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Graves, James

(154 words)

Author(s): Leonard, Bill J.
[German Version] (Apr 10, 1820, Chester, VT - Jun 26, 1893, Memphis, TN), a Baptist preacher, editor, and founder of the Landmark Movement (Baptists). From 1845 he was editor of the The Tennessee Baptist, a journal that he used to promote his views. In 1851 he led a conference on Gospel Landmarkism (“landmark” taken from Prov 22:28), an attempt to establish Baptist churches as the only true churches, directly connected to Jesus and the early Christians. Landmarkism regarded baptism and ordination in all non-Baptist churches as …

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)

(359 words)

Author(s): Leonard, Bill J.
[German Version] is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States and the largest Baptist denomination (Baptists: II) in the world, claiming some 17 million members in over 40,000 churches. The convention began in 1845 as a result of debates over slavery between Baptists North and South, specifically related to the appointment of slaveholding missionaries. Southerners pledged to evangelize the world and supported the Confederacy. After the American Civil War, the denomination was rebuil…


(5,875 words)

Author(s): Halbrooks, G. Thomas | Geldbach, Erich | Leonard, Bill J. | Stanley, Brian
[German Version] I. Denomination – II. Church History – III. Missions I. Denomination Because the Baptists came into existence in a situation of persecution, they have consistently held to the doctrine of freedom of conscience as one of their most fundamental convictions. This is the basis for the Baptists' historically conditioned refusal to publish a dogmatic declaration that claims to speak for all Baptists or could be seen as binding on individuals or churches. Instead, they produced confessions of faith affirming their faith for the benefit of themselves and others. A confession is a statement of dogmatic claims by a specific Baptist body at a specific time in a specific place. Any Baptist body can develop and publish a confession whenever it seems appropriate. Since Baptists consider the writings of the Old and New Testaments as the sole authority for faith and practice, confessions can only be aids to interpretation. The first published confession was “A Declaration of faith of English People Remaining at Amsterdam in Holland” (1611). With the declaration, Baptists pursued the objective of clarifying their differences with the Dutch Mennonites. It stated the view that a Christian can be a magistrate, rightly bear the sword and swear an oath in legal matters. The declaration reflected the Calvinism of its Puritan roots (Puritans/Puritanism), but moved in an Arminian direction (Arminians), especially with respect to the doctrine of election. Seven congregations from London published the first confession issued by more than one congregation: “The First London Confession” of 1644. It seems to have been influenced by “A True Confession” (1596), a document from Puritan Separatism, and had a moderately Calvinist tone. It argued for election to redemption (Predestination), but not to damnation, and demanded that the gospel be preached to all persons. It dealt with almost all the fundamental doctrines that can be held by Baptists, including the baptism of believers (Baptism) by immersion and freedom of conscience that were specifically Baptist concerns in this period. Subsequently, it proved to be rather influential in the life of Baptists. Perhaps the most influential Baptist confession is the “Second London Confession” of 1689, also known as the “Assembly Confession.” Composed in 1677 in reaction to the restoration of the monarchy (1660) and the persecution of Dissenters, a general assembly of Calvinist Baptists gathered in London in 1689 adopted it. By putting forward a measured Calvinism and adopting major portions of the Presbyterian “Westminster Confession” and a selection of ecclesiastic doctrines from the Congregationalist “Savoy Confession,” (Congregationalism) the Baptists attempted to demonstrate the similarities of their theology with that of other large groups of Dissenters. The first Baptist association of congregations, the Philadelphia Association, adopted this confession in the early 17th century. Since then, it has been known in the USA as the “Philadelphia Confession” and has become the most influential confession among Baptists there. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when Baptists came under the influence of the revival movement, the Philadelphia Confession fell into disuse. In 1833, a group of Baptists in the New England states developed the “New Hampshire Confession,” which mitigated the Calvinism of the earlier confession and seemed more amenable to the theology of the Revival Movement. Although at the time of its origin it excited little attention, through its publication in various church handbooks, it later became the best-known confession among Baptists in the USA in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This phenomenon was also an indication that the strict Calvinism of the early Baptists had disappeared. When the largest Baptist denomination in the USA, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), decided to develop a new confession to abet a controversy, it employed the “New Hampshire Confession” as its point of departure. In 1925, they adopted the new confession called the “The Baptist Faith and Message.” When the SBC faced a new controversy in 1963, it adopted a revised version of this confession. In the 1980s and 1990s, this confession itself became the point of departure for a dispute when some Baptists attempted to employ it more as a binding determination of specific statements of faith than as a voluntary confession of one's own faith. Because of fear of such misuse, some Baptist bodies have refused to claim a specific confession as their own. Thus, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland refused to issue a confession when they were enmeshed in the Down Grade Controversy with C.H. Spurgeon. Instead, they relied on an announcement of their principles, namely that Christ as revealed in the Scriptures is the sole authority in all matters of faith and practice, that every church has the right to its own interpretation, that only believers should be baptized by immersion, and that Christians should bear witness to the gospel. Also out of fear of misuse, the Northern Baptist Union strictly refused to adopt a confession. Instead, it affirmed, “that the New Testament is the completely sufficient basis for our faith and action, and we need no other expression.” In 1946, it then passed a resolution affirming this earlier statement and confirming its renewed surrender to Christ and the communication of the gospel. While many Baptist bodies have followed this pattern and have only adopted a declaration of principles or a brief exposition of theology in some form or other, others have continued to develop confessions of faith. German-speaking Baptists fro…