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The name for a variety of Protestant groups originally stressing the duty of adult baptism. They were started in England by John Smyth (1554-1612), a Cambridge graduate and Anglican minister early in the seventeenth century. His nonconformism forced his flight to Holland, where under Mennonite influence he preached against infant baptism. Early divisions in Europe and America have separated the Baptists into numerous denominations, notably the General Baptists, who believed in a general redemption of all men, and the Particular Baptists, who claimed that only a few would be saved. Strongly congregational in church organization, they have no prescribed confessions of faith. The Baptists have divided mainly into the extremely liberal in matters of belief and the fundamentalists who adhere to a literal interpretation of the Bible. The latter believe in the Trinity; divinity of Christ; original sin; need for redemption; salvation through Christ; eternal heaven or hell; Scripture as divinely inspired; the Bible as the sole standard by which creed, opinion, and conduct are measured; all humankind are sinners inclined to evil and under condemnation to eternal perdition, utterly unholy; justification is bestowed solely through faith.
Doctrinally the Baptists commonly regard the visible Church as a congregation of baptized believers covenanted in faith and fellowship; observing Christ's laws and governed by them and exercising the rights and privileges assured them by his Word. Faith with baptism is required for church membership. They admit two ordinances, not sacraments; baptism, which does not remit sin; and the Lord's Supper, which is a purely symbolic presence of Christ. The church is organized by consent of the group, who agree in worshiping under a pastor of their own choice.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.