Saturday, June 13, 2015

Calvinism Is Not New to Baptists

Grace Unleashed in the American Colonies

Calvinists once dominated Baptist church life in America.

In a 1793 survey, early Baptist historian John Asplund estimated that there were 1,032 Baptist churches in America. Out of those, 956 were Calvinist congregations. These were “Particular Baptists,” for they believed in a definite atonement (or “particular redemption”), that Christ had died to save the elect decisively. “General Baptists,” who believed that Christ had died indefinitely for the sins of anyone who would choose him, accounted for a tiny fraction of the whole. Even some of those, Asplund noted, believed in certain Calvinist tenets such as “perseverance in grace.”

How did this preponderance of Baptist Calvinists come about? Both Calvinist and Arminian (General) Baptists had existed in the American colonies since the early 1600s. But the Great Awakening of the 1740s, the most profound religious and cultural upheaval in colonial America, wrecked the General Baptist movement, and birthed a whole new type of Calvinist Baptist — the “Separate Baptists.” Keep reading
Reformed and Calvinist theology is not confined to one particular denomination or church polity. The Articles of Religion of 1571, sometimes called the Thirty-Nine Articles, historic Anglicanism'a confession of faith, is Biblical and Protestant in its stance and Evangelical and Reformed in its doctrine. In its article on the Irish Articles of Religion of 1615, the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics draws to our attention:
The Irish Articles— probably composed by the learned Archbishop James Ussher (then Professor of Divinity in Dublin), and adopted by the Archbishops, Bishops, and Convocation of the Irish Episcopal Church, and approved by the Viceroy in 1615, four years before the Synod of Dort—although practically superseded by the Thirty-nine Articles, are important as a testimony of the prevailing Calvinism of the leading divines in that Church, which had previously been expressed also in the nine Lambeth Articles. They are still more important as the connecting link between the Thirty-nine Articles and the Westminster Confession, and as the chief source of the latter. The agreement of the two formularies in the order of subjects, the headings of chapters, and in many single phrases, as well as in spirit and sentiment, is very striking. See the comparison in Dr. Alex. F. Mitchell's Minutes of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, Edinb. 1874, Introd. pp. xlvi. sqq. On the history and authority of the Irish Articles see Hardwick's History of the Articles of Religion, 2d ed. pp. 181 sqq.

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