Written by: David Buschart
Like Christians of many other traditions most Baptists view the world through an overarching narrative of creation-fall-redemption. On some elements of this narrative there is virtual unanimity among Baptists; on other elements there are significant differences.
Baptists believe that "in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1), as well as many of the inanimate objects and animate creatures that fill the heavens and the earth. Moreover, God created human beings, male and female. And, having created, God "saw all that [God] had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1:31). God is Creator, and everything God created was good.
As is the case in many other Christian traditions, there is a diversity of views among Baptists regarding the details of when and how all of God's original creating work took place. Some Baptists believe in an "old earth," created by God billions of years ago; others believe in a "young earth," created by God tens-of-thousands of years ago. Some Baptists believe that God created virtually all of the diversity of life forms in his original creative work; others attribute much of this diversity to developmental or evolutionary processes. Some Baptists view Genesis 1 and 2 as providing a detailed literal and historical description of specific creation events and processes; others view these chapters in more literary or figurative terms. Baptists agree, however, that God is the Creator, that everything God created was good, and that the Bible, including the opening chapters of Genesis, shed light on these events and processes.
Baptists believe that human beings, and consequently the rest of the created order, fell into corruption through evil. The story of this "fall" is narrated in Genesis 3:1-24. Interpretations of this passage among Baptists in some ways parallel the diversity of approaches to the creation narratives noted above. Some (probably most) Baptists view this chapter as providing a literal, historical narrative of the entrance of evil into the world, and of the resulting corruption of both human beings and the rest of the created order. Other Baptists would view this narrative as in some sense figurative and suggestive, rather than literally historical. They would agree, however, that, unlike humanity's original state--namely, good--human beings are now sinful and corrupted. They would agree that in their fallen state, all human beings stand in need of the saving work and grace of God.
There are some significant differences among Baptists regarding the precise nature of the corrupted state in which human beings currently exist and, correspondingly, the precise nature of the process by which God works redemptively to save human beings from this corruption. The most fundamental of these differences correspond to a larger theological divide within Protestantism--the divide between elements of Calvinist theology and elements of Arminian theology. These Calvinist/Arminian differences within the Baptist tradition can be seen in its earliest decades, as two sub-traditions emerged: the Particular [Calvinist] Baptists and the General [Arminian] Baptists.