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by Walter B. Shurden

Callaway Professor of Christianity

Executive Director, The Center for Baptist Studies

Mercer University, Macon, Georgia

Note: Dr. Shurden published this paper in Perspectives in Religious Studies, 25:4 (winter 1998) 321-340

Baptists do not agree on where they came from, who they are, or how they got that way. In other words, Baptists do not agree on their historical origin, their theological identity, or their subsequent denominational history. The widely circulated and highly stimulating document "Re-Envisioning Baptist Identity: A Manifesto for Baptist Communities in North America" (1) surfaces yet again for Baptists the important issues of origin, identity, and history. The Manifesto's primary concern appears to be the theological identity of Baptists at the end of the twentieth century, but theological identity for the Manifesto, and for the rest of us, is inevitably related to historical origins and subsequent history.

James McClendon, the theological father of the Manifesto, suggested that the Manifesto is a "conversation among friends." Count this article as a friendly talk-back to the Manifesto about the Baptist identity. It is important that I talk back because some people assumed, correctly or not, that the original draft of the document was to some degree directed at my 1993 book The Baptist Identity. Robert P. Jones's careful and critical contrast and critique of both the original draft of the Manifesto and The Baptist Identity appeared to document this assumption. (2) But Baptists, especially Baptist historians, should study the Manifesto and talk back to it, not only because they have been invited to do so, but because profiling the Baptist identity in a so-called post-denominational era and at the beginning of a new millennium is no minor matter. In my talk-back that follows I have sincere affirmations to share, serious reservations to voice, and honest questions to ask. Focusing my talk-back primarily on Baptist history, I want first to visit briefly the issue of Baptist identity. Following that I will address two of the major emphases of the Manifesto: the individual-communal nature of Baptist life and the notion of freedom in Baptist history. The historical issues, namely those of Baptist origins and the historical development of Baptists, important as they are, must wait for another day. (3)

Interpretations of the Baptist Identity

What is it that lies at the center of the Baptist vision of Christianity? Do Baptists have a core value from which the rest of their life emerges? What is our essential spiritual significance, our interior determinant? Is there a singular Baptist idea, ethos, or impulse out of which we live our lives of faith? The late Robert G. Torbet, revered American Baptist historian, suggested that, rather than pointing to one integrating factor, one must identify a group of principles that constitutes the Baptist identity. In the end, he may have been correct. (4)

A number of other Baptist historians and theologians, however, I included, have sought to discover a "core value" or a single hermeneutical motif around which one can cluster and interpret the several Baptist distinctives. Some of these motifs have been developed expansively and related comprehensively to Baptist theology, while others have simply been noted without much elaboration. Examples of some twentieth-century interpreters and their "core values" are as follows: E. Y. Mullins, "soul competency"; James D. Freeman, "the sovereignty of Christ" and "His personal, direct and undelegated authority over the souls of men"; Walter Rauschenbusch, "experimental religion"; W. T. Whitley, "the doctrine of the church"; H. Wheeler Robinson, "spiritual individualism," A British Baptist Statement of 1948, "the evangelical experience"; James Wm. McClendon, Jr., "shared awareness of the present Christian community as the primitive community and the eschatological community"; William H. Brackney, "believers' baptism by immersion" and "the voluntary spirit"; Eric H. Ohlmann, "soteriology"; E. Glenn Hinson, "voluntarism"; Glen Stassen, "the Lordship of Christ," and Philip Thompson, "the two-fold freedom of God." (5)

Significantly, while many of these interpreters utilized a single hermeneutical theme, they often began or concluded by listing a set of principles very similar to Torbet's. (6) Most such integrative approaches have been more of an effort to construct a door of entrance to understanding the Baptist identity than a crusade to define dogmatically the denominational identity in any singular or exclusive way. The motif, in other words, functions in a hermeneutical, not reductionistic, fashion. In truth, I find myself nodding affirmatively in reading most of the interpretations, much at some of them, only some at a few of them. Surely personal preferences will pull a Baptist toward one motif or another, but one can, in my judgment, take any number of these several approaches as long as one draws near to the cluster of remarkably similar "principles" Torbet and so many others have identified.

In The Baptist Identity I utilized the category of "freedom" as an integrative motif for understanding Baptist life, (7)

coming down unhesitatingly on the importance of the individual in Baptist life and speaking of "individualism" as a proper component of the Baptist identity. In doing so, however, I very deliberately sought to cast the concepts within polarities. (8) Not one but several polarities are necessary if one is to understand properly the Baptist identity: faith and freedom, freedom and responsibility, liberty and loyalty, the sovereignty of God and human freedom, independence and interdependence, and the individual and community. Regarding the latter, I said that Baptist life historically affirms the theme of "the individual in community." The Baptist vision of Christianity certainly does not envision individuals apart from churches, and it is impossible to conceive of the churches apart from individuals. Even when gladly siding with Stewart A. Newman on the centrality of the freedom and responsibility of the individual in the Free Church Tradition, I quickly added,

This is not, however, spiritual lone rangerism. While the individual is central, the individual is always an `individual in community'. Baptists do not understand the story line of the Bible as simply the heroic achievements of isolated individuals. Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Peter, and Paul are not pictured in the Bible as invincible individualists who, in their isolation, whipped the forces of evil. They are portrayed as people in community--Israel in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament--who are aware of historical identity and treasured traditions. They are in need of the genuine value of relationships. (9)

So, while utilizing the concept of "freedom" as one approach to understanding the Baptist vision, I did so by beginning with the individual and deliberately sought to encase the emphasis on individualism within the polarity of "individuals-in-community."

The Manifesto, proposing a Baptist "vision of freedom, faithfulness, and community," has different emphases. It calls Baptists to faithful discipleship, stressing "community" as the "core value" of Baptists while taking pains to describe what freedom is and is not. After an introduction that stresses the nature of freedom, the Manifesto makes five affirmations, concluding each affirmation with a "call" to other Baptists for adopting a free, faithful, and communal identity. The five affirmations are followed as a group by a conclusion. The Manifesto's first affirmation deals with the Bible, the second with discipleship, the third with the church, the fourth with the ordinances, and the fifth with a disestablished church that witnesses publicly to society.

The Individual/Communal Polarity and the Baptist Identity

The Manifesto stresses the "communal" nature of Baptist Christianity over against the individual dimension. In reading the Manifesto I often find myself saying, "I second the motion--some!" I "second the motion--some" in relation to the emphasis on community. In the first place, one can and should argue for the centrality of the church in Baptist life. Indeed, one may accurately say that what Baptists have given to the Christian world is an ecclesiology, not a theology. For someone to stress a "believers' church theology" as basic to Baptist life should not be mysterious to any Baptist historian. (10) The Church is an altogether valid hermeneutical "core value" for understanding the Baptist identity as long as one does not ignore the role of the individual.

Second, the Manifesto has touched an extremely vulnerable point in Baptist Christianity specifically and Protestant Christianity generally. The Roman Catholic Church, however, has been making this very point ever since the Protestant Reformation. Without question, Baptists have often drifted into a perverted privatistic faith. One can find all types of narcissism in Baptist life-- political, economic, romantic, liturgical, vocational, and spiritual. The Baptist tendency toward the privatizing of faith surely does not need to be documented for the readers of this journal.

With all the dangers Baptists face in privatizing and overly-individualizing discipleship, the Manifesto, because of its studied, strained, and unfortunate deemphasis on the role of the individual, nonetheless fails to paint a balanced picture of the Baptist identity. Present throughout the document, this recurring antithesis of the concept of community over against that of the individual occurs most clearly in the first two affirmations, those dealing with the Bible and discipleship. I shall address these below.

The Manifesto says, "We affirm Bible study in reading communities rather than relying on private interpretation or supposed 'scientific' objectivity." And later in the same affirmation: "Scripture wisely forbids and we reject every form of private interpretation that makes Bible reading a practice which can be carried out according to the dictates of individual conscience (2 Peter 1:20-21)." And further, "We therefore cannot commend Bible study that is insulated from the community of believers or that guarantees individual readers an unchecked privilege of interpretation." (11)

My first response on reading this was to ask very earnestly as some others have done, "Are you serious or are you just pulling our Baptist legs?" Here appears part of the enormous influence of Stanley Hauerwas on the Manifesto. Hauerwas, professor at Duke Divinity School and one of the most creative and provocative ethicists/theologians working today, suggested taking the Bible out of the hands of individual Christians. Hauerwas says that "No task is more important than for the Church to take the Bible out of the hands of individual Christians in North America." (12) Hauerwas continued, horrendously to my Baptist ears,

I certainly believe that God uses the Scripture to help keep the Church faithful, but I do not believe, in the Church's current circumstance, that each person in the Church thereby is given the right to interpret the Scripture. Such a presumption derives from the corrupt egalitarian politics of democratic regimes, not from the politics of the Church. The latter, as I will try to show, knows that the `right' reading of Scripture depends on having spiritual masters who can help the whole Church stand under the authority of God's Word. (13)

Hauerwas fails to make clear which "politics of the church" he means, but the appropriate Baptist response to this kind of theologizing is that Baptists were born reacting to and rejecting the idea of "spiritual masters." The right and responsibility of private interpretation of Scripture is most certainly part of the "politics" of Baptist church polity. One may argue that Baptists, along with many other Protestants, are theologically wrong in calling for the personal interpretation of Scripture, but one cannot argue that Baptists historically have not embraced the idea. The fact of the matter is that Baptist history contradicts this kind of theologizing. While the Manifesto is not nearly as bold or extreme in its statement as Hauerwas, both Hauerwas and the Manifesto are very far in this regard from what I understand both the Protestant and the historical Baptist point of view to be. In this connection, I am not sure I have ever seen a statement on the Baptist identity proposing the denial of private interpretation of Scripture prior to the Manifesto.

Seventeenth-century Baptists on both sides of the Atlantic were unmistakably clear about their right and responsibility to go to Scripture for themselves. The Second London Confession argued that Scripture should be translated from Hebrew and Greek because "these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them." (14) In the colonies John Clarke, the most significant Baptist in seventeenth-century New England, admonished the individual Christian "to search the Scriptures and therein to wait for the power and glory of the spirit of God." (15) Obadiah Holmes, Clarke's successor and friend at Newport, while urging his church members to honor their future clergy, said,

Be much with God in secret; try what you hear whether it be according to truth, and take nothing from any man until you have tried it and well digested it by a good understanding. Often examine yourselves, and lean not to other men's judgments; beware of falls; endeavor and see that your evidence be good, which is alone the Spirit of God with your own spirit according to the Scriptures. Be much in holy meditation; read the Scriptures carefully. (16)

A casual reading of Obadiah Holmes's seventeenth-century document, "Testimony to the Church" reveals the clear sanctioning of private interpretation of Scripture, a substantial dose of healthy individualism, and a firm commitment to the local community of believers, all within the context of a theological Calvinism so strict that most Baptists today would have difficulty squeezing into it. For Baptists, private interpretation of Scripture is not a post-Enlightenment appropriation of democratic individualism and egalitarianism; it is part of their earliest seventeenth-century heritage. (17)

The Manifesto, in its zeal for advocating a legitimate role for the community of believers, negates a powerful part of the Baptist heritage concerning the individual. Not only so, but the Manifesto references a highly questionable verse of Scripture (2 Peter 1: 20-21) in doing so. No part of the Baptist tradition that I am familiar with proposes that final, ultimate, and absolute authority is invested in individual intepretation. The individual is always an "individual-in-community" in Baptist life. So while agreeing that no Baptist individual has papal-like freedom to interpret Scripture in any final sense, one seriously wonders what "community of believers" the Manifesto would authorize to "check" the individual's interpretation. Frankly, I hope it is the local congregation of believers and that the Manifesto is not suggesting an authoritarian connectionalism in Baptist life that our congregationalism will not support. (18) It would help if the Manifesto unpacked the meaning of "community" as it relates practically and in polity-issues to Baptist life.

If the fear driving the Manifesto's statement is the idea that any Baptist can believe anything she or he wishes and remain in a local congregation of Baptist believers, one has some sympathy. Baptists have never endorsed or embraced that kind of theological anarchy. However, the importance of the individual, including the individual's free access and encouragement to read and interpret the Bible, while admittedly freighted with difficulties, as the Catholic Church has long and rightly claimed, (19) is basic to an understanding of the Baptist identity. Moreover, one has the sense that the Manifesto is concerned more with "authority" and "order" than with "freedom." This is a long-standing tension in Baptist life.

Two relatively recent statements on the Baptist identity, one from Europe and one from America, reflect a far more balanced approach than that exhibited in the Manifesto. The statement known as "Baptist Distinctives and Diversities," drafted in 1964 not by one but by six different Baptist denominational bodies in North America said, "The Christian is free to read the Bible and be guided to its meaning by the Holy Spirit. In becoming a part of the witness of a local church, however, one's freedom in doctrinal interpretation and personal behavior is tempered by the convictions and needs of the community of believers." (20) In a similar vein, a study paper issued by the Division for Theology and Education of the European Baptist Federation as recently as 1993 said, "While individual believers must always allow their intepretation of Scripture to be illuminated by the understanding of the wider Christian community, they have the final right to discern for themselves what God is saying to them through the word and by the Spirit." (21) These two statements taken together suggest an accurate Baptist limitation on individual freedom. Given Baptist polity, however, only one of the limitations, the first, could be enforced.

In its second affirmation the Manifesto says: "We affirm following Jesus as a call to shared discipleship rather than invoking a theory of soul competency." And in the next paragraph it states: "We reject all accounts of following Jesus that construe faith as a private matter between God and the individual or as an activity of competent souls who inherently enjoy unmediated, unassailable and disembodied experience with God." (22) Again, "I second the motion--some."

The Manifesto's rather harsh exclusion of "soul competency" and "all accounts" of following Jesus "as a private matter between God and the individual" is understandable on the one hand and troubling to the point of perplexity on the other. It is understandable because the privatization of faith appears on every hand in American culture today. Baptists, as stated above, are not now nor have they ever been exempt from such privatization. A church in my city recently sponsored a "JAM" session, a "Jesus and Me" seminar. It sounded too much like "He walks with me and talks with me and tells me that I am His own."

But the Manifesto's statement on "shared discipleship" is troubling because of what it minimizes. Intended or not, there appears to be a lessening of the direct, personal nature of faith, the singular idea standing behind the concept of soul competency. What gives dynamism to the life of a Baptist church is the deep and devoted personal faith that individuals bring to the corporate body of believers. One hopes that the Manifesto is saying that faith is more than private rather than implying that it is not profoundly personal and deeply individualistic.

A personal faith born in the privacy of the human heart is of the essence of both Baptist and Protestant life. Carlyle Marney, another individualistic Baptist if ever there was one, spoke correctly when he denounced "bastard individualism." On the other hand, Marney never tired of telling the story of the rabbi, the priest, and the average Protestant. Said Marney: "The rabbi begins, 'Thus saith the Lord!' The priest begins, 'As the Church has always said. . . .' The average Protestant begins, 'Now, brethren, it seems to me. . . .'" Marney said that the story was told as a joke at a Jewish-Christian dialogue. Then he added: "But I take it as a serious distinction! This is legitimate. The Protestant affirms his being, his selfhood. For it matters as to what 'it' seems to him. It is the thrust of his 'I am.'" (23) One may only add that most historians, non-Baptists as well as Baptists, have viewed Baptists as among the most individualistic of Protestants.

Long before Marney, however, Baptists uttered such experiential, individualistic, and private understandings of faith. Article XXV of the First London Confession of 1644 captures something of this when it said: "That the tenders of the Gospel to the conversion of sinners, is absolutely free, no way requiring, as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, terrors of the Law, or preceding Ministry of the Law, but onely and alone the naked soule, as a sinner and ungodly to receive Christ, as crucified, dead, and buried, and risen againe, being made a Prince and a Saviour for such sinners." (24)

Thomas Helwys, and other seventeenth-century Baptists, stiff-armed the intervention of civil government in the life of the soul partly on the grounds that "men's religion to God is between God and themselves." Individuals, therefore, were accountable to God alone. (25) On this side of the Atlantic, Obadiah Holmes's faith was so personal and private that his biographer, Edwin Gaustad, suggested that Holmes flirted with the temptation of dispensing with all the externals of "churches, ministers, ordinances, and even scriptures." But in the end, Gaustad added, Holmes steered a middle course between those who placed too much emphasis on forms, such as the Seventh Day Baptists and those who placed too little such as the Quakers. (26) In their 1948 statement on the church British Baptists said, "The basis of our membership in the church is a conscious and deliberate acceptance of Christ as Saviour and Lord by each individual. There is, we hold, a personal crisis in the soul's life when a person stands alone in God's presence, responds to God's gracious activity, accepts His forgiveness and commits to the Christian way of life." (27)

To insist that saving faith is personal not impersonal, relational not ritualistic, direct not indirect, private not corporate has never meant for Baptists that the Christian life is a privatized disengagement from either the church or society. Indeed, those notable Baptist voices insisting the loudest on the experiential and private nature of faith were the very ones who argued vigorously for the communal and public nature of discipleship. John Clifford of England, loyal pastor of Praed Street Baptist Church in London for almost six decades, twice president of the British Baptist Union, the first elected president of the Baptist World Alliance, and the president of the National Free Church Council, could hardly, given this record of "community" participation, be accused of spiritual privatism. Yet Clifford described Baptists as advocates of "an eager, intense, and sanctified individualism," saying that "spiritual experience " was "the basis of our free and voluntary association as churches." (28) Likewise, Walter Rauschenbusch, father of the Social Gospel and devoted churchman, gave "experimental religion" as his first reason for being Baptist. Immediately, however, Rauschenbusch followed up his discussion of "experimental religion" by saying, "But religion is not a purely individual matter." (29)

"Soul Competency" as Mullins used the term, (30) "Soul Liberty" as Clifford used the term, and "Soul Freedom" as I have used the term never restricted discipleship to a "disembodied experience with God," whatever that is! Both Mullins and Clifford did mean to say, however, and I and most Baptist historians gladly join them, that discipleship begins with an awareness of God that is intensely personal, private, and uncoerced, allowing no proxies, and where each individual is accountable to God.

Surely "faith as a private matter between God and the individual" is not the whole of discipleship. But neither is what Baptists have meant by private faith a mindless sashay into some type of deviant New-Age individualism, void of any sense of church. It is, according to the Baptist tradition, where discipleship begins and where it returns again and again for much of its staying power. It is also where the church, according to Baptists, is born.

Glenn Hinson, one of our few Baptist mystics, has warned Baptists repeatedly of the dangers of individualism, but he was also correct when he said,

If one ranged church groups across a spectrum from extreme individualism and voluntarism, where the Holy Spirit is seen to effect obedience through the individual will, to extreme corporatism and intentionalism, where the Holy Spirit is seen to effect obedience through the corporate will, at the beginning Baptists would have occupied the extreme individualist/voluntarist end of the spectrum and Roman Catholics the extreme corporatist/intentionalist end. . . .Most Baptists have remained near the individualist/voluntarist pole throughout their history. (31)

The Baptist Notion of Freedom and the Baptist Identity

The Manifesto, as do most statements on the Baptist identity and as did I in The Baptist Identity, profiles the Baptist identity in light of the historic Baptist concern for freedom. Describing itself as a Baptist vision of "freedom, faithfulness, and community," the Manifesto uses the word "freedom" some fifty times or more. The freedom factor--its source, its meaning, and its applications-- is viewed as an integral component of the Baptist identity in the Manifesto.

As I could conscientiously "second the motion--some" in talking about the Manifesto's understanding of community, I can also "second the motion--some" regarding the Manifesto's concept of freedom. Indeed, at several points in speaking of freedom, the Manifesto speaks powerfully and with relevance to the beginning of a new century. Let me identify a few of these quickly.

First, the Manifesto underscores rightly that for early Baptists God is the true source of all freedom. (32) The Manifesto wants to be certain that the reader understands that freedom is theologically, not humanistically, rooted; freedom originates in God's will, not the human will. Actually, Baptists grounded their contention for liberty of conscience in several arguments, (33) but behind all of these lay the belief in God's sovereignty. Early Baptists, without question, rooted religious freedom in the nature of God.

A sovereign God who dared to create people as free beings is portrayed in the Bible as a liberating Deity. Throughout the Old Testament, God is set against persons and institutions that restricted the freedom of God's people. And the complete thrust of Jesus' ministry was to free people from all that would hold them back from obedience to God. Freedom for Baptists was far more than a constitutional right or a governmental gift. God, not nations or courts or human law, is the ultimate source of liberty. The same line of argument, I contend, in contrast to the Manifesto, has been true for later Baptists as well, including Isaac Backus, John Leland, and E. Y. Mullins. Said Mullins, echoing the Second London Confession and later incorporating it into the SBC Baptist Faith and Message, "The great principle underlying religious liberty is this: God alone is Lord of the Conscience." (34)

One of the glories of the Baptist heritage has been the advocacy and protection of human rights, just as one of the tragedies of our Baptist heritage is the way we Baptists have, in too many instances, resisted human rights. In 1980 the Baptist World Alliance adopted a statement from its "Commission on Freedom, Justice, and Peace " on human rights chaired by William W. Pinson, Jr. Rather than basing the statement on some humanistic notion of an autonomous self, the Commission rooted it theologically. "Human rights are derived from God--from his nature, his creation, and his commands," said the BWA's Commission. (35)

Second, the Manifesto insists that freedom is not a license, "something that we possess for ourselves to use for our own ends." (36) A good seventeenth-century Baptist prooftext for such an emphasis may be found in the third section of Article 21 of the Second London Confession. (37) That kind of call to responsible discipleship abounds in early Baptist writings. Baptists, of course, must not permit their profile of the Baptist identity regarding freedom to be sketched apart from the corresponding note of responsibility and accountability.

Third, the Manifesto affirms that authentic freedom is found in the Jesus way of living and being. Gospel Freedom, it says, cannot be defined "as the pursuit of self-realization apart from the model of Jesus Christ." This theme echoes throughout the document. "By following the call to discipleship we discover true freedom," it says. And again, "God therefore calls us to the freedom of faithful discipleship by participating in the way of Jesus." (38) While these statements appear to be more characteristic of the broader Christian identity than the specific Baptist identity, they certainly constitute significant notes for Baptists to strike at the beginning of a new millennium. The Christocentric character of the Manifesto, so prevalent at many points, is highlighted in these quotations. The Manifesto's call to "faithful" discipleship is certainly one of the strengths of the entire document.

Fourth, one of the most prophetic statements in the Manifesto appears in the final affirmation where it speaks of the disestablishment of the church:

We further believe that in order for our free church witness to be faithful we must do more than seek institutional independence of civil authorities. We must also continue to press for the independence of the church from the idols of nationalism, racism, ethnocentrism, economic systems, gender domination, or any other power that resists the Lordship of Jesus Christ. (39)

The Manifesto goes on to say, "Nor can we accept terms of agreement with nation-states which sequester the authority of faith to a private, internal, individual, and narrow sphere." While I agree that the Manifesto sounds far too optimistic about the possibility of political and cultural independency, (40) one must certainly identify with the Manifesto, in light of the Baptist heritage, and reject "any attempt to establish a vision of the church, whether Baptist or any other, by means of civil or political power." The Baptist identity surely demands that we disavow, in the words of the Manifesto, "all . . . constantinian strategies." (41)

I come away from the Manifesto, despite its many strengths in speaking of freedom, with serious reservations regarding its description of the Baptist identity vis-a-vis the concept of freedom. Most significantly and inexplicably, the Manifesto contains at best a muted emphasis on liberty of conscience for all people. Can the Baptist identity be appropriately sketched by any group, Baptist or otherwise, apart from the loud trumpeting of this principle? I doubt it. In light of the enviable and courageous history of Baptists on this point, a history acknowledged by non-Baptists as well as Baptists and by secular as well as church historians, one can only be surprised that a statement on the Baptist identity virtually bypassed the theme of freedom of conscience for all.

Specifically, three dimensions of the Manifesto's discussion of freedom are problematic in light of my reading of Baptist history. First, the Manifesto stresses the freedom that comes in redemption and neglects the freedom that comes with creation. Second, and closely related, the Manifesto stresses the freedom that comes to the church and neglects the freedom that comes to individuals. Three, the Manifesto stresses the disestablishment of the church while minimizing freedom of conscience for all.

Regarding the first issue, the Manifesto seems to restrict freedom to the people of God who have been redeemed rather than to all who have been created. In making the point that freedom is a gift of God, the Manifesto seems to say that such freedom is restricted to Christians. Does it intend this? It speaks of "the freedom graciously given by God in Jesus Christ" and of "freedom in Christ" and "the gift of freedom in Jesus Christ." "Human freedom exists," it says, only in relationship with the Triune God...." Granted, one must insist that "freedom in Christ" is a gift, but is this the distinctive idea that shaped the Baptist identity among early Baptists? I think not. Rather, what distinguished early Baptists was the conviction that all human beings, redeemed or not, have a God-given freedom to follow conscience in matters spiritual and religious. Early Baptists, as did other Christians of the their time, assumed that freedom for living fully, authentically, and genuinely was found in Jesus Christ. Where Baptists differed with their culture was believing that people had as a gift from God the right to choose that path. Freedom came with creation, as well as with redemption.

Glen Stassen has made this point crisply with his most significant and relatively unknown essay, "The Christian Origin of Human Rights." Insisting rightly that the origin of human rights is not found in the rationalism and individualism of the Enlightenment but in the free churches at the time of the Puritan Revolution, Stassen described seventeenth-century Baptist Richard Overton as the "pioneer of human rights." Basing his arguments for human freedoms on reason, experience, and Scripture, Overton did not limit his concerns to religious or political liberties. All such liberties, however, came with being human. Stassen says of Overton, "The rights Overton is advocating clearly belong to all because all persons are created in the image of God and all are the objects of God's love shown in Christ's sacrificial death on the cross." (42) Roger Williams, who drew from earlier Baptist tracts on religious liberty and influenced later ones, said, "It is the will and command of God that, since the coming of his Son the Lord Jesus, a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-christian consciences and worships be granted to all men in all nations and countries." (43) John Clarke made something of the same point by insisting that deprivation of religious freedom was not only unbiblical, unChristlike, and unspiritual, but it was also unnatural. (44)

Secondly, the Manifesto, in keeping with its communal focus, underscores the gift of freedom that comes to the church and neglects unnecessarily and out of hand the gift of freedom that comes to each individual. In somewhat repetitive fashion, freedom, says the Manifesto, is for "the new creation," it "cannot be understood apart from the fellowship of the Holy Spirit," it is "the freedom of God's people," and it is something "we encounter through the divine community of the triune God and with the Christian fellowship that shares in this holy communion." (45) Understandably fearful of "modern notions of freedom" that lead to excessive individualism and in which "the mere expression of the will is the greatest good" and believing that such notions have affected contemporary Baptists in North America, the Manifesto overlooks the vast Baptist heritage which identifies freedom with individuals, especially freedom of conscience.

Seventeenth-century Baptists in England and America were stalwart advocates of individual freedom. Does one really need to document that fact with the writings of Smyth, Helwys, Busher, Murton, Roger Williams, John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes, to say nothing of Isaac Backus and John Leland and others? Of course they believed that the ultimate source of freedom was Divine, not human. Of course they (except for the later Williams) believed that the Christian life centered in the community of believers. But they also believed in and were advocates for individual freedom. John Clarke argued in Ill Newes on multiple grounds for liberty of conscience. But one of these grounds was the idea that "the voice of each mans conscience [was] to him as the voice of his God." (46)

William G. McLoughlin argued, persuasively but not conclusively, that pietism is the "key" to the American character. He was certainly correct, however, in identifying two kinds of pietism in seventeenth-century America. "Conservative Pietists," the Congregationalists, represented the Established Church. "Liberal Pietists," the Baptists and Quakers, represented dissenters and those struggling for freedom of individual conscience. The first, said McLoughlin, were concerned with moral order; the second with moral freedom. The first wanted to keep the society moral; the second wanted to keep the society moral while protecting individual freedoms. (47)

The Manifesto is concerned that freedom is imperiled in contemporary denominational life by some Baptists "who would sever freedom from . . . membership in the body of Christ and the community's legitimate authority." (48) That is exactly what the seventeenth-century establishment in England and America said of Baptists of their day. (49) And how did the Baptists answer? They said that they were only trying to escape the tyranny of the community so as to have genuine freedom for individuals and the church to be obedient to God's Spirit and Holy Scripture. John Smyth, who never rose to the heights of freedom of conscience as did some of his Baptist successors, said that the magistrates were "to leave Christian religion free, to every man's conscience." Why? Because "Christ only is the king, and lawgiver of the church and conscience." (50)

In the important debate of 1668 the Puritans made numerous accusations against the Baptists, one of which was the incredible idea that Baptists believed in liberty of conscience for "every single person." (51) During that debate Thomas Shepard, a Puritan clergy, sounded the communitarian note when he said, "A particular person may not judge the whole: but is to be subject to the whole." Thomas Goold, founding pastor of the First Baptist Church of Boston, responded with both the individual's right to personal interpretation of Scripture and the individual's freedom to judge the church according to Scripture, saying, "a private member may cast them off." Responding to Goold, one Puritan said, "A dangerous inference. Because the all-seeing God may do it: therefore Goodman Goold a fallible judge and running to many errors may." (52)

Three, the Manifesto stresses the disestablishment of the church while minimizing freedom of conscience for all. In its fifth and final affirmation the Manifesto makes a powerful and relevant case for the disestablishment of the church, not only from the control of the state but from the domination of culture. (53) The latter point may derive from the Manifesto's fondness for the Anabaptist tradition. But the historic Baptist concern to affirm "freedom and renounce coercion" was not simply a sectarian concern that the church be disestablished from the civil, political, and cultural forces, as important as that was and is. Rather, seventeenth-century Baptists, when it came to the freedom issue, were concerned primarily that all human beings be free to embrace what Leonard Busher called in Religion's Peace "a meek and gentle lamb." That "meek and gentle lamb" was permission of conscience. In fact, a case can be made that Baptists' initial concern was for freedom to believe, worship, and live according to conscience. That was the Baptist struggle of the seventeenth century. As they moved into the eighteenth century Baptists began pulling down the establishment and plugging away at separation of church and state. (54)

I am not even close to suggesting that the authors of the Manifesto do not believe in religious freedom for all people. I know better. What I am suggesting, however, is that I do not know of a description of the Baptist identity anywhere that would not place universal freedom of conscience and religious liberty at the very center of the Baptist identity. But not only was this not a cardinal theme of the Manifesto's re-envisioning of the Baptist identity, it was, it seems, only reluctantly mentioned in the document.

A major part of this reluctance, it seems to me, is the Manifesto's concern that "some Baptists . . . [have] embraced modernity by defining freedom in terms of the Enlightenment notions of autonomous moral agency and objective rationality." (55) While I doubt seriously the historical accuracy of the description, let's say, for the sake of argument, it is correct. Should we, therefore, minimize an historic characteristic of the Baptist people simply because we think that some of their successors got it from the wrong source?

Are we not all acquainted with the story of how Baptists in America united with those of diverse religious views, many of whom were exceedingly rationalistic, to move closer to the idea of freedom of conscience for all? What Stassen observed about human rights in general can be applied to the Baptist drive in America for liberty of conscience in particular: "The ethic of human rights can be a universal ethic, not because its source is a common philosophy believed by all people but because its intention and application affirm the rights of all persons." (56) No wonder Helwys said, "Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not the earthly power to punish them in the least measure." (57) The Baptist identity statement issued by the Commission on Baptist Heritage of the Baptist World Alliance in 1989 said, "Baptists were among the first to campaign for liberation of opinion and religious practice, not only for themselves but for all people, including the unbeliever, for they believed that each individual needed to be free to make choices about faith and commitment unfettered by any outside agency." (58) Maybe the most serious oversight in the Manifesto's effort to reinterpret the Baptist identity is its neglect of one of the major tiles in the mosaic of the Baptist identity. I am not suggesting that there is only one way to talk about freedom of conscience as a part of the Baptist identity. I am suggesting, however, that one cannot talk about the Baptist identity without talking about freedom of conscience for all.


Is it possible, as the Manifesto wishes to do, to re-envision the Baptist identity? Not only is it possible, it is necessary. Baptist life is dynamic, not static. Every generation of Baptists must seek to make the essence of Baptist life understandable to its day. Many have attempted during the four hundred years of Baptist Christianity to reinterpret the denominational identity. When in 1908 E. Y. Mullins wrote his now classic The Axioms of Religion, he subtitled it "A New Interpretation of the Baptist Faith." Baptists do not have an unchanging "Deposit of Truth" as the Catholics once claimed for themselves.

On the other hand, I agree with Robert Torbet that Baptists possess some principles-distinctives-traditions, what an American Baptist statement called "convictional genes," that anchor the Baptist identity. These "genes" transcend generational, national, regional, ethnic, and theological preferences. Again, this is precisely why I think in the twentieth century one does well to go to the proceedings of the Baptist World Alliance to find these genes. These "genes" may be placed under the theological microscope and interpreted from various angles, and that is why we come up with different "visions" of the Baptist identity. When I stare at these Baptist genes through the lenses of four centuries of Baptist history, I see "voluntarism" as the glue that holds the "convictional genes" together.

For me, one of those genes has to do with the centrality of the individual, the individual's religious experience with God, the individual's freedom from God, the individual's freedom of conscience. To stress the individual is not to suggest that Baptists are Roger Williams-like-seekers, untethered to the church. I think, however, that Edwin Gaustad was right when he said that "Baptists indeed stand for individualism above institutionalism, for the reforming prophet more than the conforming priest, for a pietism that is private and personal before it can properly become public and social." (59) The Manifesto, fearing rightly the perversions of individualism in modern culture and religion, failed to distinguish sufficiently the modern perversions from the historic Baptist affirmations. Consequently, the Manifesto could not appreciate adequately the importance of the individual in re-envisioning the Baptist identity.

A second Baptist gene has to do with the centrality of the church, especially the local church, its regenerate nature, its final authority in the life of believers, its congregational polity, its fear of external authorities, and its call to minister freely but responsibly in its setting. While I assume the Manifesto meant primarily "church" when it used "community," I wish it, and all the rest of us. would work harder at making this point clearer. Specifically, I would like to hear more from the authors of the Manifesto about how "community" actually works itself out in Baptist life. For example, when the Manifesto speaks of "the community's legitimate authority," what "community" and what "authority" does it reference for Baptist life?

On the whole, however, the Manifesto helps us to understand that the "church gene" in Baptist life does not simply consist of hundreds or thousands of independent molecules "doing their own thing." Baptist individuals live out their faith in local churches. Beyond the local communities of faith, a very important part of the "church gene" in Baptist history has to do with the universal body of believers. This part of the Baptist gene deals more, of course, with attitudes than with polity, with ideals than with function.

A third Baptist "gene,"as most all my writings attest, is the "freedom" gene. I interpret it as central to the Baptist identity. The Manifesto contains, as I have said, some needful and relevant ideas on freedom. I wish it had a much stronger statement on freedom of conscience and religious liberty. Also, I must confess that when reading the Manifesto, I get an uneasy feeling about its commitment to Baptist freedom in general. I subtitled my book on Baptist identity Four Fragile Freedoms. After studying the Manifesto, I quite honestly wonder if Baptist freedom is not more fragile than I first thought.

For me, the strength of the Manifesto's threefold call to Baptists of "freedom, faithfulness, and community" is clearly in the "faithfulness" dimension of the call. The Manifesto breathes a seriousness about following Jesus. Whatever it means to be a Baptist Christian, or a Christian of any kind for that matter, it means surely to take seriously what Jesus took seriously, to be committed to what Jesus was committed to. When we take seriously what Jesus took seriously, we often transcend the preoccupation with denominational distinctives. I am of the opinion that this is what the Manifesto does. In truth, Jesus' words on baptism--its mode, subject, and administrator--are about as plentiful as his words on circumcision, the priesthood of all believers, and the appropriate form of church government, which are nonexistent.

While the document by title and intent focuses on denominational identity, the Manifesto manifests concerns for a serious Christian discipleship that transcend the primary subject of the document-- re-envisioning the Baptist identity. The Manifesto's concerns for "peace" and "justice" are doubtless rooted in its fondness of Anabaptism. While Baptists have never been numbered among the historic "Peace Churches," the call for peace and justice is a noble one. In this connection, one may not be too far off base saying, as Fisher Humphreys said and in a positive rather than pejorative vein, that the Manifesto is "an Anabaptist tract for the times." (60) For me, the document reinterprets the Baptist identity too much in terms of the Anabaptist identity, though I also acknowledge a strong Calvinistic emphasis in the document as well.

I could not in my voluntaristic-freedom-loving-Thomas Helwys-Leonard Busher-John Murton-John Clarke-Obadiah Holmes-Isaac Backus-John Leland-E.Y, Mullins-Baptist fashion sign the document. On the other hand, I revel in the Baptist freedom that no ecclesiastical community can tell a group of Baptists, including the authors of the Manifesto, what they can say and cannot say, what they can sign or not sign. That is part of what I mean by voluntarism.



1. "Re-Envisioning Baptist Identity: A Manifesto for Baptist Communities in North America," Perspectives in Religious Studies 24:3 (fall 1997) 303-310. Hereafter Manifesto.

2. See Robert P. Jones, "Re-Envisioning Baptist Identity from a Theocentric Perspective: An Essay on the Occasion of James M. Gustafson's Gift to the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University," unpublished paper, Emory University, 29 June 1998.

3. For an interpretation of the historical development of Baptists from the Manifesto perspective see Curtis W. Freeman, "Can Baptist Theology Be Revisioned?" Perspectives in Religious Studies 24:3 (fall 1997) 273-302.

4. See Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptists (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1950) 15-34. Torbet listed the following as Baptist principles: The Bible as the norm for faith and practice, the church as composed of baptized believers, the priesthood of believers and the autonomy of the local congregation, and religious liberty and the separation of church and state. Others prior and subsequent to Torbet have taken the same approach of delineating the Baptist identity by listing a group of principles. While often the list of principles vary, they do not do so in major ways. See, as examples, William Bullein Johnson, The Gospel Developed through the Government and order of the Churches of Jesus Christ (Richmond: H. K. Ellyson, 1846) 16; A. H. Newman, A History of the Baptist Churches in the United States (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1894) 1-8; Henry Cook, What Baptists Stand For (London: The Carey Kingsgate Press, 1947), and "Towards A Baptist Identity: A Statement Ratified by the Baptist Heritage Commission of the Baptist World Alliance," July, 1989, in Walter B. Shurden, The Baptist Identity (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 1993) 66.

5. For these interpreters and their interpretations in the order listed above, see, E. Y. Mullins, The Axioms of Religion (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1908); John D. Freeman, "The Place of Baptists in the Christian Church," in The Life of Baptists in the Life of the World, ed. Walter B. Shurden (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1985) 19-29; Walter Rauschenbusch, "Why I Am A Baptist," in A Baptist Treasury, ed. Sydnor L. Stealey (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1958) 163-84; W. T. Whitley, A History of British Baptists second ed. (London: The Kingsgate Press, 1932) 4; H. Wheeler Robinson, The Life and Faith of the Baptists (London: The Kingsgate Press, 1946) 123; "The Baptist Doctrine of the Church," in Shurden, The Baptist Identity, 94; James Wm. McClendon, Jr., Systematic Theology: Ethics (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986) 31; William H. Brackney, "`Commonly, (Though Falsely) Called . . .': Reflections on the Search for Baptist Identity," Perspectives in Religious Studies 13, no. 4 (winter 1986) 67-82 and "Voluntarism Is a Flagship of the Baptist Tradition," in Defining Baptist Convictions: Guidelines for the Twenty-First Century, ed. Charles W. Deweese (Franklin TN: Providence House Publishers, 1996) 86-94; Eric H. Ohlmann, "The Essence of Baptists: A Reexamination," Perspectives in Religious Studies 13, no.4 (winter 1986) 83-104; E. Glenn Hinson, "The Changing Face of Baptists: A Global Perspective," The Whitsitt Journal 5, no. 2 (winter 1998) 7-10 and his four chapters in Are Southern Baptists "Evangelicals"? by James Leo Garrett, Jr., E. Glenn Hinson, and James E. Tull (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1983) 131-94; Glen Stassen, "Finding the Evidence for Christ-Centered Discipleship in Baptist Origins by Opening Menno Simons' Foundation Book," unpublished paper; Philip E. Thompson, "People of the Free God: The Passion of Seventeenth-Century Baptists," American Baptist Quarterly 15, no. 3 (September 1996) 223-241.

6. Illustrative of this pattern are Mullins, McClendon, Stassen, and Shurden, among others.

7. Like everything else, my selection of the word "freedom" has a history. It came as a result of a 1985 book I compiled, consisting of addresses delivered at the Baptist World Congresses from 1905 to 1985. In my judgment, if you want to know the essence of Baptist Christianity today, you must transcend national, regional, theological, and ethnic peculiarities; the best, and maybe "only," place to accomplish that is to go to the proceedings of the Baptist World Alliance. In going there I, of course, assumed some general continuity of the BWA in the twentieth century with the previous three centuries of Baptist life. In the conclusion of that book I wrote, "So if there is a single, recurring, and almost monotonous theme in these BWA documents, it is that of freedom." See Shurden, ed. The Life of Baptists, 255. Frankly, I preferred then and prefer now the word "voluntary" or "voluntarism" to describe the central motif of Baptist life. But a careful student of the English language cautioned against the use of the word, saying, "The average person will not know what 'voluntarism' means." I think that is probably correct. But I am not at all sure that the average person knows what the word "freedom" means either. I also considered using the word "choice" as a motif but discarded it because of its association with the abortion debate. So I settled on "freedom" and used the word to describe, not a single Baptist distinctive, but a specific style of faith, a distinctive posture of faith, a particular attitude toward the issues of faith. In The Baptist Identity I applied "freedom" (voluntarism) to the Baptist view of salvation, which I called "Soul Freedom," to the Baptist view of religious authority ("Bible Freedom"), to the Baptist view of church ("Church Freedom"), and to the Baptist view of the state ("Religious Freedom").

8. This is no novel approach to be sure. For an explicit but abbreviated example of the use of polarities and one that also utilized the individual-community motif, see Stanley Grenz's presidential address at the 1990 NABPR meeting in New Orleans, "Maintaining the Balanced Life: The Baptist Vision of Spirituality," Perspectives in Religious Studies 18:1 (spring 1991) 59-68. The late Penrose St. Amant appropriated often and extensively the polarities approach in his writings about Baptists; see my "C. Penrose St. Amant: Interpreter of the Baptist Vision," Perspectives in Religious Studies 16 (winter 1989) 73-87.

9. Shurden, The Baptist Identity, 34. See also pp. 4, 26, 27, 56, and Walter B. Shurden, ed., Proclaiming the Baptist Vision: The Church (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc., 1996) 9; "Southern Baptist Theology Today: An Interview with Walter Shurden," The Theological Educator 36 (fall 1987) 27. Newman's book is Stewart A. Newman, A Free Church Perspective: A Study in Ecclesiology (Wake Forest NC: Stevens Book Press, 1986).

10. See, for example, Ernest A. Payne, The Fellowship of Believers: Baptist Thought and Practice Yesterday and Today (London: The Carey Kingsgate Press LTD., 1952).

11. Manifesto, 304-305.

12. Stanley Hauerwas, Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America (Nashville, Abingdon, 1993) 15.

13. Hauerwas, 16.

14. As cited in William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, revised ed. (Valley Forge: The Judson Press, 1969) 251. See also Thomas Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1998), edited and introduced by Richard Groves, 15, 42-43, 55.

15. John Clarke, Ill-Newes from New England, in Colonial Baptists: Massachusetts and Rhode Island, advisory ed. Edwin S. Gaustad (New York: Arno Press, 1980) 21.

16. Cited in Edwin S. Gaustad, ed. Baptist Piety: The Last Will and Testament of Obadiah Holmes (Grand Rapids MI: Christian University Press, 1978) 109-110; see also 80, 111. Historian Edwin S. Gaustad said of Holmes's words that "much of Christian liberty and Baptist polity can be read in these words." See Gaustad, ed., Baptist Piety, 107. For further examples of the role of individual judgment and interpretation of scripture see, William G. McLoughlin and Martha Whiting Davidson, eds., "The Baptist Debate of April 14-15, 1668," in Colonial Baptists: Massachusetts and Rhode Island, advisory ed. Edwin S. Gaustad (New York: Arno Press, 1980) 111, 113, 119, 133; and John Russel, "A Brief Narrative ," in The History of the First Baptist Church of Boston, 1665-1689 by Nathan E. Wood (New York: Arno Press, 1980) 159-60.

17. While I personally admire but would not list Anabaptist Balthasar Hubmaier among "Baptist" theologians, my sense is that the Manifesto might want to do so. So hear Hubmaier on the issue of interpretation of Scripture: "Since every Christian believes for himself and is baptized for himself, everyone must see and judge by the Scriptures whether he is being properly nourished by his pastor." Cited in Lumpkin, 21.

18. McClendon was most certainly correct to state that "local church" is a redundancy. See James Wm. McClendon, Jr., Systematic Theology: Doctrine (Nashville: Abingdon, 1994) 366.

19. See Daniel Donavan, Dintinctively Catholic: An Exploration of Catholic Identity (New York: Paulist Press, 1997) for an interesting Catholic comparison to the Manifesto. In his exposition of the Catholic idenity, Donavan titled his first chapter "An Emphasis on Community." Like the Manifesto, Donavan emphasizes "community" throughout the book. However, Catholic Donavan appears surprisingly more sensitive than the Manifesto to what I am calling the Baptist emphasis on the individual. See Donavan, 30-31, 167.

20. As cited in Shurden, The Baptist Identity, 72.

21. "What Are Baptists?: On The Way to Expressing Baptist Identity in a Changing Europe," The Division of Theology and Education of the European Baptist Federation, 4-5.

22. Manifesto, 305.

23. Carlyle Marney, Priests to Each Other (Valley Forge PA: Judson Press, 1974) 42.

24. Cited in Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, 163.

25. Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity, 53. Something of this same argument may be seen among New England Baptists. See John Clarke, Ill Newes, 37, and McLoughlin and Davidson, "The Baptist Debate of April 14-15, 1668," 119,133. Isaac Backus echoed Helwys in the eighteenth century: "Religion is a concern between God and the soul with which no human authority can intermeddle." As cited in McLoughlin, New England Dissent, I, 559. A century later, historian A. H. Newman's interpretation of the Baptist heritage coincided with both Helwys's and Backus's argument. Said Newman in 1894, "Believing that faith is a matter between the individual man and God, Baptists have, from the beginning of their denominational history, regarded as an enormity any attempt to force the conscience." See Newman, A History of the Baptist Churches in the United States, 3.

26. Gaustad, Baptist Piety, 71.

27. As cited in Shurden, The Baptist Identity, 89.

28. John Clifford, "The Baptist World Alliance: Its Origin and Character, Meaning and Work," in The Life of Baptists in the Life of the World, ed. Walter B. Shurden (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1985) 37-38. Also see, "The Baptist Doctrine of the Church," in Shurden, The Baptist Identity, 89.

29. Rauschenbusch, "Why I Am A Baptist," 165-70.

30. Those who suspect Mullins of a hyperindividualism that undercuts church life need both to reflect on Mullins's life more critically and read him more carefully. For example, he included a chapter in The Axioms of Religion entitled "Institutional and Anti-Institutional Christianity," in which he decried the tendency toward "churchless Christianity." Recognizing what he called "the peril of mere individualism in religion and the rejection of all church life," Mullins quoted Sabatier approvingly: "The Protestant Christian who isolates himself, believing that he can draw all religious truth from the Bible for his individual inspiration, lives and thinks in unreality. . . . We have need one of another. . . .Only in this social solidarity can the Christian life blossom out, and find at once health and security. An unsocial Christianity is a stunted and sterile Christianity." See The Axioms, 252.

31. E. Glenn Hinson, "Baptists and Spirituality: A Community at Worship," Review and Expositor 84 (fall 1987) 656.

32. Manifesto, 303, 309.

33. I have tried to summarize the major arguments in my essay, "How We got That Way: Baptists on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State," in Proclaiming the Baptist Vision: Religious Liberty, ed. Walter B. Shurden (Macon,GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc., 1997) 19-25.

34. E.Y. Mullins, Baptist Beliefs (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1912) 73. Those who accuse Mullins of anthropocentrism fail to notice that his very first "axiom" of religion was that "The Holy And Loving God Has A Right To Be Sovereign."

35. Cited in Shurden, The Life of Baptists in the Life of the World, 244.

36. Manifesto, 303.

37. "They who upon pretence of Christian Liberty do practice any sin, or cherish any sinfull lust; as they do thereby pervert the main design of the Grace of the Gospel to their own Destruction; so they wholly destroy the end of Christian Liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of all our Enemies we might serve the Lord without fear in Holiness, and Righteousness before him, all the days of our Life." As cited in Lumpkin, 280.

38. Manifesto, 306, 305.

39. Manifesto, 308.

40. Robert P. Jones, 30.

41. Manifesto, 309.

42. Glen H. Stassen, Just Peacemaking (Louisville KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992) 148. Summarizing Overton at another point, Stassen said, "Overton says all are equally born to natural rights `delivered of God by the hand of nature'. . . . He argues that everyone has an individual selfhood by nature, because without this we could not be ourselves. God delivers all of us equally into this world with a selfhood that is naturally free" (152).

43. As cited in H. Leon McBeth, A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1990) 83.

44. See John Clarke, Ill Newes..., 101.

45. Manifesto, 303.

46. Clarke, 113.

47. William G. McLoughlin, "Pietism and the American Character," in Modern American Protestantism and Its World; Historical Articles on Protestantism in American Religious Life: Trends in American Religion and the Protestant World, ed. Martin E. Marty (Munich, Germany: K. G. Saur, 1992) 122.

48. Manifesto, 304.

49. See for example "The Baptist Debate of April 14-15, 1668."

50. As cited in Lumpkin, 140, italics mine. This statement, attributed to Smyth, actually came from his followers after his death as they were seeking admission to the Waterlanders.

51. "The Baptist Debate of April 14-15, 1668," 118.

52. Ibid., 111, 112. A close reading of the debate demonstrates the individualism of Baptists.

53. The Manifesto's concern for Baptist freedom from cultural captivity is, as I have said earlier, one of its strongest points. Few could doubt that Baptists, who began as a minority movement and cultural critics, evolved into a majority movement captive to their culture. This is most especially true of white Baptists in the South, those whom I take to be the primary audience of the Manifesto. One must ask again, however, is cultural disestablishment central to the Baptist identity or is it part of the Christian identity? Have Baptists in the past, no matter how much they called for "separation from the world," seen this as one of their identifying marks? Again, I doubt it.

54. Compare William Henry Brackney, The Baptists (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988) 95. The struggle of Baptists for liberty of conscience is not a pure or even one. As McLoughlin demonstrated regarding New England Baptists in his two-volume New England Dissent and as H. Leon McBeth showed concerning English Baptists in English Baptist Literature on Religious Liberty to 1689 (New York: Arno Press, 1980), Baptists stubbed their freedom toes at times, restricting their call for freedom occasionally to Christians or orthodox Christians. But on the whole, Baptists came forth in the seventeenth century screaming for freedom for all because they did not have freedom at all.

55. Manifesto, 309-10.

56. Stassen, 156.

57. Helwys, 53.

58. As cited in Shurden, The Baptist Identity, 65-66.

59. Edwin S. Gaustad, "Toward a Baptist Identity in the Twenty-First Century," in Discovering Our Baptist Heritage, ed. William H. Brackney (Valley Forge PA: The American Baptist Historical Society, 1985) 88.

60. Fisher Humphreys, "How shall We Re-Envision Baptist Identity"? An unpublished paper.