Janet Moore Lindman

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online August 2013 | | DOI:

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The Baptist religion began in Continental Europe during the early 16th century. Known as Anabaptism, it emerged as a radical alternative to Lutheranism. A variety of Anabaptists formed in Switzerland, Holland, and the German states. For their nonconformity, such as refusing to have their children baptized, believers suffered persecution. They would coalesce into sectarian groups, such as the Hutterites, Swiss Brethren, and Mennonites. British Baptists surfaced in the early 17th century, influenced by English Separatism and Dutch Anabaptism. The religion then spread to Ireland, Wales, and the American colonies. A primary tenet of Anabaptists and Baptists is adult baptism. They also endorse justification by grace, divine sovereignty, the priesthood of all believers, the authority of the Bible, and congregationalism. Membership in a Baptist congregation demands authentic conversion to gain entry. Adult baptism by immersion, officiated by a regenerate minister, is a primary rite of the church; communion is also practiced, though its frequency varied by congregation. Variations within the religion include Regular, Separate, Seventh Day, Six-Principle, and Free Will Baptists. By the 19th century, some American Baptists would diverge into splinter groups (e.g., Primitive Baptists) and develop new denominations (e.g., the Disciples of Christ). Two basic types of Baptists developed: General and Particular. General Baptists endorsed Arminianism and asserted general salvation or universal redemption of all believers, meaning that anyone can attain saving grace from God. Particular Baptists, influenced by Calvinism, advocated the doctrine of election or particular salvation, meaning only the elect could be saved. This led to the practice of closed communion, in which only members could participate in church rituals. Opponents labeled Baptists as Anabaptists, Catabaptists, and Anti-Paedobaptists to connote their refutation of infant baptism. Early converts referred to themselves as “Baptized Believers” or “Christians.” Continental Anabaptists, who disliked this expression, used the “Brethren,” as in the “Swiss Brethren,” or simply “brothers and sisters” (Brüder und Schwestern). In Holland and northern Germany they were called Doopsgezinde, meaning “baptismally minded.” English Baptists also rejected the term Anabaptist; their 1644 Confession of Faith stated that they had been “falsely” identified with this sobriquet. 18th-century Anabaptists were dubbed Domplelaars (those who dunk) and became known as the Dunkers; they called themselves the New Baptists (Neue Täufer).

Article.  6000 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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