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February 1, 2005—

Textbook  Pages 49-63

Baptist Origins

Lesson 1

Where do Baptists come from?

Where do Baptists come from?

There are 4 theories which attempt to answer that question

Four Theories of Origin

I.  Historical Succession

            -This is often referred to as the JJJ Theory (Jesus, John, Jordan)

            - It holds that there is an unbroken line of Baptist Churches which can be traced back to the church’s founder, Jesus Christ

            -This theory was explained in the book, The Trail of Blood by J.M. Carroll, and was tied to the Landmark Movement

--Problems with the Theory

lThere is no evidence to support this theory

lSome of the “Baptist” churches pointed to by Carroll were in reality heretic churches

lThe theory is connected to the Landmark movement (which tried to say the Baptist church is the true church)

Four Theories of Origin

II. Spiritual Kinship

-This theory was proposed in order to counter the weaknesses of the JJJ theory

            -This theory holds that there have always been people like Baptists (they were just “hiding” in the Catholic Church)

            - This theory assumes that there are shared    Baptist beliefs– so that if you believe certain             things, then you are a Baptist (whether you           know it or not)

--Problems with the Theory

lThere is no evidence to support this theory

lIt is incorrect to call someone a Baptist just because you have some beliefs in common

Four Theories of Origin

III. English Separatism

            -This theory holds that Baptists emerged in 1609, out of English Separatism

            -This theory places Baptist beginnings within the context of the English Reformation

            -The theory contends that Baptist Identity tied to Hermeneutics– so that if you interpret the Bible a certain way, you will become a Baptist

            -The theory is held by historians Winthrop Hudson and Leon McBeth

Four Theories of Origin

IV. Dual Ancestry

            -This theory holds that Baptists emerged in 1609 out of English Separatism and Anabaptist Influence

            -This theory sees the Baptist church as the result of a mixing of English Separatist and Anabaptist Ideas

            -This theory is taught by historian W. R. Estep

Four Theories of Origin

I. Historical Succession

II. Spiritual Kinship

III. English Separatism

IV. Dual Ancestry / Anabaptist Influence

General Observations-(Important)

lOut of the four theories, either English Separatism or Dual Ancestry are legitimate

lBaptists are Protestant– they emerge in the midst of the English Reformation, making Baptists a Protestant denomination

lBaptists originate in 1609– there is no evidence that Baptists exists prior to 1609


The Anabaptists

Origins of Anabaptists

            Emerge out of Swiss reforms led by Ulrich Zwingli– Zwingli stressed the Bible and tried to build a church that conformed to the Biblical model

Emergence of Anabaptists

•Zwingli stressed preaching and instituted the Lord’s Supper as a symbolic remembrance of Jesus’s sacrifice

•A Small group including Hans Grebel and Felix Manz determined that only believers should be baptized (in 1525) but Zwingli refused to stop baptizing infants

•Group separated itself from Zwingli’s church and re-baptized each other– thus the Anabaptist church was born


Characteristics of Anabaptists

•Authority for Church is the New Testament( not the Old Testament)-

•Church is composed of believers only

•Only believers should be baptized

•The Lord’s Supper is symbolic

•Emphasize radical separation from the world (different from Baptist—we believe in Evangelism)

•Bent toward communism ( try to escape from the world—Amish)

Radical Separation

The Idea of radical separation influenced them by:

                        -leading to pacifism

                        -leading to separation of church and   state

                        -leading to strong church discipline

            Baptists will accept these three Anabaptist beliefs, but will reject the others:

            1. Church is composed of believers only

            2. Only believers should be baptized

            3. The Lord’s Supper is symbolic

            (Also, separation of church and state—we don’t believe the state has the right to tell people where they can worship)

            In 1527 the Anabaptists met at Schleitheim and produced the Schleitheim Confession which was designed to tell the world what they believed

The Schleitheim Confession (1527)

            First. Observe concerning Baptism: Baptism shall be given to all those who have learned repentance and amendment of life, and who believe truly that their sins are taken away by Christ, and to those who walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. . . . This excludes all infant baptism, the highest and chief abominations of the pope.

The Schleitheim Confession (1527)

            Second. We agree as follows concerning the ban: The ban shall be employed with all those who have given themselves to the Lord, to walk in his commandments, and with all those who have been baptized into the one body of Christ and who are called brethren and sisters, and yet one who slip sometimes and fall into error and sin, being inadvertently overtaken.  The same shall be admonished twice in secret and the third time openly disciplined or banned according to the commandment of Christ.

The Schleitheim Confession (1527)

            Third. In the breaking of bread we are of one mind and are agreed: All those who wish to break one bread in remembrance of the broken body of Christ, and all who wish to drink of one drink as a remembrance of the shed blood of Christ, shall be united beforehand by baptism in one body of Christ which is the church of God and whose head is Christ.  For as Paul points out we cannot at the same time be partakers of the Lord’s table and the table of devils; we cannot at the same time drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of the devil.  That is, all those who have fellowship with the dead works of darkness have no part in the light.

The Schleitheim Confession (1527)

            Fourth. We agree as follows on separation: A separation shall be made from the evil and from wickedness which the devil planted in the world; in this manner, simply that we shall not have fellowship with them and not run wit them in the multitude of their abominations.  This is the way it is: Since all who do not walk in the obedience of faith, and have not united themselves with God so that they wish to do His will, are a great abomination before God, it is not possible for anything to grow or issue from them except abominable things. 

The Schleitheim Confession (1527)

            Fourth cont. For truly all creatures are in but two classes, good and bad, believing and unbelieving, darkness and light, the world and those out of the world, God’s temple and idols, Christ and Belial; and none can have part with the other.  To us then the command of the Lord is clear when he calls upon us to be separate from the evil and thus He will be our God and we shall be his sons and daughters. . . .

The Schleitheim Confession (1527)

            Fourth cont. . . .Therefore there will also unquestionably fall from us the unchristian, devilish weapons of force– such as sword, armor and the like, and all their use either for friends or against one’s enemies– by virtue of the word of Christ, resist not him that is evil.

            It is understandable that Anabaptists would address baptism in the first article of their confession, but why would they address “The Ban” in the second article?  Why do they talk about the “table of the devil” in the third article?

            The answer to these questions is found in the fourth article.  The Scheleitheim Confession, and Anabaptist Theology, is dominated by a radical separation from the world.  In their thinking, there are two kinds of people; Christians, who are God’s children, and evil non-Christians who are the devil’s children.

This radical separation affects the Anabaptists by:

            -making them institute a strict church discipline (article 2 and 3)

            -leading them to be Pacifists (article 4)

            -leading them to withdraw from society and the world (article 4)

            - leading them to not be very evangelistic because it requires contact with the world

            -leading them to advocate Separation of Church and State

            This radical separation can also be seen in an Anabaptist handbook which was published in 1527 and was designed to help Anabaptist churches know how to operate.

Discipline of the Church: How a Christian is to Live [1527]

            We shall sincerely and in a Christian spirit admonish one another in the Lord to remain constant . . . . When a brother or sister leads a disorderly life it shall be punished . . . . Every brother and sister shall yield himself in God to the brotherhood completely with body and life, and hold in common all gifts received of God, and contribute to the common need so that brethren and sisters will always be helped . . . What is officially done among the brethren and sisters in the brotherhood shall not be made public before the world.

Within this text we can see:

            -Strict church discipline

            -Communism (Communal Living)

            -Intense Secrecy (even of church services)

All of these emphases are again based upon the idea of radical separation from the world

Most of the Anabaptists were killed– All of the movement’s early leaders were killed by 1535

Anabaptists today are known by the names Hutterites, Schwenkfelders, Mennonites, and Amish

The Amish are probably the group you are most familiar with.  The Amish do not:

                        -use modern technology

                        -fight in the military

                        -work for the state

                        -engage society at large

            This is evidence of the radical separation from the world found amongst the Anabaptists

            Baptist Historians must wrestle with the issue of whether or not the Baptists were influenced by the Anabaptists.


Textbook—pages21-39, 99-122

Lesson 3

The English Reformation

Lesson 3


            The English Reformation was initially motivated by political concerns rather than religious ones– its roots lie in the War of the Roses 1455-85 (which was a civil war between two royal houses– the House of York and House of Lancaster– each of which was trying to secure the English throne)

Henry VII (House of Lancaster)

lDefeated Richard III on August 22, 1485

lMarried Elizabeth of York– to end the war

lHe had two sons to secure the throne: Arthur and Henry

lIn order to strengthen his claim Wed Arthur to Catherine of Aragon

Henry immediately began to try and strengthen his position as the new king.  He had two sons, which ensured that an heir would succeed him as king; Arthur and Henry

In order to strengthen further his claim to the throne, Henry arranged a marriage between Arthur and Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain

Catherine of Aragon

lDaughter of Ferdinand and Isabella

lWed to Arthur Tudor- who died 3 months after they were wed

lMarriage was annulled after Arthur’s death because it was never consumated

In order to maintain the alliance with Spain, Henry VII agreed to marry his youngest son, Henry (VIII), to Catherine, his brother’s widow– even though this marriage violated church law

Catherine and Henry seemed to actually fall in love, and five years after his brother’s death, Henry and Catherine were wed

Their marriage produced 1 child; a daughter named Mary

Henry VIII

lWed his brother Arthur’s Widow– Catherine of Aragon

lCatherine bore him 1 daughter– Mary

As Henry began to age, he became increasingly worried about his failure to produce a male heir– he feared that after his death, a conflict similar to the War of Roses would erupt

Henry, who had opposed Martin Luther and his reforms, sought a divorce from Pope (in return for his loyal service)

Henry argued that the divorce was necessary given his need to produce a male heir and given the illegality of his marriage to his brother’s widow

The Pope was busy contending with the Lutheran reforms and needed the support of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (nephew of Catherine of Aragon), to defeat Luther

Thus he would not grant Henry a divorce

The Pope’s refusal to grant Henry a divorce helped fuel Henry’s growing resentment toward Rome and the Pope

Henry also began an affair with one of the ladies in his court, Anne Boleyn

Anne informed Henry that she was pregnant

Henry turned to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cramner, for help

Cramner annulled Henry’s first marriage and then married Henry and Anne

The Pope was furious and threatened to excommunicate Henry if he did not take Catherine back

Henry responded to the Pope, with Cramner’s prompting, by enacting the Act of Supremacy (1534)

This act separated the church of England from Rome, with the king service as supreme head of the church

This act gave Henry control of all Catholic church property in England—as well as all of the tithes in England

However, Henry changed very little in the way of theology– he was still a Catholic at heart

Anne Boleyn

lHenry VIII’s second wife

lBore 1 daughter: Elizabeth

lAfter Elizabeth’s birth, Henry had her executed on charges of Adultery (so he could marry another)

Henry VIII

lMarried Jane Seymour

lAllowed Thomas Cramner- Archbishop of Canterbury to begin to implement modest Protestant reforms

Jane Seymour

lHenry VIII’s third wife

lBore 1 son: Edward

lDied due to childbirth complications

Protestant Reforms Under Henry VIII

lHenry only allowed Cramner to institute minor reforms

lHenry would not compromise on transubstantiation, celibacy, or infant baptism

Edward VI 1547-1553

lHenry succeeded by his young son

lGiven Edward’s youth, England was governed by regents (who were Protestant)

lThomas Cramner was able to institute sweeping reforms

Edwardian Reforms

lRepealed heresy laws

lRemoved icons from the church

lUniform prayer book

lScripture read in English

lClergy allowed to marry

lBeliefs expressed in the 42 Articles

Unfortunately, Edward was very sickly and died while still a teenager

With Edward dying without an heir, the throne was then extended to Henry’s oldest child, Mary (daughter of Catherine of Aragon)

Mary I 1553-58

lEdward succeeded by his half-sister Mary (daughter of Henry and Catharine of Aragon)

Mary was bitter over the way she and her mother had been treated– she blamed Protestants for causing much of her trouble

Mary repealed the Act of Supremacy and began to persecute Protestants (including Cramner who she had killed)

She is thus known as “Bloody Mary”

Elizabeth I 1558-1603

lSucceeded her half-sister, Mary

lDaughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn

In an effort to stabilize the nation, Elizabeth put an end to the doctrinal oscillation which had been taking place

She established the Via Media or Elizabethan Settlement– this made the church of England a mix of Catholic and Protestant doctrine

The doctrine of the Church of England still maintains this Via Media today

The more radical Protestants grew frustrated with the English church.  They felt that it was still too Catholic.  That attempted to reform and purify the church.  They were thus known as Puritans.

After the rise of Puritans– some Puritans gave up the hope of reforming the church and instead decided to start over and build a new church from scratch– these were called Separatists

When Elizabeth died, she left no heir to the throne

The throne was then offered to James VI (Stewart), the King of Scotland– he thus became James I of England



James I (or VI Stewart) 1603-25

lWas a staunch Roman Catholic yet he did not attempt to change the Via Media

lInstead, he sought Uniformity and rigorously persecuted all dissenters

lEmpowered William Laud to hunt down dissenters

James I did not like the Via Media but he decided to live with it and to make everyone else live with it

He began to push for Uniformity and conformity to the Via Media

Thus he began to persecute religious dissenters (Puritans and Separatists)

He also had a new English translation of the Bible produced so that everyone would have the same Bible (Uniformity)

William Laud’s Persecution

lMust accept 39 Articles (as a Creed)

lDissenters thrown in Prison or killed

lMany dissenters fled to either the Netherlands or to the New World to escape

James was succeeded by his son, Charles I (1625-48)

Charles continued his father’s policies of enforcing religious conformity

English Civil War 1642-48

lKing Charles I vs. Parliament (controlled by Puritans)

lRoyal army was defeated by Oliver Cromwell (Puritan)

lKing was charged with Treason and executed


lCromwell made Lord Protector rather than king

lWas a Puritan

lGranted religious toleration to all groups

The Restoration

lWhen Cromwell died, Charles II, son of Charles I was placed on the throne

lCharles immediately begins to persecute Dissenters (because Puritans had killed his father)

lClarendon Codes

lWas succeeded by his son, James II

James II continued the persecution begun by his father

Parliament brokered a deal with his daughter in order to remove him from the throne

End of the English Reformation

lJames II succeeded by his daughter and her husband- William and Mary of Orange

l1689- Passed the Act of Toleration– which allowed dissenters freedom- although it did not make all faiths equal, only tolerated








Lesson 4

The Birth and Beliefs of General Baptists

Baptist beginnings center around John Smyth

Smyth was born in the small English town of Gainsborough

He attended Cambridge University where he studied to become a minister

By the time he graduated, Smyth had developed Puritan beliefs

In fact, Smyth would not accept an appointment from the Bishop

In 1600, the city of Lincoln hired Smyth to become the pastor of the city church

Smyth began to preach against sin and publicly called out the names of individuals Smyth felt were sinning

In 1602, the church fired Smyth

Smyth’s whereabouts from 1602-6 are unknown

Smyth resurfaced in 1606 at his hometown of Gainesborough, where he set up an office and began a medical practice

The Gainesborough church was without a pastor, so the several members asked Smyth to fill in and preach until the bishop appointed a new pastor

Smyth agreed to preach for the church– when the bishop found out, he order Smyth to stop preaching in the church

Smyth responded by establishing a Separatist church– he and those loyal to him broke from the local church and started their own church

Smyth’s church grew– so much so that the church was forced to split into two groups (for safety reasons)

The second group was lead by John Robinson, William Bradford, and William Brewster (They eventually fled to America aboard the Mayflower)

In 1607 Smyth’s group was forced to flee England and go to Amsterdam due to James I’s persecution

The move was financed by Thomas Helwys, a wealthy merchant, who was a major leader of the church (semi-so-pastor)

The group rented lodging from a Mennonite (Anabaptist)

Over the course of time, Smyth began to talk and debate theology with the Mennonites (Anabaptists)

In 1609, Smyth called a church meeting and dissolved the separatist church.  They then formed a new church based upon believer’s baptism.  Smyth baptized himself (pouring) and then baptized the rest of the group.

This was the First Baptist church ever– founded in Amsterdam in 1609 by John Smyth

This group immediately produced a confession (written by Helwys) to inform the world of their beliefs

After some time, Smyth began to be troubled over his self-baptism.  He attempted to dissolve the Baptist church on the grounds that their baptism was invalid because it had no historical succession.

The Baptist church was split as Smyth lead a group who left the church and sought membership in the Mennonite church.  Helwys became pastor of those wishing to remain Baptist.

In 1612, Helwys moved the Baptist church to Splitalfields, a suburb of London.

Helwys also wrote The Mystery of Iniquity which was addressed to King James I and asked for complete religious liberty.  After writing the book Helwys was imprisoned in Newgate prison, where he died 4 years later.

Thomas Helwys’ Mystery of Iniquity
                        We still pray our lord the King that we may be free from suspect, for having any thoughts of provoking evil against them of the Romish religion in regard to their profession, if they be true and faithful subjects to the King, for we do freely profess, that our lord the King hath no more power over their consciences than ours, and that is none at all: for our lord the King is but an earthly King, and if the King’s people be obedient and true subjects, obeying all humane law made by the King, our lord the King can require no more.  For men’s religion to God, is betwixt God and themselves; the King shall not answer for it, neither may the King be judge between God and man.  Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure.

Source: Leon McBeth, A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage (Nashville: Broadman, 1990), 72.

The Mystery of Iniquity is the first work in the English language to ask for complete religious liberty for all beliefs.

When Helwys was imprisoned, the church selected John Murton (church member) to serve s the new pastor.

Murton spent the next 15 years in and out of Newgate prison.  In 1615 he was thrown in prison for writing Persecution for Religion Judged and Condemned.

John Murton’s Persecution for Religion Judged and Condemned

                        For, if this be a truth, that the kings of the earth have power from God to compel by persecution all their subjects to believe as they believe, then wicked is it to resist, and the persecutions of such are justly upon them, and the magistrates that execute the same are clear from their blood, and it is upon their own heads: but if the kings of the earth have not power from god, to compel by persecution any of their subjects to believe as they believe, seeing faith is the work of God, then no less wicked is it in the sight of God to disobey, and the persecutions of such are upon the magistrates, and the blood of the persecuted crieth unto the Lord, and will be required at the magistrates hands. . . . Oh! That all that are in authority, would but consider by the word of God, which shall judge them at the last day, what they do, when they force men against their souls and consciences to dissemble to believe as they believe, or as the king and state believe: they would withdraw their hands and hearts therefrom, and never as they have done.  

Source: Leon McBeth, A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage (Nashville: Broadman, 1990), 75-76.

Under Murton’s leadership the church grew and started other churches.  By 1644, there were 47 General Baptist Churches in England.

Murton’s most famous work, A Humble Supplication, was written while in prison and was smuggled out to the church, having been written in milk instead of ink.

It is the second work in the English language to plead for complete religious liberty.  Some scholars have attempted to link it with the Anabaptist Hubmeier’s works.

These churches were known as General Baptists– because they believed in general or universal atonement (the belief that Jesus died for the sins of everyone on the cross)


Characteristics and Beliefs of General Baptists

1. General Atonement– Jesus died for everyone

2. Possibility of Falling from Grace

-And therefore let no man presume to thinke that because he hath, or had once grace, therefore he shall alwaies have grace: But let men have assurance, that iff they continew unto the end, they shalbee saved (1611- Declaration of Faith (written by Helwys))

3. Religious Liberty for all religions

4. Believer’s Baptism

            -The Baptisme or washing with Water, is the outward manifestacion off dieing vnto sinn, and walkeing in newnes of life. Roman. 6.2, 3, 4. And therefore is no wise apperteyneth to infants. (1611- Decl of Faith)

5. Lord’s Supper is Symbolic

6. Authority and Basis of Church is Scripture

7. Emphasized emotional aspect of religion

8. Evangelistic and Mission minded -1612 – 1 church / 1644 – 47 churches

9. 3 Ordinances Observed- Baptism / Lord’s Supper / Footwashing


Characteristics of General Baptists

•General Atonement

•Possibility of Falling from Grace

•Religious Liberty

•Believer’s Baptism

•Lord’s Supper is symbolic

•Scripture is Authority

•Emphasize emotional side of religion

•Evangelistic and mission minded

•3 Ordinances

Several of these beliefs/characteristics were also found in the Anabaptists the group had come in contact with.  These similarities have led some to conclude that Baptists and Anabaptists are related.


Arguments for Anabaptist Influence

•Undeniable Anabaptist contact

•Parallel beliefs regarding Baptism, Lord’s Supper, Church Membership, and Religious Liberty

•Lack of Calvinistic Theological elements

•Smyth’s decision to dissolve the church and join the Mennonites

•Similarities between Murton’s and Hubmaier’s writings

Arguments Against Anabaptist Influence

•Baptists denied being Anabaptists

•The Church did not join the Mennonites-initially and after Smyth’s Defection

3. Smyth’s Se-baptism


When asked why he had baptized himself, Smyth initially explained:

            “Seeing there was no church to whom we could join with a good conscience to have baptism from them, therefore we might baptize ourselves.”          

Arguments Against Anabaptist Influence

•Historical pattern of Anglican-Puritan-Separatist-Baptist

•Baptists do not hold to a Radical separation from the world

•Baptist belief is the result of a literalistic hermeneutic (belief in the Bible– not contact with a certain group)

•Baptists Deny being Anabaptists

•Baptist church did not join Mennonites

•Smyth’s Se-baptism

•Historical pattern of Ang- Pur- Sep- Bapt

•No Separation from world




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