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  • Religious Liberty
  • Soul Competency
  • Priesthood of All Believers

  • I. Introduction
  • A. An Important Concept
  • B. Freedom versus Toleration
  • C. Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of

Walter B. ShurdenThe Baptist Identity Four
Fragile Freedoms
  • The Four Freedoms
  • Bible Freedom
  • Soul Freedom
  • Church Freedom
  • Religious Freedom
  • Baptists cannot be understood without some
    reference to the ideas in these four freedoms.

Martin Martyfreedom, choice, and voluntarism
  • Walter B. Shurden
  • These themes describe the spiritual instinct of
    historic Baptist life, the stackpole around
    which Baptist convictions develop.

Walter B. Shurden
  • Freedom OF religion
  • Freedom FOR religion
  • Freedom FROM religion

  • In a country with an established religion,
    toleration means that the government permits
    religious practices of other sects besides the
    state religion, and does not persecute believers
    in other faiths. It is a partial status, and
    might still be accompanied by forms of religious
    discrimination. Religious toleration as a
    Government policy merely means the absence of
    religious persecution unlike religious liberty,
    it does not mean that religions are equal before
    the law. Toleration is a privilege granted by
    Government (which it may do by law or charter),
    not a right against it governments have often
    tolerated some religions and not others.

Walter B. Shurden
  • Religious toleration is a concession religious
    liberty is a right. Religious toleration is a
    measure of expediency religious liberty is a
    matter of principle.

Walter B. Shurden
  • Soul freedom is the historic Baptist
    affirmation of the inalienable right and
    responsibility of every person to deal with God
    without the imposition of creed, the interference
    of clergy, or the intervention of civil

  • II. Freedom in Baptist Thought
  • A. Baptists Were Birthed Seeking Freedom
  • B. Biblically
  • C. Theologically

Walter B. Shurden
  • Baptists did not turn toward the idea of a
    free conscience. They began in the seventeenth
    century screaming and agitating for liberty of

Biblical TextsOn Church and State
  • Daniel 6.10
  • Acts 5.29
  • Matthew 22.15-22
  • Romans 13.1-7
  • Revelation 13

Theological PointsWalter B. Shurden
  • Baptists agree that Each individual,
    therefore, is competent under God to make moral,
    spiritual, and religious decisions. Not only is
    the individual privileged to make those
    decisions, the individual alone is responsible
    for making those decisions.

Theological PointsWalter B. Shurden
  • who created us as free beings and is biblically
    portrayed as a liberating Deity. Thus, God, not
    nations or courts or human law, is the ultimate
    source of liberty.
  • who are created in the image of God. Thus,
    Human personality is sacred and lifes highest
    value. To deny freedom of conscience to any
    person is to debase Gods creation.
  • To be authentic, faith must be free. Genuine
    faith cannot be forced or denied by the state.

  • III. The Political/Religious Scene
  • A. General View in 16th/17th Century Europe
  • B. The Appearance of Baptists

Bill J. Leonard
  • A religious establishment is any religion that
    receives special privileges or status from the
    state, thereby occupying, implicitly or
    explicitly, a unique place over other religions
    in the society.

E.Y. Mullins
  • Men in general regarded the separation of
    Church and State as a doctrine of anarchy and
    chaos, and honestly believed that its practical
    application would quench the sun of religion in
    the heaven of mens spiritual hopes.

Bill J. Leonard
  • If the church is to be composed of persons who
    have professed faith in Christ for themselves
    which is the heart of the concept of a
    believers church, then uncoerced faith is
    essential to genuine religious experience.
    Therefore, no state-or-church-sanctioned
    requirements that attempt to coerce faith through
    an implicit or explicit established religion .
    . .is acceptable under God.

  • IV. Freedom in Baptist History Some Selected
  • A. John Smyth 1612
  • B. Thomas Helwys 1612
  • C. Roger Williams 1636
  • D. Issac Backus 1724-1806
  • E. John Leland 1791
  • F. John D. Freeman 1905
  • G. E.Y. Mullins
  • H. Baptist Ideals 1964
  • I. James E. Wood 1970s and 1980s
  • J. A Pronouncement of Religious Freedom

John Smyth 1612 Propositions and Conclusions
concerning True Christian Religion
  • 83. That the office of the magistrate, is a
    disposition or permissive ordinance of God for
    the good of mankind that one man like the brute
    beats devour not another (Rom. xiii), and that
    justice and civility may be preserved among men
    and that a magistrate may so please God in his
    calling, in doing that which is righteous and
    just in the eyes of the Lord, that he may bring
    an outward blessing upon himself, his posterity
    and subjects (2 Kings, x. 30,31).
  • 84. That the magistrate is not by virtue of his
    office to meddle with religion, or matters of
    conscience, to force and compel men to this or
    that form of religion or doctrine but to leave
    Christian relgiion free, to every man's
    conscience, and to handle only civil
    transgressions (Rom. xiii), injuries and wrongs
    of man against man, in murder, adultery, theft,
    etc., for Christ only is the king, and lawgiver
    of the church and conscience (James iv. 12).

Thomas HelwysA Short Declaration of the Mystery
of Iniquity1612
For we do freely profess that our lord the king
has no more power over their consciences
referring to Roman Catholics than over ours,
and that is none at all. For our lord the king
is but an earthly king, and he has no authority
as a king but in earthly causes. And if the
kings people be obedient and true subjects,
obeying all human laws made by the king, our lord
the king can require no more. For mens religion
to god is between God and themselves. The king
shall not answer for it. Neither may the king be
judge between God and man. Let them be heretics,
Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to
the earthly power to punish them in the least
measure. This is made evident to our lord the
king by the scriptures.
Roger WilliamsThe Bloody Tenent of Persecution
  • It is a spiritual rape to force the
    consciences of all to one worship, or to batter
    down idolatry, false worship or heresy with
    weapons, such as stocks, whips, prisons or
    swords. Further, the civil state is bound
    before God to take off that bond and yoke of
    soul-oppression and to proclaim free and
    impartial liberty to all the people. . . . His
    concept of freedom extended to all people
    Indians . . . French, Dutch, Spanish, Persians,
    Turks and Jews . . . all of whom should be
    permitted in their worships if correspondent in
    civil obedience . . . .

The Charter of Rhode Island and Providence
Plantations 1663
  • And whereas, in their humble address, they have
    freely declared, that it is much on their hearts
    (if they may be permitted), to hold forth a
    lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil
    state may stand and best be maintained, and that
    among our English subjects, with a full liberty
    in religious concernments and that true piety
    rightly grounded upon gospel principles, will
    give the best and greatest security to
    sovereignty, and will lay in the hearts of men
    the strongest obligations to true loyalty.
  • That our royal will and pleasure is, that no
    person within the said colony, at any time
    hereafter, shall be anyway molested, punished,
    disquieted, or called in question, for any
    differences in opinion in matters of religion,
    and does not actually disturb the civil peace of
    our said colony but that all and every person
    and persons may, from time to time, and at all
    times hereafter, freely and fully have and enjoy
    his and their own judgments and consciences, in
    matters of religious concernments, throughout the
    tract of land hereafter mentioned they behaving
    themselves peaceably and quietly, and not using
    this liberty to licentiousness and profaneness,
    nor to the civil injure or outward disturbance of
    others any law, statute, or clause, therein
    contained, or to be contained, usage or custom of
    this realm, to the contrary hereof, in any wise,

Isaac Backus 1773 An Appeal to the Public for
Religious Liberty
  • When church and state are separate, the
    effects are happy, and they do not at all
    interfere with each other but where they have
    been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can
    fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued.

Isaac Backus 1774 A Plea Before the
Massachusetts Legislature
  • That which has made the greatest noise is a tax
    of three pence a pound upon tea but your law of
    last June laid a tax of the same sum every year
    upon the Baptists in each parish, as they would
    expect to defend themselves against a greater
    one. And only because the Baptists at Middleboro
    have refused to pay that little tax, we hear that
    the first parish in said town have this fall
    voted to lay a greater tax upon us. All America
    are alarmed at the tea tax though, if they
    please, they can avoid it by not buying the tea
    but we have no such liberty. We must either pay
    the little tax, or else your people appear even
    in this time of extremity, determined to lay the
    great one upon us. But these lines are to let you
    know, that we are determined not to pay either of
    them not only upon your principles of not being
    taxed where we are not represented, but also
    because we dare not render that homage to any
    earthly power, which I and many of my brethren
    are fully convinced belongs only to God. Here,
    therefore, we claim charter rights, liberty of
    conscience. And if any still deny it to us, they
    must answer it to Him who has said, With what
    measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you

John Leland 1791 The Rights of Conscience
  • "Every man must give account of himself to God,
    and therefore every man ought to be at liberty to
    serve God in a way that he can best reconcile to
    his conscience. If government can answer for
    individuals at the day of judgment, let men be
    controlled by it in religious matters otherwise,
    let men be free."

John Leland A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia
  • "The notion of a Christian commonwealth should
    be exploded forever...Government should protect
    every man in thinking and speaking freely, and
    see that one does not abuse another. The liberty
    I contend for is more than toleration. The very
    idea of toleration is despicable it supposes
    that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to
    grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally
    free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians."

Amendment One of the Constitution of the United
States of America
  • Congress shall make no law respecting an
    establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
    free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom
    of speech, or of the press or the right of the
    people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
    Government for a redress of grievances. speech,
    or of the press or the right of the people
    peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
    Government for a redress of grievances.

John D. Freeman
  • "We did not stumble upon the doctrine. It
    inheres in the very essence of our belief.
  • "This truth has indestructible life. Crucify it
    and the third day it will rise again.

E.Y. Mullins The Axioms of Religion
  • 1. The Religio-Civic Axiom A Free Church in a
    Free State.
  • 2. The Church is a voluntary organization, the
    State compels obedience. . . . The direct
    allegiance in the Church is to God, in the State
    it is to law and government.

Baptist Ideals
  • Both church and state are ordained
    of God and are answerable to him. Each is
    distinct each has a divine purpose neither is
    to encroach upon the rights of the other. They
    are to remain separate, but they are to stand in
    proper relationship with each other under God.
    The state is ordained of God for the exercise of
    civil authority, the maintenance of order, and
    the promotion of public welfare.
  • The church is a voluntary fellowship of
    Christians, joined together under the lordship
    of Christ for worship and service in his name.
    The state is not to ignore Gods sovereignty or
    reject his laws as the basis for moral order and
    social justice. Christians are to accept their
    responsibilities for the support of the state and
    for loyal obedience to civil authority in all
    things not contrary to the clear will of God.
  • The state owes the church protection and full
    freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends.
    The church owes the state moral and spiritual
    reinforcement for law and order and the clear
    proclamation of those truths which undergird
    justice and peace. The church is responsible
    both to pray for the state and to declare the
    judgments of God as they relate to government,
    responsible citizenship, and the rights of all
    persons. The church must take seriously and
    practice consistently the principles which it
    declares should govern the relation of church
    and state.

James E. Wood
  • Religious liberty is rooted in the inviolable
    sacredness of the human conscience.
  • "To the degree that Baptists have been sensitive
    to the rights of conscience and the worth of
    every individual person, they have reflected, at
    least in some manner, a concern for human

A Pronouncement on Religious Liberty1939
  • V. The Priesthood of All Believers
  • A. A Key Baptist Doctrine
  • B. Biblical/Theological Background
  • C. Baptist Writings

Walter B. Shurden
  • Priesthood of the believer is the historic
    Baptist affirmation of the inalienable right and
    responsibility of every person to deal with God
    without the imposition of creed, the interference
    of clergy, or the intervention of civil

Biblical Passages
  • Exodus 19.6
  • 1 Peter 2.5-9
  • Revelation 1.5b-6 5.10 20.6

Martin Luther
  • . . . we are all equally priests, as many of us
    as are baptized, and by this way we truly are
    priests . . . .

Carolyn D. Blevins
  • Cyril Eastwood in The Priesthood of All
    Believers says that priesthood of all
    believers is a spiritual privilege, a moral
    obligation, and a personal vocation. The
    privilege is access to God. The obligation is to
    the church which teaches priesthood. The
    vocation is the arena where priests serve. Being
    a priest is both a gift and a demand.

John Smyth Propositions and Conclusions
  • He Christ is become the mediatour of the new
    Testament (to wit) the kinge, Priest, and Prophet
    of the Church, and that the faithfull through him
    are thus made spiritual kings, Priests and

Differences of the Churches of the Separation
The church is a kingly priesthood, and the
saints are kings and priests.
Thomas Helwys 1611A Declaration of Faith of
English People at AmsterdamArticle 11
  • That though in respect of Christ, the Church be
    one (Ephes. 4.4) yet it consists of many
    particular congregations, even so many as there
    shall be in the world, of which every
    congregation though they be but two or three has
    Christ given to them with all the means of their
    salvation (Matt. 18.20, Rom. 8.32, 1 Cor. 3.22)
    are the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12.27) and a whole
    church (1 Cor. 14.23). And therefore may, and
    ought when they are come together, to pray,
    prophecy, break bread and administer in all the
    holy ordinances although they have no officers,
    or that their officers should be in prison, sick,
    or by any other means hindered from the church (1
    Peter 4.10 and 25).

1644 London Confession of Faith
  • Article XVIII Christ makes his people a
    spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up
    spiritual sacrifice acceptable to God through
  • Article XLII Christ has likewise given power
    to his whole church to receive in and cast out by
    way of excommunication any member and this power
    is given to every particular congregation, and
    not one particular person, either member or
    officer, but the whole.
  • Article XLIV And as Christ, for the keeping
    of this church in holy and orderly communion,
    places some special men over the church who by
    their office are to govern, oversee, visit,
    watch so likewise for the better keeping thereof
    in all places by the members he has given
    authority and laid duty upon all, to watch over
    one another.

  • Some Concluding Thoughts
  • A. A Cautionary Note
  • B. Crucial Questions
  • C. Freedom is Fragile
  • D. Defended by Baptists
  • E. Privilege and Responsibility

Absolute religious liberty is crucial to true
freedom for all people.
Baptist Distinctives and Diversities
  • Baptists are unanimous in declaring that the
    state must not exercise direct control over the
    church, interfere with its free self-government
    under Christ, or bring legal pressure to bear
    upon the individual in matters of religious faith
    and practice. In practice, however, Baptists in
    different parts of the world interpret the
    application of this principle in varying ways.
    The crucial questions are as follows
  • 1. How far should Baptist churches and Baptist
    individuals accept tax concessions and other
    benefits from a State which is friendly to the
    Christian religion and desires to support it?
  • 2. Does the separation of Church and State mean
    the complete elimination from State- controlled
    public schools of all forms of religious worship
    and instruction?
  • 3. Can Baptists support the teaching of
    religion in State schools by ministers, whether
    Baptists or clergy of other denominations?
  • 4. How much and what kind of State financial
    aid can be offered to received by church related

Dr. Shurden Baptist Identity Four Fragile
  • It is easy for a peopleeven Baptist peopleto
    call for separation of church and state when the
    union of church and state limit their freedoms.
    It is easy for a peopleeven Baptist peopleto
    distinguish between discipleship and citizenship
    when Caesar is less than friendly.
  • BUT
  • Power . . . can corrupt and blind us to our

Leonard Busher 1614Religions Peace or a Plea
for Liberty of Conscience
  • persecutions do cause men and women to make
    shipwreck of faith and good consciences, by
    forcing a religion upon them even against their
    minds and consciences.

Carolyn BlevinsThe Priesthood of All Believers
  • Being a priest involves individual and
    community responsibilities. First, I am a priest
    as an individual. I am my own priest. I have
    direct access to God. I can go to God directly in
    prayer. I can read the Scripture for myself and
    ask Gods guidance in understanding it. I must
    seek the wisdom and teaching of others, but I
    can also search for the meaning with the Spirits
    guidance by myself. I am responsible before God
    for my behavior and my beliefs. I cannot make
    someone else responsible for my relationship or
    lack of relationship with God.
  • Second, being a priest means that each believer
    is responsible for using God-given gifts in ways
    that will serve the community. In the New
    Testament, gifts are discussed in four separate
    passages Romans 1238 1 Corinthians 1214
    Ephesians 4116 and 1 Peter 4711. These
    passages claim that the Spirit gives each person
    a gift and that the gifts are different. Why does
    every Christian have gifts? To use for the good
    of the community. Each persons gift is needed.
    Many different gifts are needed. Just as Jesus
    ministered to a variety of people in diverse
    ways, his followers are expected to use their
    diverse gifts to minister to the variety of
    people in their world. By doing so, Christians
    reflect the character of God.