Primitive Baptist

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Primitive Baptists are a group of Baptists that have an historical connection to the missionary / anti-missionary controversy that divided Baptists of America in the early part of the 19th century. Those currently denominated Primitive Baptists consist of descendants of churches and ministers that opposed the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions (organized in 1814), as well as other innovations such as seminaries and temperance societies. Early leaders include Joshua Lawrence, John Leland, Daniel Parker, and John Taylor. Other names by which Primitive Baptists are known are Predestinarian Baptists, Old School Baptists, Regular Baptists, Particular Baptists and Hardshells. The word "Primitive" is sometimes taken by outsiders to mean "backward", but in context of this division among Baptists, it means "original". These churches attempt to retain and/or restore primitive (or original) patterns of church life, such as unsalaried ministers, a cappella singing and feet washing.

The Primitive Baptists can be sub-divided into four main groups: (1) Absolute Predestinarian; (2) Limited Predestinarian; (3) Progressive; and (4) Universalists. This last group is the smallest and consists of 5 or 6 small associations in Appalachia that adapted the theory of universal atonement to the doctrines of Primitive Baptists.

The Limited Predestinarians (also called Old Line, Conditionalists, etc.) are the largest group with around 50,000 members in about 1500 churches.

The Absolute Predestinarians are similar to the Limited Predestinarians, but hold to the absolute predestination of all things. They number about 350 churches.

The Progressive Primitive Baptists separated from the main body around the turn of the 20th century, and have adopted such practices as Sunday School, instrumental music, homes for the aged, and various auxiliaries to the church. They have about 8000 members in over 100 churches. In addition to these predominantly white Primitive Baptist groups, there are at least two types of Colored Primitive Baptists - Old School & National Primitive Baptist Convention of the U.S.A.. The Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists and Old Regular Baptists departed from the Primitive Baptists in the latter part of the 19th century.

The division of "Primitive Baptists" and "Missionary Baptists" cannot be recognized as occurring at one particular time. The Baptists of the early 19th century were separated by distance and lack of communication. In addition to this, each congregation was independent and autonomous. Though some confusion still existed as late as the 1840s, the declaration now known as the Black Rock Address clearly defined the issues and marked the separation of the two different philosophies. Representatives convened at Black Rock, Maryland on September 28, 1832 and set forth the "Primitive" position on tract societies, Sunday schools, Bible societies, missions, theological schools, and protracted meetings (revivals).


  • Primitive Baptists association minutes
  • Baptists Around the World, by Albert W. Wardin, Jr.
  • Handbook of Denominations, by Frank S. Mead & Samuel Hill
  • History of the Church of God, by Cushing B. & Sylvester Hassell
  • In the Hands of a Happy God, by Howard Dorgan

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