Early Theological and Historical Influences on the Doctrines of James Robinson Graves
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As the Southern Baptist Convention of the mid-19th-century continued its tug-of-war over membership and churches with the Stone-Campbell Restoration movement, James Robinson Graves founded the Landmark movement at a meeting in Cotton Grove, Tennessee in order to rejuvenate the Baptist sense of theological identity. The firebrand minister and editor of the Tennessee Baptist prescribed strict boundaries to Baptist ecclesiology, including a definition for "legitimate" baptism and the restriction of the church to a local and visible nature, to the exclusion of the universal church and centralized missions. To carry his argument, Graves cited both Scripture and a theory of "historical succession" that linked the New Testament church to contemporary Baptists using a theological chain that included medieval heretics. This thesis examines the preacher's life and career prior to Graves's Cotton Grove Resolutions of 1851 and the sudden rise of Landmarkism that followed. In doing so, this thesis attempts to explain why Graves developed the Landmark theology contained in the resolutions. This thesis argues that while the essence of Graves's doctrines evolved from that of the Separate Baptists of Graves's New England birthplace, Landmarkism's exclusionary character arose from Graves's observations of the effects of the Stone-Campbell movement and the liberalization of mainstream ecclesiology on Southern Baptist life.