Doctrine History

Four Views of Baptist Origins

I pastor a Baptist church in Southwest Las Vegas. The name of the church is Southern Hills Baptist Church. We have many members from many different backgrounds including Atheism, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Pentecostalism, Presbyterianism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Mormonism. In our ranks we have those who have been raised as Muslims, Baptists, Jehovah Witnesses, Anglicans and Charismatics. Yet we hold none of these titles as our common denominator. Each of us have been born-again by repenting of our unbelief (Acts 16:31, John 3:16) and receiving Christ as Savior (Romans 10:9-13). We call ourselves Christians. However, we identify our church as a Baptist church. Why? In a later post I will outline The Baptist Distinctives that clearly identify a baptistic church. Today I will share the Origin of the Baptist Church. Here are four different views.

The Outgrowth of English Separatism
The dalliances of King Henry VIII led to great confusion in the Christian realm of England in the 16th Century. The church of England had become the officially sanctioned church of the kingdom after separating from the Roman Catholic church. Under Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I the Anglican Church became more established. Yet the officially recognized state church of England was criticized by the Separatists for “unbiblical practices.” Men like Robert Browne, Francis Johnson, John Robinson, and Henry Jacob advocated separating from the Church of England to establish independent churches (McBeth, 27). They rejected episcopal authority and advocated churches pick their own pastors. Some suggest that all Baptist heritage can be traced back to these English Separatists.

The Influence of Biblical Anabaptists
During the reformation a great deal of the reformers not only rejected the Roman Catholic Church by establishing their own independent churches some went even further to suggest the baptisms performed by the Roman Church were unbiblical and therefore invalid. Those who came to faith in Christ, though formerly baptized by the Roman Catholic Church, were rebaptized by these independent churches. These rebaptizing churches were given the nickname of Anabaptists meaning rebaptizers. These Anabaptists emphasized Biblical Authority above denominational authority. Many believe that all Baptist history can be traced back to these aggressive reformers called Anabaptists.

The Continuation of Biblical Teachings Through the Ages
Though the Separatists and the Anabaptists evidently influenced what we know of as the Baptist church, some historians point to other groups that predate both the Separatists and the Anabaptists. These groups, though called by many different names, have all held to distinctively baptistic teachings throughout the ages. According to this view wherever the Bible was available, there arose a Bible believing, Bible teaching church.

The Succession of Organized Baptist Churches Through the Ages
Arising in the 19th century came the view from Organic Successionists that the Baptist church could be traced through other groups (Donatists, Cathari, Waldenses, Anabaptists) all the way back to John the Baptist by following the “Trail of Blood” made popular in J. M. Carroll’s pamphlet. The assertion is that in all ages there are been Baptist churches who have simply gone by other names. This direct, unbroken line of Baptist thought is meant to assure the modern Baptist that they are in the one true church. John Smyth, who many consider the founder of the modern Baptist church, denies this by saying, “There is no succession in the outward church, but that all succession is from heaven.” And further he states, “I deny all succession except in the truth.” (McBeth, 60)

Conclusions
So which is it? In Matthew 16:18 Jesus speaking to His disciple said, “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” It seems that Jesus is telling Peter that the church is powerful and unable to be stopped. I believe that there has always been a remnant of believers who have held to right doctrine throughout all of church history. I would not go as far as to say that we have an unbroken line of succession back to Christ, but that throughout the past 2,000 years there have always been Bible believing Christians who have been true to the book. This is evidenced in groups such as the Waldenses of the twelfth century and the Donatists of the fourth century but does not mean that we are able to chronicle the line of descent from John the Baptist to Southern Hills Baptist. Neither is there a reason to do so. What is important is that our church believes in Biblical Authority above all else. So in this way we resemble the Separatists as some of our leaders have obviously learned from their ranks. Furthermore, we resemble the Anabaptists in their desire to see individuals Biblically baptized after their personal salvation. I find it hard to believe that the church of Christ was lost throughout the centuries, as other false religions teach, only to be restored for Jesus said that the Church would not even be defeated by the gates of hell. I would have to agree with William Shakespeare who said that if all religious groups were wiped away and a Bible was left open, tomorrow there would be Baptists there (McBeth, 63).

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Brian McLaughlin
    July 16, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Excellent thoughts my brother. And a great summation at the end. Well said. 🙂

    • Reply
      Joshua Teis
      July 17, 2013 at 10:40 am

      Thanks for the response Brian! I sure am thankful for your friendship!

  • Reply
    Nancy Bradley
    July 16, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I am a Baptist because of JOY. Joy is Jesus and you with nothing between. Baptists believe in a one on one relationship and I find that crucial to my faith. I think our only sacraments are baptism, communion, and marriage. I am glad to be part of our church.

    • Reply
      Joshua Teis
      July 17, 2013 at 10:42 am

      I am glad to have you as a member Nancy! You are right to emphasis the personal relationship we have with Jesus Christ. It is what separates Christianity from the world religions. A personal relationship with our Lord.

  • Reply
    Marisol
    July 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    This is good information..

    Thanks,
    Marisol

    • Reply
      Joshua Teis
      July 17, 2013 at 10:42 am

      Thanks Marisol! Glad you are reading the blog

  • Reply
    James Stevens
    July 17, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Great post! I enjoyed learning a bit about the beginnings of the baptist church.

  • Reply
    Mike Rowell
    July 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Nicely done! Evenhanded, common-sense perspective. Appreciate your voice – yours, and more like it, are needed.

    • Reply
      Joshua Teis
      July 17, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      Thanks Mike! Glad to have you out there!

      • Reply
        Anonymous
        July 18, 2013 at 11:10 am

        2 Corinthians 6:14-18
        King James Version (KJV)
        14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

        15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

        16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

        17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

        18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

        • Reply
          Joshua Teis
          July 18, 2013 at 11:22 am

          Thank you Anonymous! A wonderful passage indeed!

  • Reply
    James Pfeiffer
    July 18, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Good stuff Pastor – I particulary enjoy your posts on the history of the church, christianity, etc.

    • Reply
      Joshua Teis
      July 18, 2013 at 11:23 am

      Thanks James! Glad to have you as a faithful member of Southern Hills!

    • Reply
      Moon
      March 11, 2017 at 1:30 pm

      Great! I agree with the paragraph about how writing flash can help tighten longer prose pieces. I’m in a phase of revising a longer draft and making it tighter now. The process of writing strictly flash for months has helped me sharpen reisovins. Thanks for the insight.

    • Reply
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      April 20, 2017 at 6:38 pm

      We’ve arrived at the end of the line and I have what I need!

  • Reply
    Brian McLaughlin
    July 22, 2013 at 5:04 am

    Hey Josh, I would agree that the 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 passage is a great passage. However, I’m confused as to what that passage had to do at all with your post? I’m not sure what “anonymous” was trying to say, but maybe you should block “anonymous” snipe attempts? Maybe this is just me having an early morning rant, but it bothers me when people “anonymously” make vague posts and random passages that have nothing to really do with the subject at hand. 🙂 Just my two pennies for thinking. Love you brother. Keep being you and growing in grace.

    • Reply
      Joshua Teis
      July 23, 2013 at 8:59 am

      Thanks Brian. Not sure about the II Cor. passage but perhaps they are insinuating that the term “baptist” indicates separation from the world? I don’t know. If that is the case anonymous needs to do a little more historical research. 🙂

      BTW – Early morning rants from guys like you are always welcome. You are doing a great job out there in AL. keep it up! Roll Tide!

  • Reply
    Chris Waye
    July 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Very much enjoyed that. Would you recommend any books on Baptist History? I have a feeling that I will be dealing with this issue much in the days ahead in London as we plant churches.

    Thanks for the help!

  • Reply
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