Thanks for starting this thread Notworthy.
I would like to start out by saying that since there is so much controversy surrounding the “Trail of Blood” book, I think it would be best to lay that work aside, and concentrate on historical references that can be validated. I have read the book, but I will not quote it here… I may though reference content similar to that book but I will use other resources.
I would also, in this first post like to say that I agree somewhat with McGoldrick in his analysis of the Baptists inability to trace their roots to the early Church…
"Although no reputable Church historians have ever affirmed the belief that Baptists can trace their lineage through medieval and ancient sects ultimately to the New Testament, that point of view enjoys a large following nevertheless.
Since no-one has been able to trace historical evidence of successive teaching, ordination, or baptism from the Apostles to the current church, it would be futile for me to approach the argument from that direction. But, one must ask the question… If that is the case, why would someone like me remain a Baptist, and not join the Institution with the most complete historical records? The answer to that is simply… The kingdom of God is not of this world.
The kingdom of God, and the Church Christ built is not an earthly kingdom, or a terrestrial church… it is one which exists in eternity, is united spiritually by the Holy Spirit, and is one which will be united physically at Christ’s return.
In the other thread (which was not hi-jacked), I presented some distinctives of a “Baptist” church, I intentionally left out what I believe to be the most important distinctive of a Baptist church to use later in the argument… That they believe in a non-worldly kingdom. That is to say, that Christ’s kingdom is not worldly… so those churches would not be dominionists in any way, they would not be enthralled with politics, usury or national standing. But they would primarily be concerned with evangelism for the “spiritual kingdom” of Christ.
These churches that have been mentioned; ie, Paulicians, Donatists, Vale Olchan were churches that understood the individual relationship each believer has with Christ, and as churches they were only considering themselves “assemblies” of believers. For example: the Donatists broke away from the Metropolitan in Rome and sought to institute an “independent” church. Why? Because the authority of the believer was not a magisterium, but Christ, and the only way to ensure that is to remain an “independent assembly”. Likewise, the Paulicians, and the Vale Olchan were also sensitive to the truth of a “spiritual kingdom”.
Since these groups made no effort to build or strengthen a worldly kingdom for Christ, but only efforted to evangelize to the benefit of the spiritual kingdom of Christ… certain other distinctives were evident that an outside observer would use to deduce and classify that particular assembly as “anabaptist”, or nowadays “baptist”.
These other distinctives are…
a. Independent Churches
b. Regenerate Church Membership
c. Believers Baptism
d. Baptism by immersion (an illustration of the new birth)
e. Independent soul liberty of believers
As you can see, it is really not relevant to discuss a succession of Baptist ordinations, or historical evidence of churches named “Baptist” before 1608.