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Baptist Confessions & Theology. Copyright 2007 NOBTS, Rex D. Butler and Lloyd A. Harsch. Purpose. Clarify Baptist teachings to others Inform and Educate their own members Provide a basis for fellowship Deal with Controversy Baptists use confessions of faith, not creeds

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baptist confessions theology

Baptist Confessions& Theology

Copyright 2007 NOBTS, Rex D. Butler and Lloyd A. Harsch

  • Clarify Baptist teachings to others
  • Inform and Educate their own members
  • Provide a basis for fellowship
  • Deal with Controversy
  • Baptists use confessions of faith, not creeds
    • Creed is an officially binding statement that one must believe
common points
Common Points
  • Religious liberty for all
    • Formed in the crucible of persecution
    • Appealed to nature of faith
      • Cannot be coerced
      • Must be voluntary or is meaningless
    • Practical arguments
      • Freedom leads to more peaceful and stable society
      • Persecution harms both state and church
    • Magistrate had authority only in civil matters
common points4
Common Points
  • Reliability and authority of scripture
    • Did not develop theories of how inspiration worked
    • Basis for fellowship
      • Particular Baptists emphasized doctrine as basis for fellowship
      • General Baptists emphasized experience as basis for fellowship
common points5
Common Points
  • Church composed of visible saints voluntarily assembled and baptized
    • All believers formed the invisible church
    • General Baptists viewed congregations as local units of the larger church
    • Particular Baptists viewed each congregation as complete and independent
common points6
Common Points
  • Pastors served life-time pastorates unless move agreed upon by both congregation and pastor
  • Baptism is for believers only
  • Communion gradually moved from closed to open
  • Required spontaneity in worship
  • Evangelistic
general baptists
General Baptists
  • Declaration of Faith (1611)
    • Issued by Thomas Helwys’ congregation
general baptists9
General Baptists
  • Faith and Practice of Thirty Congregations (1651)
    • Issued by an association
    • First GB confession to represent more than one church
    • Rejects free will unaided by God (art. 25)
    • Makes oblique reference to immersion (art. 48)
      • “Go into the water, and to be baptized”

General Baptists

  • Standard Confession (1660)
    • Issued by the denomination
    • First GB confession to specify immersion
    • Includes laying on of hands (art. 12) - six principles of Heb 6:1-2:
      • Repentance, faith, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, eternal life
  • Orthodox Creed (1678)
    • Adds a third office of messenger who oversees congregations in an area and plants churches
particular baptists
Particular Baptists
  • First London (1644)
  • 1646 revision
    • Submitted to Parliament seeking legal toleration
    • Less antagonistic to Parliament
    • Clarified religious liberty and role of magistrate
    • Strengthened Calvinism
      • Puts them in line with Presbyterians in Parliament
    • Reduced ministry to pastors and deacons like General Baptists
particular baptists13
Particular Baptists
  • Somerset Confession (1656)
    • Written by Thomas Collier
    • Response to Quakers
    • Represents earliest attempt to bring together Particular & General Baptists
particular baptists14
Particular Baptists
  • Second London (1677, revised 1688/89)
    • Written by Benjamin Keach
    • Modifies the Westminster Confession (Presbyterian-1647) & Savoy Confession (Independent-1658)
    • First confession to use “infallible” about Bible (chap 1.1)
    • Baptism is sign of fellowship, not sign and seal of covenant of grace
particular baptists15
Particular Baptists
  • Second London
    • Introduces covenant of grace (chap 7.2-3)
    • Possibility of elect being saved without the gospel (chap 10.3)
    • If not elect, nothing can be done about it (chap 10.4)

Total Depravity

Unconditional Election

Limited Atonement

Irresistible Grace

Perseverance of the Saint


Positive View of Humanity

Conditional Election

Unlimited Atonement

Resistible Grace

Falling from Grace

  • Emphases of Each System
    • Calvinism emphasizes God’s providential control
    • Arminianism emphasized human free will & responsibility to obey
    • “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8) – Calvinists emphasize grace; Arminians, faith
history of arminianism
History of Arminianism

Jacob Arminius (1560-1609)

  • Dutch pastor & theologian, trained under Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza
  • In debate over predestination, Arminius came to reject this Calvinist doctrine
  • Calvinists accused Arminius & his followers of heresy
  • After Arminius’ death, Arminians were condemned at Synod of Dort (1619), fined, deposed, exiled, beheaded
  • 1610, followers described his views in Remonstrance
arminian theology
Arminian Theology
  • Unlimited Atonement
    • Also called General Atonement
    • Christ died for all humans (Heb. 2:9; 1 Jn. 2:2)
    • Anyone who believes in him can be saved
    • Universal redemption, not universal salvation: Jesus died for all sin & sinners, but only believers are forgiven
arminian theology20
Arminian Theology
  • Conditional Election
    • God determined in eternity that persons believing in Christ will be saved
    • Faith is condition of election
    • Grace is still divine basis of election
arminian theology21
Arminian Theology
  • Conditional Election
    • Understood in terms of God’s foreknowledge(electing those he knows will believe) instead of predestination(God’s determining who will believe)
arminian theology22
Arminian Theology
  • Positive View of Humanity
    • Higher view of human free will after fall
    • Compatible with God’s sovereignty
    • Human cannot save himself or herself without God’s grace
    • Fallen humanity can do nothing good without being “born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, will, and all his power, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good”
    • All persons are able to believe or to meet the conditions of salvation
      • Prevenient grace is given by God to all persons, so everyone is capable of accepting God’s offer of salvation
arminian theology23
Arminian Theology
  • Resistible Grace
    • God’s Spirit shows the truth of the Word & enables belief but can be rejected
    • Every person has genuinely free will
    • For human will to be genuinely free, person must be allowed to make independent moral decision
  • Possible to Fall from Grace
    • It is possible for one who once believed to reject, or fall from, God’s saving grace (Heb. 6:4-6)
history of calvinism
History of Calvinism

John Calvin (1509-64)

  • Systematic theologian of Reformation: Institutes of the Christian Religion
  • Sovereignty of God
    • God’s purposes are unquestionable & unchangeable
  • Total depravity of humanity
    • Every individual is sinful & unable to respond to God’s offer of grace
  • From eternity, God has predestined some to salvation, others to destruction
history of calvinism25
History of Calvinism

Theodore Beza (1519-1605)

  • Calvin’s successor at Geneva
  • Developed doctrine of limited atonement – Christ shed his blood only for sins of the elect
  • Opposed idea that Great Commission was still in effect
history of calvinism26
History of Calvinism

Synod of Dort (1618-19)

  • Called to deal with Remonstrants & Arminian theology
  • Defined strict Calvinism using Beza’s interpretation of Calvin’s theology
  • Codified “TULIP” – five points of Calvinism vs. Arminianism
  • Total Depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of Saints
total depravity
Total Depravity
  • Doctrine is linked to original sin
  • Every human is utterly sinful & can do nothing morally good in his or her own power (Rom. 3:10-12)
  • Individual is incapable of initiating salvation experience (John 6:44)
unconditional election
Unconditional Election
  • In eternity, God elected some to salvation (Eph. 1:4-6) & chose others for damnation
    • Calvin taught Double Predestination
    • Augustine taught Single Predestination
  • God’s election is based only on his sovereign will, not on basis of merit or foreknowledge
limited atonement
Limited Atonement
  • Also called Particular Atonement
  • Christ died only for the Elect
  • Otherwise, part of his blood would have been shed in vain, in violation of God’s economy
irresistible grace
Irresistible Grace
  • Elect will be drawn irresistibly to God by his Holy Spirit
  • Spirit will cause elect to affirm their election
  • Irresistible grace results in elect believing in Christ & performing good works
perseverance of the saints
Perseverance of the Saints
  • Elect will persevere in salvation until end (John 10:29)
theological extremes
Theological Extremes
  • Calvinism
    • Hyper-Calvinism
      • Overly emphasized election
      • To share the Gospel with those not surely elect is more than futile; it is disobedient
    • Antinomianism
      • Exaggeration of doctrines of atonement & justification by faith
      • Whatever the elect do, it is not sin
    • Universalism
      • Conclusion that God elected everyone
theological extremes34
Theological Extremes
  • Arminianism
    • Arianism
      • Optimistic anthropology led to weak Christology
      • Salvation of humans did not require Christ to be fully divine
    • Socinianism
      • Christ was good man & prophet but not God
      • Works-oriented salvation
    • Unitarianism
      • Rejected traditional Trinity as illogical
      • Atonement was an example of how people should obey God (cf. Peter Abelard’s Moral Example Theory of Atonement)
    • Universalism
      • Doctrine of universal atonement led to conclusion that all would be saved