It is the claim of some Baptist groups that their church is the 'true' church founded by Jesus Christ. They attempt to trace their heritage all the way back to John the Baptist. Their primary 'proof' is a 56 page booklet titled, "The Trail of Blood," written by J.M. Carroll in 1931. In the book, the author attempts to show that historical heretical groups, Montanists, Novatianists, Donatists, Paulicians, Albigensians, Catharists, Waldenses, and Anabaptists were really early Baptists, and they were pursued by Catholics and wiped out. Since there is no evidence of this to show, they claim the 'evidence' was destroyed by the Catholic Church. Interestingly, Baptist theologians reject this story as unfounded and not credible. Nevertheless, some Baptist splinters called "Landmark Baptists", continue to teach it, to the embarrassment of the great majority of Baptists.
Let us examine each of these groups...
1. Montanists, denied all second marriages, even after the death of the spouse. They required all virgins wear veils in Church. They denied the forgiveness of sins, thus making a movement without hope.
2. Novatianists, taught that no sin was to be forgiven after Baptism. They too denied second marriages under any circumstances. Novatian covertly had himself declared a Bishop and was subsequently ex-communicated.
3. Donatists, taught that the true Church consisted only of the elect and that Baptisms were only valid when performed by a Donatist.
4. Paulicians, believed in the plurality of gods, held that all matter was bad, rejected the Old Testament, denied the incarnation, said Christ was an angel. They refused to honor the cross, by saying Christ had not been crucified.
5. Albigensians, believed in two gods, one good and the other evil. They rejected all sacraments, declared it was sinful to marry. This promoted sexual permissiveness. Pregnancy was to be avoided and abortion was promoted.
6. Catharists, followers of all the heresies of the Albigensians.
7. Waldenses, taught that the Church should have no
property and condemned tithing. Interestingly, they accepted the Holy Eucharist
as the Body of Christ.
8. Anabaptists, practiced polygamy and communism. They condemned oaths as unlawful. Anabaptists were founded by Thomas Munser in 1521. This fact alone refutes the Baptist claim to antiquity.
In recounting the 'deeds' of these heretical groups, why would anyone want to claim any of them as ancestral 'proof' of their origin?
Now since Jesus Christ promised His Church would last forever, "The gates of Hell will not prevail against it," Matt 16:18, what do you suppose He was doing with His Church during all of these centuries? Was He switching His Church to these heretical groups as they came along, 'zigging' to Montanists, and 'zagging' to Novatianists and so on? That notion is ridiculous. No, He did exactly what He said He would do. He was preserving and protecting His One Holy Catholic Church.
Now in dealing with Sola Scriptura believers as Baptists are, I will insist on playing the Sola Scriptura game also in situations such as this one. The very meaning of the words Sola Scriptura is that everything believable must be found in the Bible, and if something is not in the Bible, then it simply does not exist or it never happened. At least that is what they tell Catholics. However, that same concept can be used by Catholics also for their beliefs of Baptist secessionism. I simply cannot find any verse which even hints that John the Baptist founded a church. Why can't I find it in the Bible? Is there a double standard here for SS believers, one for themselves and another one for Catholics?
Where is the evidence? If Evangelical Baptists existed since the time of John the Baptist, then the history books should have many references to them. The writings of the Early Church Fathers, the historians of their day, do not mention Evangelicals or Baptists at all. But what is very interesting is that the writings of scores of them mention the Catholic Church by name, hundreds of times. In the writings of Saint Augustine (354-430) alone, he mentions the Catholic Church, by name, over 300 times.