Baptists comprise the largest group of Christian churches in the U.S.. Instead of formal denominations as other churches grouped together call themselves Baptists developed "Conventions". This distinction allows them to ban together for purposes of world wide evangelism, programs for pastoral staff benefits, influence public policy, etc.
This also allows them to retain their individual congregational Church polity. The absence of formal ties allows each Church to practice its own baptism, worship style and each individual to follow the dictates of his own conscience without strict adherence to denominational rules.
While there are no formal creeds all Baptists adhere to, there are from its founding "Confessions" that summarize general doctrines; including the Philadelphia Confession written in London in 1689 and later expanded 1742. The other is the New Hampshire Confession written in 1832. The principle differences being the latter is less dependent on Calvinist doctrine, specifically, predestination.
Baptists historically, have practiced "believers baptism" meaning that an individual is baptized, by immersion rather than sprinkling, who has
Through the early colonial period, Baptists agitated for clear separation of Church and State and later, played a key role in its philosophy being incorporated into the First Amendment.
reached the age to understand intellectually its true meaning. Scripture, typically, is viewed as "inspired" by God through the Holy Spirit and is trustworthy as the sole rule of life. Jesus Christ is Lord over His followers and will someday be recognized by all as Lord and Ruler of all Earth and Heavens.
No priestly intermediaries are necessary to approach God but each individual approaches God. Salvation, forgiveness for sin, is by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ as Savior, the Second Person of the Trinity. Ordinances as symbols are limited to the Lord’s Supper and baptism. The local Church should be a group of regenerated believers only so each Church accepts new members by confession of faith only; at the local Church level or by “transfer of letter”. Its strong view of Separation of Church and State from its beginning has allowed Baptist churches to flourish without depending on state (government) funds to function.
Baptists in the United States derived principally from the need to separate from the early Puritans in England. Leaving English persecution from King James 1, (King James Bible) they fled to Holland where they met with Mennonites who shared many of the same doctrines. John Smyth, their leader, incorporated the “believers baptism” into his doctrine and he and his followers were rebaptized. Eventually, they moved back to London where they started the Baptist Church in London.
In its infancy, Baptist doctrine focused on "general" atonement meaning all persons could be saved. Later, "particular" Baptists preached, as did John Calvin, that only certain individuals would gain salvation and eternal life.
In America, in 1631, Roger Williams, arrived only to be persecuted for his views of freedom of conscience by the Puritans. He later organized the First Baptist Church in American in Providence in 1639. In nearby Newport, in 1641 a second Baptist Church was established. Through the early colonial period, Baptists agitated for clear separation of Church and State and later, played a key role in its philosophy being incorporated into the First Amendment.
Concurrent with the Englishman, William Carey, who many believe started the modern missionary movement after evangelizing in India in 1793, American Baptists started their own missionary convention for foreign outreach. This spawned other endeavors including tract societies, home missionaries, Christian education and ministries to children and young adults.
While there had been considerable camaraderie among American Baptists up to this time, in 1845, due mainly to the issue of slavery, Baptists in the American South split off from their Northern counterparts to form their own Southern Baptist Convention.
Today, Baptists in America include Alliance of Baptist Churches, American Baptist Association, National Association of Free Will Baptists, Southern Baptist Convention, National Baptist Convention of American, National Baptist Convention USA, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Primitive Baptists, General Baptists, and others.
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