The Baptists, collectively, is one of the largest Christian denominations in the world. Considered a branch of Protestantism, Baptists subscribe to the belief that baptism should be performed on those who profess their belief in Jesus Christ, as opposed to the infant baptism used by other denominations. Their way of baptizing converts is through complete immersion instead of affusion or sprinkling water on them.
Like many Protestant churches, Baptists also believe that one receives salvation through faith alone. Their worship and doctrines may differ slightly from other Protestant denominations and even in their own fellow Baptist churches. The denomination was established way back in the 17th century.
According to historical evidence, Baptists emerged in England during the early 1600s. Apparently, they came out of the Puritans, and the Separatists, who had broken off from the Church of England. These people wanted reforms in their church and to bring back the simplicity of the worship, and to read the Word of God.
The Separatists were actually frustrated Puritans who had given up hope of reforming the church. So they separated from the Puritans, established their own congregation, and read and studied the Bible from which they adopted their belief of baptizing a believer (as opposed to infant baptism) through full immersion. They eventually became known as “Baptists” and their numbers grew.
There were two kinds of Baptists that emerged as soon as the Baptist church established. Both of these two Baptists groups had the common belief of performing the believer’s baptismal and full immersion, but at the same time, they differed slightly in their way of worship.
- General Baptists – They believed in the general idea of redemption, that Jesus Christ died for all of us generally and whoever would believe in Him could be saved. An English minister named John Smyth founded the first General Baptist in Holland in the early 1600s.
- Particular Baptists – They believed that Christ died for a particular group of people, the chosen ones. These Particular Baptists came to a generation after the General Baptists. They were profoundly influenced by the teachings of John Calvin, one of the most popular Reformers.
A lot of people assume that the name “Baptists” came from Saint John the Baptist. You’ll be surprised that this is not actually true.
The group who came to be known as “Baptists” were called as such by their opponents, who viewed their practice of baptism through complete immersion.
The first Baptist church in America was founded in Providence, Rhode Island, by theologian Roger Williams in 1638. Needless to say, it is the oldest Baptist church in the US.
The more conservative members abstain from and oppose drinking alcohol, smoking, gambling, while a few extremely conservative Baptists even forbid dancing, playing card games, and going to the movies. In areas where there is a large population of Baptists, particularly in the South, much of these conservative values are successfully imposed on its members.
The Baptist church has between 75 and 105 million adherents around the world. The largest Baptist populations are concentrated in the USA (with about 35 million).
Although Baptists are like that — Baptists, their own churches otherwise hold different views, practices, and beliefs since this denomination has no centralized authority over them. They act autonomously from each other. Some of the doctrinal issues that find the widespread difference among Baptist churches include:
- Calvinism vs. Arminianism
- Eschatology (end of time)
- The way the Bible should be interpreted
- Ordination of women
- Nature of Law and Gospel
- and others
The Baptists believe that the priesthood should be for all adherents as a way to exercise religious liberty. This eliminates the hierarchical overlays of priests and traditions so that all Christians will have equal access to God’s truth and Word through the thorough study of the Bible.
Throughout the centuries, Baptists have maintained that the Bible is the sole and ultimate authority. They have opposed anyone who claimed otherwise, including popes, kings, and bishops as well as pastors and teachers. Because of the Baptists’ allegiance to the Bible’s authority, many of the adherents have experienced suffering and persecution by rival religious groups as well as by secular powers.
The Baptist church owns the biggest seminary in all of the Christian world. It is called the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, USA.
Famous Southern Baptist minister and evangelist Billy Graham has preached to approximately 215 million people, more than any man in history
Most people know that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister. His unwavering Christian faith and belief in nonviolence led to the historic civil rights movement in the US. Because of this, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. His birthday, January 15, is now a national holiday.
This term refers to extreme Calvinists (adherents to Reformer John Calvin and his teachings) who believe that one’s soul is an impenetrable shell and is predestined to either go to heaven or hell. Only a few of these “Hardshell Baptists” survive and they are now referred to as Primitive Baptist churches.