By Jonathan Tabbernor


Origins - History


This view suggests that Baptists were originally separatists in the puritan reaction to perceived corruptions in the Church of England in the 1600s. In 1609, John Smyth led a group of separatists to the Netherlands to start the General Baptist  church with an Arminan theology. In 1616, Henry Jacob led a group of Puritans in England with a Calvinist theology to form a congregational church that would eventually become the Particular Baptists in 1638 under John Spilsbury. Both groups had members who sailed to America as pilgrims to avoid religious persecution in England and Europe and who started Baptist churches in the early colonies. The Particular and General Baptists would disagree over Arminianism and Calvinism until the formation of the Baptist Union of Great Britain in the 1800s under Andrew Fuller and William Carey for the purpose of missions. American Baptists soon followed suit.

This is the most common view held by modern Baptists, which is found represented in the works of H. Leon McBeth and many others.   


Landmarkism is the belief that Baptist churches and traditions have preceded the Catholic Church and have been around since the time of John the Baptist and Christ. Proponents believe that Baptist traditions have been passed down through a succession of visible congregations of Christians that were Baptist in doctrine and practice, but not necessarily in name. This view is theologically based on Matthew 16:18 , "...and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." and a rejection of Catholicism as part of the historical origins of Baptists.


Anabaptists (Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites) were a group in the 1500s that rejected infant baptism and "rebaptized" members as adults. They share many teachings of the early Baptists, such as the believer's baptism and religious freedom and were probably influential in the development of many Baptist characteristics. While their names suggest some connection, some Anabaptists differed from the Baptists on many other issues such as pacifism and the communal sharing of material goods.

   It is difficult to say how much influence the Anabaptists had on the actual formation of Baptist churches. One of the strongest relationships between the two groups happened when John Smyth's General Baptists attempted but failed to merge with the Mennonites.  William Roscoe Estep offers the best presentation of this viewpoint.

Organization - Structure of the Church

Generally Baptists only recognize two Scriptural offices, those of pastor and deacon. The office of elder, common in some evangelical churches, is usually considered by Baptists to be the same as that of pastor, and not a separate office. The office of overseer or bishop is always considered to be the same as that of pastor or presbyter.

The prevalent view among Baptists is that these offices are limited to men only, following the model of Christ and His apostles and interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:12-14. However, the issue of women pastors and deacons has surfaced as controversy in some churches and denominations.

Central Beliefs - Worship

Believer's Baptism by total immersion in the Baptist ChurchBaptist churches do not have a central governing authority, resulting in the wide range of beliefs from one Baptist church to another. Baptist distinctives are beliefs that are common among Baptist churches, some of which are also shared with many other post-reformational denominations.

Baptists do not believe in infant baptism.  They believe that the individual has to make a personal commitment and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and saviour.  Baptists therefore believe in 'Believers Baptism'.  In the Baptist Church the person being baptized is usually led down into a small pool of water in the church building and totally immersed in water.  Baptists argue that the word 'Baptism' comes from a Greek word meaning 'immersion' - i.e. to be totally covered in water.

There is a way that has previously been shown to show the believes: This is in an acrostic style

  • Biblical authority
  • Autonomy of the local church
  • Priesthood of all believers
  • Two ordinances (baptism and communion)
  • Individual soul liberty
  • Separation of Church and State
  • Two offices of the church (pastor and deacon)