Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

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.

share|improve this question
up vote 8 down vote accepted

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.

share|improve this answer
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.

share|improve this answer
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.

share|improve this answer

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.

share|improve this answer
ana means 'again', not 'for'. The Anabaptists believed that anyone who had been baptised as an infant needed to be rebaptised. – curiousdannii Nov 20 '14 at 6:06

Technically, the Baptists were not a part of the Reformation because like those of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, the Baptists were never a part of the Catholic church. They never left the Catholic church because they were never in it. They were around long before the Reformation. Originally, they were known as Montanist's. This was around 150 AD. The Montanists were persecuted by the Roman ruled regions, fed to the lions, ect. Then they were known as Novatians 200AD-305AD. Same thing here, because they believed in things like baptism for believers only, and only praying to Jesus, they were persecuted and killed. When the Catholic Church was founded by Emperor Constantine around 300AD, they started hunting down these "heresy" cult people for not following the new Church. In 306AD they changed again to the Dontanist and then a few hundred years later they were referred as Albigenses. In 1170AD they were called Waldensians. They were most popular at this time, but still were not accepted by mainstream. Through the "dark ages" they were hunted down and killed. Even Martin Luther took part in this after the Reformation. Around the time of the Reformation they were known as Ana-baptists. This is actually a slang term given to them by those of the Catholic church, including Luther. When they were found, Luther and others would drown them, making fun of them because the had been "rebatized" You could search "third baptism drowning" and find out more on this. They would be called as they are known now as the Baptist Church in 1638. Technically they were the original church of the Apostles around 300 years before the Catholic church was invented. The thought that the Baptist church is part of the protestant sect is way off and even the protestant faith clashes very much in doctrine from the Baptist church. God Bless's%20Corner/why_baptists_are_not_protestants.htm

share|improve this answer
As a Baptist minister with an M.Div from a Baptist seminary and a keen interest in Baptist history, I have to say, you've drunk the Kool-Aid. You started well by admitting the Anabaptist Reformation was different than the Lutheran one - but then you bought into a very discredited "Trail of Blood" rehetoric. We Baptists can trace our lineage through Menno Simmons and John Smythe - but not the Montanists. We aren't a remnant, we are reformation, too... – Affable Geek Nov 20 '14 at 16:51
Welcome to C.Se in any event. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. – Affable Geek Nov 20 '14 at 16:52
To echo what Affable Geek said, I've heard this before, but never seen it supported well. If you can demonstrate the link between the groups you've listed, please do edit that in. – fredsbend Nov 20 '14 at 18:29
Even if there were some non-Catholic baptists, huge numbers of baptists did come out of the reformation! – curiousdannii Nov 21 '14 at 0:02
You know, I commented on the Trail of Blood before I followed the link. I called it!!!! – Affable Geek Nov 21 '14 at 2:30

1Peter1:1-5, John 3:16-18, John 6:35-40, Romans 8:35-39 Baptist believe that once saved always saved,/Roman 3:21-28,1Peter1:18-21,John 14:6 baptist believe that salvation is a work that only Christ could have done for our salvation Ephesians 2:8-9 we have no part in it as far as the salvation supplied to go to heaven, it's a free gift from God. Mt.3:6,16 ( the word "baptizo" means to fully cover with liquid, by implication it means submersion, ducking, or immersion.) Romans 6:4-6 Baptist believe in a total submersion baptism, we are buried as the bible says in the likeness of his death raised in the likeness of his resurrection. Acts 8:36-37 baptist believe that only those that have believed and excepted his salvation,are candidates for baptism. As shown in acts 8:36-37 belief is a prerequisite to baptism, Baptist don't believe that baptism saves anyone. 1 Corinthian 11:26,Mt. 28:19-20 Baptist believe there are two ordinances baptism and the lords supper. Baptist churches are independent of all other churches even baptist churches, it would be hard to have church discipline that the bible speaks of in Mt. 18:15-18 if they were not independent and know there flock, it would be difficult to observe the lords supper, and if you read in the 1st 3 chapters of revelation you will see that the churches are address as the church of Ephesus or church at Sardis, each one had their own set of problems,and they were identified as separate churches, but they had the same God and the same savior. Baptist do not believe they are the only ones going to heaven, they believe that whosoever believes and trust Christ for there salvation will be saved and that's the only way anyone is going to heaven. Baptist are not all the same, some believe in foot washing but most do not (the free will Baptist do the foot washing and some them believe in the eternal security of the believer and some of them do not ), there are fundamentalist baptist, which generally have a mourners bench or alter of some sort,independent baptist take a stand on knowing their missionaries and vote to support or not support each missionary on their on merit, southern, northern, missionary baptist are a lot alike being they support a mission board and the board decides where the funds go. 1John 1:5-10 Baptist don't believe that once saved always saves gives the right to live a life hat doesn't glorify the lord. John 1:1-5 Revelation 22:18-19 Baptist believe the bible has all the information we need, and that it is the truth cover to cover, with no mistakes, that it is the inspired word of God. These are some of the major differences that I know of, from other religious Christian groups, May God Bless Those that seek his truth!

share|improve this answer

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

Welcome! We're glad you are here, but this answer would be much stronger if you showed, with sources, that it doesn't merely reflect your own views. I hope you'll take a minute to review how this site is different from others, and better understand how your answer can be supported. – Nathaniel Jul 4 at 17:33

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.