The First Baptist Treatise On Predestination: Thomas Helwys’s “Short And Plaine Proofe” -- By: J. Matthew Pinson

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 06:1 (Spring 2009)
Article: The First Baptist Treatise On Predestination: Thomas Helwys’s “Short And Plaine Proofe”
Author: J. Matthew Pinson


The First Baptist Treatise On Predestination: Thomas Helwys’s “Short And Plaine Proofe”

J. Matthew Pinson1

Thomas Helwys is often overshadowed by his mentor, John Smyth. Smyth was the leader of the English Separatist congregation whose voyage to the Netherlands Helwys financed and who later adopted believer’s baptism and an Arminian soteriological posture.2 Yet Helwys was the father of the English Baptist movement, having left Smyth, who had capitulated to the views of the Dutch Waterlander Mennonites. Helwys’s decision to leave Smyth and take part of their congregation back to England resulted in the establishment of the first Baptist church on English soil and the subsequent Baptist movement.3 The General Baptist movement arose from Helwys’s activities, while the Particular Baptist (Calvinist) movement arose a generation later.4

In 1611 Helwys and his congregation issued a confession of faith, A Declaration of Faith of English People Remaining at Amsterdam.5 In this work Helwys outlined the major reasons for his separation from Smyth. The confession delineated objections to Smyth’s denial of the Reformed doctrine of original sin and the imputation of the righteousness of

Christ alone in justification, as well as his acceptance of Hoffmanite Christology6 and Waterlander positions on succession and the role of the magistracy.7

While the layman Helwys was not Smyth’s equal in theological acumen, his passionate theological commitments motivated him to put his views into print. His literary output gave voice to the fledgling English Baptist movement, resulting, for example, in the first treatise in the English language advocating liberty of conscience and freedom of religion, A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity.8 Helwys’s sentiments gave rise to the Baptist movement, his soteriological views laying the foundation for a vigorous Arminian Baptist movement in the seventeenth century, which would find expression in articulate General Baptist writers such as Thomas Grantham later in the century.

Later in 1611, after writing his Declaration of Faith of English People Remaining at Amsterdam, Thomas Helwys wrote a brief work entitled A Short and Pl...

You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
Click here to subscribe
visitor : : uid: ()