As with most things these days, once you try to categorize something people start to change the paramaters.
When you say “Baptist” it means different things to different people. For me, I’m a Southern Baptist. That means that I’m a member of a church in fellowship with other churches through the Southern Baptist Convention.
We get together once a year. Each church sends messengers to vote on things, but this is only intended to be a representation of all SBC churches, but not a dictation to the churches. In other words, the decisions of the SBC meetings are descriptive not prescriptive.
But we also get together to cooperate and be encouraged. We try to work together for common goals and around common beliefs. Our doctrinal statement is called the “Baptist Faith and Message 2000” (BF&M2000). It was adopted at one of our annual meetings on June 14, 2000. This is intended to be a descriptive statement of the beliefs of the churches in fellowship through the SBC, not a prescriptive document to tell churches what to believe (though, it is helpful for churches to use who which to join in fellowship with the SBC).
But what makes a Baptist a Baptist? Most people associate us with baptism by immersion, and while that is an important thing that we do, it’s not at the core of what makes us distinctive. Others might point to our views on homosexuality or abortion in what makes us who we are, but these are hardly unique positions within the Evangelical world.
Here is a helpful acrostic to help summarize some of some Baptists distinguishing beliefs:
- Biblical authority (Mat 24:35; 1Pet 1:23; 2Tim 3:16-17)
- Autonomy of the local church (Mat 18:15-17; 1Cor 6:1-3)
- Priesthood of all believers (1Pet 2:5-9; 1Tim 5)
- Two ordinances (believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper) (Acts 2:41-47; 1Cor 11:23-32)
- Individual soul liberty (Rom 14:5-12)
- Separation of Church and State (Mat 22:15-22)
- Two offices of the church (pastor and deacon) (1Tim 3:1-13; Tit 1-2)