Really…it’s not what you think. I am embarking upon a fun (& hopefully helpful) reminder of those who have gone on before us and made significant contributions to our understanding of the faith and our faithfulness.
To do this, I am incorporating the concept behind the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (a.k.a. “March Madness”) to create a ‘tournament’ of head-to-head match ups between sixteen historic Baptists. I owe this inspiration to my friend Will who made me aware of this site, LentMadness, created by some Episcopalian priests to have the same kind of fun during the Lenten season. As I told him, outside of John the Baptist & MLK, Jr., there just weren’t enough Baptists for me (Yes, I know JtB isn’t really a Baptist in the traditional church history sense.)!
Sooooo, here we have “Baptist Madness 2016.” Sixteen historic Baptists. We will be voting in each round to advance one person from each match up to the next round until we arrive at this year’s winner.
The tournament participants and schedule:
Feb. 11 – Roger Williams v. Adoniram Judson // C.H. Spurgeon v. John Smyth
Feb. 15 – John Bunyan v. Annie Armstrong // Andrew Fuller v. John Leland
Feb. 22 – W.A. Criswell v. M.L. King, Jr. // J.P. Boyce v. Lottie Moon
Feb. 29 – Adrian Rogers v. Oswald Chambers // William Carey v. Thomas Helwys
March 7 & 14 – Second Round
March 17 – Semi-Finals
March 28 – Finals
March 30 – Announcement of Champion
Here’s a printable bracket for your predictions and planning your vote:
Now for our first two match ups!
MATCH UP #1
Roger Williams, (born 1603?, London, England—died January 27/March 15, 1683, Providence, Rhode Island [U.S.]), English colonist in New England, founder of the colony of Rhode Island and pioneer of religious liberty.
Williams, a Puritan, worked as a teacher before serving briefly as a colorful pastor at Plymouth and then at Salem. Within a few years of his arrival, he alarmed the Puritan oligarchy of Massachusetts by speaking out against the right of civil authorities to punish religious dissension and to confiscate Indian land. In October 1635, he was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony by the General Court.
After leaving Massachusetts, Williams, with the assistance of the Narragansett tribe, established a settlement at the junction of two rivers near Narragansett Bay, located in present-day Rhode Island. He declared the settlement open to all those seeking freedom of conscience and the removal of the church from civil matters, and many dissatisfied Puritans came. Taking the success of the venture as a sign from God, Williams named the community “Providence.”
Among those who found a haven in the religious and political refuge of the Rhode Island Colony were Anne Hutchinson,like Williams, exiled from Massachusetts for religious reasons; some of the first Jews to settle in North America; and the Quakers. In Providence, Roger Williams also founded the first Baptist church in America and edited the first dictionary of Native American languages.
[Opening biographical paragraph from the online Encyclopedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Roger-Williams-American-religious-leader; Remainder of article from Staff Writer for History.com, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/roger-williams-arrives-in-america ]
Adoniram Judson, (born Aug. 9, 1788, Malden, Mass., U.S.—died April 12, 1850, at sea, Indian Ocean), American linguist and Baptist missionary in Myanmar (Burma), who translated the Bible into Burmese and wrote a now standard Burmese dictionary.
When Adoniram Judson entered Burma in July, 1813 it was a hostile and utterly unreached place. William Carey had told Judson in India a few months earlier not to go there. It probably would have been considered a closed country today—with anarchic despotism, fierce war with Siam, enemy raids, constant rebellion, no religious toleration. All the previous missionaries had died or left.
But Judson went there with his 23-year-old wife of 17 months. He was 24 years old and he worked there for 38 years until his death at age 61, with one trip home to New England after 33 years. The price he paid was immense. He was a seed that fell into the ground and died. And the fruit God gave is celebrated even in scholarly works like David Barrett’s World Christian Encyclopedia: “The largest Christian force in Burma is the Burma Baptist Convention, which owes its origin to the pioneering activity of the American Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson.”
Judson was a Baptist when he entered Burma in 1813, even though he left New England as a Congregationalist. His mind had changed during the 114-day voyage to India and Carey’s colleague, William Ward, baptized Adoniram and Ann Judson in India on September 6, 1812. Today Patrick Johnstone estimates the Myanmar (Burma’s present-day name) Baptist Convention to be 3,700 congregations with 617,781 members and 1,900,000 affiliates.
[Opening biographical paragraph from the online Encyclopedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Adoniram-Judson; Remainder of article from John Piper, “Adoniram Judson: How Few There are Who Die so Hard,” http://document.desiringgod.org/adoniram-judson-en.pdf?1439242118 ]
MATCH UP #2
CHARLES H. SPURGEON
C.H. Spurgeon, in full Charles Haddon Spurgeon (born June 19, 1834, Kelvedon, Essex, Eng.—died Jan. 31, 1892, Menton, France), English fundamentalist Baptist minister and celebrated preacher whose sermons, which were often spiced with humour, were widely translated and extremely successful in sales.
Spurgeon was to nineteenth-century England what D. L Moody was to America. Although Spurgeon never attended theological school, by the age of twenty-one he was the most popular preacher in London.
He preached to crowds of ten thousand at Exeter Hall and the Surrey Music Hall. Then when the Metropolitan Tabernacle was built, thousands gathered every Sunday for over forty years to hear his lively sermons.
In addition to his regular pastoral duties, he founded Sunday schools, churches, an orphanage, and the Pastor’s College. He edited a monthly church magazine and promoted literature distribution.
Sincerely and straightforwardly he denounced error both in the Church of England and among his own Baptists. An ardent evangelical, he deplored the trend of the day toward biblical criticism.
To this day, his evangelistic fervor and love for preaching the truth of God’s word have earned him the nickname “The Prince of Preachers.”
[Opening biographical paragraph from the online Encyclopedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com/biography/C-H-Spurgeon; Remainder of article from introduction to W.Y. Fullerton’s Spurgeon biography with a concluding adaptation, http://www.romans45.org/spurgeon/misc/biopref.htm ]
John Smyth, also spelled Smith (died August 1612, Amsterdam), English religious libertarian and Nonconformist minister, called “the Se-baptist” (self-baptizer), who is generally considered the founder of the organized Baptists of England. He also influenced the Pilgrim Fathers who immigrated to North America in 1620.
Smyth’s history begins in England where he was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1594. Soon after his ordination, his zeal landed him in prison for refusal to conform to the teachings and practices of the Church of England. He was an outspoken man who was quick to challenge others about their beliefs but was just as quick to change his own positions as his own personal theology changed. Smyth continually battled the Church of England until it became obvious that he could no longer stay in fellowship with this church. Thus, he finally broke totally from them and became a “Separatist”.
In 1609, Smyth, along with a group in Holland, came to believe in believer’s baptism (as opposed to infant baptism which was the norm at that time) and they came together to form the first “Baptist” church. In the beginning, Smyth was on track with the typical orthodox church position; but as time passed, as was so typical, he began changing his positions. First, Smyth insisted that true worship was from the heart and that any form of reading from a book in worship was an invention of sinful man. Prayer, singing and preaching had to be completely spontaneous. He went so far with this mentality that he would not allow the reading of the Bible during worship “since he regarded English translations of Scripture as something less than the direct word of God.” Second, Smyth introduced a twofold church leadership, that of Pastor and Deacon. This was in contrast to the Reformational trifold leadership of Pastor-Elder, Lay-Elders, and Deacons.
With his newfound position on baptism, a whole new concern arose for these “Baptists”. Having been baptized as infants, they all realized that they would have to be re-baptized. Since there was no other minister to administer baptism, Smyth baptized himself and then proceeded to baptize his flock. An interesting note at this point that should be brought to bear is that the mode of baptism used was that of pouring, for immersion would not become the standard for another generation. Before his death, as seems characteristic of Smyth, he abandoned his Baptist views and began trying to bring his flock into the Mennonite church. Although he died before this happened, most of his congregation did join themselves with the Mennonite church after his death.
[Opening biographical prargraph from the online Encyclopedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Smyth; Remainder of article, with grammatical edits, from Chris Traffanstedt, “A Primer on Baptist History,” http://www.reformedreader.org/smyth.htm ]
These polls will be up one week from the date of the original post.