I’m finishing a biography of John D. Rockefeller. It is 650 pages long- which is about 450 pages beyond sufficient. I realized that the author- an otherwise excellent writer- doesn’t seem to understand Baptists much. (Rockefeller joined a Baptist church when young and stayed a Baptist all of his life- though in the more theologically liberal branch.) Earlier, I read a biography of Harry Truman. (Truman joined a Baptist church when young- though he didn’t stay very connected or influenced.) The author told me what he had for breakfast on multiple occasions, but hardly spared a word for what Baptists believed. I doubted that he knew.
I thought to myself, “If those fellows don’t know what Baptists believe, I’ll bet some others don’t either.” So, here is a brief synopsis.
A couple of quick disclaimers. Baptist belief in argumentation seems to be overly developed, so note that there are some differences of opinions about some issues. Note that this is my belief about Baptists beliefs (as a Baptist believer) and may not necessarily be matched by everyone using that title. And, these things are believed by many in the broader conservative, Evangelical world. Also, I can’t cover everything here, so I’ll just focus on a couple of basics.
1. Baptists believe that the Bible is God’s word and is, therefore, the truth. Our beliefs and practices are not to be guided by popular opinion or church tradition, but by what the Bible teaches. Most Baptists take this pretty seriously and so our churches tend to emphasize Bible preaching and teaching. We tend to have Bible studies- Sunday School, Life groups, home groups, small groups, etc. which study the Bible. And, we emphasize the importance of following the teaching of the Bible in our personal, as well as religious, lives.
2. Baptists believe that people need to be saved from the penalty of sin and that the only way that can happen is to place faith in Jesus Christ. We believe that salvation happens by grace, through faith and not by good works- not even religion or baptism. We believe the Bible teaches (there is that Bible emphasis) that sinful people are lost without Jesus, but can be saved by repenting of sins and placing faith in Jesus’ death on the cross (which paid the penalty for sin) and His resurrection (which conquered the power of death and hell.) Through salvation, we believe one comes into a personal relationship with God that never ends.
3. Baptists practice baptism by immersion after salvation. We don’t practice infant baptism, but baptize only those who profess that they have trusted Christ as their Savior and Lord. And, we actually put them under the water. We immerse because we think that symbolizes the believer’s spiritual death, burial and resurrection that occurred in salvation and because we believe that to be the meaning of the word. We don’t believe baptism washes away sin or saves anyone (see point 2), but that it symbolizes, and testifies to, our salvation. By the way, the word “Catholicism” means “what Catholics believe and practice”. “Baptism”, however, means “the practice of baptizing” and not “what Baptists believe and practice”. So, if you want to say what Baptists believe and practice the best way to say that is “what Baptists believe and practice” or “Baptist beliefs”, not “Baptism”. (Sorry, pet peeve.)
4. About 300 more things need to be mentioned, but it is my blog and I am stopping at three beliefs for now.
Now I’ve got to read the last 50 pages to see if Rockefeller gets rich or not. 🙂