From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Baptists are Christians distinguished by baptizing professing believers only (believer’s baptism, as opposed to infant baptism), and doing so by complete immersion (as opposed to affusion or sprinkling). Baptist churches also generally subscribe to the tenets of soul competency/liberty, salvation through faith alone, scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice, and the autonomy of the local congregation. Baptists generally recognize two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s supper. Baptist churches are widely considered to be Protestant, though some Baptists disavow this identity.
Diverse from their beginning, those identifying as Baptists today differ widely from one another in what they believe, how they worship, their attitudes toward other Christians, and their understanding of what is important in Christian discipleship.
Historians trace the earliest “Baptist” church to 1609 in Amsterdam, the Dutch Republic with English Separatist John Smyth as its pastor. In accordance with his reading of the New Testament, he rejected the baptism of infants and instituted baptism only of believing adults. Baptist practice spread to England, where the General Baptists considered Christ’s atonement to extend to all people, while the Particular Baptists believed that it extended only to the elect. Thomas Helwys formulated a distinctively Baptist request that the church and the state be kept separate in matters of law so that individuals might have freedom of religion. Helwys died in prison as a consequence of the religious persecution of English dissenters under King James I. In 1638, Roger Williams established the first Baptist congregation in the North American colonies. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the First and Second Great Awakening increased church membership in the United States. Baptist missionaries have spread their faith to every continent.
The largest Baptist denomination is the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), with the membership of associated churches totalling more than 15 million. Many Baptists cooperate through the Baptist World Alliance.