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Where and when did the Baptists get their name and what do they believe that sets them apart from the rest of Protestant denominations?

I realize there are different divisions among Baptists as well, so let's keep this limited to the issues that were relevant when the term Baptist first became used and that generally cover most Baptist denominations today but still specific enough to uniquely identify what makes Baptists different from the members of other denominations Protestant denominations.

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4 Answers 4

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The key difference is that in most other denominations (Anglicanism, Methodism, the United Reformed Church, etc) infant baptism is practised. Baptists believe that baptism is a public profession of personal faith - in other words, a public display of a decision someone has made themselves - and the notion of infant baptism is at odds with this.

Most new churches (emergent, or whichever word you prefer - churches that were established in the last few decades) profess to be non-denominational but tend to accord with Baptist theology, at least in the respect of baptism.

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Plenty of churches much older than the last few decades practice adult baptism. –  DJClayworth Aug 29 '11 at 17:33
@DJClayworth: Even inside other denominations, this particularly theology is often refereed to as "baptist theology". You could be Methodist and hold baptist views on theology. I don't think Waggers made an unfair generalization here. It is a qualified not absolute statement and the note about newer churches is quite interesting and on point because it is notable variation from the "most" above where older denominations were typically (but of course not universally) Presbyterian in their views on baptism. –  Caleb Sep 7 '11 at 14:13

The term "baptists" came from the fact that Baptists strongly believed that:

  1. Baptism is for believers only. (excluding infant baptism)
  2. Baptism must be by immersion, as opposed to sprinkling and effusion.

Because of their strong beliefs regarding baptism, they were given the name "Baptists".

Baptists generally believe:

Biblical authority (Mat 24:35; 1Pet 1:23; 2Tim 3:16-17)
Autonomy of the local church (Mat 18:15-17; 1Cor 6:1-3)
Priesthood of all believers (1Pet 2:5-9; 1Tim 5)
Two ordinances (believer's baptism and the Lord's Supper) (Acts 2:41-47; 1Cor 11:23-32)
Individual soul liberty (Rom 14:5-12)
Separation of Church and State (Mat 22:15-22)
Two offices of the church (pastor and deacon) (1Tim 3:1-13; Tit 1-2)

Most Baptist traditions believe in the "Four Freedoms" articulated by Baptist historian Walter B. Shurden:
Soul freedom: the soul is competent before God, and capable of making decisions in matters of faith without coercion or compulsion by any larger religious or civil body
Church freedom: freedom of the local church from outside interference, whether government or civilian (subject only to the law where it does not interfere with the religious teachings and practices of the church)
Bible freedom: the individual is free to interpret the Bible for himself or herself, using the best tools of scholarship and biblical study available to the individual
Religious freedom: the individual is free to choose whether to practice their religion, another religion, or no religion; Separation of church and state is often called the "civil corollary" of religious freedom

There are a lot of other Christian Denominations that hold these beliefs as well, but what makes a Baptist distinctive, is the fact that they observe all of these, whereas other denominations may only observe some of these points. Another distinctive point, is Christian Education, which a lot of Baptists uphold.

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Please stick to the question. I believe most of the points from the Wikipedia article also apply to many or even most other protestant denominations. I asked just about what sets them apart. If any of those points are distinctive please identify them as such, but don't give their whole confession of faith. –  Caleb Aug 25 '11 at 11:55
@Caleb Protestant denominations don't usually have absolute distinctives - for anything that a denomination believes there are almost always many other denominations that share that view. The precise combination may be unique, but not necessarily even that. –  DJClayworth Aug 25 '11 at 16:03

The historic roots of Baptists go back to the Reformation. A key belief was that baptism of infants was invalid. Since infant baptism was almost universal at the time, the new churches required that converts to it be re-baptised. This came to be a distinctive mark of Baptists churches, although other Reformation sects such as the Mennonites also practiced it, without adopoting the Baptist name.

The complex history of Protestant denominations means that many denominations divided from the Baptist churches, and from the other Reformation churches that practiced adult baptism, many of which retained adult Baptism. The result is that while Baptist churches universally practice adult baptism, all churches that practice adult baptism are not necessarily Baptist churches.

See Wikipedia for a more detailed history.

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They were originally refered to ad Ana-Baptist. Which meant for Baptism. Depending on which Baptist you ask and from what view they hold on church history some claim to be protestant and sone do not. Along with rejecting infant and non-submersion baptism. Baptist have no controlling hi-archy. County, state and national Baptist groups exist for the joint effort of funding evangelism and bible schools. Every Baptist church is independent and self governing with the exception of churches started with Baptist money are required to keep a statement of faith in line with the funding group as long as funding is supplied.

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