Francis Wayland Analysis

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Francis Wayland’s Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches is an extensive anthology of papers, essays, and instructions on Baptist faith and practice. The subjects of the work sprawl from specifically Baptist theological, ethical, and political commitments—i.e., principles—to concrete issues of polity, preaching, ordination, membership, theological curriculum, and sermon preparation—i.e., practices. What unites these essays, of course, is their Baptist distinctiveness, which, for Wayland, might be more particularly rendered as a commitment to the New Testament as the “only rule of faith and practice” (92). Rather than attempting to comment on all the papers assembled here, I will focus on a few select discussions that detail …show more content…
“We hold that each several church is a Christian society, on which is conferred by Christ the entire power of self-government. No church has any power over any other church.” Wayland continues, “[e]very church, therefore, when it expresses its own belief, expresses the belief of no other than its own members” (13-14). The emphasis here is on the diversity and plurality of Baptist belief as it varies from church to church; each church has is distinct and has determination over its community’s life. Behind this positive articulation of the autonomy of the local church, is an anti-creedal impulse. Wayland believes that when creeds attempt to unite churches by regulating belief, they problematically monopolize church life. And such monopolizing does not achieve church unity but rather, it produces division. The critical proof here is historical: if creeds functioned to preserve unity, then why have there been so many divergences and schisms in church history? Stated positively, the absence of creed, which underwrites the autonomy of every church, is what constitutes the unity of Baptist …show more content…
Wayland, however, leaves this question unaddressed in Notes. Additionally, it is unclear how Wayland would respond to the objection from creedal church traditions that although the New Testament may have divine standing, it historically emerged as a canon within the Christian tradition, and, in fact, because of councils. Would an acknowledgement of the New Testament’s historical genesis affect Wayland’s interpretation of its uniquely binding role as divine revelation? Or, less strongly, would it force him to reappraise the value of

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