The Baptist Church

James P. Needham
Louisville, Kentucky

INTRODUCTION: The Baptist church is one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world, and one of the most significant. It is a very militant and thus a rapidly expanding church. It is our purpose in this article to make a general survey of its history, beliefs and practices.

I. General Statistics

  1. Membership: According to the report of the "Baptist World Alliance" the total world Baptist membership as of January, 1965, was 25,848,787. (The Quarterly Review, July, August, September 1965, p. 75).
  2. Distribution: Membership distribution is shown as follows: Africa: 390.483; Asia: 902,624; Central America: 208,334; Europe: 1,134, 385; Middle East: 756; South America: 248,779; Southwest Pacific: 101,264; and North America: 22,862.162. (Ibid. pp. 73-75). Hence, the bulk of the membership of the Baptist denomination is found in North America: Canada, Mexico and the United States. The bulk of Baptist membership in the U. S. A. is found in the Southern States.
  3. Congregations: It was estimated in 1958 that the denomination was constituted of some 91,786 local churches. (Handbook of Denominations, 1961, by Frank S. Mead, p. 32).
  4. Branches: Some 27 different Baptist groups are listed in the above-mentioned book. These are sometimes distinguished bv minor differences. The more significant groups are as follows: (a) Northern Baptist Convention, known as the American Baptist Convention since 1950, composed of a membership of 1,555,360. (b) Southern Baptist Convention composed of some 9,000,000. (c) Landmark Baptists. No membership statistics available. They are independent from all other Baptists, and came out of the Southern Baptists. Their membership is limited almost exclusively to the Southern United States. It is with preachers of this group that most of our debates have been conducted. (d) Primitive Baptists composed of some 72,000 members and 1,000 churches. (These statistics taken from Handbook of Denominations, by Frank S. Mead, 1961 edition.)

II. Historical Briefs

The best way to learn the history of the Baptist church is to read what Baptist historians say. This we propose to do in this section, avoiding the possibility of being accused of misrepresenting them.

HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS, Benedict, p. 304: "The first regularly organized Baptist Church of which we possess any account, is dated from 1607, and was formed in London by a Mr. Smyth, who had been a clergyman in the Church of England." (Quoted almost verbatim in Hiscox Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, p. 168).

A QUESTION OF BAPTIST HISTORY, Whitsitt, p. 92,93: "That the name Baptist first came into use shortly after 1641, is another evidence of the fact in question . . . Henceforth they were called 'baptized Christians' par excellence, and in due time Baptists. The earliest instance in which this name occurs as a denominational designation, so far as information goes, befell in the year 1644.... The name Baptist was in 1644 first claimed by our people. They have claimed it ever since."

SHORT HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS, Vedder, pp. 3,4: "The word, Baptists, as the descriptive name of a body of Christians, was first used in English Literature, so far as is now known, in the year 1644 . . . The name Baptists seems to have been first published in 'The Moderate Baptist.' The first official use of the name is in 'The Baptist Catechism' issued by the authority of the Assembly.... There had been no such churches before, and hence there was no need of the name.... The history of the Baptist churches cannot be carried, by the scientific method, farther back than the year 1611, when the first Anabaptist church consisting wholly of Englishmen was founded in Amsterdam by John Smith, the Se-Baptist. This is not, strictly speaking a Baptist church, but it was the direct progenitor of churches in England that a few years later became Baptist, and therefore the history begins here."

III. Baptist Doctrine and Practice Refuted

In this section we want to give a brief synopsis of Baptist beliefs and practices and some of the scriptures that refute them. Baptists claim to have no creed but the Bible, and many Baptists honestly believe this; not knowing of the existence of such Church Manuals as those written by J. M. Pendleton, D. D., and John T. Hiscox. While these are not as rigidly enforced as are similar works in some other denominations, those becoming members are expected to "yield substantial agreement." (Hiscox's Manual). "These over-all doctrines have never been written by the Baptists into any official Baptist creed for all their churches, but they have been incorporated in two very important confessions of faith for the denomination. The Baptist churches of London wrote a Philadelphia Confession in the year 1689. and this confession was enlarged by the Philadelphia Association in 1742. The New Hampshire State Baptist Convention drew up another famous confession in 1832. The older Philadelphia Confession is strongly Calvinistic in statement; the New Hampshire Confession, only moderately so." (Handbook of Denominations in the United States, by Frank S. Mead, p. 34.)

1. The doctrine of original sin or that infants are born depraved, inheriting the guilt of Adam's sins. (See Ezek. 18:20; Luke 18: 15-17; Matt. 18:1-3; 19:13, 14; I John 3:4;

5:17; Rom. 3:12,23; 7:9, etc.)

2. The doctrine of salvation by faith alone. (James 2:14-26 (v. 24); Gal. 5:6; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, etc.)

3. Denying that obedience is essential to salvation. (See Matt. 7:21; Heb. 5:8,9; II Thess. 1:8; cf I Sam. 15:22,23).

4. Denying that baptism is essential to salvation. (See Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16; Acts 2:37-41; 10:47,48; 22:16; Rom. 6:3.4; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26, 27; I Pet.


5. The doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy (or the perseverance of the saints) or that a child of God cannot so sin as to be eternally lost. (See Heb. 3:12; 19; 6:4-6; 10:26-31; Gal. 5:1-4; I Cor. 9:26, 27; 10:12; I Tim. 1:18-20; II Tim. 2:17, 18; II Pet. 2:1-3; 20-22; Gal. 5:19-21; etc.).

6. The doctrine of premillennialism or that Christ will return to the earth, set up His kingdom here and reign for a thousand years. (See Mark 9:1; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1: 5-8; 2:1-4, 29-36; Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:5-6; John 18:36, etc.)

7. Congregational approval by voting of all candidates for baptism; such baptized candidates are said to have joined the Baptist Church. (See Acts 8:35-39; 2:47; 5:14.)

8. Congregational government of a pastor and deacons. New Testament congregations each had pastors (or bishops or elders), not a pastor; preachers and pastors were not identical. (See Phil. 1: 1; Eph. 4: 11; Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5; I Pet. 5:1-3; etc.)

9. Conventions and associations, Intercongregation and intracongregational organizations; church colleges and hospitals. (See Acts 14:23; 20:28; I Pet. 5:1-3; Eph. 4:12.)

10. Church-sponsored recreation, entertainment and meals, church-owned and operated youth camps. (See I Cor. 11:20-22,33,34; Eph. 4:12.)

11. Missionary and benevolent societies. (See Eph. 4:12; I Tim. 3:15; I Thess. 1:8; II Cor. 11:7-9; Phil. 1:5; 4:15-16; I Tim. 5:16; Acts 6:1-6; 11:27-30; etc.)

12. Youth churches; choirs to sing to the congregation; instrumental music in worship, etc. (See Acts 2:37-47; e:l4; Phil. 1:1; Heb. 2:12; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; etc.)

It is obvious that we cannot give a detailed refutation of all Baptist doctrines in one article, but the above should give the reader enough material to enable him to see the error of Baptist theology. We shall be happy to discuss these matters further with any who are interested.

IV. Conclusion

The Baptist church is not the church we read about in the Bible. The following comparison will demonstrate this.



FOUNDER.. John Smyth

PLACE. London

TIME.. 1607 AD

CREED....... Church Manuals

NAME. Baptist Church



Jesus Christ Matt. 16: 18

Jerusalem Isa. 2:1-4; Acts 2:47

33 AD Acts 2

New Testament I Pet. 4:11

Church of Christ Rom. 16:16


There is no salvation in a false religion. Jesus said, "Every plant which my father planted not, shall be rooted up" (Matt. 15:13). He further stated that it is vain to worship according to the doctrines and commandments of men. (Matt. 15:9). We do not question the honesty of our Baptist friends, but the scripturalness of their religion. We appeal to them to come out of their human denomination by obedience to the Gospel that the Lord may add them to HIS CHURCH (Acts 2:47).

TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 1, pp. 8-10 October 1965