Denominational labels are going out of style. I think that is unfortunate. Those labels are a kind of shorthand, standing for sets of ideas. But unlike most denominations, Baptists did not choose their own label. Their opponents gave it to them as shorthand for the doctrines and practices that distinguished Baptists from other Christians. Because Baptists were strongly committed to these ideas, they embraced the label. They were pleased to accept a name that stood for important teachings. Since I agree with those teachings, and since I also think that they are important, I am happy to share the label.
What I have discovered, however, is that most people who wear the name Baptist no longer know that it stands for ideas. If asked to name the characteristic teachings of their group, most modern Baptists merely observe that they perform baptisms by immersing rather than sprinkling of pouring. Among average church members, there is an astonishing lack of knowledge about just what Baptist believe. What we need is a good overview, written for the thoughtful inquirer who is not theological professional.
At first glance, it seems like every church group believes pretty much the same thing. Kevin Bauder shows how six important ideas make Baptists different from other Christians:
- The Authority of the New Testament
- Believer Baptism
- Pure Church Membership
- Individual Christian Responsibility
- Congregational Government
- Separation of Church and State