What Is A Baptist? Nine Marks That Separate Baptists From Presbyterians -- By: Steve W. Lemke

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 05:2 (Fall 2008)
Article: What Is A Baptist? Nine Marks That Separate Baptists From Presbyterians
Author: Steve W. Lemke


What Is A Baptist?
Nine Marks That Separate Baptists From Presbyterians

Steve W. Lemke

Provost & Professor of Philosophy
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Introduction

Baptists and Presbyterians are both products of the Protestant Reformation. They do not share precisely the same heritage, however, since Presbyterians arose from the Magisterial Reformation and Baptists arose from the Radical Reformation. Baptists arose in a separatist tradition, and suffered horrible persecution at the hands of Calvinist authorities. The primary reason that Baptists migrated to America, and that Roger Williams migrated from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to Rhode Island, was to avoid persecution (primarily from the hands of Calvinist authorities). Baptists who suffered bitter persecution and even laid down their lives at the hands of Presbyterians would be stunned that anyone could even ask the question of whether there is any significant difference between Baptists and Presbyterians.

At the same time, most early Baptists did affirm some key Calvinistic beliefs, particularly in the area of soteriology. Not all Baptists affirmed these beliefs (especially General Baptists and Free Will Baptists), but Particular Baptists and Hard Shell Baptists did affirm many points of a Calvinistic soteriology. So although the Baptist and Presbyterian traditions arose out from separate and independent roots, they became intertwined to some degree through the years. Baptists reflect a diversity of positions with regard to Calvinism.

Throughout its history, the Southern Baptist Convention has swung periodically toward and away from Calvinism. There has been a resurgence of Calvinism among Southern Baptists in the past few decades.1 A “Together for the Gospel” conference highlighting Calvinist Baptist and Presbyterian speakers was held on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary campus in April 2006, attracting over 3,000 attendees, and producing a

“Together for the Gospel” document emphasizing shared beliefs of Baptists and Presbyterians.2

There are at least four streams of Calvinism in contemporary SBC life (which, like all such architectonics, are broadly descriptive but imprecise and somewhat overlapping) – Founder’s Movement Calvinists, Together for the Gospel Calvinists, Reformed Relevants, and Irenic Calvinists. Founder’s Movement Calvinists tend to look backward nostalgically to Calvinists of prior generations, to make their Calvinism the focal point of their ministries, to be rather assertive and defensive about thei...

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