Southern Baptist Catholics?

Question
I belong to a Southern Baptist Church, and over heard acouple of members say that they were "not Protestants" in that they (the SBC) were not there and not involved in the Reformation. I have been reading as much church history as I can to try and give or find an answer for myself on the comment they made. The more I read, the more I get confused. Here are some questions I have:

  1. Are we not "all" under the umbrella of Protestantism? Because denominations are relatively new and man-made, are we not considered Protestants?
  2. The old statements of faith for the Southern Baptist Convention say that they believe in "election," so that would put us in the same camp as the Calvinists, right?
  3. What is your definition of "Protestant" and "Evangelical"?
  4. Does the Reformation apply to us today, and how would you respond to the statement the two church members made above, no matter what denomination you are in relation to the Reformation?
  5. How did the Southern Baptists begin in 1845? And baptists in general?
Answer
  1. As it is most commonly used today, the term "Protestant" refers to any church that has descended from the tradition of the Reformation, and to some that are closely associated with those churches. This includes churches like the Lutheran Church which began at that very time, as well as the churches which split off from these churches, and the churches which split off from those churches, etc. Some major churches which do not fall into the category of "Protestant" are the Roman Catholic Church, the various churches of Eastern Orthodoxy, the Coptic Church, and the Church of England (historically speaking, though some debate this point). The term originated as a description of particular German Lutheran princes, but came to be more broadly applied. While obviously some people reject being associated with the roots of the Reformation, and thus reject being called "Protestant," the term's most common referents these days include the Southern Baptist Church.

  2. All Bible-believing Christians affirm some kind of election because the Bible uses the word "election." Calvinists affirm a particular type of election known as "unconditional election," which is the doctrine that God elected people to salvation not on the basis of any quality or qualification they possessed or would possess (such faith). Originally, the Southern Baptist Church was Calvinistic in its doctrines of salvation, but not in its doctrines of the sacraments (most notably baptism, but also the Lord's Supper). Today, the denomination is not unified in its doctrines of salvation. Some churches and individuals are Calvinistic in this respect, others are not.

  3. "Protestant" is defined in #1 above. "Evangelical" most commonly means something to the effect of "affirming the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone," though this is not what everyone means by the term.

  4. The Reformation applies to us today insofar as it formed a theological tradition which continues to influence modern churches and modern thinking. The historic period of the Reformation is over, but the work of the Reformation is not over, and the impact of the Reformation is still felt strongly in theology, ecclesiology, tradition, and other areas. Personally, I would worry about statements regarding who is and who is not Protestant only to the degree that those statements led to errors in understanding history or theology. I'm not nearly as interested in what people call themselves as I am in what they believe, feel and do. If these statements caused such errors, I might simply point out that the term was not regularly used in the sense in which these individuals used it.

  5. The beginning of Baptists in general is somewhat difficult to pinpoint. Some people would trace their beginnings to the Anabaptists of the early 16th century, or even to earlier groups, but this is probably somewhat of a disservice to modern Baptists. The early Anabaptists were often fairly radical, and held many views not common to modern Baptists. It may be safer to say that throughout history there have been people who have taken the Baptist position on credo-baptism, and that at various times groups of these people have banded together to form churches and/or denominations. At any rate, by the time of the 17th century, Baptists had formed fairly distinct groups with some staying power, such as the Particular Baptists who were Calvinists, and the General Baptists who were Arminians. To my understanding, the Southern Baptists formed as a regional league of Baptist churches, probably for reasons of both theological and political affinity.

Related Material:

Can Catholics be Saved?
Are all Protestants going to Hell (Catholic Dogma)?

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Creative Delivery Systems at Third Millennium Ministries.