Thursday, April 2, 2009

400 years of Baptist faith

Last Sunday, our church hosted Dr. Tony Chute, a history professor from Cal Baptist University, to celebrate 400 years of Baptist faith. Did you know the Baptist church turned 400 this year? It was started in 1609 by John Smyth in Holland. Three years later, the first Baptist church in England was planted by Thomas Helwys in 1612. The Southern Baptist Convention, however, did not arrive until two centuries later, in 1845.

David Dockery, in his book Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal, explains the relevance of Baptist history for today, particularly for Southern Baptists:

[W]e as Southern Baptists in the early years of the twenty-first century are infected with historical amnesia - we do not know our history, we do not know our theological identity, we basically only understand the programmatic expression of what it means to be a Baptist as we related from local church to local church...Today Southern Baptists need to begin to build a new theologically and historically informed consensus that will help us understand our past, our identity, and our beliefs - so that we can move forward to carry the Gospel around the world and "disciplize" the nations in the twenty-first century.
On Sunday, our church took a tiny step to shake off the historical amnesia and improve our knowledge of church history. Through Tony's message, we learned that Baptists have accomplished four main things in the last 400 years. Basically, each century brought one major contribution:
  • In the 1600's, Baptists defended regenerate church membership.
  • In the 1700's, Baptists stressed the importance of religious liberty
  • In the 1800's, Baptists mobilized for global missions
  • In the 1900's, Baptists battled over the inerrancy of the Bible in all areas
I wonder, what will be our greatest contribution in the 21st century? May this be the century we grow in our unity, mature in our doctrine, and increase in our efforts to evangelize every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.

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