The Baptist and the Southern Baptist churches date back to the 17th century, and they represent the largest population of protestants in the Western world. Although these Baptist Christians share common beliefs and have many things in common, they have some differences, which we’ll uncover in this Southern Baptist vs. Baptist post.
Southern Baptists are a group of Baptists who descended from the English Baptists that settled in the American colonies early in the 17th century. In contrast, the main Baptist Church was founded by the English in Holland and England between 1609 and 1612 before setting up roots in the Americas in 1638 in Rhode Island, after separating from the Church of England.
Aside from their origins or when they were formed, several other things set Baptists apart from the Southern Baptists, and this post will share insights into all these Baptist churches.
What is the difference between Baptists and Southern Baptists?
How the Baptist church was founded
To understand how these two churches differ, it’s necessary to go down history. First, note that while the English founded the first Baptist churches in Holland between 1609-1612, the Southern Baptist Church, or the Southern Baptist Convention, was founded in American colonies that descended from the Baptists that settled in the American colonies. They have roots in England’s Reformation from the 16th century. The first American Baptist Church was born in 1638 By Roger Williams in Providence, Rhode Island.
The Southern Baptists also represent one of the leading American religious organizations and the most prominent Baptist religious group in the US. The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845 in Augusta, Georgia, by the Southern Baptists.
Reason for formation
Baptists split from the Church of England because of their belief that their church members needed to be allowed to join the church voluntarily and the fact that the only people to be baptized were the believers. Baptists also rejected the Church of England’s parish structure. Additionally, Baptists disagreed with the fact that people were ‘born’ into a church and that they had to be baptized as infants.
On the other hand, Baptists who disagreed with the England Baptist church’s teachings founded the Southern Baptist Convention. The founders of the Southern Baptist Church also formed their church because they disowned and disagreed with the antislavery activities and attitudes of the Northern Baptists. As a result, the Southern Baptists met and organized the Southern Baptist Convention or SBC in May 1845.
Take on Slavery
While the Southern Baptists played a huge role in slavery and the inhumane treatment of African and African American slaves, the Northern Baptist church played no role in this. This is the most significant difference between the Baptists and the Southern Baptists. Unlike the Southern Baptists, the Baptists (also called Northern Baptists) were against slavery, and they believed that God wouldn’t condone slavery or treat one race as if it were superior to the other. The Southern Baptists, on the other hand, supported slavery, suggesting that God intended for all races to be separate. So, when the Southern Baptists complained about not receiving money for their missions, the Baptists’ Home Mission Society declared that they wouldn’t authorize Southern Baptist leaders to become missionaries if they wished to enslave people.
The Southern Baptists were positioned in and operated from the Southern American states; this denomination was, unfortunately, engaged in the most horrific parts of the country’s history – history. With the Convention formed in the 1840s, 20 years before the Civil War, they wrestled with stances and decisions about slavery and the slaveholders. At the time, the critical issue they grappled with was whether the slaveholders could be considered missionaries. And in a mission board held in Massachusetts, it was determined that the slaveholders could not be missionaries and couldn’t be part of foreign missions.
Unfortunately, it took a century and a half for the Southern Baptist Convention to ask for forgiveness and to denounce racism. In this resolution, the Baptist church classified racism as a sin.
Liberalism & Take on Homosexuality, Abortions, and Women Clergy
While Northern Baptists and all other world Baptist believers that make up the Baptist World Alliance support homosexuality or the idea of having female clergy, Southern Baptists are against homosexuality and female clergy. As a result, the Southern Baptists severed ties with the Baptist World Alliance in 2004.
What are the similarities between Baptists and Southern Baptists?
Autonomy of the Local Baptist churches
Like all other Baptists, the Southern Baptists are led by a strong conviction that all their local churches must run independently. For this reason, no state, regional, or even district authorities can choose pastors for other churches. They also lack the authority to determine worship styles and fellowships for other Baptist churches.
In all Baptist churches, authority lies in the congregation’s membership and the cooperation between pastors and governing boards.
Local church fellowships
While all Baptist churches are autonomous, these churches are allowed to associate or network with other Baptist churches through fellowship, mission, evangelistic works, ministerial efforts, and Christian education. This cohesion is made possible by the Baptist church’s belief that no decisions by one church are binding to decisions made by the other church and that partnership is important for the greater good.
The partnership spirit in the Baptist church is cemented by the Baptist belief in the symbolism of the Lord’s Supper. The Baptist church regards the Lord’s Supper as the holy communion, representing the symbolic practice of honoring Jesus Christ and his death. And so, to the Baptists, communion is an important part of the believers, but someone doesn’t need to receive salvation. Therefore Baptists hold evangelism and Missionary Work in high regard.
Baptist Belief in Baptism (Only believers get baptized)
Baptism is key for all Baptists, but the Baptist church believes that someone should only get baptized after they confess to being believers, or rather, after professing that Christ is their Savior. To Baptists, Baptism is a symbol that represents cleansing sins. And though some Baptists baptize by sprinkling water, most Baptists baptize by fully immersing the person in the water – which symbolizes the Baptism of the disciples, as implied in John 3 and Romans 6.
And unlike other religions, Baptists also believe Baptism isn’t a prerequisite for salvation but a public expression of their faith. In other words, they believe that even though faith is a personal journey, it isn’t private.
Importance of Biblical Authority
Baptists have firmly believed in the Bible’s authority since the church started. And so, for all Baptists and Southern Baptists, the Bible is the only authority that should guide the Christian faith and practices. They believe that the Bible is the Baptists’ main authority comes from the Baptist belief that the holy spirit divinely inspires the Bible. This follows the suggestion in 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
Differing Beliefs on Calvinism vs. Arminianism
While the Baptist church supports Calvinism vs. Arminianism, it is only to a small extent, and the church has differing opinions and endless conversations on the matter. Note that Calvinism, named after John Calvin, supports predestination, the belief that some people are predestined for saving, meaning that God has already decided some individuals’ destinies of salvation through God’s grace. However, others will not be saved as they carry the original sin forever.
Arminianism, on the other hand, named after Jacobus Arminius, teaches that God chose all of us and He will bring salvation to all people. This belief further acknowledges that people have the decision to have faith.
Church’s Organizational Structure
The Baptist churches are split into sub-denominations, but the largest group of Baptists are the Southern Baptists, with at least 15 million members. The main Convention for the Southern Baptists is the Southern Baptist Convention. Still, there are smaller conventions and affiliations, including the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the American Baptist Churches USA.
Which came first between, Baptist and Southern Baptist?
The Baptist Church came first as it was born between 1609 and 1612 in Holland and England, respectively. This happened after the Reformations and a few decades after the formation of the Church of England. However, the Southern Baptist Church was officially formed in 1845 in Augusta, Georgia, after the disagreement and split from the Northern Baptists because the Southern Baptists condoned slavery, unlike the Northern Baptists.
What do Southern Baptists think of Baptists?
While all Baptists believe in the Lord’s Supper, Missionary works, evangelism, and Baptism for believers, the Southern Baptists make up the largest population of American Baptists. They believe in their independence and evangelism. However, their split from conventions like the Baptist World Alliance may point to a possibility that the Southern Baptists are not necessarily the same as other Baptists.
Can Southern Baptists attend Baptist churches?
Southern Baptists can attend services or church fellowships in Baptist churches. This support stems primarily from the fact that they acknowledge that they are all Baptists. Also, they are bound by the Baptist church teaching in which all Baptists support religious freedom. Of course, this wasn’t always the case, and it wasn’t until they sought reconciliation that they apologized for supporting slavery – something the Baptists in North America couldn’t condone.
Also, the Baptists played a role in encouraging religious liberty. They were also behind the First Amendment rights that allowed people to practice whatever faith they found fit.
Are Baptists and Southern Baptists Christians?
Baptists and the Southern Baptists are Christians. The Baptist church came to be after the Reformations and the split of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534. Church of England was the first protestant church, and it bore other protestant churches, such as the Baptist church. The only difference is that they have different names and slightly different beliefs, but they all consider themselves followers of Christ and Christians.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.