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.


5 Answers 5


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. Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 17:33
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    @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
    Commented Sep 7, 2011 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
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 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. Commented Aug 25, 2011 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.


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.


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 http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Believer's%20Corner/why_baptists_are_not_protestants.htm http://bible-truth.org/BaptistHistory.html#002

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    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... Commented Nov 20, 2014 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. Commented Nov 20, 2014 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.
    – user3961
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 18:29
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    Even if there were some non-Catholic baptists, huge numbers of baptists did come out of the reformation!
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 0:02
  • You know, I commented on the Trail of Blood before I followed the link. I called it!!!! Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 2:30

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