Did these get your attention? Well, it got mine as I was browsing the church history forums on The Puritan Board. The thread was started after a forum member read a similarly titled paper posted on the “Bibel Baptisten Gemeinde” (Bible Baptist Church) website in Darmstadt, Germany. It is from this German paper that I quote – not from the forum. (just so ya’ll know my sources…)
The main argument against placing the Baptists among the Protestant movement is a historical one:
Protestants date from the sixteenth century. They are the Lutherans, the Reformed and others who were once Roman Catholics and left the Roman Catholic faith to start denominations of their own. The Baptists never left the Roman Catholic Church as did Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. They never left because they were never in. They did not begin their existence at the time of the Reformation but hundreds of years prior to the Reformation.
As you can tell, the author of this paper is defining the term “Protestants” as churches that came from the Roman Catholics during the Reformation. Under that definition, I would have to agree that the majority of the Baptist churches are not “Protestants” as they did not protest anything. [@[email protected]]
This also brings up a good point that tends to get forgotten – mainly that there were other churches around besides the Roman Catholic Church. There was the Eastern Orthodox Church, which most folks remember, as well as the:
- Coptic Church of Egypt
- Armenia Church of Armenia
- Georgian Church of Georgia
- Church in Persia (Christianity reached India and China within the first two centuries)
- African church (north-central Africa was home to a huge Christian population for several hundred years before tribal wars and drought destroyed the nations that housed the church)
Note: these churches trace their roots back the first century – some of which where started by members of the 12 Apostles.
In addition, there were several smaller churches that held as similar views as the Baptist (as listed in the German article):
- Montanists (150 A.D.)
- Novatians (240 A.D.)
- Donatists (305 A.D.)
- Paulicians (650 A.D.)
- Albigenses (1022 A.D.)
- Waldensians (1170 A.D.)
The article goes on to state that while Baptists share some common theological grounds with Protestants, there are six big differences:
- Baptists believe with all their hearts that God´s Word alone is sufficient for faith and practice. Various Protestant denomination have creeds, catechisms and assorted doctrinal standards. Baptists hold to the Bible alone.
- [Ardell: I believe the author is talking about high churches as I know soem of them have creeds, catechisms and such. Honestly, I think some of them are good and should be used in the low churches – not has a means to salvation, but as a means to understand the work of the Lord through out the centuries. It is to our disgrace that we have thrown away the traditions and history of Christianity.]
- Baptists believe that Christ and only Christ is the head of the Church… There is no man who has the oversight of Baptist Churches. Baptists have no denomination in the sense of an organization that controls local congregations. Each local church is autonomous and accountable only to Christ, who is its Head.
- [Ardell: Granted this is changing a bit among the lower churches since the beginning of the 1900’s – mostly notably among churches that came out of the Pentecostal, Charismatic and Jesus People movements.]
- Baptists believe in their hearts in a free church in a free state… Baptists are vigoriously opposed to union of state and church and believe that a state controlled church is a wretched excuse for Christianity and a plain departure from Scripture. All of the Protestant Reformers fastened state churches upon their followers!
- [Ardell: The author does have a point… in fact, there are still parts of Europe that hold to state back Protestant churches. Ie. Germany – Lutheran; England – Anglican; Scotland – Presbyterian]
- Baptists believe strongly in the individual accountability to God… A priest cannot answer for you, a church cannot answer for you to God. God-parents cannot answer for you…No one is saved because of his identification with any religion….Protestants generally do not hold this Scriptural doctrine.
- [Ardell: Again I believe the author is thinking mostly of the high churches. Most low churches tend to hold to this view of individual salvation.]
- Baptist people furthermore have always held to believer´s baptism. None of the Protestant Reformers held this Bible teaching…This obviously means that there is no infant baptism. since infants are incapable of repenting. No unbelievers are to be baptized. The Reformers followed Rome in their teaching of baptism.
- [Ardell: It is interesting that most “Protestant” churches today hold to adult baptism….I guess the Anabaptist had a huge impact on the churches in the USA.]
- Baptists on the basis of Scripture have always held to a regenerate church membership, that is a membership that is made up only of people who give a credible profession of faith in Christ. In the Apostolic church only those who became believers, those who received the Word of God and who had repented of their sins, were baptized and received as church members (Acts 2:41). There was no automatic or formalistic membership in apostolic churches nor in Baptist churches today.
- [Ardell: Vote with your feet. That was the moto of the 1960’s movement as folks rejected the stuffy membership based system in many high churches. This would be why most independent churches and/or movements that came out of the Jesus Movement don’t have formal memberships. Granted that is beginning to change a bit as those pastors find it hard to shepherd an unknown flock…]
All this makes you rethink your definition of Protestant doesn’t it? Shoot – I used to define it as simply as churches who believed in salvation via faith not works. Yet, it looks like the formal definition is a lot different.
As such, I checked a few sources to see how they defined the term “Protestant”:
- Wikipedia – encompasses the forms of Christian faith and practice that originated with the doctrines of the Reformation.
- Dictionary.com – any Western Christian who is not an adherent of a Catholic, Anglican, or Eastern Church; an adherent of any of those Christian bodies that separated from the Church of Rome during the Reformation, or of any group descended from them; (originally) any of the German princes who protested against the decision of the Diet of Speyer in 1529, which had denounced the Reformation.
- About.com – The term Protestant is used to refer to any Christian group which developed from the Reformation.
It looks like everyone agrees that a true “Protestant” is one that developed out of the Reformation or from churches that developed then. Interesting… I’m going to have to rethink some of the ways I use that word. Shoot, I’m going to have to rethink the terms I use to describe myself!!
By the way, in writing this post, I discovered a thread on the Baptist Board discussing this same question (Are Baptist Protestants or not?). It seems that there is a disagreement about the Baptist as to their roots…
Some folks on the forum hold to the view that they are not Protestants; others say they are; and still others say they are a mixture of Protestant and non-Protestant (ie. the Baptist church has mixed roots).
So, what’s your thoughts? Are Baptist Protestants?
How about your church? Is it Protestant or does it have roots from before the Reformation?