Sunday, November 05, 2006

Kinds of Baptists

Some comments re the Baptist Name Tags blog made me consider posting my list of Baptists in the United States. First, though, here is a little background that may help build a foundation for understanding some of the differences among Baptists in the United States.

The major source of origin of Baptists in America is the Baptists of the British Isles. These Baptists fell into two basic categories: (1) General Baptists and (2) Particular Baptists. The General Baptists held that Christ's atonement was in general for all men predicated upon their repentance and faith. The Particular Baptists held that Christ's atonement was in particular for only those elected by God to salvation. Both kinds of British Baptists came to America and established churches, thus forming General and Particular Baptists in what would become the United States.

Two early controversies among Baptists in America were the laying on of hands (after baptism), and the seventh day sabbath versus the first day of the week. This created two more kinds of Baptists - the Six-Principle Baptists (in favor of laying on of hands as an ordinance) and the Seventh Day Baptists (in favor of the Sabbath). The Particular Baptists came to predominate the Baptist scene, especially through the influence of the Philadelphia Baptist Association. They increasingly became more often known as Regular Baptists. The General Baptists became almost extinct. The element of them that survived in the South later became known as Free Will Baptists (the present day General Association of General Baptists came from Benoni Stinson and other Regular Baptists who adopted the general atonement position). In the North, there was a strong Free Baptist movement that came out of the Regulars, and flourished in New England. Most of these New England Free Baptists would in the early 1900's become part of the Northern Baptist Convention (now ABCUSA), though a few became part of the National Association of Free Will Baptists.

The Great Awakening led to an influx to the Baptists of people that held some positions not common with the Regulars. They were identified as Separates. Most of the Separates and Regulars set aside their differences and united around 1800, and agreed to be called United Baptists. But the great push for missionary and benevolent societies, theological seminaries, and other such movements soon brought dissension among the "United" Baptists, and this dissension brought division. Those in favor of these movements were in the majority and generally continued to be called Regulars or United, though they were called Missionaries by their opponents. Those who looked on these movements as unbiblical innovations, often called Regulars, came to call themselves the Primitive (meaning original) Baptists.

Upon the heels of this missionary/anti-missionary division, the Regular (missionary) Baptists would again be divided, this time geographically. The Baptists were unable to withstand the political upheaval going on in the nation over slavery and other sectional issues. This created the Northern and Southern Baptists (the Northern Baptists did not adopt that name or a convention system until early 1900; the SBC was organized in 1845). A few Baptist groups of today have a somewhat different background because of ethnic origin. This includes the National Baptist Conventions (African-American), the Baptist General Conference (Swedish), and the North American Baptist Conference (German).

These facts provide some background for the broad categories I will use in my blog tomorrow on "Baptist Groups in the USA". These catergories are are based on Albert W. Wardin's works and not original with me. Broadly, Baptists in the United States divided (1) theologically over the atonement; (2) geographically; (3) over means; and (4) by ethnicity. Then there are divisions within these broad categories, of which we shall see more tomorrow.

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