There is a lot of controversy surrounding this question. Most folks you talk to on the streets would tell you that Baptists are Protestants. Shoot, most Baptists don’t even know what they are! That is a sad commentary, folks. If people knew the history of the Baptists, they would change their tune.
Studying history, it makes the idea that Baptists are Protestant actually laughable. But don’t take my word for it. Check out the rest of the post and do some more research on your own.
What are Protestants?
To be able to truly understand whether Baptists are Protestants, we have to first figure out what the definition of Protestant is.
According to Collins Dictionary, “A Protestant is a Christian who belongs to the branch of the Christian church that separated from the Catholic church in the sixteenth century.”
Case in point. Baptists have never been part of the Catholic church, and thus have never had to separate from them. Protestants however, were and did. Why do you think all the Protestant churches are so much like the Catholics? It’s because the Protestants were birthed from the Catholic church.
The Reformation was the birthing grounds of the Protestant churches. Each of them came directly from the Reformation. If you were to actually study the Baptists though, down through the ages of time you would find that long before Martin Luther ever had his shining moment posting his Ninety-five theses, Baptists were preaching and teaching the truth of the Word of God, never once influenced by the poison of Catholicism.
One prominent Catholic Cardinal in the 1500s who’s job was that of persecuting and eradicating groups that went against the Catholic Church, said of the Baptists,
He recognized and understood that the Baptists were different than the Reformers. This clearly shows and points to the fact that Baptists were never part of Catholicism, nor were they born from the Reformation. Down through the age of New Testament churches, there have always been distinct groups of believers who held to the truth of God’s Word. From the time of the very first church that Christ founded, all the way to present day there have been those who held to the Baptist distinctives. Called by various names down through the ages, yes, but they are the pure line of faithful believers who have held to the Word of God and eventually became known by the name of Baptists.
Some try to claim that the Catholic Church had slowly turned bad over time, and that is why it needed to be reformed, as Martin Luther and his contemporaries thought. That is wrong thinking however. According to what we know from history, the Catholic Church was never good to begin with. It never taught the Bible and was never a true church, but rather a false religion built by Satan. And to claim that up until the time of the Reformation it was the only Christian religion is a falsehood that couldn’t be further from the truth.
What men like Martin Luther and John Calvin did was not some new revelation. Faithful believers had been standing on Truth since the time of the first church. Baptists have no connection whatsoever to Martin Luther and the other reformers. In fact it’s interesting to note while studying history that the Protestants persecuted Baptists just as brutally as the Catholics did. During the time of the Reformation in the small town of Rottenburg, Germany alone, there were 900 Baptists put to the death in the course of a few years. Why? What was their crime? They believed and taught the whole counsel of God.
One Baptist man’s sentence to death on May 21, 1527 was this:
I don’t mean to be gory. But believers today have to know of the terrible price that has been paid by those who dared to preach and speak the counsel of God and proudly bore the name Baptist. Michael Sateler died a tortured death, followed by his wife who was sentenced to be drowned. Their sole crime was that they believed the Bible.
The sad truth of history is that while the Protestants were begging for liberty and mercy from the Catholic Church who was persecuting them, they showed no mercy upon the Baptists who they were relentlessly and brutally persecuting. They wouldn’t give religious liberty to the Baptists, even though they themselves wanted religious liberty.
For anyone to claim that Baptists are Protestant comes purely from ignorance or pure stupidity. We have not ever been part of the Catholic Church, nor were we ever connected with the Protestants.
What Do Protestants Believe?
There are very blatant differences between Baptist and Protestant beliefs. Most people assume that we have the same beliefs. Nothing could be more false.
1. As Baptists, we believe that the Bible is our only authority for faith and practice. Everything we do comes directly from the pages of Holy Scripture. Without it, we have no basis to stand on. This is not the case with the Protestants. They hold to man-made catechisms, creeds, and other such things to be their authority.
2. We believe that Jesus Christ is the One head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). We do not answer to any man or organization on this earth, like the Protestants do.We are not an organization like Protestant churches are. There is no hierarchy but that of Jesus Christ. Each Baptist church answers solely to God.
3. We believe in separation of church and state in the way that our founders originally intended. In fact, down through the annals of time, Baptists have always been champions of freedom. We fought doggedly for the founding of America, and have always stood against tyranny. The Protestants, historically, have heralded state churches, strongly tied to government and oppression of those who go against it.
4. We believe in baptism of believers only by immersion. Protestants do not.
5. We believe that salvation is through repentance and faith in Christ alone. Protestants believe in a works based salvation.
These are only a very few of the stark contrasts between what Baptists believe versus Protestant beliefs. I could go on for an eternity telling all of the others and going further in depth into our beliefs.
What Does History Teach Us About Protestants?
Like I’ve already touched on a little, the history of Protestants and Baptists makes it quite evident that we are not Protestants and never will be. You’ll notice for one thing that every Protestant denomination points to one particular human founder: Lutherans take their name from Martin Luther, the Methodists point to John Wesley, the Reformed churches point to John Calvin, and the list could go on.
But Baptists point to no man as having been our founder. Jesus Christ is the only head of our churches. Our name came first as an accusation because we dared to follow the Bible in believer’s baptism and the other distinctives that set us apart as being Bible followers.
Protestants have long been persecutors of Baptists. In case there is any doubt in your mind, let’s dive further into some examples.
At the beginning of the Reformation, a man named Huldriech Zwingli was very active in his work with Protestantism in Switzerland. Some hold him in high regard, as he was one of the Protestant leaders. However, just as in all the other parts of the world, there were faithful groups of believers who followed the Word of God completely and were always set apart from the Catholic Church. Zwingli was greatly opposed to these believers because they preached against infant baptism, a practice highly held to among the Protestants.
Balthasar Hubmaier was an outspoken Baptist preacher in Zurich. Originally Hubmaier was a close friend of Zwingli, even helping him oppose Roman Catholicism, until he saw the truth of scripture for what it was and converted to being a Baptist instead. He spoke out against the errors of both Catholicism and Protestantism, and did so without sugar coating it.
Because of his bold stand against infant baptism and the other blatant errors of Zwingli and his followers, Hubmaier was arrested by the Protestants of Zurich and thrown into prison. In the dark, harsh conditions, Hubmaier grew sick to the point that he almost died. The Protestant authorities didn’t stop there though. They tortured him severely on the rack, telling him that if he would recant his Baptist beliefs they would stop. He made a desperate appeal to his former friend, Zwingli, begging him to make it stop. After all, wasn’t liberty one of the things that the Protestants claimed they wanted? Didn’t the Baptists have just as much a right to liberty as anyone else? Zwingli ignored the tortured pleas. There would be no liberty for the Baptists.
On April 6, 1526, Hubmaier, his body thoroughly broken by the torture he’d endured, agreed to publicly recant his beliefs. A meeting was called and the entire village gathered in the Cathedral to hear the Baptist preacher recant his beliefs. First Zwingli preached a sermon against the “heresies” of the Baptists, proclaiming them to be blasphemous and apostate. Finally it was time for Hubmaier to come before the people and renounce his beliefs. His body was so violently broken that he could barely stand. As he came before the crowd, he hesitated as if pondering what he was doing. He started to read the recantation, but broke down weeping, unable to bring himself to betray his God. In a bold shout he proclaimed, “Infant baptism is not of God, and men must be baptized by faith in Christ!”
The crowd erupted in angry shouts mixed with a few cheers for the Baptist preacher who refused to recant. He was quickly taken back to prison, where he would endure even more torture. In March 10, 1528 Balthasar Hubmaier was burned at the stake for his belief in the Word of God. To the group of onlookers who had gathered to say goodbye to their brother in the faith, he proclaimed, “O dear brothers and sisters, if I have injured anyone, in word or deed, may they forgive me for the sake of my merciful God. I forgive all those who have harmed me.”
As the flames licked at his body he cried out,
His last words in this cruel world before being taken into eternal glory were, “O Jesus, Jesus!”
He was only one of millions of Baptists who were slaughtered because they dared to preach the gospel and the whole counsel of God. Between the years of the Dark Ages alone, it has been estimated that roughly 50,000,000 Baptists were killed by the Catholics and Protestants.
Those who would claim that Baptists are Protestants are doing a disservice to the name and heritage of Baptists, and have obviously never studied the matter out. Don’t be guilty of placing Baptists in the category of being Protestant. It’s a lie that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Protestants persecuted us relentlessly alongside their Catholic counterparts. We have never been and never will be Protestant.
Wether you are or aren’t a Baptist, the least you can do is get it right and not lump us in the Protestant grouping. If you are a Baptist and mistakingly think you’re a Protestant—shame on you. That’s all I have to say about it. Do your research and we wouldn’t have this problem.
4 thoughts on “Are Baptists Protestant?”
Interesting post. Thank you for making the distinction between Protestants and Baptists. One of the most important things to stress is that words matter.
If the Roman Catholic church didn’t evolve, or corrupt over time, what date would you give it as starting?
Also, please don’t paint all Protestants with the brush of Zwingli–wich is not something your post did, by the way.
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Absolutely! I’m glad that you found it interesting, Emily!
When looking back through the pages of history, it shows that the Catholic church had its beginning with Emperor Constantine around A.D. 313.
Yes, I don’t believe in throwing everyone in the same group automatically.
I apologize for the lateness of this response! There were some unexpected things that held my attention this week. 🙃
Wonderful post, Alyssa! For the longest time, I had been told Baptists and Protestants were the same, and it wasn’t until I was reading a book last year that I realized the Protestants treated the Baptists horribly and still claimed to be ‘Christian’.
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Thank you! I’m so glad that you learned more about Baptists. Most people carry the belief that we are Protestant, when we are not.
Thank you for your kind words! I’m so sorry for my response being so late. 🙃
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