Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 9, 1961

How The Baptist Churches Began

Bill Cavender, Greggton, Texas

One of the largest of the "Protestant" denominations in our country and in the world today is the Baptist church. There are some ten to fifteen groups of Baptists in our country alone, all differing from each other in various points of doctrine, and in practice, and in name. Baptists are especially numerous in the southern part of the United States and the people for the most part are honest, upright, excellent morally, and are generally leaders in community life.

Many people become Baptists, however, not knowing what Baptist doctrine is and what Baptists really believe and teach. Numbers join the Baptist church for reasons such as social and community prestige, business, parent religion, etc., and then after they are in and begin to find out some of the errors of the Baptist system they will freely and frankly admit that they do not believe some points of Baptist doctrine.

Baptist doctrine is one big bundle of blunders and inconsistencies. Their errors are appalling, yet their continued numerical growth in spite of their errors and inconsistencies is witness to the fact that the Baptist people as a rule know little about the Bible and little about Baptist doctrine. It is the contention of this writer that if most folks really knew Baptist doctrine or really knew the teaching of the word of God, the Bible, they would never become Baptists.

There are multitudes of errors among Baptist people. Some of them are: predestination and election, direct operation of the Holy Spirit in conversion, salvation by faith only, non-essentiality of baptism for remission of sins, impossibility of apostasy of children of God, closed communion, voting on church membership, wearing of Baptist name, tithing, instrumental music in worship, and various missionary, benevolent, and educational societies within the church, along with various inter-church associations.

One of the cardinal errors of the Baptist churches is their false theory concerning the establishment of the church. Baptist preachers teach that the church was established during the life of Christ upon the earth, sometime between the beginning of the preaching of John the baptizer and the death of Jesus. They are sure that the church began sometime during this approximately three errors, but most of them differ as to the exact time when the church was set up. It is hardly possible to get two different Baptist preachers to give the same answer and get them to stick with it. But they are all sure that the church began during the personal ministry of Christ, and that this church was the Baptist church. This contention by Baptist preachers in general is not shared by the scholars of the denomination and never has been. Baptist scholars freely admit that the church did not begin during the personal ministry of Christ, and they freely admit that the Baptist church had its beginning in the seventeenth century in Europe. Notice these quotations:

"The word Baptists, as a descriptive name of a body of Christians, was first used in English literature, so far as is now known, in the year 1644." (Vedder's Short History of the Baptists, page 3, Introduction)

"For the fact that the name Baptist comes into use at this time (1644) and in this way, but one satisfactory explanation has been proposed: it was at this time that English churches first held, practiced, and avowed those principles ever since associated with that name. There had been no such churches before, and hence there was no need of the name." (Vedder's, page 3)

"The history of Baptist churches cannot be carried, by the scientific method, farther back than the year 1611, when the first Anabaptist church consisting wholly of Englishmen was founded in Amsterdam by John Smith, the Se-baptist {sic}. This was not strictly speaking a Baptist church, but was the progenitor of churches in England that a few years later became Baptists, therefore the history begins there." (Vedder's, page 4)

"A history of Baptist churches going farther back than the early years of the seventeenth century would, therefore, in the present state of knowledge, be in the highest degree unscientific. The very attempt to write such a history now would be a confession of gross ignorance, either of the facts as known, or of the methods of historical research and the principles of historical criticism, or both." (Vedder's, page 5)

"The very attempt to trace an unbroken line of persons duly baptized upon their personal trust in Christ, or of ministers ordained by lineal descent from the apostles, or of churches organized upon the principles, and adhering to the New Testament in all things, is in itself an attempt to erect a bulwark of error.... Our only reliable ground in opposition to the system is: That of no trace of conformity to the New Testament could be found in any church since the end of the first century, a church established today upon the New Testament life and order, would be as truly a historical church of Christ, as the church planted by Paul at Ephesus.... Protestants, by the most substantial arguments, have blasted the doctrine of papal succession, and yet these very Protestants have undertaken to make proof of an unbroken series of persons, of their own sentiments, following one another in due order from the apostles to themselves." (Ecc. Researchers, pp. 475-476, quoted by Armitage in History of the Baptists, page 2)

"The history of English Baptists does not begin on English soil but in Holland. The leader in the new movement was the Rev. John Smyth." (Vedder's Short History of the Baptists, page 201)

"Historically the modern Baptist movement dates from 1606 or 1607 when John Smyth with a small number of Separatists fled from England to Holland to escape persecution. In 1611 with Thomas Helwys and others, Smyth formed the first English Baptist church." (Winston's Cumulative Loose Leaf Encyclopedia, Article "Baptists")

"Smyth died in 1612, but before that the church he had been instrumental in founding, now reduced to some ten members, had disappeared from Holland. Persecutions seem to have been less severe in England, and Thomas Helwys, John Murton, and others returned to London, probably some time in 1611, and founded the first Anabaptist church composed of Englishmen known to have existed on English soil." (Vedder's, pages 204-205)

"The first regularly organized church among them (Baptists) known as such in England dates from 1607, and was formed in England by a Mr. Smyth, previously a clergyman in the church of England." (Benedict's History of the Baptists, page 304)

"Baptists, a protestant denomination tracing its origin as a distinct community to the Protestant Reformation. The first church which called itself by this name was the Particular Baptists formed in London in 1633, organized by members who peaceably seceded from a Separatist community. Three years later there was a further succession, and the conviction arose in the new group that the proper form of baptism was by immersion." (World Book, 1929, Vol. 1, page 587)

"The origin of the Baptist church is confessedly obscure. It is a difficult and involved history to trace. The Baptist church, distinctively, cannot be traced beyond the sixteenth century. It is purely a creation of circumstances. Its incipient developments are found in the religious chaos of the sixteenth century." (Rowe's History of Reformatory Movements, page 93)

"Baptist doctrine and church polity have changed with each succeeding generation. Few religious bodies have been so torn by internal strife and discord as has the Baptist denomination. Their history begins with two dissentions, finding expression in two distinct organizations — General Baptists and Particular Baptists. The General Baptists contended that Christ made a general atonement, that is, died for the whole of mankind. The Particular Baptists contend that Christ died for the elect only. Each branch has brought forth its denominational children. 'Religious Bodies, 1926,' a government publication, lists the following distinct Baptist bodies: Northern Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Convention, Negro Baptist Convention, General Six Principle Baptists Church, (Colored), Free Will Baptists (Bullockites), General Baptists, Separate Baptists, Regular Baptists, United Baptists, Duck River Baptists and Kindred Associations of Baptists (Baptist Church of Christ), Primitive Baptists, Colored Primitive Baptists, Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists, Independent Baptist Church of America, American Baptist Association, Brethren German Baptists (Dunkers) — nineteen Baptist bodies in America alone. These bodies are diverse in name, doctrine, and practice." (Curtis, Baptist Church History Examined, page 80)

One can see from the above these points: 1. John Smyth, not Jesus Christ or John the immerser, founded the Baptist church; 2. the Baptist church began in England and Holland, and not in Jerusalem in Judea; 3. the Baptist church began in the early years of the 17th and not in A. D. 33 in the first century; 4. Jesus and his apostles founded His church, the church of Christ, (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:4t; Rom. 16:16), and not the Baptist church; 5. Jesus' followers and disciples were called Christians, (Acts 11:26; 26:28; I Pet. 4:15-16), and not Baptists. Therefore we are forced to conclude, in the light of Bible teaching and history, that the Baptist movement began 1,600 years too late to be any part of the Lord's church. Obeying the Lord and His apostles never made one a Baptist in the first century and will not do so today.