The Baptist faith can credibly be traced to a movement among English Separatists living in Holland in 1609. The core beliefs of all Baptists include: each person's individual responsibility before God to accept or reject salvation (called soul competency), salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, believer's baptism, and the autonomy of local congregations. There are many subdivisions of Baptists, among which are General Baptists and Missionary Baptists.
Two Meanings of General Baptist
There are two basic meanings of the term "General Baptist." The first is to distinguish where a Baptist denomination stands on an early schism in the Baptist movement over whether God had decided before time who would be saved and who would be damned or whether people are able to choose to accept or reject the Gospel of their own free will.
General Baptists believe that Jesus died to pay the price for anyone who will receive Him and that all are capable of choosing to receive His grace. When the term General Baptist is used this way, it can refer to any Baptist who believes that anyone can respond to God's call to salvation.
Others within the Baptist movement, including many who use "General Baptist" in their denominational names, go a bit further in this teaching. This kind of General Baptist holds to the teaching of the general atonement, but also believes that a believer can fall from grace, putting him at odds with other Baptists who believe in "once saved, always saved."
General vs. Particular Baptist
A split arose early in the Baptist movement. Some Baptists, known as Particular Baptists, believe that the atonement was only for those who were chosen beforehand by God to be saved and that all others would be lost. According to this belief, those who were called could not resist that calling and those who were lost could not receive it.
General Baptists differ with this view. All Baptists who trace their doctrine to the early General Baptists believe that God made provision for all to be saved through Jesus' atoning death on the cross and that each person who hears the Gospel is responsible to accept or reject salvation. General Baptists (in the denominational sense) also believe that people who are saved can later reject their salvation and become lost again.
Missionary vs. Non-Missionary Baptist
During the early 19th century, there was a split among Baptists about the nature of missions. The vast majority of Baptists believe in preaching the Gospel to those who haven't heard it, but some Baptists objected to the formation of missionary boards and formalized missionary practices. These Baptists were known as non-missionary Baptists. The majority of Baptists, then and now, aligned themselves with the missionary movement. These Baptists are known as Missionary Baptists. Additionally, there are several Baptist denominations (all of whom align with the missionary movement) called Missionary Baptist.
General Baptist vs. Missionary Baptist
Although different Baptist denominations use "General" or "Missionary" in the name of their organizations and churches, the vast majority of Baptists that can be considered general are also missionary. There are some Missionary Baptists, however, who could not accurately be called General Baptists because of their differing views on whether everyone is capable of responding to God's call to salvation. There is also a predominantly African American Baptist denomination headquartered in Georgia known as the General Missionary Baptist Convention.
Generally speaking, Baptists who believe in general atonement favor the missionary movement. This includes most denominations that refer to themselves as "General Baptist."
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