J. M. Carroll wrote The Trail of Blood in an attempt to prove that the Baptist denomination can be traced back to the book of Acts. In this attempt several religious groups are highlighted as holding to Baptist doctrine and thus, according to Carroll, were Baptists.
One of the flaws of this book is that it ignores true history. No attention is given to the English Separatists from which the Baptist denomination was actually birthed.
The other major flaw in this booklet is that the groups which are highlighted are not accurately presented. The beliefs are only partially represented. Only the beliefs which are in line with historical Baptist doctrine are mentioned. The fact that many of these groups rejected aspects of core doctrine is ignored.
Below is listed a few of the groups that some claim to have held to baptistic doctrine. The information below will show how misleading J.M. Carroll’s booklet, The Trail of Blood really is.
Waldenses- They never forsook the catholic teachings on soteriology – still holding to the belief that salvation was based upon their partaking of the seven sacraments of grace.
Donatist- They believed that the effectiveness of the sacraments depended on the moral character of the minister. The problem is that no person is morally pure. They were basing their salvation on the holy administration of the sacraments; not in Jesus Christ.
Cathari- The Cathari professed a neo-manichean dualistic philosophy, a belief in two ultimate principles of good and evil. The Cathari doctrines of creation led them to rewrite Biblical history. They devised an elaborate mythology to support their view. The Cathari viewed much of the Old Testament with reserve: some of them rejected it altogether. The orthodox view of the incarnation was rejected: Jesus was merely an angel, and his human suffering and death were an illusion.
Anabaptists- Many of the Anabaptists denied the Incarnation of Christ…not in the sense that He was not divine; they denied Him to be human. They also continued to practice sprinkling as opposed to immersion as the mode of baptism. There was also a large portion of the Anabaptist that rejected the teaching of the trinity.
Monotist- This group arose in Phrygia under the leadership of a certain Montanus and two female prophets, Prisca and Maximillia, whose entranced utterances were deemed oracles of the Holy Spirit. They had an immediate expectation of Judgment Day, and they encouraged ecstatic prophesying and strict asceticism. The movement died as a sect, except in isolated areas of Phrygia, where it continued to the 7th century. But the puristic anti-intellectual movement had many descendants – Novations, the Donatists, the Cathari and even Emanuel Swedenborg and Edward Irving. After 325 the sect [of Novatian] was merged with that of Donatism.
Albigenses- They held to the view that punishment in hell is not everlasting. All souls, being divine in nature, must eventually be liberated. Further, to accomplish deliverance, God sent upon earth Jesus Christ, who, although very perfect, like the Holy Ghost, is still a mere creature. The Redeemer could not take on a genuine human body, because He would thereby have come under the control of the evil principle. His body was, therefore, of celestial essence. His redemption was not operative, but solely instructive.
If a church today held to any of the viewpoints listed above, they would instantly be labeled as heretics. It is clear that these groups are not doctrinally pure. This is a clear case where J.M. Carroll decided what he believed then set out to prove it. As a result, he only shares the beliefs of these groups with which we would agree.
The organized Baptist denomination cannot be traced back to the book of Acts. Attempting to prove so is ultimately the result of pride, arrogance, and denominationalism.
The Trail of Blood booklet is very misleading; it misrepresents the truth, and it ignores historical facts. No opinion or belief should be based on it; to do so is to ingore historical truth.
—– For more information read James Edward McGoldrick’s response, ‘Baptist Successionism’ which gives researched opposition to Carroll’s unfounded theory. —–