'Baptist bride' theory holds that Baptists are the Apostolic church

This month's column raises a question that will be new to many readers, and we'd like your reactions to it. Have you heard of this theory before? Do you think it may have some validity? Do you know of churches that teach it, or even "non-Baptists" that teach something like it?

The question is raised by a man who is now an evangelical Presbyterian, with whom I've carried on a correspondence about the church for some months. He stresses that he no longer holds this theory, but was once a member of a large Baptist church in Indiana that still teaches it.

                                                           —"Theo"

I don't know if you are very familiar with the belief system of the ultra fundamentalists...mostly independent Baptists. This is what I was raised as. Their theory goes like this: early apostolic churches were small and independent (and of course Baptistic). Some [were] not, though, as heresies became introduced. As time went on, more and more churches succumbed to heresy. At the Council of Nicea, [fourth century A.D.] all the churches united, except dissident "Baptistic" ones, which were now forced underground as they were outside the official church.

Time goes on, and these underground churches—small though they may be—preserve the true apostolic faith. They are persecuted at every juncture...by the official church, the governments of the day, and even [much later] the [16th century] reformers...but they survive...and thus the gates of Hell have not prevailed against Christ's true church.

'Great twist'

Now, here's the great twist. They say that they are not Protestant as they did not come out of the Church of Rome. They predict that one day every Protestant group will be reunited with the Church of Rome. Rome, they see as the Great Harlot spoken of in Revelation. As you know, this harlot is called the "mother of harlots" which means she has many little harlots.

These little harlots are the Eastern [Orthodox] church and the Protestants which all broke from her, but will be reunited some day near the end. At this time they will greatly persecute the "true" church, but the "true" church will survive to be rescued by Christ. This is called the Baptist Bride theory because at the end, the only ones left to be the bride of Christ will be Baptists. That's not to say all Baptists, but the ones who remain faithful and do not unite with the beast of Rome. The fact that all the rest will [do so] is the "falling away."

Now, there seems to be just enough fact to go along with this fiction to make for some interesting thinking. Many Christians think that it would be the greatest thing in the entire world if the entire church could once again be unified. Having been raised in the above atmosphere, however, I think it would scare me if it ever happened, even though I left that camp a long time ago.

What are your thoughts? If it looked like the whole church was going to unify, wouldn't that cause some bells and whistles to go off? As to that stuff about them being the "only true church" I know everybody makes that claim, and there's not a lot to back up their claims. [On the other hand], if they had been persecuted and underground for 1800 years or so, that would make it difficult to have a well documented history.

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© 1996 Jon Kennedy