Much of modern protestantism believes that only believers should be baptized, as believing adults (or at least consenting young people). The primary example being obviously Baptists.

This is a marked shift from the early reformers, the two which I am most familiar with being Luther and Calvin. Both of whom did infant / pedo baptisms. ( As well as many modern protestant movements stemming from these reformers)

When historically did this idea begin to gain traction among protestant believers? Who were the originators and where/how did it spread?

What I would like in an answer: A brief (or not so brief) Historical overview of how/when/where this idea originated, gained traction, and eventually spread.

What I hope to avoid.

"The practice of believers baptism is biblical!". Yeah I agree but that really is a different question.

"The church has been baptizing infants since the "x"th century!". Sure I acknowledge that but I'm not asking about that.

Certainly some explanation of why the originators came to the conclusions they did might be necessary in an answer, but I'm not looking for impassioned arguments for or against types of baptism. I'm pretty well versed in those arguments and have my own opinions.

  • This needs to be framed against either a credo- or peodo-baptist perspective, you're not going to get anything useful out of pretending both side's perspectives are reconcilable into a single history narrative.
    – Caleb
    Oct 26, 2019 at 5:51
  • 1
    The origin of infant baptism, and the arguments for and against it would all make excellent questions. But undoubtedly the pre-Reformation Church, Luther, Calvin, the national Churches of the British Isles and Northern Europe etc did and do practice it; and undoubtedly some other Protestants don't. When and where did some Protestants first reject it?, Was it organised, persecuted, suppressed, influential? When? By whom? Did it spread or emerge independently? L1R asks about the actual historical sequence of events. Arguments as to who is right or wrong are beside his point.
    – davidlol
    Oct 26, 2019 at 10:56
  • @davidlol Looks like either the beginning of an answer, or a separate question. Oct 27, 2019 at 20:46

1 Answer 1


I found what hopefully is the right paper to answer the question. I haven't read the paper myself, but the first introductory paragraphs below should provide a taste, or at least pointers for further research. The 2007 paper is Origins of the Particular Baptists by Gordon L. Belyea, a PhD candidate in Systematic Theology at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, "where the focus of his dissertation will be in the area of Baptist Ecclesiology." The paper is published in themelios in the 3rd issue, Volume 32, May 2007. For a short profile of Particular Baptists, gotquestions.org has a short history.

Quote from the introductory paragraphs of the themelios paper:

The English Particular Baptists first appeared as a distinct group in the early seventeenth century. They combined the believers’ church practice of baptism with contemporary Calvinist soteriology. The origins of this movement are somewhat puzzling at first glance, as they combine what would appear on the surface to be contradictory theologies. Their soteriology was similar to that of the bulk of the Church of England at the time, particularly the Puritan stream; yet their practice of baptism and elements of their form of church government paralleled those of the Anabaptists, whom they universally disavowed. It is common today for Baptists to identify themselves with these continental radical reformers. Is this justified?

This paper will seek to establish the identity and origins of the Particular Baptists and delineate their characteristic beliefs, especially where these differed from other believers of their time. I will seek to show that the Particular Baptists find their roots in English Puritan Noncomformity, almost completely to the exclusion of any Anabaptist influence. Theirs were churches whose origins lay in the magisterial Reformation; differences between them and their Puritan contemporaries are primarily a function of their understanding and application of the Scriptures in not so much a different manner, as in one more consistent and complete.

Another resource I found is this Reformed blog article highlighting historic differences between them and the Baptists about infant baptism. It includes good quotes from various Reformed confessions. The same author also wrote a related article remarking how the current evangelical practice in the USA (dominated by SBC & Baptist theology) are reversed compared to before the mid 19th century when infant baptism was the norm.

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