Monday, January 21, 2008

Baptist Doctrinal Differences For My Friend John

On my way home last night, after watching the most intense movie that I have ever seen, I decided that I would blog about doctrinal differences of Baptists. Or in plain english, what makes all the baptist churches different. I suggest you go read my last post first to get a good understanding of how we have different baptist conferences such as Southern Baptist or American Baptist. Today I am going try and tackle the beliefs of baptists. With all the different baptist churches this is a scary thing to try, almost as frightening as Cloverfield. Btw, it is an amazing movie. Ok will once again I will mention that I am not an expert and therefor some of this will probably be wrong.
Baptists number over 110 million worldwide in nearly 300,000 congregations, and considered the largest world communion of evangelical Protestants, with an estimated 38.8 million members in the United States.[4] Other large populations of Baptists also exist in Asia, Africa and Latin America, notably in India (2.4 million), Nigeria (2.5 million), Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (1.9 million) and Brazil (1.7 million).[5]( Most Baptist churches choose to associate with denominational groups that provide support without control. Examples of such denominations are the Southern Baptist Convention, National Baptist Convention USA, Conservative Baptist Association of America, American Baptist Churches USA, American Baptist Association (Landmark Baptists), among others. What makes all these baptist groups different. Well the first thing we must look at is what makes all these groups baptist. So to find the difference we are going to look at the similarites. The most important similarity is that baptist churches do not have a central governing authority. Each baptist church is its own boss. I can not stress this enough. It means that the first baptist church down the street is in control of what it teaches, preaches and does. The people of that church choose their preacher. This is the one thing all baptist churches have in common. It is with this one thing that all the differences occur. Because Baptist Church A decides something doesnt mean that Baptist Church B has to. This concept is essential in understanding baptists. It is the ultimate ideal in democracy and personal relationships.

Ok with the first concept down, which means baptist are free to believe what they will, lets look at some other commonly held beliefs that most if not all baptists share. We are going to use the acronym B.A.P.T.I.S.T.S. to talk about them.
B. Biblical Authority: Meaning that the Bible is the ultimate authority in matters regarding Christianity. unlike Catholics who use tradition and scripture, most baptists believe that all matters including tradition fall under the authority of scripture. It is something that I hold very dear to. I love to read of church history and the traditions through out time, but any tradition that does not follow scripture, is just tradition to me. It is not something to be held onto dogmatically.
A. Autonomy of Local Church: Ive already worn that out.
P. Priesthood of all believers: This simply means that we are all called by God to live our lives to the highest calling. We can go straight to the father through Jesus without having to ask a priest or preacher. Each believer has the spirit of God living in them, so therefore God can speak through them much like a priest back in jewish time.
T. Two ordinances (believer's baptism and the Lord's Supper) Ordinances mean that these things do not impart grace nor salvation but are commands given to already saved people. They are Jesus's last commands for us as believers to do.
I. Individual Soul Liberty: Each person has the freedom to accept Christ's sacrifice for themselves. They are free to interpret scripture for themselves and have a responsibility to that.
S. Separation of Church and State: Most people will find this funny because most people view baptists as politically charged people. Once again this belief is one of various degrees. It also does not mean the elimination of church from state.
T. Two offices of the church (pastor and deacon): Most baptist's churches have these two offices, but this is probably the one that you will find the most differences in from church to church.
S.Saved Church Membership: This simply means that the church is the body of believers. For one to belong to a baptist church they must have accepted Christ personally. This doesnt mean that nonbelievers cant attend church services.

So most Baptists hold these views to various agrees. As with all neat acronyms they are imperfect. I must also mention two very very very big beliefs.
1. Salvation by Grace through Faith: This is mainly a protestant thing. But most Baptists hold this belief very firmly. It means that good works will not save us. It means that the lords supper or baptism will not impart grace. Salvation is a free gift from God. It needs to be only accepted by faith, like a child accepting a christmas gift.
2. Baptism: Baptists have some origins in a group called Anabaptists or as they were jokingly called rebaptizers. It means that these people did not beleive in infant baptism or baptism by sprinkly. The word baptism comes from the word meaning to dunk or be put under water. So a full immersion baptist is required in all but the most extreme cases. But this baptism is not an act that saves but it an act of obedience to Jesus. It is a symbol of one's faith, therefore it is only done by someone who truely believes.

Now that we have defined the most common baptist similarities we will now be able to look at the differences. The differences are basically various degrees of holding the above views. Southern Baptists have something called The Baptist Faith and Message. It is not a creed but is basically a list of basic beliefs that most Southern Baptist Churches hold to. So what makes Southern Baptist different then American Baptists, and Landmark Baptists different from General Convention baptists? It basically falls into the following categories:
Doctrine of separation
Hermeneutical method
Ordination of women as pastor or deacon
The translation of Scripture aka which ones are allowed and not allowed
The extent to which missionary boards should be used to support missionaries
The extent to which non-members may participate in communion services
The nature of Law and Gospel

I am only going to touch on a few of these because they in themselves could fill whole blogs.
This a quick list of differences between Amercian Baptist and Southern Baptist since I know these two the most. Please keep in mind that many American Baptist churches believe what the majority of southern baptist believe and vise versa.
1. In American Baptist women can be ordained as pastors and deacons while in Southern Baptist they can not.
2. While both denominations do not accept homosexuality as a right and alternative lifestyle, a growing number of American Baptist churches have been open to accepting and ordaining them.

So anyways I hope that does a good job of explaining the differences. I have to go to work now but if there are any of the above topics you would like me to go in depth with I will do my best to do it. Now that you're finished reading this, go watch Cloverfield. It's amazing.


The Old Pastor said...

Pretty good article, Hero. I especially like the B.A.P.T.I.S.T.S. acronym. As you know there are more garden variety of Baptists than what you have listed. A couple of points I would make. Technically the SBC is not a denomination, but a convention of 43,000 local churches that co-operate for missions. The "Convention" only actually exists two days per year. Autonomy of the local church is important to Southern Baptists. Even though not commonly practiced, there are some SBC churches who ordain women as pastors and deacons. (not many, but some do). There are a number of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) congregations and members that allow such and many still consider themselves Southern Baptists (Jimmy Carter, etc). We're not really a completely monolithic group. Technically to be a "Southern Baptist Church" all a congregation has to do, minimally,is to give to the SBC Cooperative Program. One doesn't have to look just to other denominations and conventions for differences. There are several doctrinal issues within the SBC (Calvinism,etc) today. The consensus statement as to what Baptists believe can be found in "The Baptist Faith and Message 2000"
Anyone (like John) who might be interested in the basics of what Baptists believe, might be interested in checking out that link. It doesn't nearly begin to touch on every doctrine, but it does list those core beliefs that unite most baptists.

Constructive criticism (and solicited opinion) I found this post to be of a better tone than the previous one. That one seemed just a little sharp and almost bitter in places. :-)

Keep blogging. When the emphasis is on "Truth" even the "Rebellion" will be gracious in tone.

The Old Pastor said...

I didn't mean to indicate the "previous post" on this blog, but was actually making reference to some previous posts on your MySpace blog.
Sorry for the malaprop.