Reisinger biography reviewedBIO REVEALS INFLUENCE OF PEDOBAPTISTS
ON ERNEST REISINGER & THE FOUNDERS
A brief book review by Bob L. Ross.
Ernest C. Reisinger, A Biography by Geoffrey Thomas, published by The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002; 262 pages, hardback binding; $29.75.
The late Ernest Reisinger (1919-2004) was won to Christ in his mid-20s, primarily thru the witnessing and prayerful efforts of Elmer Albright, a member of the "Arminian" Christian & Missionary Alliance church (chapter 3). His conversion experience involved his praying "the sinner's prayer" after reading a Gospel tract entitled, "What Must I Do to be Saved?" and other tracts (page 20). He thereafter made a public confession of faith in Christ as Savior at a Salvation Army meeting (page 20), and soon thereafter was baptized at a Southern Baptist Church in Havre de Grace, Maryland in 1943 (page 22).
After his conversion, Ernest became a very zealous witness for Christ, an ardent evangelistic tract and book distributor as a means to reach lost souls with the Gospel. He was so zealous that his Mother suggested that he might have had a "nervous breakdown" (page 33). "He's always handing out pieces of paper to people," she said, referring to Ernest's Gospel tract distribution.
The wife of one of Ernie's acquaintances who became one of his closest friends, remarked, "That man goes about Carlisle in a pickup truck wearing a porkpie hat and talking to everyone about being 'saved'" (page 56).
His unsaved brother, John, was so irritated by Ernest that he "decided it was time to get away from his older brother and his little black book," so John moved from Pennsylvania to St. Louis for awhile, but there John was soon confronted on the job by a fellow carpenter who "began to talk to him about Jesus Christ."
John said, "I've only met two nuts in the world . . . my own brother and you." After two years, John returned to Pennsylvania and was himself converted (pages 13, 14).
As time passed, and as Ernest became a very successful businessman in his and brother John Reisinger's construction company, he utilized his own financial resources to engage in personal evangelistic activities and soul winning efforts, especially in the distribution of literature -- which in later years would be classified as "Arminian literature" (page 72).
Another close pastoral acquaintance of Ernest summarized the "first love" of his earlier years: "Ernie was above all else a soul-winner, an avid witness for Christ" (page 72).
In the due course of time, however, Ernest came under the influence of Presbyterian pedobaptists, and their theology gradually began to have its effect upon his evangelistic outlook and witnessing methods. His zeal and resources were to become redirected to be more in accord with the pedobaptist theology which he was imbibing.
As this continued over the years, Ernest's primary concern in ministry became directed to the advocacy of "reformation" among Southern Baptists toward pedobaptist soteriology, eschatology, and to some extent pedobaptist ecclesiology.
The Biography relates that he first became acquainted with pedobaptists as a teenager, even before he was converted, attending a Presbyterian Sunday School and becoming a "registered member" of a pedobaptist church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (pages 10-12). Later, in January of 1946, Ernest was even commissioned by the Carlisle Presbytery as a "lay preacher" (page 52). It was even later in life, however, that pedobaptist theology was to become so greatly influential in the formation of Ernest's theological ideas and practices which were to characterize his ministry as a pastor, writer, and leader of a "movement" focused on "reform."
The Biography reveals that by his personal acquaintance with notable pedobaptist ministers and by reading pedobaptist writers, Ernest was indoctrinated with a great deal of conservative pedobaptist theology even without attending seminary (page 217). While he never adopted pedobaptist views on infant baptism and infant church membership, he did absorb enough of their theology to lead him to revise his procedures in evangelism from what he had practiced in previous years. His zeal and energies became more engaged in promoting certain "Reformed" theological views and practices, and he remonstrated strongly in opposition to what he regarded as "Arminian" practices, such as the "altar call" and what he called "decisionism."
Despite his early teenage affiliation with Presbyterianism, in the 1950s he helped establish the Grace Baptist Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. However, within a few years both he and the church had become so greatly influenced by pedobaptist sources and literature that Ernest wrote his first letter to pedobaptist Iain Murray of The Banner of Truth Trust in 1964, saying --
"We all seem to lean to the Presbyterian idea of elders and deacons . . . We are a congregation of Baptists that is almost Presbyterian" (pages 104, 105).
Following that first contact with Iain Murray, both Ernest and the Church became closely and personally associated with Murray and The Banner of Truth. Ernest visited Murray and spoke in England, and Murray visited Carlisle and spoke in the USA.
[The Pastor of the Carlisle church from 1963 to 2002 was Walter J. Chantry, and since retirng as pastor he has been appointed Editor of The Banner of Truth magazine. A "Reformed" website describes the magazine as being "part of the glue binding together people of the Reformed persuasion around the globe. . . . While there may be a certain Presbyterian "flavour" to the Magazine, Reformed Baptists will find the Magazine a blessing as well."]
Paradoxically, these Carlisle "Baptists" established an official distribution branch in the USA for BT's pedobaptist publications, and Ernest actually became a trustee of that organization -- an organization which is committed to the pedobaptist theological standards and financed by a Trust Fund established by a multi-millionaire businessman, D. W. Cullum (1910-1971), a pedobaptist friend of pedobaptist Martyn Lloyd-Jones of Westminster Chapel in London (page 106. Banner of Truth, No. 93, pages 1-5).
The influence of Murray, Jones, and other pedobaptists on Ernest was obvious, especially in matters such as their anti-public invitation stance, pro-Presbyterian type elders, and the advocacy of the "born again before faith" idea on the new birth. The influence of Murray also seems to account for Ernest's repeating a great deal of Murray's misrepresentation of C. H. Spurgeon.
Ernest became so "presbyterianized" that he even served as a nationwide promoter for the Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and "had an influence on the shaping of Westminster Seminary in California" -- according to his biographer who quotes a comment by Bob den Dulk, Ernest's friend, who was appointed to be its second president (pages 119-124). "After each trip Ernie would present a report to President Clowney" of the Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia (page 124).
When it was decided by the Carlisle church in 1971 that Ernest should be ordained, who but a pedobaptist was selected to bring "the charge to the church" at the ordination service -- the popular Dr. Cornelius Van Til of the Westminster Semnary (page 136).
But what was to primarily captivate Ernie's latter-year intensive interest and devotion was the promotion of a post-17th century pedobaptist version of "Calvinism" as a "reform" movement among the Southern Baptists who would give him their ear. This obsession with "reform" led to the eventual development of what is often called the "Founders movement."
In 1982, Ernest and a few of his ministerial proteges among the Southern Baptists -- Fred Malone, Tom Nettles, Bill Mitchell, Bill Ascol and Tom Ascol -- met together and planned a "Conference" to be held in Memphis. This Conference and subsequent similar Conferences over the years were "chaired" by Ernest, they often featured pedobaptist speakers, and contributed to the movement's eventual formation as the Founders Ministries.
This movement operates today as a "parachurch" organization, primarily directing its proselyting efforts toward an alleged "reform" of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, and seeking to promote the Hybrid Calvinism characteristics of modern "Reformed" or pedobaptist sources.
One of Reisinger's most prominent personal efforts at "reform" -- or what some might call the "presbyterianizing" of a Baptist church -- was in his pastorate at North Pompano Baptist Church, North Pompano, Florida, beginning in the late 1970s. He offers the North Pompano church as an example of "reform" in his small book, A Quiet Revolution (chapter four), but his effort eventually floundered into an ultimate split, according to the biographer (page 197), and the original church apparently is either very small, or no longer extant.
Unfortunately, the Founders' "reform" approach has often been blamed for similar splits and internal strifes within some Southern Baptist churches. The movement seems to be something on the order of a sect-in-the-making. Its website even now categorizes a number of churches as "Founders friendly churches." In its "FAQ" section on the website, the question, "How can I find a Founders church?" is asked. The answer includes the following:
"To encourage such networking, we have established two lists on our web site that allow individuals and churches to voluntarily associate themselves with the Founders movement. We invite you to use these lists to find churches or individuals who share a burden for the recovery of the gospel and the reformation of the local church."
One of the Houston churches "voluntarily" on this list bears the name of Founders Baptist Church. I have also noticed several church websites which indicate affiliation with the Founders.
The Founders has really become almost a "small denomination within a large denomination," the Southern Baptist Convention. That's where it wants to remain, for proselytizing is much more readily accomplished from the inside rather than from the outside. Influencing church members to become so "reformed" that they split off of an existing SBC church to form a new Founders-friendly church is more convenient than the "old fashioned way" of winning souls, baptizing converts, and forming a church.
Those who are not aware of the pedobaptist influence on Ernest Reisinger and how it has served to "presbyterianize" the Founders Ministries will gain a great deal of insight thru reading Ernest Reisinger, A Biography by Geoff Thomas. It furnishes a great deal of theological and ecclesiastical understanding about the pedobaptist roots behind the Founders' efforts to proselyte and "presbyterianize" Southern Baptist churches under the guise of "reform."