History of Baptists

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In Baptist history there has always been differences in doctrine. This has unfortunately resulted, at times, to separate believers from one another. This can be evident from comparing two American Baptist confessions. The most notable difference in doctrine between The Philadelphia Confession of 1742 and A Treatise on the Faith of the Free Will Baptists, 1834 and 1948 is the doctrine of Calvinism versus free-will. The Philadelphia Confession supported Calvinism and the Free Will Baptists supported Arminianism. A closer look at these two confessions show that throughout Baptist history certain doctrines remain constant while others are debated and cause separation of believers. However, this has not stopped the Gospel message to be preached faithfully.

Historical Background

In the seventeenth century, many Baptist churches were forming in the Middle Atlantic Colonies. Differences of opinion and doctrine arose within these churches. Because of their differences, churches met for several years and eventually formed the Philadelphia Baptist Association in 1707. This Association referred to a confession that was developed in 1689 and became the standard for their doctrine. In 1742, the Association printed the new edition of the confession and renamed it The Philadelphia Confession of Faith.

Benjamin Randall believed in the doctrine of believers’ baptism and held to an Arminian theology. He was a successful preacher and evangelist; however, Calvinistic Baptists from New Hampshire and Maine became critical of his Arminian theological views. It was then that Randall joined an Arminian Baptist church and later founded a Free Will church. The Free Will Baptists Confession was later developed in 1834 in response to the Calvinistic theo...

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... foundation of the world while the Free Will Baptists believe that anyone can come to faith based on their free will. The doctrine of election shows the sovereignty of God and that He is in control at all times. Free will places control in the hands of man where God is not completely sovereign in all decisions especially concerning salvation.

The doctrine of the Calvinism versus free will has been debated throughout Baptist history as is evident from these two confessions. The doctrine is still debated today, and as in the past, it can separate believers from one another. Some doctrinal differences will not be resolved in our time, but it should not separate believers from each other. More importantly, the church should be concerned with reaching others for Jesus Christ, and it is evident through Baptist history that this has taken precedent and continues today.
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