The term "baptists" came from the fact that Baptists strongly believed that:
- Baptism is for believers only. (excluding infant baptism)
- 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.