Are Baptists Protestants?
Most Baptists are very particular about which terms they use to apply to themselves. They often shun such labels as "evangelical" or "ecumenical". One term that is often used to describe Baptists is "Protestant".
First, let's define what a Protestant is. The Protestant movement began during the time of the Reformation in the 1500's. These groups "protested" certain doctrines and practices in the Catholic church. Among the things they protested were the sale of Indulgences, salvation by works, and papal authority. At first most of these groups sought to reform the Catholic church, not separate from it.
A couple of groups that can truly be called Protestant include:
- Lutherans, who began under the leadership and direction of Martin Luther.
- Episcopalians, who began when Henry VIII started the Church of England after not having a divorce granted by the Pope.
These groups are truly Protestant in that they protested the Catholics and would go on to start their own denominations.
Now with these fact in mind, let us address the question at hand: Are Baptists Protestant?
Baptists have a long heritage of disagreement with the Catholic church. As ecclesiastical hierarchies began to form and submit to the leadership at Rome, there were groups who remained independent. They spoke against such errors that had entered into that growing organization such as baptismal regeneration. It is from these groups which have always been separate from Roman Catholicism that are forefathers to the modern Baptist movement.
Although Baptists have disagreed with Rome, they have never been a part of the Catholic church. Nowhere in their history can they be found to be part of or in alliance with Rome. They have always been independent.
I heard once what I felt was an outrageous statement, but my studies have only supported. That statement was this: "If you take all the Baptist doctrine out of Protestant churches than you will only have Catholic doctrine left."
Therefore, let me say that I personally feel that the term "Protestant" should not be used to describe Baptists. We have never been in accord with the Pope or Rome. Our lineage can be followed back before the Roman Catholics began.
Now, if you wish to throw away the true and historic meaning of "Protestant" and say that is simply means "non-Catholic", than I suppose I might be one. However, this is honestly a remendous stretch and a complete revision of the word. I say that we have "Baptists" and "non-Baptists", thus keeping the positive focus on true Christianity.