Appendix 1: A Brief History of the Apostle’s Creed
The first creed we know of in Christian antiquity is the “Old Roman Creed,” which later inspired what we know today as the Apostles Creed. One scholar tells us that we know that the Old Roman Creed was in use as early as the second century. The earliest written form of it is from 341 AD. Here is the text:
I believe in God the Father almighty;
and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord,
Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,
on the third day rose again from the dead,
ascended into heaven,
sits at the right hand of the Father,
whence he will come to judge the living and the dead;
and in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Church,
the remission of sins,
the resurrection of the flesh,
What we now know as the Apostles’ Creed is an enlargement of the Old Roman Creed. The first version of what we know as the Apostles Creed comes from the eighth century, though some other versions have been found that predate that. Here is the text that was “finalized” in the eighth century:
I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born from the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried,
descended into hell, (disputed phrase)
on the third day rose again from the dead,
ascended to heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty,
thence He will come to judge the living and the dead;
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the remission of sins,
the resurrection of the flesh,
and eternal life.
Some additions emerge – the addition of “creator of heaven and earth,” it says Jesus was “conceived” of the Spirit, it adds “catholic” church, etc. – but the most notable is the additional phrase “descended into hell.” Some scholars argue that this is a late addition to the creed. Rufinus is the first to mention it in the late fourth century, and it doesn’t appear in a version of the creed until the seventh century. Because of this some drop the phrase, and others interpret it as a reference to Jesus being buried or going to the grave. In light of the phrase’s connection to passages like 1 Peter 3:18-19 and Ephesians 4:7-10, we interpret it as a reference to Jesus’ descent to the dead.
An affirmation of the apostle’s creed is “a public profession of belief in historic Christianity.” As followers of Jesus today, we are honored to carry on the way of Jesus by aligning with the tradition of the apostles – the rule of faith that they passed down – alongside our Spirit-empowered interpretation of the scriptures.
16The following information was found in articles in theLexham Bible Dictionary,The OxfordDictionary of the Christian Church, J. N. D. Kelly’s bookEarly Christian Creeds, and Philip Schaff’s bookThe Creeds of Christendom.17Kelly,Early Christian Creeds, 101.18Ibid., 102.19Ibid., 369.
Appendix 2: Baptist Origins & Identity
Baptists receive their name from their emphasis on believer’s baptism. In the New Testament, baptism is a ritual of repentance that embodies one giving their loyalty to Jesus, receiving the Spirit, and joining the church (though there are some mention of household baptisms which could imply infant baptism). In the centuries that followed, the church began to consider infant baptism particularly “as an emergency measure for small children at risk of dying.” By the 5th century, Augustine released the floodgates on infant baptism. Kidd and Hankins note:
Augustine posited, unlike many early Christian writers, that infants were tainted with original sin and therefore were immediately in need of forgiveness. Infant baptism protected children from the power of evil, gave them pardon from original sin, and introduced them into the loving com- munity of the church. The faith of the parents could be applied to the child in baptism, until he or she could place personal faith in Christ. Augustine’s argument largely won the day, and by the sixth century infant baptism was pervasive.
The next millennium of church history was marked by infant baptism. Fast forward to the Reformation in early 16th century. The church again looked to the scriptures to inform their life and practice, and infant baptism was brought into question. The groups that argued against infant baptism were called the “Anabaptists” or “rebaptizers.” Both Catholics and early Protestants persecuted this radical movement, but several sects of emerged.
One important sect was called the Mennonites. A Catholic priest named Menno Simmons searched the scriptures, converted to Baptist thinking, and became a prominent figure for the Baptist movement in Holland. Facing persecution, he moved to Germany. It was Mennonite theology that likely later influenced the thinking of English Separatists, specifically the congregation of John Smyth. Eventually this way of thinking made its way to colonial America through the radical Puritans. Roger Williams became the most celebrated early Baptist leader in America. He had some controversial opinions that ultimately got him banished from Massachusetts in 1636. But he fled to Rhode Island where he gained a following, and the first American Baptist church was formed in Providence, Rhode Island in 1638.
In early colonial America, Baptists suffered persecution, fines, punishment, and imprisonment for several decades. They thrived as perceived outsiders and outlaws for two reasons: (1) they didn’t baptize infants and (2) they took no money from the state. This created a common identity for Baptists that was perhaps never enjoyed again in America.
They eventually gained legal permission to gather throughout the colonies. During the great American revivals and awakenings, their numbers grew dramatically. Along with this growth, Baptists diversified. Baptists had always valued the autonomy of the local church and the liberty of the individual conscience. While this worked well to combat state religion, it also correspondingly generated almost endless theological diversity among Baptist congregations. Historically, Baptists have split over Calvinism and Arminianism, slavery and antislavery, mission and anti-mission, segregation and desegregation, fundamentalism and liberalism, and more. The biggest split, however, came with the issue of slavery.
In the 1800s, the issue of slavery was becoming impossible to ignore. While Baptists had been content to leave the issue to local congregations, this strategy was fizzling out. One historian notes, “Baptists in the South suspected that their denomination had a bias toward abolition, and they wanted to expose it.” So, in 1844, “the Georgia Baptist Convention put forth James E. Reeve as a missionary to the Home Mission Society,” and “Reeve enslaved black people.” They were testing whether the convention would appoint someone who owned slaves. After some back and forth, the committee finally answered concerning slavery.
Forced into making a definitive statement about slavery, the Home Mission Society responded with a clear rejection of any slaveholder to office: “If, however, anyone should offer himself as a Missionary, having slaves, and should insist on retaining them as his property, we could not appoint him.” The mission board punctuated its statement by concluding, “One thing is certain, we can never be a party to any arrangement which would imply approbation of slavery.”
It was now time to choose a side. Baptist churches were either going to oppose slavery but refusing ordination to slaveholders, or they were going to allow slaveholders to become ministers and missionaries. In support of the latter, “in May 1845, almost three hundred Baptist leaders representing nearly 400,000 churchgoers from southern states gathered in Augusta, Georgia, to form a new church association, one inclusive of slaveholders, called the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).” This is how the SBC formed, as a direct result of seeking to uphold slavery and slaveholders within the local church. It is now the largest Protestant denomination in America.
Thomas S. Kidd and Barry G. Hankins,Baptists in America: A History(New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015), 2.23 Kidd and Hankins, 3. Dr Anthony L.Chute, Dr Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin,The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement(Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015), 12.
24 Jemar Tisby,The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 77.See also Kidd and Hankins,Baptists in America, 127.25Tisby,The Color of Compromise, 77.26Tisby, 78.27Tisby, 78.See also Kidd and Hankins,Baptists in America, 128
Baptist history continues into the modern era, but Baptist diversity increases. Considering this brief history of Baptist origins, we want to consider the core of Baptist identity. What makes a Baptist a Baptist? If you scrutinize Baptist history, you find that “Baptists have been unified on very little throughout their history.”
Kidd and Hankins summarize:
As is often said, there is no Baptist Church, only Baptist churches. Similarly, there is no Baptist theology, only Baptist theologies. The liberal theology of Harry Emerson Fosdick, the moderate theology of Augustus H. Strong, the womanist theology of Nannie Helen Burroughs, the experiential theology of E. Y. Mullins, the social theology of Helen Montgomery, the evangelical theology of Carl F. H. Henry, the fundamentalist theology of William Bell Riley, and the Calvinist theology of John Piper all count as Baptist.
This makes the discussion of Baptist distinctives even more difficult. Kidd and Hankins observe, “Baptists rarely agree among themselves about what makes them distinct.” For example, Chute, Finn, and Haykin devote the final chapter of their book The Baptist Story to Baptist identity and distinctives. They provide five characteristics: (1) regenerate church membership, (2) believer’s baptism, (3) congregational polity, (4) local church autonomy, and (5) religious freedom. However, there are diverse understandings among Baptists about what these things entail – almost to the point of opposing opinions. Further, as Kidd and Hankins note, looking at Baptist confessions, many of these issues do not receive prominent space or attention. Baptists generally do not employ confessions as to mark out their distinction, but rather use confessions to express that they are orthodox Christians.
For example, one might say that the authority of the Bible is a key distinction for Baptists. However, even this topic is flooded with diverse opinions over the nature of scripture – whether it is inerrant, and if so, in what sense – and then when it comes time to interpret scripture, another multiverse opens. In short, Baptist identity exists on a wide spectrum. How then might we establish some fixed points on the spectrum?
Being “Baptist” means different things to different people. For some it means a priority of missions and evangelism. For others, it means that you have a certain eschatological (end times) theology. However, to discuss what it means to be Baptist – to identify Baptist identity – we should start with the historical distinctions. Looking at history, why did the Baptist denomination form, and what did those Baptists hold on to throughout history that made them Baptists? This is not to discount anyone’s personal experience, but it gives us somewhat of a solid starting point.
Kidd and Hankins identity three features that mark (mostly) all Baptists throughout history. Those three features are (1) believers’ baptism, (2) the independence of the local congregations, and (3) willingness to call oneself a Baptist.
One of the key historical distinctions of Baptist identity is their belief in believer’s baptism, which is the practice of baptizing only those who have made a personal profession of faith in Jesus Christ. This contrasts with infant baptism, which was the dominant practice of Christianity for about 1,000 years. The idea of regenerate church membership (or a pure membership) is linked to this priority as well.
Second, Baptists also have a strong tradition of congregational governance, meaning that each individual church is autonomous and self-governing. This allows for greater flexibility and diversity within the Baptist tradition, as each church is free to interpret and apply scripture in its own way. The ideas of liberty of conscience, soul competency, and the priesthood of all believers are related to this identity marker as well. And it has a significant relation to Baptist thoughts on the separation of church and state.
Other groups or denominations hold to those first two distinctives as well (Churches of Christ, Anabaptist Mennonites, etc), which is why Kidd and Hankins provide that third marker: Baptist identity includes the willingness to identity as Baptist.
It leads to this summary: “Historically, a Baptist church is a local body of baptized believers who come together and call themselves Baptists.” Beyond that, there are diverse expressions of being Baptist.
28 Benjamin Wormald,“Chapter 1: The Changing Religious Composition of the U.S.,”Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project(blog), May 12, 2015,https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2015/05/12/chapter-1-the-changing-religious-composition-of-the-u-s/.29Kidd and Hankins,Baptists in America, 248.30Kidd and Hankins, 248–49.31 Kidd and Hankins, 249.32Chute, Finn, and Haykin,The Baptist Story. 33 See Kidd and Hankins,Baptists in America, 249.34 Kidd and Hankins, 249.35 Kidd and Hankins,249–50
36 Kidd and Hankins, 251.37 Kidd and Hankins, 251.38“Calvinist or Arminian, fundamentalist or liberal, liturgical or nonliturgical, premillennial or postmillennial, church-state separationist or accommodationist, individualist or communitarian, and a million other things,”in Kidd and Hankins,251–52.
Appendix 3: The New Hampshire Confession
The New Hampshire Confession was written in 1833. There were some diverse Baptist movements astir at the time – Freewill Baptists, antimission movements, etc. The Confession could provide some regularity. Further, it was a confession largely in response to the more Calvinistic Philadelphia Confession of 1742. It moderated some more Calvinistic interpretations of scripture, allowing “Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike to embrace the confession.”
It went through some amendments and additions. Specifically, some declarations (articles) were added in 1853. The Confession is documented below, cited from McGlothlin’s book Baptist Confessions of Faith. Changes and additions in the 1853 are put in brackets and other minor changes are in the footnotes
We believe [that] the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true centre of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.
39 Kidd and Hankins, 115.40Chute, Finn, and Haykin,The Baptist Story, 144. Nonetheless,McGlothlin notes it is the“only Confession of any note produced by American Calvinistic Baptists”and it was still fairly Calvinistic in its convictions; see W. J. McGlothlin,Baptist Confessions of Faith(Philadelphia; Boston; Chicago; St.Louis; Toronto: American Baptist Publication Society, 1911), 299.1“true and living”in ed. 1853.2“revealed…of the Father,”is as follows in ed. 1853,“that in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, the Father,”etc.3“Ghost”in ed. 1853
[We believe] That there is one, and only one, living and true1 God, [an infinite, intelligent Spirit,] whose name is JEHOVAH, the Maker and Supreme Ruler of heaven and earth; inexpressibly glorious in holiness; [and] worthy of all possible honor, confidence, and love; revealed under the personal and relative distinctions of2 the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;3 equal in every divine perfection, and executing distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption.
[We believe] That man was created in a state of4 holiness, under the law of his Maker; but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state; in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners, not by constraint but choice, being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, wholly given to the gratification of the world, of Satan, and of their own sinful passions,5 therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin, without defense or excuse.
[We believe] That the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace; through the Mediatorial Offices of the Son of God, who [by the appointment of the Father, freely] took upon him our nature, yet without sin; honored the [divine] law by his personal obedience, and made atonement for our sins by his death6; being7 risen from the dead he is now enthroned in heaven; and uniting in his wonderful person the tenderest sympathies with divine perfections, [he] is every way qualified to be a suitable, a compassionate, and an all-sufficient Saviour.
4“a state of,”omitted in ed. 1853.5“wholly given…sinful passions”is changed to“positively inclined to evil”in ed. 1853.6Ed. 1853 reads,“and by his death made a full atonement for our sins”for“and made…death.”7“that having risen”in ed. 1853.aFor“of his…such”ed. 1853 has“secures to such.”bFor“consists in”ed. 1853 has“includes”8For“His own redemption and righteousness”ed. 1853 has“faith in the Redeemer’s blood.”9“But”in ed. 1853.10For“refusal to…Jesus Christ”ed. 1853 has“rejection of the gospel.”11“which refusal…to”changed to“which rejection involves him in.”
[We believe] That the great Gospel blessing which Christ of his fulness bestows on sucha as believe in Him, is Justification; that Justification consists inb the pardon of sin and the promise of eternal life, on principles of righteousness; that it is bestowed not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through His own redemption and righteousness,8 [by virtue of which faith his perfect righteousness is freely imputed to us of God;] that it brings us into a state of most blessed peace and favor with God, and secures every other blessing needful for time and eternity.
[We believe] That the blessings of salvation are made free to all by the Gospel; that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by a cordial, [penitent,] and obedient faith; and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth except9 his own [inherent depravity and] voluntary refusal to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ,10 which refusal will subject him to11 an aggravated condemnation.
[We believe] That in order to be saved, we12 must be regenerated or born again; that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind; and13 is effected in a manner above our comprehension or calculation,14 by the power of the Holy Spirit, [in connection with divine truth,] so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the Gospel; and that its proper evidence is15 found in the holy fruit which we bring forth to the glory of God.
viii. Of Repentance and Faith.
[This article added in 1853.]
We believe that Repentance and Faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger, and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Saviour.
[We believe] That Election is the gracious16 purpose of God, according to which he [graciously] regenerates, sanctifies, and saves sinners; that being perfectly consistent with the free agency of man, it comprehends all the means in connection with the end; that it is a most glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, being infinitely [free,] wise, holy, and unchangeable; that it utterly excludes boasting, and promotes humility, [love,] prayer, praise, trust in God, and active imitation of his free mercy; that it encourages the use of means in the highest degree; that it is17 ascertained by its effects in all who [truly] believe the gospel; [that it] is the foundation of Christian assurance; and that to ascertain it with regard to ourselves, demands and deserves our18 utmost diligence.
[Added in 1853.]
We believe that Sanctification is the process by which, according to the will of God, we are made partakers of his holiness; that it is a progressive work; that it is begun in regeneration; and that it is carried on in the hearts of believers by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the Sealer and Comforter, in the continual use of the appointed means—especially the Word of God, self-examination, self-denial, watchfulness and prayer.
12 “Sinners”in ed. 1853.13For“and” ed. 1853 has “that it.”14“Or calculation”omitted in ed. 1853.15“Is found…God”appears in ed. 1853 as follows:“appears in the holy fruits of repentance, andfaith, and newness of life.”16“eternal”in ed. 1853.17“may be”in ed. 1853.18“The”in ed. 1853
[We believe] That such only are real believers as endure unto the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from mere19 professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare; and [that] they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
[We believe] That the Law of God is the eternal and unchangeable rule of his moral government; that it is holy, just, and good; and that the inability which the Scriptures ascribe to fallen men to fulfill its precepts, arises entirely from their love of sin; to deliver them from which, and to restore them through a Mediator to unfeigned obedience to the holy law, is one great end of the Gospel, and of the means of grace connected with the establishment of the visible Church.
[We believe] That a visible Church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the Gospel; observing the ordinances of Christ; governed by his laws; and exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by his word; that its only proper20 officers are Bishops or Pastors, and Deacons, whose qualifications, claims, and duties are defined in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus.
[We believe] That Christian Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water,21 in the name of the Father [and] Son, and Spirit,22 to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem, our faith in a23 crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, with its purifying power24; that it is prerequisite to the privileges of a church relation; and to the Lord’s Supper, in which the members of the church, by the [sacred] use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ; preceded always by solemn self-examination.
[We believe] That the first day of the week is the Lord’s-Day, or Christian Sabbath; and is to be kept sacred to religious purposes, by abstaining from all secular labor and [sinful] recreations; by the devout observance of all the means of grace, both private and public; and by preparation for that rest which remaineth for the people of God.
19“Superficial”in ed. 1853.20“Scriptural”in ed. 1853.21“Immersion…in”reads“immersion in water of a believer, into.”22“Holy Ghost”in ed. 1853.23“The”in ed. 1853.24For“with its purifying power”is substituted the following:“with its effect in our death to sin andresurrection to a new life”ined.1853
[We believe] That civil government is of divine appointment, for the interests and good order of human society; and that magistrates are to be prayed for, conscientiously honored, and obeyed, except [only] in things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Lord of the conscience, and the Prince of the kings of the earth.
[We believe] That there is a radical and essential difference between the righteous and the wicked; that such only as through faith are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and sanctified by the Spirit of our God, are truly righteous in his esteem; while all such as continue in impenitence and unbelief are in his sight wicked, and under the curse; and this distinction holds among men both in and after death.
[We believe] That the end of this25 world is approaching: that at the last day, Christ will descend from heaven, and raise the dead from the grave to final retribution; that a solemn separation will then take place; that the wicked will be adjudged to endless punishment, and the righteous to endless joy; and that this judgment will fix forever the final state of men in heaven or hell, on principles of righteousness.
25“The”in ed. 1853.41W. J. McGlothlin,Baptist Confessions of Faith(Philadelphia; Boston; Chicago; St. Louis;Toronto: American Baptist Publication Society, 1911),301–307