I was not raised as a Baptist, but I feel very much at home within a Baptist church. However, when people find out that I’m a Baptist, I sometime encounter some stereotypical judgments about what that means. Just because you find out someone is a Baptist, does not mean that you know what they believe.
Here are four myths that I frequently come across.
1. There is one group called Baptists.
I grew up as an Anglican and it was understood that wherever you lived, you were connected in some way with other Anglicans. Baptists are very different. There are many different Baptist groups (some prefer not to be called denominations) that really don’t have anything to do with one another, There is something called the Baptist World Alliance that some Baptist groups might belong to, but it is a very loose affiliation and many Baptists are probably completely unaware of what they do. I pastored for almost a decade in a small town of 4,000 people. Of the approximately ten churches in town, three of us were Baptist but we were not from the same group. My church belonged to the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec, another to the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists and the third was an independent Baptist church that did not participate in any group activities, Baptist or otherwise. I have had people assume that our group (CBOQ) is pretty much the same as the Southern Baptists, since we are both Baptists, but that is not the case. There would be some similarities, but also many differences.
2. Baptists don’t believe in the gifts of the Spirit.
I transitioned from a Pentecostal church to a Baptist church and some of my Pentecostal friends seemed concerned that I would give up on the Holy Spirit. There are some Baptists that are cessationist, meaning they believe that gifts of the Spirit as described in 1 Corinthians 12 ceased with the death of the apostles. But being Baptist does not mean that you have to embrace that view. I have been a pastor now at five different Baptist churches and none of them have embraced a cessationist understanding of the gifts of the Spirit.
3. Baptists are all Calvinist.
I once was talking to a Baptist pastor in our association who told me that he was shocked to find out that some of our Baptist pastors were not Calvinists. He had no idea that I was not a Calvinist either. I just smiled and nodded my head. There is a strong Calvinist leaning within a number of Baptist groups, but it is not a Baptist distinctive. It is not like Presbyterians who are expected to be Calvinist and Methodists who are expected to be Arminians. There is no official Baptist position on this aspect of theology.
4. Baptists are King James only.
Most of those who are independent Baptists would identify as King James only, but the majority of Baptists would not. I used to work with some independent Baptists and they informed me that God cannot speak through any Bible other than the King James. I informed them that reading from the Good News Bible played a major role in my own conversion, and God seemed to have been able to speak through it.
Bonus Item: Baptists don’t have fun.
I mentioned that I grew up Anglican. At one church retreat, I remember our priest saying, “Thank God we’re not Baptists!” People have this concept of Baptists as being super strict and of labelling anything fun as sin. That has not been my experience at all. I’m sure that there are some Baptists who hate fun, but thankfully I don’t spend my time with them.