“So in reality Baptists are the most broad-minded of all people in religion.” My Southern Baptist Sunday School class full of young Baptists in their 20s burst into laughter when I read this statement to them! This quote comes from The Baptist Faith and Message written by Herschel H. Hobbs. I’m using an edition that was published in 1971. It’s the explanation of the Baptist faith and explains which distinctive beliefs are so important to Baptists. After laughing, our conversation then shifted to how misunderstood we are in society.
One of the basic beliefs of the Baptist faith is called, “soul freedom,” or the “competency of the soul. “ It’s explained here quoted from the same book I mentioned above:
“Baptists insist that every man shall be free to decide for himself in matters of religion. Baptists have ever been the champions of soul freedom, not for themselves alone but for all men. Thus it is that Baptists believe that a person has the right to be a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Jew, infidel, atheist, or whatever he chooses to be.”
“They (Baptists) grant to every man the right that he shall be free to believe as he wants. But they insist upon the same right for themselves. The moment a Baptist seeks to coerce another person – even another Baptist – in matters of religion, he violates the basic belief of Baptists.”
I’m guessing what you just read is probably quite shocking to you? This might even shock some Baptists too? Our society would probably define a Baptist as a closed-minded, judgmental person who isn’t very open to hearing the opinions of others. Herschel Hobbs also writes, “If there is any judging to be done, it is God’s responsibility, not man’s.”
Baptists are very concerned that everyone in our world hears and understands the Gospel Message of the Bible. We are not out to judge, but to share this message and every person has the opportunity to respond to this message how they choose. We are not out to coerce anyone but to share what God has done for humanity. It is only God who draws mankind to Himself through the Holy Spirit. Baptists do not believe this happens through coercion or human persuasion of any kind. Nobody becomes a Christian through an argument, manipulation or coercion. We simply share faith and we believe all people have the right to respond as they choose. And, as I quoted above, “if there is any judging to be done, it’s God’s responsibility, not man’s.”
What do Baptists Believe? Maybe we should do some reading before we come to conclusions on what a Baptist believes. I’m assuming many Baptists out there can also use a refresher on what they believe as well. Maybe some who call themselves a Baptist should choose another term for themselves? As a good Baptist, I leave this up to them to decide!