I mentioned in a previous post how whenever I am out of town I “become a Baptist”. This week’s post is dedicated to that denomination: with which I clearly have some level of affinity.
I’ve never been a member of a Baptist Church, but I spent a lot of time within one thanks to The Girls’ Brigade.
I’d tried the Anglican version (known as GFS) in my own Church the year before but clearly it didn’t cut the mustard with me and I never went again. Instead, once a week during the vast majority of my schooling years, you’d find me hanging out at my local Baptist Church doing the Girls Brigade thing.
The Church also ran a holiday program for primary aged children and I also attended a playgroup at that same Baptist Church as a toddler.
Consequently, the Baptists and I have always been fairly ‘in’ with one another, at least in the past. In more recent years my theology may have headed in some different directions. However, if I really thought about it, I reckon I’d hold to some more Baptist-like theology than what you’d expect from “an Anglican”.
This is fairly common – and the point of my ramble – as many people wouldn’t say that they subscribe completely to the stance held by their Church or denomination on every matter. This is why it’s always best to ask people what they believe, as opposed to presuming based on which Church’s pew they most recently sat on.
But who are these Baptists anyway?
Exactly when they started is debatable even amongst the scholars. Some say John the Baptist, others say the Anabaptists, and still others: “they emerged out of certain seventeenth-century English separatist groups that had a congregational policy”.
Personally, on this one, I’m with the ‘still others’ as quoted (yet again) from Ron Rhodes super helpful book on Christian Denominations.
The last group makes sense to me because John the Baptist doesn’t have a legacy that carries right through since his days of baptising in the Jordan River: where he baptised many people, including Christ himself. The Anabaptists, while a more recent group, don’t have all the same beliefs as many Baptists; so again, there’s this chronological issue.
This is why I go with the English separatists; as do many others because the theology they held sits more in tandem with a progression from the earlier times until how.
The first Baptist Church in England was founded by a man called John Smyth. He and the other early Baptists held to Arminian theology. These days some Baptist Churches are Arminian, and others hold the viewpoint that sits in opposition to this thinking: Calvinism.
I’ll explore the difference between the two in a moment.
Firstly however, it’s worth a mention that many Baptist Churches have a big emphasis on world and local missions – getting out into the world and sharing the love, basically. My experience of a Baptist Church would definitely agree with that. It was always more proactive on that front than the Anglicans – in my experience.
Another key thing to note, which shouldn’t be surprising considering their name, is that the Baptists are not frugal with their cleansing waters.
While some denominations will only spare you a damp finger, to slide the sign of the cross over your forehead, the Baptists will have none of it. If you’re in, you’re in and you’re going the whole way under in the baptismal font (small pool in the Church). It’s called full immersion baptism for a reason.
And now that I’ve made light of some serious theology, I should probably insert a more sensible table to show the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism. Here it is:
|Election (to be saved)||God picked people that he already knew would choose to believe in him based on their own ‘free will’, belief and perseverance in belief||God’s choice doesn’t depend on any virtue on the person’s behalf but is purely based on his control and choice|
|Humanity’s Condition||Can’t reach salvation themselves. They need the Holy Spirit||Humans can have good desires but are thoroughly sinful so they cannot do anything leading towards salvation or salvation itself|
|Grace||Prevenient grace from the Holy Spirit allows a person to move towards salvation||The people God picked for salvation will come to faith and salvation due to God’s irresistible grace|
|Atonement||Being in peaceful relationship with God is available for all mankind but only effective in a believer who has accepted it||Jesus’ death which allows for this peaceful relationship with God was only for the “elect”|
|Perseverance||Perseverance is conditional. Christians can live as believers in a positive manner but can also turn away from grace and become ‘the unsaved’||Anyone who is a genuine believer will make it to the end still faithful|
My personal position on the above table is that the two viewpoints can be combined to an extent – and that’s where you’ll find me.
Impossible theology? Nothing is impossible for God.
Interpret that, as you will.
Yours in the water, fully immersed,