OUR BAPTIST LIBERTIES
Every faith tradition has a special genius, an inspired gift, which taken by itself not only illumines its path but brightens the way for other traditions.
For the Quakers, it is their silent meeting.
For the Presbyterians, it is their sense of order and intellect.
For the Episcopalians, it is their Liturgy, exemplified by the Book of Common Prayer
For the Catholics, it is the mystery of the Eucharist and the Mass.
For the Mennonites and Amish, it is their separated lifestyle.
For the Baptists, clearly, our Liberties are our inspired gift to other believers. No other Christian group more highly prizes liberties than Baptists.
THE BAPTIST “WORD IS FREEDOM!
Our liberties define Baptists like nothing else. To compromise them, would be to lose our distinctive gift.
“The one word that comes closer than any other to capturing the historic Baptist identity is the word, FREEDOM. This is a strange assertion at a time when many view Baptists as narrow, provinical and even reactionary.” –
While some Baptists have foolishly relinquished their freedoms, other groups have embraced them. Lutheran historian Martin has called this the “Baptistification” of American Christianity in which the priciples of Baptist Liberties have been embraced by many other traditions.
“For freedom, Christ has set us free!” Galations 5:1a
FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY
“Freedom is not tangential to the Baptist identity; it is at the core of what it means to be a Baptist… Baptist freedoms are fragile; they are too readily relinquished from within and too easily pirated from without. Freedom can be abdicated. Freedom can also be stolen. Freedom-
Every Baptist freedom can be undermined by irresponsibility. No freedom gives one license to act without boundaries. Freedom demands individual and collective responsibility.
“If Baptists experiences a rebirt of commitment to (their liberties), they would not only rediscover their roots and their identity, they would also become prophetically relevant to the world today.”-
Defending the Separation of Church and State
When the Baptist experiment in Rhode Island was begun, few other colonies were inclined to follow. the Puritans in New England, for example, were fearful that the loss of a state church would result in moral anarchy and theological chaos.
“…we dare not render homage to any earthly power which I and (other Baptists) are fully convinced belongs only to God.” –
“Baptists wanted freedom from a state-
“The chief impediment to religious liberty in our generation is the renewed effort to make of the United States a theocracy rather than the constitutional democracy the founders set in place”-
Shaping one’s own relationship with God
Soul Liberty is the deep conviction that every man or woman can enter into direct relationship to God without outside mediation. Baptists resist anything that appears to oppress freedom of the soul.
Our practice of believer’s baptism arises out of our insistence upon soul liberty. No one can decide for another, not even the parent for a child, a persons’s relationship with God. Thus, we baptize only after an individual has made a personal decision of faith.
“It is easy for us to yield our itegrity and responsibility to some accepted authority: beloved pastor, honored teacher, influential book-
Calling Christians to be priests to each other
All people of god, collectively and individually, are called as priests. This means that we are to care for each other. It means that Baptists have a level playing field when it comes to individual ministries. All ministries are called of God.
“Every individual has a responsibility to be concerned about himself enough to discover what he is made for. After he discovers his calling he should set out to do it with all the strength and power in his being. He should do it as if God Almighty called him at this particular moment in history to dot it… No matter how small one thinks his life’s work is…, he must realize that it has cosmic significance if he is serving humanity and doing the will of God-
Pastors are not called to monopolize ministry. They are called to equip all the saints of God for ministry.
“The church has to get out of the “house” with millions of priests, laypersons devoted to the redemption of the world”-
Interpreting the Bible in one’s own way
“It seems to me a great thing that Baptists are not chained by creeds, but have taken the Bible as their authority; the full significance of that principle has never yet appeared among us. We have paralyzed the Bible by turning it into a law-
“I could not deal with any crucial problem in thought and life without seeing text after text lift up its hands begging to be used. The Bible came alive to me–an amazing compendium of every kind of situation in human experience with the garnered wisdom of the ages to help in meeting them”-
BAPTISTS ARE A NON-
Every person has the right and responsibility of reading and interpreting scripture.
Allowing no hierarchy over the local congregation
“For Baptists, church freedom means that a local Baptist church has the right and responsibility to run its own affairs under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. No bishop or pastor, no civil leader or magistrate, no religious body or convention of churches can dictate to the local church. To permit such dictation is to abdicate freedom and obligation”-
Each local church is inspired directly by the Holy Spirit and each local church is accountable directly to God.
Baptists believe in the autonomy of the local church and the necessity for churches to be associatedtogether in order to do mission.
The local church is the highest expression of the church.