General Baptist

From Academic Kids

General Baptist is a generic term for Baptists that hold the view of a general atonement, as well as a specific name of groups of Baptists within the broader category.



Baptists were first identified by the name General Baptists in 17th century England. They were called General Baptists because they believed in a general atonement - holding that the death of Christ made salvation possible for any persons who voluntarily exercise faith in Christ. These churches were Arminian in tendency and held the possibility of falling from grace. The earliest known church of this type was founded about 1609 in Holland. Early leaders of the movement were Thomas Helwys and John Smyth (circa 1560-1612). Smyth was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1594, but received Baptist views by 1609. Helwys was a well-to-do layman. Smyth and Helwys gathered a band of believers in the Midlands, but migrated to Amsterdam, Holland in 1607. In 1611, Helwys led a small group back to England and established in Spitalfield what appears to have been the first General Baptist church on English soil. Smyth and Helwys were also ardent defenders of religious liberty for all men.

General Baptists slowly spread through England and into America, but never seemed to command as vital an existence as the Particular (or Calvinistic) Baptists. The English General Baptists declined due to several factors. Early Quaker converts were drawn from the General Baptists, and many other churches moved into Unitarianism. Most surviving Arminian elements would eventually be absorbed into the Baptist Union of Great Britain, though a few remain semi-autonomous as the Old Baptist Union.

In America, the General Baptists also declined and were often overtaken by the churches of the Regular Baptists. Remnants were probably responsible for the rise of the Free Will Baptists in North Carolina. Other groups have risen that have an Arminian general atonement emphasis, including the General Six-Principle Baptists and the General Association of General Baptists. Today (2005), the majority of English and American Baptist churches hold a moderately Calvinistic outlook, combining the general atonement whosoever will views of the General Baptists, with the total depravity and eternal security views of the Regular/Particular Baptists.


Present day groups of General Baptists include the Free Will Baptists, General Association of General Baptists, General Six-Principle Baptists, the Old Baptist Union, and Separate Baptists, representing over half a million Baptist Christians.

See also

External links


  • A History of the Baptists, by John T. Christian
  • Baptists Around the World, edited by Albert W. Wardin, Jr.
  • The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness, by H. Leon McBeth

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