Who in the world are the Baptists?
To answer that question, you would first have to ask, “Which Baptists?” While Baptists are a member of a group of Protestant Christians who share the basic beliefs of most Protestants they insist that only believers should be baptized and that it should be done by immersion rather than by the sprinkling or pouring of water. Most Baptists lay stress upon having no human founder, no human authority, and no human creed, however, most scholars agree that Baptists, as an English- speaking denomination, originated within 17th-century Puritanism as an offshoot of Congregationalism.
In 1638 the first Baptist church of America was formed when Roger Williams separated from officials in the Massachusetts Bay Colony over his belief about church polity and located in uncolonized Rhode Island. Baptists played an important role in shaping American history when Thomas Jefferson joined with the Danbury Baptists to form the free exercise of religious freedom statement which later became known as the separation of the church and the state. Since its origins, Baptists have said the Bible is the only authority for Christian faith and practice. Because of this position, that can be based on interpretation, there are many forms of Baptist churches who have a plurality of beliefs. Some are formed on conservative values while others are formed on progressive values all seeking to find Biblical ground for their belief system. According to the Baptist World Alliance, an international organization of all Baptist churches, there are over 200 different Baptist organizations in the world many of which may have just some insignificant interpretation that would cause them to form another association. In America it is thought that there are over 60 million Baptists.
Today, as well as historically, whenever you think of Baptists one thought comes to mind and that is “believer’s baptism.” Believer’s Baptism simply means that those who are able to make a conscious profession of faith, as contrasted to the practice of baptizing infants, follow the example of Christ and are immersed in water as a public testimony of their faith. This along with Communion are the two ordinances of the church.
What Baptists believe can be summed up into 6 statements: 1 THEAUTHORITYOFTHEBIBLEas God’s spoken Word to man.
2 THE AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH – each individual local congregation of believers is free to act for and govern itself.
3 THE PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER – Baptists believe that there is no man or church authority that one must go through to fellowship with God. We are all our own priest.
4 SOULLIBERTY-eachindividualis free to determine their own eternal destiny. With this freedom of choice also comes responsibility as each man will answer to God for their choice.
5 SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE – Baptists hold that the church and state are two separate entities and are not to mix their authorities. Both are ordained by God for different purposes.
6 SALVATION BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH – Baptists believe that all men are sinners and in need of salvation. Christ has purchased our salvation through His death and resurrection and by believing and accepting this free gift we are eternally saved.
Baptists take great pride in their higher education institutions which have played a predominant role in the forming and maintenance of America’s democratic form of government and life. They have also played a significant role in the founding of black churches, which constitute a major segment of American Baptist life as well as being on the leading edge of placing women in ministry roles.
Faith Matters Larry Fultzt