Baptists and Confessions of Faith

Berwick Baptist Church

Photo courtesy of Eastern Valley Baptist Association

In the church I pastor, the Berwick Baptist Church, we recently adopted a statement of faith. Some would contend that Baptists are not statement-of-faith-kind-of-people; however, I would contend that at least for a sizeable number of Baptists throughout Baptist history, confessions or statements of faith have been part of the Baptist story (see William Lumpkin and Bill Leonard, Baptist Confessions of Faith, second revised edition [2011]). Let’s look at a bit of that story.

The Baptist story has its beginning in 17th century England. The first Baptists were of three varieties, General Baptists, Calvinistic Baptists, and Seventh Day Baptists. To just focus on the Calvinistic Baptists, seven congregations in the London area published the First London Baptist Confession of Faith in 1644. As the 17th century continued, the well-known Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), a Presbyterian document, was published. In 1689, the Calvinistic Baptists published a revised version of this confession along congregationalist and baptistic lines, known as the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith.

Jumping across the Atlantic, a very influential Baptist association, the Philadelphia Baptist Association (PBA), was founded in 1707. Thirty-five years later, the PBA adopted a version of the 1689 confession with two additional articles, one on hymn singing and one on the laying on of hands, known to posterity as the 1742 Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith. In the 19th century, many Baptist congregations made use of the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith, first put out in 1833 and revised in 1853. It is this statement of faith that appears in J. Newton Brown’s (1803–1868) little work on Baptist church polity.

Moving up the Atlantic coast to Nova Scotia, the Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith was adopted by the Nova Scotia Baptist Association. According to the notably 19th-century missionary to the Mi’Kmaq, Silas T. Rand (1810–1889), in his An Historical Sketch of the Nova Scotia Baptist Association, delivered at the Jubilee Celebration on Monday the 25th June 1849, when the Nova Scotia Baptist Association was formed in 1800, the first part of rule seven of the rules then adopted by the association reads as follows: “The Faith and Order of this Association to be expressed in a Confession of Faith, the same as set forth by upwards of one hundred Congregations in Great Britain, in the year 1687 [the correct date is 1689], and adopted by the Association in Philadelphia in 1742.” In the years 1905/06, another statement on doctrine and polity was adopted by the Baptists of the Maritime Provinces, called the Basis of Union, a statement that helped to facilitate the union of the Regular and Free Baptists. The Basis of Union is a revised version of the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith.

From this (very) brief tour through Calvinistic Baptist confessional history, I hope the reader can see that confessions and statements of faith have been part of the Baptist story, including our own important story right here in Atlantic Canada.

What are your thoughts on statements of faith and their use in Baptist churches?

Does your church make use of a statement of faith?


Contributed by Evan Colford, Senior Pastor of Berwick Baptist Church


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