Baptist History

Theology Thursday ... on Friday: Why Baptists are Wrong

In this excerpt from his work Outlines of Theology, former Princeton Seminary professor A. A. Hodge explains a bit about his understanding of baptism and why he believes Baptists are wrong:1

What is the design of baptism?

Its design is …

Primarily, to signify, seal, and convey to those to whom they belong the benefits of the covenant of grace. Thus - it symbolizes “the washing of regeneration,” “the renewing of the Holy Ghost,” which unites the believer to Christ, and so makes him a participant in Christ’s life and all other benefits.—1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Titus 3:5. (2.) Christ herein visibly seals his promises to those who receive it with faith, and invests them with the grace promised.

Its design was, secondarily, as springing from the former, (1) to be a visible sign of our covenant to be the Lord’s, i.e., to accept his salvation, and to consecrate ourselves to his service. (2) And, hence, to be a badge of our public profession, our separation from the world, and our initiation into the visible church. As a badge it marks us as belonging to the Lord, and consequently (a) distinguishes us from the world, (b) symbolizes our union with our fellow-Christians.—1 Cor. 12:13.

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Theology Thursday - Where Do Baptists Come From?

In 1867, Pastor R.J.W. Buckland delivered a conference lecture on Baptist history, which was later re-produced in the famous Madison Avenue Lectures (1867). Buckland later became a Professor at Rochester Theological Seminary and died a relatively young man, aged 48, in 1877. One contemporary obituary damned him with rather faint praise when it remarked he was “by no means a brilliant orator,” then hastened to add he was a beloved and admired member of the faculty.

In this short excerpt from his lecture,1 Buckland presents a successionist (or Old Landmark) view of Baptist origins.

Have Baptists then a history?

I answer—if the Faith once delivered to the saints has a perpetuity and a history, so that the gates of hell, however they have seemed to prevail, yet have not prevailed against it—then Baptists, who make that Faith their law, have a history.

If a people holding from age to age these fundamental doctrines—that the Bible is the supreme law of Christians; that personal faith in Christ gives salvation; that baptism in water is the covenant of a believer with his Saviour; while infant baptism, and all other commandments of men, are not to rule Christ’s followers; if such a people are Baptists, then Baptists have a history.

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Book Review - Baptist Ways: A History

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Conceived as a replacement for Robert Torbet’s well-known text, A History of the Baptists, this book attempts to survey the worldwide history of Baptists from their origins in seventeeth-century England. Leonard states his thesis clearly in the opening paragraph of his preface:

“The thesis of this book is relatively simple. It suggests that amid certain distinctives, Baptist identity is configured in a variety of ways by groups, subgroups, and individuals who claim the Baptist name. This identity extends across a theological spectrum from Arminian to Calvinist, from conservative to liberal, from open to closed communionist, and from denominationalist to independent.” (p. xi)

This thesis allows Leonard to include a broad survey of individuals and groups, including giving significant attention to the role of women and minorities in the history of the Baptists. One interesting feature is regular description of Baptist hymnody and worship. Throughout the work, Leonard draws primarily from secondary sources, although the notes (which are placed as endnotes after each chapter) indicate a measured use of primary sources.

The book alternates between chronological and geographical perspectives.

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"What is the best way to take account of the world's self-described Baptists? Do they constitute a movement with any real cohesion?"

Mark Noll considers wrestles with Baptist identity, reviews two new books on the subject. So You’re a Baptist—What might that mean?

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