What Are We Called Today?
Baptists (Missionary Baptists)
We now want to examine the different sects of the Baptists that exist today. I tend to stay in the Americas with this particular history because the majority of Baptists are located here these days for religious freedoms sake. It is interesting to note that these sects didn't exist until certain changes started showing up in doctrine and polity.
Originally in the America's, Baptists were known just by the name. Then, in a great push in the later part of the 17th century, some of the brethren coined the name Missionary Baptists because of the many missions that were supported by the individual churches of the day.
It is interesting to note that all Baptist churches of that day were independent in their missionary efforts and their church government. It would also be safe to say that unless a congregation is independent in missions (deciding on the dispersal of missionary funds, cooperative or not), and government (constitutional & congregational) with Christ as their only head, they would not be worthy to be called Baptist. It is impossible to be a Baptist congregation by definition without being independent in these ways.
Southern Baptists (1845)
I think its is very important to mention the name used by the largest division of Baptists today. That term or name is Southern Baptist and are a culmination for the most part of those who formerly were known as Missionary Baptists. There are many who say that the creation of the Southern Baptist Convention came into being from a split over the slavery issue. I don't doubt that for a minute even though it wasn't the only reason.
Now, from most available writings and documents you will note that this term is merely a shortening of the name Southern Missionary Baptist. In originality it was never a sect but a descriptive term used to identify those Missionary Baptists located in the Southeastern United States. The term Southern Baptist has been used since the 1820's but few forgot the missionary part of this description. It wasn't until the 1920's when the cooperative program was born that ironically the "Missionary" was dropped to give the Southern Baptist name. Go figure.
Southern Missionary Baptist Churches, for the most part are sister churches with quite a bit of diversity, i.e...... differing bible versions, progressive modernistic beliefs, old time conservative beliefs, formal, non formal, etc., who are totally autonomous but have joined together with one goal. That goal is to have reached the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
However, to call an individual church a "Southern Baptist Church" is to me a misnomer. Southern Baptist has become a denominational name yet, quite frankly, this can't be because of the diversity of the sister churches which belong to the association. Here then, is how I understand the original premise of the association:
Sovereign Grace Baptists (1850's)
Their first appearance was connected to the acceptance of a protestant teaching called Calvinism in some of the churches. This was the most destructive doctrine ever known to the Missionary minded Baptist churches in the America's. Mind you, this same problem arose in our sister churches in Europe before the beginning of the 19th century. In short and to simplify, Calvinism in some of the Baptist churches became known as the Sovereign Grace Teachings. There were some that maintained that God will only choose a certain number to be saved. Anyone not chosen by God to be saved were just out of the Grace loop of God.
Heated debates over this teaching split the Southern Baptist Convention asunder to form the American Baptist Association in the early 1900's. Not trying to rekindle an old argument but, didn't Jesus say: John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 3:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
|Self named Landmarkers, these brethren are also avid church historians. Some have called them "Trail of Blood brethren" after the popular lectures by J.M. Carroll in the 1920's. This issue, loving history myself, is one of the few things I have in common with these brethren. All too many times we have forgotten that Foxes Book of Martyrs is full of our early brethren being the main target at Catholic heretic hunts. When the president of the Counsel of Trent, Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius, noted in the 1540's that we had "been grievously tormented and cut off with the knife during the past twelve hundred years", he wasn't just whistling Dixie folks...||
|Many of the Sovereign Grace (Landmark) churches are part of the American Baptists Association or independent, same as the Missionary Baptists.|
Fundamental Baptists (1920's)
|The second major change took place in the late 1920's with the fundamentalist movement. Names like Amzi C. Dixon in the southern U.S. and William B. Riley in the north were preaching against liberal ideals that had crept into the various Baptist associations and advocated a separatist view not dissimilar to the Mennonite movement of the 1520's. Their main thrust was the tenuous focus on a branch of eschatology known as Premillennialism and a doctrine called Dispensationalism introduced by Clarence Larkin & Cyrus Ingerson Scofield. There is further evidence of an earlier study of the Pre-Tribulational doctrine dated 1742-44 (.)||
Cyrus Ingerson Scofield.
The church government in many of the Fundamentalist churches are a bit different as opposed to the original in that pastoral authority is stressed to a major degree. This means that the actual practice is done with variations or combinations of pastoral, deacon, and congregational input, and decision- making. Some of them are basically totalitarian in form, with the pastor making the majority of the decisions - in every area of the church ministry; other pastors want some input from the deacons before decisions are made - and they will still make all, or most, of the final decisions; and, there are many also, that are much more truly congregational in that the Church Body makes many decisions through voting. These variations will often change from pastor to pastor, depending primarily on what they were used to, or were taught, and the different schools they attended, or through the pastors that may have trained them.
The Separated Brethren (1960's)
Fundamentalism had already established itself in the Southern U.S. by the 1960's and there was defiantly at this time an unrest among the southern missionary Baptist churches over some of the transactions/investments made by the Southern Baptist Convention which were questionable. Monies are reported to have been invested in tenement/slum properties in major cities in the U.S. Also the issue of the newest Bible version, the NIV were in hot debate.
Instead of remaining in what was starting to look like a liberal organization, these churches removed themselves from the cooperative program and started to embrace the Fundamentalist views and teachings. Yet, in church organization/government (constitutional) and style of worship these brethren are almost indistinguishable from their Missionary Baptist sister churches today.
The chart below is not intended to give a reference of the minor or major differences in doctrine with these groups but simply to show how they a came from the same point.
Seventh Day Baptists
These brethren have little difference to the rest of us in that they believe in regenerate membership, believer's baptism, congregationism, and scriptural basis for belief and practice. Their major difference is that they honor the original sabbath as a sign of obedience in a "covenant relationship" with God and not as a condition of salvation. They have not condemned those who do not accept the Saturday sabbath but believe there is an apparent inconsistency of those who claim to accept the Bible as their source of faith and practice, but have followed 1st century traditions of the church instead. That tradition is know as the Lords Day which is Sunday or the Christian sabbath, the day the Lord arose.
Seventh Day Baptists came out of the main-line Anabaptist movement around the mid-17th century separatist movement in England with a slight bit of Quaker influence. Their belief was that they had a renewed emphasis on the scriptures for free church doctrine and practice. Their leaders were men like James Ockford, William Saller, Peter Chamberlain, Francis Bampfield, Edward and Joseph Stennett who concluded that the keeping of the seventh day Sabbath was an major requirement of biblical Christianity. Some maintained membership within the Anabaptist fellowships and simply added a private sabbath observance to their other shared convictions. As governments enforced conformity to a common day of Sunday worship, they believed separation had become necessary. The first Seventh Day Baptist church recorded was the Mill Yard church founded about 1650 in London, England.
The first Seventh Day Baptist Church in America was formed in 1671 but even after this separation, close fellowship with other Baptists remained.
Free Will Baptists
These brethren also have little difference to the rest of us. The beginning of Free Will Baptists can be traced to the influence of Baptists of "Armenian" persuasion who settled in the colonies from England. Armenian belief is that predestination is conditional which is totally opposite to Calvinistic belief that it is absolute.
This group sprang up in two geographic areas of America at about the same time in history. The southern group called the Palmer movement, traces its beginnings to the year 1727 when Paul Palmer organized a church at Chowan, North Carolina. The northern group called the Randall movement, had its beginnings with a congregation organized by Benjamin Randall in 1780, in New Durham, New Hampshire.
This group of brethren is the oldest group of what we have termed "Landmark or Sovereign Grace Baptists" although they were first called Primitive Baptists and were believers in total predestination before the controversy began over this belief before the Civil War. Their exodus from the main line Baptist movement can be traced to around the Revolutionary War of the 1770's and earlier accounts link them to the Welsh Baptists in the late 1600's.
Copyright © Tim Davis Sr., 2008