrifice. When the "tempest" had passed the problem of readmission of these people arose. There was a clash between the tendencies of the community - the rigorists (similar in nature to the Donatists) wished
to impede the readmission of the apostates and the others were in favour of a general amnesty. Cyprian intervened decisively to restore the hierarchial authority of the bishop, which had been called into question and to indicate the proper solution. The apostates were allowed to do penance and enter again the unity of the church. St Stephen maintained that when heretics
wished to enter into the Catholic Church, it was not necessary to baptize them again since the imposition of hands was sufficient to confer the gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Cyprian reacted strongly against St Stephen. He obtained from the African episcopate the recognition of the invalidity of baptism conferred by heretics and the reaffirmation of the absolute necessity to rebaptize heretics to be admitted to orthodoxy.

    A further history of the dispute can be found in the Catholic encyclopedia. In this source there is a better history of the persecution of Decius and the behaviour of the Christians in Africa and for that matter in Rome. For Christians had rushed to the pagan temples to offer the sacrifice because of their fear of martyrdom. At the end of the reign of terror of Decius, the
Christians started to return to the church, but some did not repent, some who were tortured by Decian were tortured afresh and still others exiled. Lucian, a confessor at Carthage started issuing pardons to other "confessors", which was an abuse because no penance had been performed by the lapsed (those who offered sacrifice). The five priests who opposed Cyprian were openly admitting at once to the communion of the church the "lapsed" and more indulgences were improperly granted. Cyprian denounced the five priests. It was at this time that Novatian sent a letter denouncing the new pope Cornelius and set himself up as Pope in opposition.

The Custom in Africa of Rebaptizing Heretics North Africa has always been a hot bed of heresies, including a strong following for Montanism. Tertullian had argued that heretics (such as the Montanists and the Gnostics) did not have the same God, the same Christ as Catholics, therefore their baptism is null. This was the attitude adopted by the North African bishops. (St. Cyprian had been influenced and admired the works of Tertullian). This was also the custom in Cilicia, Cappadocia and Galatia to rebaptize Montanists who returned to the church. The bishops of Mauretania did not follow this custom and St. Stephan addressed a letter to
them, praising their adherence to Roman custom. St. Cyprian and 61 other bishops wrote to the Pope explaining the reasons for rebaptism and claiming that it was a question upon which the bishops were free to differ but St Stephen did not agree and issued a decree against the rebaptism of the heretics and that they were to adhere to the laying on of hands on converted
heretics in a sign of absolution and must be observed everywhere on pain of excommunication. St Stephen also admonished Cyprian for his own stance. The Council of Carthage was convened in 256 A.D. and all agreed with Cyprian. However, the document that was dispatched to Rome was not received by the Pope. In the east rebaptizing had continued to be practised because so many
heretics had disbelieved in the Holy Trinity and had probably not used the right form and matter, however in the west rebaptizing was considered heretical. It is unfortunate that Cyprians letters had been used by the Donatists to back their position.

    Now to continue with Tom Ross's treatise. Once again we have attempts to historically link a branch of the Baptist Church to the Novatians. Tom Ross states the following:

"According to Mosheine, the Lutheran historian, the Novatians arose about 250 A.D. On account of the purity of their lives they were called Cathari" Comment : neither of these statements are in dispute. However, the term Cathari means "pure" and was applied also to other groups who came after the Novatians and there is no direct link between the later groups and the Novatians. "They rebaptized all that came from the Catholics. They would later be called Anabaptists by their foes. In fact they angered Catholics so much by rebaptizing that an edict was signed into law against them in 413 A.D. The edict stated that all persons who were rebaptized and all those who rebaptized them should both be punished by death."

Comment : the term Anabaptist means "rebaptizer". Since they believed in rebaptizing then it was logical that they were called Anabaptists. I have not been able to find a specific edict relating to the Novatians in 413 A.D. There was, however, an edict against the Donatists around that time. The Novations were not considered to be thugs, but were considered to be heretics because of their rigorist views.

"Because of this severe persecution the Novatians fled to southern France where they later became known as the Waldenses."

Comment: Now here is a new version of the old story. The attempt to like the Waldenses to the older schismatics and heretics. We have one Baptists source which claims that the Waldenses were always a separate sect in the Piedmont valley. Another which says that they were the holders of the "Received text" and that they were missionaries (according to this source Waldo was only a convert) and now we have another source which credits the Waldenses as being carriers of the "Great Commission". It seems that the Baptist sources which have been used cannot agree on their own history of the Waldenses. Is there a relationship between the Waldenses and the Novatians as claimed?

History of the Novatian schism Novatian was a schismatic of the third century, and founder of the sect of the Novatians; he was a Roman priest and made himself anti-pope. His name is given as Novatus by Greek writers. (Catholic Encylopedia).

The history of the schism begins with the persecution of the Christians by Decius. The Church had enjoyed a period of stability for around thirty-eight years when Decius became emperor and a new persecution erupted. Pope St. Fabian was martyred on 20 January 250 A.D. It was difficult to elect a new successor, so the chair had remained vacant until the election of Cornelius in March 251 A.D. Novatian was disappointed that he had not been appointed as Pope and so he went to the north of Italy and found 3 bishops to lay hands on him and appoint him as the successor of Peter.

Cornelius and Novatian had sent messengers to the other Churches to announce their respective claims. At Carthage, Cyprian and the African bishops endorsed Cornelius as Pope. St Dionysius of Alexandria also supported Cornelius.

Why did this schism between Novatian and the Church take place? Novatian was upset that he had not been elected Pope because he was ambitious. At the time of the persecution his rigorist attitudes were observed and so he was not favoured by the bishops and the people as a suitable replacement for Fabian.

The question had arisen about the "lapsed" and their receipt back into the Church after the persecution. This question had arisen in both Carthage and in Rome. The consensus of the bishops was that the matter of the lapsed should be settled with moderation and that proper severity of discipline must be preserved, but cruelty to the repentent must be avoided. The
attitude of the Roman priests was that the lapsed should be welcomed back after they had performed a penance. However, Novatian had already displayed a more intemperate attitude on the question of the lapsed.

After Novatian had himself declared as pope (which he had done through trickery), one of the Bishops involved came forward and confessed his sin but the other two did not do so. They were deposed by Cornelius and replacements were dispatched. Novatian had forced his supported when
receiving Holy Communion to swear by the Blood of Jesus and the Body of Christ that they would not go over to Cornelius. Cornelius and Novatian sent out messengers declaring their Papacy. The Bishops of Africa confirmed their support of Cornelius, as did Dionysus of Alexandria. The writings of St Cyprian suggest that Novatian set about sending out his own men, and setting up his own church, and dared to replace men of virtue with his own men. The issue put the Christians into a new form of turmoil. The issues which arose for the priests and the bishops were:

1) Loyalty - recognition of the true pope vs. the anti-pope;

2) Usurpation of the right to consecrate a new bishop;

3) Recognition - of any Novatian declared a bishop in a vacant see; In 251 A.D. Novatian was excommunicated by the sixty Bishops at the Council of Carthage, with other bishops adding their signatures to the letter. Novatian was ambitious and considered himself superior to Cornelius. St Cyprian had stated that the schism had not been about any heresy but about the place of Peter and that his attempt to usurp Cornelius was "wicked". St. Cornelius in his own letter regarding Novatian also did not refer to any heresy. The letters sent by Novatian to the bishops were full of vitrol against St. Cornelius - St. Cyprian had refused to read the letter out to the council. The personal messengers had also attacked Cornelius. In dispute therefore was the legitimacy of the ordination of Novatian, and the accusations which had been made against Cornelius.

The Bishop of Alexandria had sent the following letter to Novatian: " Dionysus to his brother Novatian, greeting. If it was against your will as you say that you were led you will prove it by retiring of your free will. For you ought to have suffered anything rather than divide the Church of God and to be martyred rather than cause a schism would have been no less glorious than to be martyred rather than commit idolatry, nay in my opinion it would have been a greater act; for in the one case one is a martyr for one's own soul alone, in the other, the whole Church."

However, within a few months, Novatian was accused of heresy, by St. Cyprian and the whole Church for his rigorist views on the restoration of the lapsed in the persecution. Novatian held that "idolatry was an unpardonable sin and that the Church had no right to restore to communion any who had fallen into it. They might repent and be admitted to a lifelong penance, but their forgiveness must be left to God; it could not be pronounced in this world." (Catholic Encylopedia)

    The bishops considered that this severity in itself was cruelty or injustice - the heresy of Novatian was the denial that the Church has the power to grant absolution in certain cases. It was claimed that the Novatians no longer held the Catholic creed and baptismal interrogation for when they said "Dost thu believe in the remission of sins and everlasting life, through Holy Church?" They were liars. (Catholic Encyclopedia).

The Novationist sect - what did they teach and believe? The followers of Novatian called themselves the "Cathari" or the "Pure" and referred to the Catholic Church as the Apostate. They had spread rapidly to every province. Works written against them came from St.Cyprian, the
anonymous "Ad Novatianum", writings of St. Pacian of Barcelona and St. Ambrose. Socrates, the historian treated them favourably. The Novatians refused absolution to idolators (the lapsed who gave in during the persecution of Decius and made offerings to pagan idols); and this was
extended to include refusal of absolution for the following:

i) idolatry


iii) adultery

iv) fornication

Second marriage was forbidden (this included second marriage for the widowed). Tertullians works, especially those from his Montanist period were popular with the Novatianist. In Phyrgia, the Novatianists combined with the Montanists. They did not receive Confirmation - Novatian had never received confirmation;

They refused to venerate the (Catholic) martyrs. They continued to have a successor in Rome ( a succession of Anti-popes) The Novatianists were persecuted by Constantius as though they were
Catholics. The Novatianists attacked the soldiers who were sent to enforce semi-Arianism. Like the Catholics, they were persecuted by the Arian Valens but Honorius included them in the law against heretics in 412 (although the prime target was the Donatists). St Cellestine expelled them from Rome and St Cyrill expelled them from Alexandria. St. Chrysostom had shut their
churches in Ephesus. They were tolerated in Constantinople and up until about 600 A.D. they continued to have a presence in Alexandria.

Tom Ross had continued:

"It is interesting to note that the above positions were taken by the ancient churches before the mode of baptism was ever a part of the controversy. It was the validity of the baptism which was in question . The early churches absolutely refused to accept the immersions of those groups that did not line up with them in faith and practice. Those churches that did begin to receive alien immersion became what is now known as the Roman Catholic Church."

As you can see from the above history of the schism between Novatian and the Catholic Church. Baptism was not an issue. The real issue was Novatian's desire for power and his rigorist attitudes regarding the readmission of the lapsed back into the Catholic community. Tom Ross has distorted the facts of history to suit his own ends i.e. his attempt to claim for the Baptists an Apostolic tradition which does not exist and at the same time lay claim to a dispute with regard to the form of baptism which did not exist and for which there are no writings to back this claim.

Tom Ross then turns his attention to the Donatists and he quotes a W. M . Nevins from a work called "Alien Baptism and the Baptists" (The name of the work sets up the bias of the source). He quotes from Nevins:
"The Donatists arose in Numidia in 311 A.D. and spread over Africa. The Donatists and Novatians were very nearly identical in doctrine and discipline. Crispin, the French historian says of them they stood together : "First for purity of Church members, by asserting none ought to be admitted into the Church but such as are believers and real saints. Secondly for purity of Church discipline. Thirdly for independence of each church. Fourthly they baptized again those whose baptisms they had reason to doubt. They were consequently termed rebaptizers and Anabaptists"

Once again it is obvious that Tom Ross has twisted the real facts to suit his subject matter. There were some similarities between the Donatists and the Novatians, (but the Novatians were more like the Montanists in their ideas). Both sects arose as a result of pagan persecution and the issue of forgiveness for those who had transgressed. For the Novatians it was forgiveness of those who had made pagan offerings rather than be martyred and for the Donatists it was the issue of offering up the Sacred Scripture and vessels rather than be martyred. In both instances there was the issue of power and also of disobedience. Rebaptism was related to these issues and also to those who were claimed to be heretics.