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Baptists are individuals who comprise a group of Evangelical Christian denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers (believer's baptism, as opposed to infant baptism), and that it must be done by complete immersion (as opposed to affusion or sprinkling). Other tenets of Baptist churches include soul competency (liberty), salvation through faith alone, Scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice, and the autonomy of the local congregation. Baptists recognize two ministerial offices, elders and deacons. Baptist churches are widely considered to be Protestant churches, though some Baptists disavow this identity.
Diverse from their beginning, those identifying as Baptists today differ widely from one another in what they believe, how they worship, their attitudes toward other Christians, and their understanding of what is important in Christian discipleship.
Historians trace the earliest church labeled "Baptist" back to 1609 in Amsterdam, with English Separatist John Smyth as its pastor. In accordance with his reading of the New Testament, he rejected baptism of infants and instituted baptism only of believing adults. Baptist practice spread to England, where the General Baptists considered Christ's atonement to extend to all people, while the Particular Baptists believed that it extended only to the elect. In 1638, Roger Williams established the first Baptist congregation in the North American colonies. In the mid-18th century, the First Great Awakening contributed to Baptist growth in both New England and the South. The Second Great Awakening in the South in the early 19th century greatly increased church membership, as did the preachers' lessening of support for abolition and manumission of slavery, which had been part of the 18th-century teachings. Baptist missionaries have spread their church to every continent.
- The supremacy of the canonical Scriptures as a norm of faith and practice. For something to become a matter of faith and practice, it is not sufficient for it to be merely consistent with and not contrary to scriptural principles. It must be something explicitly ordained through command or example in the Bible. For instance, this is why Baptists do not practice infant baptism—they say the Bible neither commands nor exemplifies infant baptism as a Christian practice. More than any other Baptist principle, this one when applied to infant baptism is said to separate Baptists from other evangelical Christians.
- Baptists believe that faith is a matter between God and the individual (religious freedom). To them it means the advocacy of absolute liberty of conscience.
- Insistence on immersion as the only mode of baptism. Baptists do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. Therefore, they do not consider it to be a sacrament, since it imparts no saving grace.
Bumstead, JM (1984), Henry Alline, 1748–1784, Hantsport, NS: Lancelot Press.
Christian, John T (1926), History of the Baptists, 2, Nashville: Broadman Press.
- Kidd, Thomas S. and Barry Hankins, Baptists in America: A History (2015)
Leonard, Bill J (2003), Baptist Ways: A History, Judson Press, ISBN , comprehensive international History.
Torbet, Robert G (1975) , A History of the Baptists, Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, ISBN .
Wright, Stephen (2004), Early English Baptists 1603–49.
- Bebbington, David. Baptists through the Centuries: A History of a Global People (Baylor University Press, 2010) emphasis on the United States and Europe; the last two chapters are on the global context.
- Brackney, William H. A Genetic History of Baptist Thought: With Special Reference to Baptists in Britain and North America (Mercer University Press, 2004), focus on confessions of faith, hymns, theologians, and academics.
- Brackney, William H. ed., Historical Dictionary of the Baptists (2nd ed. Scarecrow, 2009).
- Cathcart, William, ed. The Baptist Encyclopedia (2 vols. 1883). online
- Gavins, Raymond. The Perils and Prospects of Southern Black Leadership: Gordon Blaine Hancock, 1884–1970. Duke University Press, 1977.
- Harrison, Paul M. Authority and Power in the Free Church Tradition: A Social Case Study of the American Baptist Convention Princeton University Press, 1959.
- Harvey, Paul. Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial Identities among Southern Baptists, 1865–1925 University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
- Heyrman, Christine Leigh. Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt (1997).
- Isaac, Rhy. "Evangelical Revolt: The Nature of the Baptists' Challenge to the Traditional Order in Virginia, 1765 to 1775," William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., XXXI (July 1974), 345–68.
Life & Practice in the Early Church: A Documentary Reader, New York University press, 2001, pp. 5–7, ISBN .
- Kidd, Thomas S., Barry Hankins, Oxford University Press, 2015
- Leonard, Bill J. Baptists in America (Columbia University Press, 2005).
Menikoff, Aaron (2014). Politics and Piety: Baptist Social Reform in America, 1770-1860. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
- Pitts, Walter F. Old Ship of Zion: The Afro-Baptist Ritual in the African Diaspora Oxford University Press, 1996.
- Rawlyk, George. Champions of the Truth: Fundamentalism, Modernism, and the Maritime Baptists (1990), Canada.
- Spangler, Jewel L. "Becoming Baptists: Conversion in Colonial and Early National Virginia" Journal of Southern History. Volume: 67. Issue: 2. 2001. pp. 243+
- Stringer, Phil. The Faithful Baptist Witness, Landmark Baptist Press, 1998.
- Underwood, A. C. A History of the English Baptists. London: Kingsgate Press, 1947.
- Wills, Gregory A. Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South, 1785–1900, Oxford.
- McBeth, H. Leon, (ed.) A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage (1990), primary sources for Baptist history.
- * McKinion, Steven A., ed. Life and Practice in the Early Church: A Documentary Reader (2001)
- McGlothlin, W. J. (ed.) Baptist Confessions of Faith. Philadelphia: The American Baptist Publication Society, 1911.
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