Let me begin by saying we do not consider ourselves as a “religion” as in “Baptist Religion.” Baptists are part of the Christian religion. We consider ourselves simply and essentially Christian. Baptist is only a brand name. Like on the grocery store shelf where you might have applesauce in jars or cans under different labels, perhaps with various ingredients, but all without question being applesauce.
Baptist is primarily a historical designation of Christians who hold to a group of distinctives which only they hold in totality. Others may believe and practice some or most of these, but usually not as a whole. While others may to hold to anyone of these distinctives, Baptist hold to all of them.
Here are the distinctives:
- Biblical Authority: In other words, we do not place ecclesiastical creeds into a place of supreme authority. We believe the Bible, God’s Word, is our only document for faith and practice.
- Soul Liberty: We strongly. hold to the concept that every human being has the right to believe and teach as he or she chooses, even though such beliefs may be contrary to what we believe to be true and Biblical. We may thoroughly disagree with that person’s position and may be deeply dismayed by what we may perceive to be even a self -destructive path. That means also we strongly support religious freedom, and oppose the establishment of laws that support Christianity but oppose other religious views. It was Baptist influence that brought freedom of religion into the USA Bill of Rights, in strong contrast to the state church concepts of Europe at the time.
- The Sovereignty of The Eternal, Personal God revealed in the Bible.
- Autonomous Local Churches: We believe that the churches of the New Testament were independent entities, self-governing and not part of a larger ecclesiastical structure. For that reason Baptists have no hierarchy above the local congregation. No Pope, no bishop, no prophet or guru who from some higher level dictates, directs or controls. No hierarchy to which a local church sends its monies. Some Baptists participate in loose local fellowships between congregations. Some in larger, even national associations. Some in none. This means there is only a tenuous link between churches, if there is any. It is never correct to speak of the “Baptist Church.” It should be the “Baptist Churches.” It should be noted that such a setup gives maximum liberty for individuality and creativity in worship forms and church dynamics, and thus an observer will find interesting differences in the incidentals of Baptist church life from place to place, and from church to church.
- Believers Church: We believe that membership of the local church is only for those who profess personal faith and allegiance to Christ, and take upon themselves the New Testament mark of discipleship, and believers baptism. We strongly oppose any thought of baptism being a meritorious, salvation imparting rite. For us it is only a testimony of a faith already in place. Thus, we do not practice infant baptism, nor do we have people coming into membership through family tradition or birth into a church family. Each one comes on the basis of personal faith. This Baptist distinctive is in strong contrast to those Christian traditions where the church is thought of as a mix of true believers and mere adherents, common to some whose heritage derives from the Reformation.
- Simplicity: Organizationally, we hold to only two offices in the church, and these two having function only in that local congregation. Pastor/Elder and Deacon. In our church life we hold to Only two ordinances (not sacraments) baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We have no priesthood. Every believer has direct access to God through Christ alone, and needs no human intermediary. Christ is the only valid priest we acknowledge as above the individual believer.