When Barbara and I visited First Baptist Church in Kingstowne, Virginia, where Clyde Duncan was pastor, Shinji Amari was there and spoke. Brother Amari is pastor of the Abiko Baptist Church in Japan. After the service we all gathered at the pastor's home for a time of fellowship and, as best I recall, here is the story Brother Amari told me:

It seems that there was a church directory printed in Japan and all of the Baptist churches were listed under "Protestant." Brother Amari visited the editor and explained that he was not a Protestant but a Baptist and would like his church listed under a heading of "Baptist." The editor said he was not aware that Baptists were not Protestant and he would be glad to make a Baptist classification. He asked Brother Amari to contact the Baptist churches in Japan to see if they would all like to be listed under "Baptist."

All of the Southern Baptist churches said they were Protestant and wanted to be listed that way. Half of the Bible Baptist churches said they were Protestant and half said they were not, but for the sake of unity they all decided to be listed under Protestant. As it turned out the ABA churches and a few independent Baptists were the only Baptist churches in Japan that chose to be listed under "Baptist" and not under "Protestant."

I think that story pretty much reflects the feelings of Baptist churches in America. Probably most Baptist churches in America today would teach that Baptists are a product of the Protestant Reformation that took place in the 1500s.

The Protestant Reformation came about because some inside the Roman Catholic Church tried to "reform" it. They were not successful and new churches were begun as a result of their teachings. The problem was, when they came out of the Catholic Church they brought a lot of "Catholic" teaching with them. Ove the years churches came out of those churches and churches came out of those churches and today we have a whole group of churches that trace their history back to the Protestant Reformation. These are "Protestant" churches.

Do Baptists trace their history back to the Protestant Reformation? Some say we do but history says otherwise. As Baptists we do not trace our history by our name but by our teachings. I just pulled a book off my shelf first printed in 1658 called The History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piemont. On page 30 of this book is "An Ancient Confession of Faith of the Waldenses copied out of certain manuscripts, bearing date Anno Dom. 1120. That is to say, near 400 years before the time of either Calvin or Luther." I do not see anything in these 14 articles with which I would disagree.

Some say Baptists are Protestant but history says otherwise.

On page 12 of this book it tells that some Waldenses who escaped the massacres in France in 1165 fled to the valleys of Piemont and joined themselves to the brethren who were already there. In France they were called Waldenses, in Albie they were called Albigenses, in Dauphine they were nick-named, in mockery, Chaignards. Those who went over the Alps were called Tramontani. In England they were known by the name of Lollards. In Provence they were usually termed Siccars. In Italy they were called Fraticelli. In Germany they were called Gazares and in Flanders they were called Turlepins. These were not names they gave themselves but names given to them by their enemies. For example, Gazares means "wicked in the highest degree." Turlepins means "companion of wolves," because they were at times, due to persecution, forced to live in the woods with wild animals. Because of their stand, all of these people were later referred to as Anabaptists. "The very name 'Anabaptist,' coined by Ulrich Zwingli [1484-1531] and meaning 'to rebaptise,' had a disdainful connotation" (Encyclopedia Americana). They were called this because they insisted that only believers should be baptized and that by immersion. Anyone who had been baptized as an infant should be baptized or "re-baptized." This made them hated and persecuted by both the Protestants and Catholics of their day. As time went on the "ana" was dropped and the people became simply known as Baptists. That's how we got our name.

There is an abundance of history that people who believed like Baptists can be found under various names from the times of the Apostles until today. They held in common at least the following:

I. The Bible as the only rule of faith and practice.
2. Salvation by grace without works
3. A regenerated church membership
4. Baptism by immersion of believers only
5. Independence of the churches
6. Soul liberty, that is, people should be free to decide for themselves what they want to believe.
7. Separation of church and state, that is, there should not be a state church.

I read this statement the other day:
"Take the Baptist teachings out of Protestant churches and you would have Catholic churches. Take the Catholic teachings out of Protestant churches and you would have Baptist churches." Close, very close.

I came across a delightful little book, The Bible Makes Us Baptists, written by Mary E. Bamford in 1894 under the title, In Editha 's Days. It is a historical novel of the suffering of the Anabaptists in England and Holland during the 1500s. Reprints can still be found online. It is a must read for any serious Baptist history buff.

(See related article below)


Here is an interesting little article I recently found tucked away in the Indianapolis Star newspaper.

" Vatican: Inquisition victims were fewer than believed
"Vatican City--Torture, burning at the stake and other punishment for the faithful condemned as witches or heretics by church tribunals during the Inquisition was not as widespread as commonly believed, the Vatican said Tuesday.
"Pope John Paul II praised the research.
"At a news conference to present a 783-page book on the findings, church officials and others involved in the project said statistics and other data demolished long-held beliefs about the Inquisition.
"Agostino Borromeo, a professor at Rome's Sapienza University who oversaw the volume, said that while there were about 125,000 trials of suspected heretics in Spain, researchers found that about 1 percent of the defendants were executed.
"In Portugal, 5.7 percent of the more than 13,000 people tried before church tribunals in the 16th and early 17th century were condemned to death, he said."

I looked up "Inquisition" in the Encyclopedia Americana and found a few interesting facts. The Inquisition was common all over Europe (except England and Scandinavia) and not just in Spain and Portugal. Although there are not certain dates when it began or ended, it was most popular from the 11th to the 17th centuries. The sole purpose of the Inquisition was to stamp out heresy, which means anyone who disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church. Specifically mentioned in the article as targets of the Inquisition were the Donatists, Albigenses, Waldenses, Cathari, Beguines, Beghards, Fraticelli and Anabaptists. According to the encyclopedia, punishment for not believing like the Catholic Church included fines, imprisonment, servitude, exile, confiscation of goods, mutilation, hanging, strangulation and burning at the stake.

The article in the Indianapolis Star reports that new findings show that only around 1,250 people were put to death in Spain and around 750 in Portugal. The older estimates were much higher.

This is why our forefathers in the faith, who felt the sting of the Inquisition, always stood for soul liberty and separation of church and state.


by Raymond McAlister
July 2004