Landmarkism and Local Only

Number One Son has posted some notes on a connection between Landmarkism and the Local Church Only view.

I don’t think he is saying that the local only view is exclusive to Landmarkism, but that there is at least a connection.

Anyway, for those interested, thought you might like to see it.



  1. Ken Lengel says:


    A few thoughts on Number One Son’s blog post.

    First, is the title of the post really fair..”historical roots of local-church-onlyism”? Anyone who really understands this debate KNOWS that local church only advocates, for the most part, deny the premises of Landmarkism. It is unfortunate that the post is titled the way it is. (although I disagree with your post, as I see it as a poorly veiled attempt to link Landmarkism with those who properly defend the biblically correct view of the local church. – like that has never been done before.) The only reason Don for my strong language is because people who hold to a Spiritual Kinship view would never support Landmarkism, and do not find their origins in Landmarkism.

    Second, I don’t believe Kent suggested the doctrine of the universal church was dangerous, just wrong. However, even if he had, (and I would never speak for him) it is because the doctrine of ecclesiology is the focal point of God’s plan for this dispensation. If we get the doctrine of the church wrong, other doctrines will also fall in its’ wake almost immediately.

    Third, one question I would like to see answered in this debate is the opposite of the one being asked. Why is it important to believe in a universal church? Or better yet, why is it so dangerous to not believe in a universal church? Yes, one day, there will be a gathering of believers, we also will rule and reign with Christ, we will be at the Marriage supper of the Lamb. But all of that is in the future. So why make a fuss about it now?

    Finally, (not that this covers the entire breadth of this topic) we ought to be very careful not to miss what God has provided in His revelation, the Scriptures, to us regarding the local church. When we are saved, if we are obedient to His Word, after baptism by immersion, we join a local church. The apostles wrote their letters to individual local churches that they helped to establish. In rebuking how Christians were not living right before God, John writes the words of Christ in Revelation to individual churches, not “THE CHURCH” as a whole. I believe that when we look at how local churches were established, how they were administered, how members were to be disciplined, and how God holds individual churches accountable, any proof texting must be done in light of the overall doctrine of the local church as found in the Scriptures.

    I would have rather posted to his blog, but I did not see the ability to do so. However, since you mentioned it here, I decided to respond in kind.

    For His glory,
    Ken Lengel

    • Hi Ken

      Thanks for the response.

      Mostly we are just thinking about this, I don’t think we are trying to accuse anyone of anything, just trying to understand the vehemence.

      For me, the issue isn’t that important except that I don’t see how you can’t come to a local church only position from the Scriptures. I agree that most of the references to the ekklesia in the Scriptures are references to a local church. Nevertheless, there are some passages that quite clearly refer to something other than the local church. See my previous posts for the data.

      Would you say on the other hand that your view is simply following the Scriptures as you see it? Other than that, I don’t see any valid reason to hold the position, nor do I understand why it would be held with such vehemence. If the Scriptures taught a local church only view, that would trump everything. I just don’t see it.

      I’d appreciate a response that engaged in the texts I offer especially in the first of my two earlier posts.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

      • Ken Lengel says:


        Ok, the Scriptures say to “believeth all things” so let me ask in love. If not accusing and asking to engage the texts, can you evaluate the post itself?

        Does the post not suggest to the reader that those who hold to a local church only view might be a result of Landmarkism?

        Does not the title suggests the same when he writes.. “Historical roots of Local-Church-Onlyism”. Surely Number One knows again that most LCO believers do not support or believe in Landmarkism.

        The body of the post suggests that… “I’d like to suggest one reason why local-church-only advocates cannot concede the existence of the universal church….The idea that the term “church” can only refer to a local assembly is simply a necessary corollary of Landmarkist theology.” is this a textual argument?

        If you and number one truly want to discuss the text, why the post as it is written? I wouldn’t mind engaging the texts in the least. But if that is what one desires, don’t post things that have nothing to do with historical beliefs of those who support the LCO view apart from landmarkism and associate me with views you clearly know most LCO believers don’t uniformly accept or believe.


        • Hi Ken

          Well, would you say that Landmarkism is a source for the local only belief, or is it merely an attendant circumstance? That is, is it merely a coincidence that some non-Landmark Baptists believe in local church only and Landmarkers believe it also, or did one influence the other? Where did the local church only view come from?

          And we have provided the texts… we don’t have to keep going over the same material in every post do we? Go to the oxgoad main page and scroll down. The posts are only two or three back from this one.

          Don Johnson
          Jer 33.3

          • Ken Lengel says:

            Hi Don,

            No, I would not say that Landmarkism is a source, as I believe history has demonstrated since the time of Christ that local churches did not accept the universal visible or universal, visible and invisible church positions of Catholicism and the Reformers. Suggesting Landmarkism as a source for LCO position, is akin to suggesting that Catholicism is a source of your belief in the universal church. (and maybe you are ok with that designation.)

            Perhaps you need to read some good history regarding Baptists such as Armitage, Christian and others. (But I know where you will go with that as well, now don’t I.)

            Why argue texts, when you already misrepresent my views by associating me with landmarkism? I could associate you with the one-world church, but to what avail? Again, if you want to argue texts and why, that’s fine. But such a disingenious piece just meant to slander other believers by association is really un-Christ like.


          • Ok, Ken, we aren’t getting anywhere. Please look at the passages I’ve already discussed and comment on them. There is nothing wrong with noting history. It would be an interesting exercise to trace out the origins of the local only teaching, and this represents one suggestion.

            Don Johnson
            Jer 33.3

  2. Ken Lengel says:


    That’s fine. We can end the conversation. But to be fair, you did not answer my questions regarding the post. Trying to label the LCO view with Landmarkism, is not only historically inaccurate but also it was a childish attempt to smear those who hold a view you may have never studied. Have you not read Thomas Armitage or John Christian? I simply wish people would stop pretending to engage others on doctrine when really their words in a post are either ignorance of another’s viewpoints or a disguised attempt to belittle and smear those with whom they differ. At least admit it. Why write it if you can’t admit it?


    • Ken, you can’t deny there is a connection. Whether Landmark is the source or not is open to question. So far all you have offered is bluster with no references. Be glad to see actual quotes with citations to bolster your statements.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. Hi,

    We’re in the middle of a conference, but I’ve got more things to write about this issue, and the history does interest me a lot. I’m very familiar with the sources that Duncan is using, and quoting them doesn’t mean that much to me, with no disrespect to him. I think there is value to quoting people as a means of validating, for instance, that someone believed something. In the case of Duncan’s quotes, he’s quoting a modern and what he now thinks of people 150 years ago. I’m sure you can get some “atta-boys” from universal church folks, but it is quite unpersuasive as it relates to history. All it means to me is that the particular author thought that. It doesn’t prove it. Someone would do better to go to primary sources, instead of quoting people about people. Why not just quote the people in their context? I recently read Fred Moritz make basically the same point using the same source ( I dealt with it in these four parts:

    When someone says the universal church is obvious because of the plain meaning of Eph 1:22-23, and that’s all he writes, that isn’t enough for me. It’s not plain to me. It’s sort of like saying, IMO, that Acts 2:38 obviously teaches baptismal regeneration.

    • Well, Kent, of course it’s secondary sources. But we all don’t have access to primary sources, and we all use secondary sources, including you!

      But that’s not much of a point, is it? If you. can refute the argument, please do. Use primary, secondary, tertiary or what have you. Doesn’t matter. But do please post a substantive reply!

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

      • Ken Lengel says:


        Here is the difficulty for me in providing a substantive reply to the post. The logic of the argument is this:

        A – Spiritual Kinship View proponents believe in Local Church Only position
        B – Local Church Only position is found in Landmarkism
        C – Therefore, Spiritual Kinship View proponents take their position from Landmarkism

        This argument is faulty. Let me provide another example to show the folly of this line of reasoning.

        A – Mormons are dispensationsists
        B – Some Baptists are dispensationalists
        C – Some Baptists must be Mormons.

        I think Kent has provided enough of a substantial reply, so no more needs to be said on my part. Again, I did not appreciate the linking of Landmarkism to my beliefs on the local church, and it was unfortunate that the logic presented provided no real insight into the discussion, but only served as a point of derision to the view of others.


        • Ken, your second syllogism is laughable. The first premise is highly questionable, for starters.

          And you miss the point of the article entirely. Early Landmarkers were strong proponents of a local only theory. Is this the source of the theory? It is simple to disprove. Find the theory proposed prior to the Landmarkers by those who were not landmarkers.

          Otherwise, where else did it come from?

          So far none of you have dealt with the substance of either Duncan’s post or mine. The arguments would still stand if this were a formal debate.


          To all. I will be away from the computer for long stretches over the next couple of days, so delays in posting comments may occur. Sorry about that, it is unavoidable.

          Don Johnson
          Jer 33.3

    • Hi Kent,

      The primary source for the quotations I cited is Graves’ work “Old Landmarkism: What is It?” (McBeth includes citations that reference this source.)

      That source is available here:

      In that document, you may find the quotations I referenced on pages 32 and 38. After reviewing this source, don’t you have to agree that McBeth provides us with a fair representation of Graves’ antipathy toward the universal church? Can you identify any passage in Graves’ writing that supports a universal church position? Unless Graves changed his position later in life, I believe the evidence demonstrates that a significant feature of his Landmarkism was his belief in the local-only view.

      Thanks Kent, appreciate your thoughts.

  4. Brian says:

    Kent, since you are posting here and it is in reference to the ekklesia articles that Don has posted, I will bring my thoughts here as well. You deny a “universal” church yet you acknowledge in a post in another article a “generic” church, please, distinguish the difference between these two adjectives.

  5. Joey Haines says:

    To have faith in Jesus is, for instance, to be a part of his body (1 Corinthians 12), his flock (John 10), and his branches (John 15). He said in John 10 that He lays down His life for His sheep. In Ephesians 5:25 Paul says that Christ gave Himself up for the Church. By faith we become part of His body, by faith we become His branches, by faith we become part of His flock, by faith we become a part of His church. Is it contended that a man joined to Christ by faith is not a member of His church? If not, what else could you describe this but as the church universal?

  6. Hi guys,

    Thanks for the comments. I’m always hopeful that Don will make sure I stay on topic. As many of you know, I really like Don and defend him normally. If we talk, I think we have good talks, mainly because his gristle doesn’t bother me. He hasn’t yet been emasculated by modern culture. It seems he did a pretty good job of parenting too, from my limited ability to see. Unfortunately, he’s a dinosaur in fundamentalism. I think I gave a pretty substantive dealing to Moritz at least in my blogposts, because what he wrote was very similar to Duncan’s stuff. I’ll be writing more though and it will dovetail with something Don wanted from me in the first place, the dangers of UC ecclesiology and the motives for LO ecclesiology, etc. However, I’ll answer some questions here later, maybe when the conference is over, maybe earlier. I’m trying to be a good host here in the real world.

  7. John says:

    I stumbled upon this website as I have been confronted with this issue recently. There seems to be a lot of semantics that are not agreed upon in these debates. I think Brian’s post on 11.7.13 points to this. I have heard “local church only” preachers use the terms “corporate church” and “prospective church” and then define those terms to mean what I understand the term “universal church” to mean.
    I am trying to understand how “local church only” preachers interpret verses like I Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 5:25. The explanations I have gotten are either not “local church only” as I understand it, or deny the clear words of scripture. For example, I read where one pastor said that Paul is not part of the we of I Corinthians 12:13.
    I do see a lot of similarity between the Landmarkist position and the “local church only” position. Because of this, I have wondered how closely related they are. As Don stated, the hypothesis that “local church onlyism” is a product of Landmarkism could be debunked by proving the position existed before the Landmarkist movement.

    • Hi John

      Thanks for your comment. As you may be able to tell, I am not that active these days on my blog. I am glad you found some help from the site. I am not sure how to answer all your questions as I am not a local-church only man myself. I think there are some mistakes made by them, though I think most people who hold the view are generally sincere Bible believers. I don’t know anyone who holds their view who is liberal in their approach. So there is that.

      Nevertheless, I still think we have to let the Scriptures speak. We don’t interpret by majority vote or by what my favorite preacher says, or what have you. We interpret the Bible by the normal, grammatical, historical method. As such I don’t see how one can argue for a local church only viewpoint.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

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