what is a Baptist?

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by amity, Mar 9, 2007.

  1. amity

    amity
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    I had a little chuckle over another thread where someone questioned my "baptist-ness" having to do with a particular belief I espoused. This has got me thinking, what is there that unites Baptists and identifies them as Baptists? Is it just an historical accident that gave us all the same name? We surely do not have similar beliefs, except on perhaps one issue, which is of course baptism. But even there not all Baptists believe the same. Plus some non-Baptists believe in believer's baptism by immersion, etc.

    So what do you say a "Baptist" is?
     
    #1 amity, Mar 9, 2007
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  2. preachinjesus

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    Baptists, historically (all the way back to the original English Successionists), are a group of people who believe in baptism by immersion after faith in Jesus Christ.

    Now another aspect of Baptist polity which differs from other denominations is the belief in autonomy of local NT church from a more authoritative body.

    Also, and this is probably stretching it and really only applicable for the American version of Baptist polity is the idea of separation of church and state. (Of course this is more to do with the idea that the church should never become an established national religion than the more strange developments in our contemporary society.)

    I guess another would be the belief in only 2 sacraments/ordinances for the church and that they are symbolic confessions of faith with no measure of grace or salvation being imparted through them.

    That would be it. For what it's worth historical Baptist belief never took a stand on inerrancy or dispensationalism or eschatology for that matter. :)
     
  3. Watchman

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    Baptist? There are so many different beliefs among us, I would say: One who goes to a Church with the word "Baptist" on the sign out front. But preachinjesus had some good definitions also.
     
  4. preachinjesus

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  5. amity

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  6. Bro. James Reed

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    Anyone who agrees with my beliefs.:thumbs:
     
  7. pinoybaptist

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    Way to go, Brother, way to go !!:thumbs: :1_grouphug:
     
  8. Tom Butler

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    preachinjesus has it pretty much right. Let me add a couple more.

    A Baptist is identified principally by his views on baptism.
    1. Baptism of regenerated believers only
    2. Baptism by immersion
    3. Baptism as a picture of the gospel and of one's conversion.

    Then, his views on the Lord's Supper
    1. Not sacramental (as preachinjesus has pointed out)

    Then, the Baptist view on salvation:
    1. By grace through faith, not of works.
    2. Salvation is eternal--that is, a believer cannot lose it.

    preachinjesus has mentioned the ecclesiology, particularly the autonomy of the local church. I think you can add basicaly a congregational style of church government.

    If you tell someone you believe all these things I've mentioned, he'll probably say, "why, you're a Baptist."
     
  9. I Am Blessed 24

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    When we bought this house four years ago, one of the neighbors ask me if I was a Baptist. I told her yes and asked her how she knew.

    She said, "You always take your Bible to church." :laugh:
     
  10. Jon-Marc

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    In my case, the reason I'm a Baptist is because only a Baptist ever asked me if I was saved. I got saved and joined a Baptist church, and I haven't seen much reason to change except for being judged and condemned when I divorced my adulterous wife. My second wife divorced me because she found I wasn't perfect like she was.:laugh:
     
  11. Pipedude

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    Smyth and Helwys were Arminians (17th century). Your statement implies that the whole General and Free Will movements weren't and aren't Baptists; or, at least, that they never held "the" Baptist view.
     
  12. rsr

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    Seems that way sometimes, doesn't it?

    Baptists have traditionally been defined by church polity, not soteriology, eschatology or other doctrine.

    Those principles include that the church is made up only of regenerate, converted members (ruling out covenant theology and paedobaptism) and that each church is autonomous (which prohibits a denominational hierarchy).

    Immersion is the accepted mode of baptism, which is a command of Christ. It, like the Lord's Supper, is an ordinance to be followed, but the ordinances do not impart or aid the realization of grace.

    Further, Baptists have believed in the priesthood of the believer and soul competency. Each soul must stand before God solely on the basis of what Christ has done for us; no other person - parent, priest, pastor or friend - can interpose between an individual and his or her God.

    Because of this, Baptists have championed religious liberty and separation of church and state. The state has no power to compel belief nor force outward conformity to religion. Baptists believe religious liberty is a God-given right; we do not believe simply in tolerance. Each individual is responsible alone to God for his beliefs or lack of them; when the state attempts to regulate belief or practice, it is treading upon forbidden ground. Baptists reject the notion that the church needs secular support to carry out its mission.

    "[FONT=verdana,tahoma,arial][FONT=Verdana,Tahoma,Arial]A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power. (Baptist Faith and Message)"

    Unlike the Anabaptists-Mennonites, Baptists have not shunned civil society. Though civil society is, like man, fallen and imperfect, Baptists believed they have been called to interact with the larger society for the glory of God. Thus they have been involved in secular activities - including government - that our cousins have shunned. Neither have Baptists, by and large, been pacifists; war is evil, but it is not the greatest evil, and there are occasions when evils must be resisted by force.

    I have left out some of the old ingredients in the BAPTIST acrostic - such as two ordinances and two offices (pastor and deacon) - because there have been historic disagreements about those items (you can find four ordinances in the Philadelphia Baptist Confession, and Baptists - whether they admit it or not - have differed over the exact role of pastors, elders and deacons.)

    I'm sure I've left something out ...

    [/FONT]
    [/FONT]
     
  13. John of Japan

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    rsr has given a pretty good list of what are called the Baptist distinctives. He did, however, leave out one of the most important ones (just as you suspected, rsr :smilewinkgrin: ): "The Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice." This list varies slightly as rsr noted concerning the two offices of the church (pastor and deacon). I personally prefer to leave that one in, but the modern day "elder rule" advocates I'm sure want to leave it out.

    These Baptist distinctives are what are used by most Baptist historians to identify Baptists throughout history. However, those who consider the Baptist faith to extend back to NT times would be much less strict on this in order to include somewhat aberrant groups as the Paulicians.

    And that is my two yen worth. :thumbs:
     
  14. Deacon

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    Hummmmm, bickering and complaining seems to be a common element in many churches.
    Disagree with you there John. Those Baptist churches that are elder-run place the elder (or overseer) and the deacon as the two &quot;Baptist&quot; offices. The pastor would be a specific type of elder. Rob This formatting right today, uggggh.
     
    #14 Deacon, Mar 11, 2007
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  15. John of Japan

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    Okey dokey. But there are several different kinds of elder rule.

    One kind has the elders make all the decisions, and that disagrees with another Baptist distinctive, congregational rule. Once again, though, not all would list this one as a distinctive. I would.:type:
     
  16. saturneptune

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    How about missions, evanglisim, and spreading the Gospel as Baptist distinctives.
     
  17. Timsings

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    In the first volume of his Systematic Theology: Ethics, James William McClendon, Jr. has a section on defining the "baptist vision". He lists five points:

    1. Biblicism, understood not as one or another theory of inspiration, but as humble acceptance of the authority of Scripture for both faith and practice. (Related themes are restitution and restoration.)

    2. Mission (or evangelism), understood not as an attempt to control history for the ends we believe to be good, but as the responsibility to witness to Christ - and accept the suffering that witness entails.

    3. Liberty, or soul competency, understood not as the overthrow of all oppressive authority, but as the God-given freedom to respond to God without the intervention of the state or other powers. (Related themes are intentional community, voluntarism, separation of church and state.)

    4. Discipleship, understood neither as a vocation for the few nor an esoteric discipline for adepts, but as life transformed for service by the lordship of Jesus Christ. (Signified by believer's baptism; a related theme is the regenerate or believers' church.)

    5. Community, understood not as privileged access to God or to sacred status, but as sharing together in a storied life of obedient service to and with Christ. (Signified by the Lord's Supper.) [quoted from p. 28]


    He then asked whether there is a "genuine organizing principle" that ties these elements together. He cites the work of German theologian and philosopher Ernst Troeltsch who, in his studies cited liberty expressed by three Christian principles: (1) the separation of church and state; (2) voluntarism as the form of the church itself; and (3) individual liberty of conscience over against the state. [quoted from p. 29]

    I see this as a good straightforward summary of what it means to be baptist. McClendon basic approach was as a narrative theologian exemplified by his use of the phrase "a storied life of obedient service" in #5 above. A great part of my baptist experience has been shaped by the story of my life in a personal relationship with Christ within a community of faith. For that reason, McClendon's vision of being baptist resonates very strongly with me.

    Tim Reynolds
     
  18. John of Japan

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    Hey, personally I think this ought to be in there, but historically it wasn't. I would consider it a Fundamentalist distinctive but not a Baptist one. The reason is that the early English Baptists (early 1600's) did not do any missions or much evangelism for a long time until Andrew Fuller's (1754-1815) teachings produced the likes of William Carey (1761-1834), the "Father of Modern Missions."

    In fact, the Baptists of Carey's day at first actively opposed his ideas on foreign missions! As one old Calvinist famously said to Carey, "Young man, sit down. When God is ready to save the heathen He will do it without your help." That man later became a Carey supporter, by the way.
     
  19. John of Japan

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    I've not read McClendon, Tim, but this is a very interesting approach. It is not the traditional "Baptist distinctives" approach but seems to include most of what such a list would have.

    One of those more traditional lists is by Edward Hiscox in his famous Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches (1859, 1894; pp. 16-19; I'm paraphrasing him):

    1. Autonomy of the local church
    2. Baptism by immersion
    3. Baptism only for believers (no babies baptized)
    4. Communion only for baptized believers
    5. Regenerate membership
    6. Congregational rule
    7. Two offices, pastor and deacon ("bishop" and "elder" both meaning pastor)
    8. Fundamental doctrines in common with other evangelical Christians. (Here is where most modern lists say "The Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice.")
     
  20. rsr

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    See, I knew I would leave something out ...

    "The rule of this knowledge, faith, and obedience, concerning the worship of God, in which is contained the whole duty of man, is (not men's laws, or unwritten traditions, but) only the word of God contained [viz., written] in the holy Scriptures; in which is plainly recorded whatsoever is needful for us to know, believe, and practice; which are the only rule of holiness and obedience for all saints, at all times, in all places to be observed. [ii] (First London Confession)[/i]"
     

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