Baptist History

While we wait for our other authors to complete their posts on the Atonement I figured I might as well post something over the weekend.  I pastor a reformed baptist church near Indianapolis.   Here is a brief research paper i recently wrote…

I open this brief essay by concurring with the words of Dr. Thomas Nettles, “It is with difficulty that men strive to define ‘Baptists.’” (By His Grace and for His Glory, p. 13). It is easier to list some of the influential leaders who have been part of the Baptist movement (Smyth, Bunyan, Carey, Gill, Broadus, Spurgeon, Strong, Henry, Nicole, Mohler, Piper) than to define what a “Baptist” is or is not. Any attempted definition must include a discussion of history, church polity, and doctrine. The primary goal of this short work, therefore, is to answer the following questions: When did the Baptist denomination originate? Have Baptists historically supported the concept of a plurality of elders leading and governing the church? For how long have Baptists taught the “Doctrines of Grace,” also called by some, “biblical Calvinism”?

We begin with the origin of the Baptist denomination. Some argue that Baptists reach back to the apostolic era (the Successionist theory and/or Landmarkism). People holding this view typically believe that only Landmark Baptists have followed the New Testament pattern of church life. They would also argue that they have always remained separate from the Catholic Church while tracing their lineage directly back to John the Baptist. This view cannot be substantiated historically (contra J. M. Caroll’s 1930s book, The Trail of Blood).

Others argue that Baptists belong to the Congregational branch of Protestantism from post-Elizabethan England. This theory believes modern Baptists originated with certain English Separatists who left or were simply forced out of the Church of England. This is a plausible explanation with some good historical support (see Joe Flatt’s, What is a Regular Baptist, p. 2). A third view contends that early Baptists were an offshoot of the Anabaptist movement. Proponents of this view reason that contact with Dutch Mennonites in the early seventeenth century led to the Baptist movement. Dr. William Brackney points out that “[d]ocumentation of the Baptist tradition commences when the first ‘baptizing,’ congregations, so-called, began to appear about 1608 [emphasis mine]. Through John Smyth and Thomas Helwys a connection with the heirs of the Radical Reformation can be established” (Baptist Life and Thought: A Source Book, p. 15). It appears that Baptists originated around 1608 or 1609. The first Baptist congregation to organize in America was founded by Roger Williams in Rhode Island in 1638 ( A common thread running through this movement is the Baptist commitment to orthodox biblical theology, congregational autonomy, and believer’s baptism by immersion.

5 responses to this post.

  1. […] Kolstad over at Expository Thoughts has five posts on Baptist History, Baptists and Church Polity (Part 1 & Part 2), Baptists and the ‘Doctrines of […]

  2. Posted by Shane Jones on August 21, 2007 at 7:02 am

    I don’t understand how you Justify calling one self a Baptist from the word? I can’t see it anywhere!

  3. Shane,

    Historically “baptists” were given such titles by their enemies (along with anabaptist, rebaptizers, etc.) and did not choose such designations themselves.

    It was not the point of Caleb’s post to “justify calling one self a Baptist” but to note various aspects of baptist history. I’m sure this is just a simple oversight on your part.

  4. Posted by CalebKolstad on August 21, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Paul and Shane,

    Thanks for the comment and reply. If you want to read some books by some real Baptist historians check out Dr. Nettles and Dr. Brackens.

    I am a Pastor who likes church history.


  5. Posted by Idetrorce on December 16, 2007 at 7:57 am

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: