The First Baptists were Not Dispensationalists

Some trace modern day Baptists to the Anabaptists, while others to the English Separatists.  I tend to favor the latter, the English Separatists.  But I want to fast-forward a bit to when Baptists began to formulate their confessions, the General Baptists (Arminians) on the one hand and the Particular Baptists (Calvinists) on the other.

In their respective confessions neither the General Baptists or the Particular Baptists new anything about Dispensationism and its approach to eschatology, in particular.  In fact, for the Particular Baptists, who patterned their confession (Second London Baptist Confession of 1689) according to the Westminster Confession of Faith, they were covenant Baptists.

We may safely trace the begins of Dispensationalism as we know it today to the early nineteenth century Plymouth Brethren in England.

But today, many Baptists have Dispensational eschatology as part of their doctrinal statements.  In fact, to be a member of certain Baptist churches you have to hold to dispensational premillennialism in all its glory.

However, the first Baptists were not dispensationalists and neither are all Baptists, which includes yours truly.

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6 Responses to The First Baptists were Not Dispensationalists

  1. Lon says:

    In other words the baptist movement pre-dates the dispensationalist innovation. Which raises a question I’ve never considered: is the baptist movement itself an innovation historically speaking? Is there evidence of believer only baptism in the early church?

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    • TC says:

      Lon, Baptist historians often speak of the Baptist experiment of the 17th century. I can live with that.

      From the documents that have come down to us, postapostolic times, talking the church Fathers here, we have mixed views. For example, the Didache, which is a 2nd cen. church manual does not mention infant baptism but speak about the candidates of baptism as those who must fast, repent and so on. Justin Martyr says about the same in the 2nd century, even speaking of candidates as those who “choose and repent” and so on. Nothing is said of infants. And I can go on here.

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  2. TC says:

    Lon, it depends on who you’re conversing with. The first direct reference to infant baptism comes from Tertullian in the 3rd century. But then in the middle of the 3rd century we have Origen saying, “The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants.” But not until the 3rd century do we find infant baptism becoming a norm in the church.

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  3. Matthew Abate says:

    Afternoon TC, more Baptists need to read up on their history. They’d learn that men like John Gill, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield, Augustus Strong, and many more were Reformed or Calvinistic in their approach to preaching and teaching the scriptures. What continues to be a head-scratcher for me is the immense success displayed by the 19th Century UK pastors and theologians in opposing J.N. Darby’s system of interpretation called Dispensationalism. America’s pastors and theologians either lacked the same fortitude, or they genuinely believed Dispensationalism to be a more faithful hermeneutic than the older Reformed tradition.

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