Baptist History part 3: English Reformers/Separatists

Baptist History part 3: English Reformers/Separatists

Where did the Baptists really come from?

I have discussed in previous blog posts 3 of the 4 commonly understood theories of the origin of the Baptist Church.  Now we come to the 4th and final possibility.  Many believe Baptists came directly from the English Reformation movement.  To be sure the actual beginnings are unclear for there is no record of a person or group of people deciding to start their own denomination called “Baptist”.  Like most of the origins of denominations the specific groups were labeled by outsiders with the name for which they would later to be known.

A product of the Protestant Reformation in England

This origin theory traces Baptist thinking and practice back to just after the Protestant Reformation movement.  As reformation thinking and ideas spread throughout Europe, major religious changes were on the horizon.  The Reformation impacted most European countries, such as: Germany, Switzerland, Scotland, France, Spain, and England.  There was growing dissatisfaction with the Roman Catholic Church in England.  King Henry VIII of England got into some trouble with the Catholic Church due to various marital difficulties so in order to solve his problem the best solution was to break from the Roman Catholic Church and start his own church.  This move would give him the freedom to do what he wanted (even if the pope refused his request) because the new ‘church leader’ would be greatly influenced by the king.  So Henry established what is now called the Church of England or the Anglican Church.

Henry VIII contribution to Baptist history

During these times of unrest and reform in England many of those following the ideas of Martin Luther and John Calvin were hoping Henry’s break with Rome would give them the reform and freedom they desired.  This was not to be.  Many English protesters agreed with Luther and Calvin that salvation comes by grace through faith and not through a decision by a local representative of God (the local bishop).  But these same people disagreed with the Reformers about certain other issues.  Some of these issues of disagreement were: church governance (who made the decisions for the local assembly?); the Eucharist (how were Jesus’ body and blood represented in the communion elements?); and baptism (are infants to be baptized into the covenant community or was it strictly for confessing believers?).  These issues, coupled with the need they felt to ‘purify’ English Christianity, were specifically what caused a group of English reformers (called Puritans due to their stress on purifying Christendom) to emphasize believers baptism and therefore be unique in the ever changing landscape of growing denominations.

English Puritans leave for Amsterdam

This purification process failed under Henry and many followers of Jesus were persecuted because of their ‘other’ beliefs, so some fled to a different country in order to escape the abuse coming from either the Roman Catholic Church or the Anglican Church.  A group of people led by a man named John Smyth escaped the English persecutions and fled to Amsterdam.  He was the pastor of a group of believers who taught and preached these new ideas, noting the idea of believer’s baptism.  Some of the documents from that time mention this man John Smyth and call him a Baptist, this may be where the term ‘baptist’ was first used to describe a different group of Jesus followers. Smyth had originally set up an Anglican Congregation but in 1609 he and a fellow separatist, Thomas Helwys, being so convinced of the need for baptism to be by confessing believers they baptized each other and the rest of their congregation.  They were shortly after called Baptists.

Life after John Smyth

John Smyth not long after this left his ‘Baptist’ congregation and attempted to join the Mennonites partially because he had changed his thinking about infant baptism and apologized for baptizing himself (which he admitted was the wrong way to go about his altering of interpretation on that issue).  Without Smyth, Helwys and his congregation drafted the first Baptist confession of faith in 1611.  Following Smyth’s departure the ‘baptists’ grew in numbers in Amsterdam.  Some of this newly formed denomination decided to move to the new world (America) and when they did the Baptist church grew eventually to become one of the largest denominations in America.  Thomas Helwys returned to England as the pastor of the 1st Baptist church in England, this was in 1612.

In the Americas

One prominent name that comes up when discussing the history of Baptists in Americas is Roger Williams.  He was a baptist for a short time and founded a Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island in 1638.  He held to many Baptist beliefs, but later left the Baptist church not affiliating himself with any specific denomination.  His church in Providence, however, was the first Baptist church in the new world.  The Baptists grew in number and prominence becoming very well known in America’s history.  Baptists eventually started a wide variety of subgroups within the denomination.  Because of the controversy of owning slaves the Baptist churches split into a northern larger group and a southern larger group.  There are a myriad of subgroups but they mostly come from either the Northern Baptists or the Southern Baptist Convention.

What is my opinion of the history of Baptists?

It is probably pretty obvious, but I find this particular origin story of Baptists to be the legitimate one.  It makes sense that some English Reformers looked at specific doctrines written about by the Reformers and made up their own minds what the Bible said concerning them (which went against almost all other Christians).

Let me know what you thought of this series on the History of Baptists.

If you are member of a specific denomination or would like me to write a short history of that denomination let me know.

I value all comments.

Good night and God bless.




3 Bullet Thursday: How about a radical reformer named David Joris

One of my readers read a post on the history of the Baptists where I commented on the Anabaptists.  That reader suggested I  research a man named David Joris who was a reformer (Anabaptist) in the Netherlands, so here it is.

The Impact of the Protestant Reformation in Europe

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg, the dissatisfaction with the Roman Catholic Church spread like a wildfire throughout Europe.  There seemed to be ‘reformations’ popping up in all of the European populace.  Lengthy postings could be made (even books have been written) on the impact of the Reformation on France and England and Ireland and Spain and Denmark and the rest.  People all over were encountering and then embracing much of the theology of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Menno Simons.  The Protestant Reformation truly was a game changer.  People thought one way about life (especially the church and eternal life) in the late 1400’s and by the late 1500’s they were thinking in a totally new and different way.  There was not a people group that was untouched by the ‘rebellion’ of the Reformation.  One group I would like to write a little bit on today is the Reformation in the Netherlands and especially an Anabaptist bishop named David Joris.

One of the Anabaptist bishops

David Joris was born in Flanders, Belgium around 1501.  He was an accomplished glass painter (some of his paintings still can be seen today). While travelling around in the Netherlands he came in contact with the ideas of Martin Luther.  After listening to stories about the Anabaptists being martyred for their faith (and so being impressed with their dedication to Jesus), in 1533 he was baptized into the Anabaptist Church.  He became so passionate about his beliefs that one day during a gathering of Roman Catholics he adamantly, verbally opposed them.  For this action and rejection of Catholic theology Joris was arrested and for punishment they used a steel ball to bore a hole in his tongue to stop him from preaching and teaching ‘heresy’.

People started listening and following Joris he became an Anabaptist bishop in the city of Delft, Netherlands.  He was regarded by many of his followers (and himself) to be prophet from God.  William R. Estep in his book  The Anabaptist Story says Joris was an extreme inspirationalist, which means he claimed that the Bible was inadequate and therefore needed to be added to by his own ‘inspired’ writings.  For this extreme belief he was disowned by the biblical Anabaptists in 1536.  He was later condemned as a heretic in Delft in 1544 and therefore fled for his life.  Eventually he settled in Basel, Switzerland under an assumed name, that of Johann Van Brugge.  He apparently kept his radical ideas to himself after this time for he died in 1556 and it took the people of the town 3 years to figure out that Johan Van Brugge was in reality David Joris.  So hated was he that once they figured out his true identity they dug up Johann’s body and burned it publicly.

This David Joris was an interesting person who due to his contributions to Anabaptist history in the Netherlands deserves to be studied and examined more closely.

The 3 bullets for David Joris

Here are my 3 takeaways after studying David Joris:

  • He had an unbelievable passion for preaching what he considered the truth of Christianity.

  • He was one of the names in Anabaptist history to be remembered for his contributions to Anabaptists in the Netherlands.

  • He was labeled a heretic by other Anabaptists who judged the idea of him being the ‘next David’ (after King David, and Jesus) and preaching his prophesies to be unbiblical.


Is there some favorite person or event in Church history of yours that you would like me to research and write about?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

Good night and God bless!



For What Should I Be Thankful?

It’s Thanksgiving Day 2016 and this is what I am thankful for

As I pondered what to write in this blog I kept coming back to Thanksgiving and what I am thankful for.  I also did a little research on some respected men from church history to see what they thanked God for.  There are so many things for which to be thankful if I stopped to write them all down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the list and explanations of all the things for which I am thankful (I tried to paraphrase John 21:25).  But the point is there are so many things I take for granted every day for which I should be thankful, it seems an insurmountable task to list them all.

Sort of keeping up on the theme of 3 bullet Thursday on this Thanksgiving

I simply decided to tell 3 things for which I am thankful then give you a link to read a short article on a Thanksgiving Day sermon from Jonathan Edwards.  Here are the 3 things for which I am thankful:  Faith, Family, and Friends (although those of you who know me could add a 4th, which would be Food, but that’s another blog post).

  • Faith

  • Family

  • Friends

My faith is extremely important to me.  I tried to thank God daily not only for His love, mercy, and grace but specifically the love that sent His Son to die a horrible death to deal with my sins.  I spend some time every day pondering the mysteries of Christianity.  I attempt to filter all of my life through the lens of God and His world.

My family is another thing that I am thankful for.  I grew up with a Christian mom and dad who tried to instill in me the importance of seeking after and living for the God of the universe.  Also have brothers and a sister with whom God has blessed me.  I enjoy their fellowship and interaction.  My wife is the most wonderful woman on the planet for me.  She keeps me grounded and gives unconditional love.  My 2 children are a blessing who have taught me much about myself and my shortcomings.

My friends are a Godsend that I do not take lightly.  Each of them shows me something to which I should and can aspire: whether it be more study of the Bible, or more passion for family, or more compassion for the needy.  I cherish the times spent in conversation and dialogue.

I could go on and on and on and on and on, but I won’t

As mentioned earlier I could go on about the innumerable blessings God has given me and then ponder a deeper question, which is Why has he blessed me so much, but I will stop here.

A short description of a Thanksgiving sermon by Jonathan Edwards

As I was researching people from church history and what they said about giving thanks, I came across an article from Christianity Today from several years ago that gives a link to a sermon by Jonathan Edwards on Thanksgiving and then summarized the sermon.  I thought this was a very good article so here is the link, enjoy.

For what are you thankful,  let me know.

Be thankful, be very thankful

Good night, and God bless

3 Bullet Monday: William Carey

It’s about time to discuss a missionary

Due to my natural affinity toward theology and scholarship I often neglect discussions of missionaries (unless they are also theologians).  For whatever reason I am not drawn to the significance and impact of missionaries throughout the world.  So in order to rectify this situation I decided to write about a man now known as ‘the father of modern missions’, William Carey.

A poor cobbler and a poor cobbler

William Carey was born in England northwest of London in 1761.  Due to his family’s lower income and a childhood illness he chose to apprentice a shoemaker.  He showed very little aptitude for cobbling but as he grew older and married hoped he could do it well enough to pay for food for his family.  During his time as a shoemaker he was able to teach himself biblical Greek.

A poor teacher

Carey realized that he had an aptitude for languages, teaching himself Greek, Hebrew, Latin and several other languages.  He started a school hoping to inspire students to learn the languages that were so important to himself.  It ended up, however, that he did worse at teaching than he did at shoemaking.

A poor pastor

So he changed occupations once again and became a Particular Baptist pastor.  He succeeded less with pastoring than with teaching.  So William Carey could have been seen (or seen himself) as a failure, but the struggles are not over.

After reading about the exploits of Captain Cook in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), he had a conviction that the church had an obligation to proclaim the news of Jesus Christ to the unreachable people of the world.  Many of his friends tried to discourage him from going on the mission field because they thought ‘if God’s wants the heathen saved he does not need you’.  Carey replied, “expect great things from God!  Attempt great things for God!” He started a missions agency to send people across the world to share the Gospel, and he went with a doctor friend to India.

A poor missionary?

The journey to India and the subsequent life were very difficult.  The doctor partner of Carey’s left the mission early on, taking all the money.  Personally Carey had one struggle after another:  2 children died, the doctor took off with their funds, he contracted malaria, and his wife battled depression and had to be restrained.  Throughout all of these hard times William Carey said, “I can plod”.  He was convinced of his mission for Jesus yet his efforts were not showing much results, but he kept on plodding away and thousands of lives were changed.  In India he also helped people in the lowest caste system to get them out of their poverty.

“Seventy-six years after William Carey’s death, more than 1,200 missionaries from 160 mission boards met in Edinburgh, England.  By that time, the number of Christian ministers living outside Europe and the Americas had increased more than one thousand percent.” (Christian History Made Easy by Dr. Timothy Jones, page 152).

3 bullets:

  • Father of modern missions – missionary in India

  • Taught himself several (at least 5) languages – so translated the New Testament into 24 native languages of India

  • “I can plod” – kept plodding his way spreading the Gospel, in the midst of much struggle and hardship.

Please give me comments and suggestions for topics.


Soli Deo Gloria


3 Bullet Thursday (or Monday): Augustine of Hippo

I said it would be difficult to post every Thursday

As I wrote in a previous post, I knew it would be difficult to keep up even a short blog post once a week.  This is one of the things that I am trying to stay consistent with, but you all know that life gets busy.  So bear with me while I struggle through this.  So today’s post is late but I will also try to post another one on Thursday.

Augustine of Hippo (bio):

Born in AD 354 in North Africa (modern day Algeria) his father was a pagan member of the Roman government, and mother was a devout Christian.  He was a brilliant child so his parents sent him to get a good education to a modern city (Carthage) out of his small town with its limited opportunities. He soon became a teacher of rhetoric (debating) and later one of the lead rhetoricians in the Roman Empire.  He had no need of the Bible (it was to pedestrian) but was insatiable in his quest for truth.  He also struggled personally with his own sin, evil, and rebellion.  He began following Jesus Christ while living in Milan, Italy and listening to a charismatic preacher named Ambrose.  After Augustine moved back to his home town to spend the remainder of his life as a monk in contemplation of the things of God, he was coerced into becoming the pastor of a church in Hippo Regius (modern day Annaba, Algeria).  He spent the rest of his life pastoring and writing (in his native Latin) and thinking about theology.  He wrote about many, many topics, among them: salvation, the church, baptism, sin, the Trinity, the Christian state, sex, time, the sovereignty of God.  He debated against many bad philosophies of the day, such as Pelagianism, Manicheism, and the Donatists.

Augustine’s 3 bullet points:

  • Battled Pelagius whose preached the idea that man has the ability to work toward his own salvation (idea summary is “man is a sinner because he sins”).  Augustine fought this preaching by believing, “man sins because he is a sinner”.

  • Wrote On The Trinity which expressed God as an eternal transcendent, infinite, and perfect triune God.

  • Wrote The City of God responding to the destruction of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths, emphasizing God’s sovereignty and providence.

A History of Baptists part 2

A History of Baptists part 2

Landmarkism or Trail of Blood

One of the 4 theories of the history of the Baptist Church has been labeled the ‘Trail of Blood’.  It asserts that there is an unbroken succession of Baptist Churches from the time of Jesus’ apostles to the present day.  Adherents claim Baptists have existed since the time of John the Baptist.

This view was put forth in a pamphlet in 1931 entitled ‘Trail of Blood’.  It was written by J. M. Carroll.  He looked through church history and concluded that since Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 “. . . I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” this meant that there would be a church holding to Baptist beliefs throughout all of history.

The Landmark Baptists claim some of the well known churches in history as their predecessors.  Of these predecessors there are:  the Montanists, the Cathari, the Albigenses, the Paulicians, the Waldensians, the Novatians, and the Anabaptists.

A summary and evaluation of the Trail of Blood

I would vehemently disagree with these conclusions for one significant  reason  ALL but one (the Waldensians) were not only labeled heresies by the church but they taught unbiblical theologies.

The Montanists believed they were direct recipients of words of faith from the Holy Spirit (when one spoke in their trance they were speaking the exact words of the Spirit);  The Albigenses were an offshoot of the Cathari and both believed in a cosmological dualism (there are 2 equal gods: one good and one evil, who continuously fight for supremacy over the world), the Paulicians also held to many Manichean theologies like the aforementioned dualism; and the Novatians believed that the lapsed (those who denied Christ under persecution, or knowingly sinned) were not allowed to reenter their church, for they wanted a pure church.

I would affirm there have been people and sometimes groups of Christ followers who believed what was understood as true biblical truth for their time, but I deny that there is an unbroken line of ‘Baptists’ throughout history.  But this is one of the theories as to the origin of the Baptist Church.

From where did the Baptists come? Part 1

There are four suggested origins of the Baptist Church

There are many different answers to the question, “where did the Baptists come from?”  It really depends on who you talk to as to which theory they agree with.  I have talked to many people throughout the years and received many answers to the question, a majority of the answers fall into one of these four theories.  Here is a brief statement summarizing the theory and later each one will be addressed in more detail.

  • Baptists descended from the Anabaptist movement

  • Baptists can trace a direct line of connection between John the Baptist (or one of the Apostles) and our time today – also called the “Trail of Blood” theory

  • Baptists descended from a group of English Reformers

  • There is not direct links or ties to anything previous, they sort of “popped up” on the landscape with no connections to another group

Baptists descended from the Anabaptists (a short history of Anabaptists)

For simplicity let’s just say the Protestant Reformation in Europe started on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  Shortly after this many, many people wanted to express their discontent with the Catholic Church (this discontent had been building for decades)  at the time and, in essence, secede from the church and start a new (true) church (I know, I know many like Luther did not want to secede but reform the church).  This ‘reformation’ spread throughout Europe and changed the European culture.  Zurich, Switzerland was one of these places where the citizens wanted change from the established church.

The well known reformer Huldrich Zwingli was attempting to reform Christianity in Zurich.  Some of his followers, however, did not think Zwingli’s reforms went far enough. In short they wanted to change much if not most of the workings of the established church, so they pushed for more reform than proposed by Zwingli.  Historians now (and honestly even back then) called these people ‘radical reformers’.

These men who liked Zwingli’s suggestions but wanted more radical reforms were named Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz.  Some of their radical ideas were: getting rid of tithing, paying interest, and serving in military service.  They also wanted each church to govern itself, so as not to have a leader who is corrupt and lived thousands of miles away instructing them them on how to run their church.  Zwingli disagreed with Grebel and Manz and so parted ways with them.  In 1525 the Zurich city council forbade the ‘radicals’ from spreading their views, so Grebel, Manz, and others fled to a nearby village where they baptized each other (hence the name Anabaptist or re-baptizer) into the “true church”.  They continued to spread their form of Christianity and were persecuted by many of the other factions.

Did Baptists come from Anabaptists?

Because of the similarity between the words “Baptist” and “Anabaptist” many people believe the Baptist church has a direct connection to the historic Anabaptist church.  These people think there was a group of Anabaptists who changed some of their thinking and theology so took on the name Baptist to keep similar beliefs but distinguish themselves from the Anabaptists.  There are to be sure some similar doctrines, however, there are some very different (and significant) beliefs between the two.  Here are some differences and similarities:


Beliefs                                          Anabaptist                                 Baptist

Congregationalism                      Yes                                              Yes

Separation of Church/State       Yes                                              Yes

Believer’s Baptism                        Yes                                              Yes

Pacifism (exempt from military)   Yes                                         No

Living distinct from society          Yes                                            No

Community of goods                        Yes                                           No

Salvation is Christ and good works   Yes                                     No

Reason held above Scripture              Yes                                      No

Works of the Spirit held above Scripture   Yes                          No

So I would assert that even though the history of Baptists is a little fuzzy, due to the comparison of some of their beliefs, they are not the same animal.  They may have come from the Protestant Reformation but they are very different, therefore, Baptists did NOT come from Anabaptists.

Who are the descendants of the Anabaptists around today?

 Some of the followers of Grebel and Manz who developed a following of their own were men like: Jacob Hutter and Menno Simons.  Both of these men (Hutter and Simons) had their own brand of Anabaptism, and had various groups believe in their brand of Christianity.  A group called the Hutterites were followers of Jacob Hutter.  The Mennonites and Amish are descendants of Menno Simons.

I would say the direct link to the Anabaptists today would be the Amish and Mennonites, not the Baptists.