Free Will Baptist (or plural: Free Will Baptists) is a denomination and group of people that believe in free grace, free salvation and free will. The movement can be traced
back to the 1600s with the development of General Baptism in England. Its formal establishment is widely linked to the English theologian, Thomas Helwys who led the Baptist movement to believe in generalized atonement. He was an advocate of religious liberty at a time when to hold to such views could be dangerous and punishable by death. He died in prison as a consequence of the religious persecution of Protestant dissenters under King James I.In 1702 Paul Palmer would go on to establish the movement in North Carolina and in 1727 formed the Free Will Baptist Church of Chowan. Many Calvinists became Free Will Baptists in the nineteenth century. With the establishment of Free Will Baptists in the South, Benjamin Randall developed the movement in the Northeastern United States, specifically Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. One of the most defining characteristics of the movement is the notion of self-governance of local churches. The notion of Free Will was a systematic rejection of the Puritan movement, due to its overall religious beliefs and lack of social mobility.
Free Will Baptist congregations
- believe the Bible is the very word of God and without error in all that it affirms…
- Free Will Baptist Doctrine holds to the traditional Arminian position, based on the belief in a General Atonement, that it is possible to commit apostasy, or willfully reject one’s faith. Faith is the condition for salvation, hence
- Free Will Baptists hold to “conditional eternal security.” An individual is “saved by faith and kept by faith.” In support of this concept, some Free Will Baptists refer to the Greek word translated “believeth” found in John 3:16 KJV. This is a continuous action verb, and can thus be read,“… That whosoever believes and continues to believe shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” The concept is not of someone sinning occasionally and thus accidentally ending up “not saved,”
but instead of someone “repudiating” his or her faith in Christ. Thus “once saved always saved” is rejected by the denomination. On Perseverance of the Saints from the official Treatise:“There are strong grounds to hope that the truly regenerate will persevere unto the end, and be saved, through the power of divine grace which is pledged for their support; but their future obedience and final salvation are neither determined nor certain, since through infirmity and manifold temptations they are in danger of falling; and they ought, therefore, to watch and pray lest they make shipwreck of their faith and be lost.”
- Free Will Baptists observe at least three ordinances: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Washing of the Saints’ Feet, a rite occurring among some other evangelical groups but not practiced by the majority of Baptist denominations.
- Free Will Baptist congregations hold differing views on eschatology, with some holding premillennial and others millennial views. Churches advocate (voluntary) tithing, totally abstaining from alcoholic beverages, and not working on Sunday,
the “Christian Sabbath.”