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Religion Library: Baptist

Quick Facts

Formed1609 CE
OriginHolland, England, and United States
DeityChristian God
Sacred TextsThe Bible (Protestant Canon)

The Baptist tradition is one of the largest of the Protestant Christian denominations. Most Baptist churches agree with the basic Protestant doctrines, but they stress the belief that only Christian believers should be baptized (called "believer's baptism") and that this baptism should occur by immersion, a practice they trace back to the early Church. Baptist churches have local church autonomy but are connected to each other through various associations. Most Baptists trace their heritage to early 17th-century C.E. differences with the Church of England and the subsequent decision to form Christian communities with local autonomy, an emphasis on believer's baptism, and an understanding of the church as primarily a community of believers. The Baptist tradition would see massive growth in the United States during the Great Awakening in the mid-18th century, followed by an increased interest and effort in foreign missions. Within the Baptist tradition, there are several branches. In the U.S., a significant split occurred within the Baptist tradition along a north/south distinction in 1845 with the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention. There are still significant differences between northern and southern Baptists regarding theology, missions, and worship. The Baptist Church also has a strong tradition within black communities. Most Baptist churches tend to be evangelical in doctrine, and vary greatly from extremely conservative to liberal socially and politically.


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