How Much Do You Know About the Baptist Church?

Torrance Grey

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About This Quiz

The denomination known as "Baptist" takes its name from one of the most meaningful rituals in Christianity -- baptism, an outward sign of internal cleansing and renewal. This faith tradition has long been associated with the American South, from the hollows of Appalachia to the wide, grassy plains of Texas. But Baptists are found throughout North America -- throughout the world, even! Its roots are something of a mystery: Not everyone agrees how old the Baptist tradition is, and exactly where it started. (Did you know that there are three origin stories for the Baptist denomination  -- one that is commonly accepted, and two that are more "alternative"?)

Our quiz covers the history and mysteries of the Baptist denomination: The fundamental things that they believe, and how it affects their lifestyle; famous Baptists of the past and present; and different types of Baptist churches. They don't all believe the same things, nor worship in the exact same way. Some types of Baptists don't believe in Sunday school, nor in using musical instruments in the church service. Some are politically conservative, and others more progressive.

You don't have to be a churchgoer to enjoy this glimpse into one of America's most popular and meaningful faith traditions. You might be surprised as to what you learn about what Baptists believe about God, salvation, the government, the ritual of baptism and more. So settle in, and test your savvy about this Protestant tradition with our quiz!

What is the name often given to the central tenets of the Baptist faith?

There are eight "distinctives" in the Baptist denomination. As the name implies, these are beliefs that set Baptists apart from other strains of Christianity.

Which of these is most important in the Baptist faith?

It might surprise some people to know that baptism isn't the most important part of being a Baptist. The church values "regenerative membership," meaning that being born again is the most important thing. Baptism is an external symbol of that rebirth.

What is "credobaptism"?

One of the most important articles of faith in Baptist churches is that church members shouldn't be baptized until they're old enough to have made a profession of faith. The opposite is infant baptism, which many denominations practice.

What is total immersion?

Many Baptist churches practice this method of baptizing adults (or older youths), dunking the entire body in water. In warm climates, this can be done in a river.

At what age is a Baptist old enough to be baptized?

Individual churches make this decision. Generally, as soon as a child is old enough to make a conscious profession of faith, they are considered old enough to be baptized.

What is the ultimate authority on matters of doctrine?

Baptists look to the Bible for the last word on matters of religious practice. Of course, they are not alone among Christian denominations in this.

What is the "priesthood" in the Baptist tradition?

The "priesthood of the believer" means that every believer can pray directly to God, or evangelize nonbelievers. This is a split from the Catholic tradition, which requires a priest to intercede with God, particularly in confession.

To what governing body is a Baptist church accountable?

Considered by some outsiders as a strict faith, the Baptist tradition is also one of individualism. This extends to each church having autonomy -- paying its own bills and running its own affairs. All this, of course, is with the guidance of the Bible and the eight distinctives.

How many "ordinances" are there in the Baptist faith?

"Ordinances" in the Baptist church are baptism and communion (the Lord's Supper). These are the rituals the church holds in highest esteem, though it also carries out important community functions, like weddings and funerals.

Which of these is a leadership role in a Baptist church?

There are few positions of authority in a Baptist church. The pastor is at the head of the congregation, with deacons subordinate to him. Some deacons are ordained; others are laypersons.

The idea that the Baptist faith goes all the way back to John the Baptist's day is called _______.

This idea is not too different from the Catholic tradition that holds that Peter was the first pope. However, most modern religious historians say that the Baptist faith -- its central ideas and tenets -- arose much more recently.

Another minority view of the Baptist tradition says they are descended from the European _______.

The Anabaptists were theological radicals in Europe, who believed adult baptism (or re-baptism). They also largely advocated for the shunning of society and for total pacifism, things that Baptists do not endorse. The idea that modern Baptists are descended from the Anabaptist tradition is largely discredited.

Who is generally considered the earliest Baptist minister?

John Smyth was an Englishman who broke with the Anglican church, bringing a number of congregants with him. This is the generally accepted view of the beginnings of the Baptist tradition.

Which city is generally considered to have hosted the first Baptist congregation?

This is a little confusing -- Baptism *did* grow out of the English separatist tradition, but the first recognized Baptist minister, John Smyth, preached in Amsterdam. He fled there, like his followers, from persecution.

Where was the first Baptist Church in the United States founded?

Two cities lay claim to having the first Baptist church, but both are in Rhode Island: Providence and Newport. The churches were founded by Roger Williams and John Clarke, respectively.

Which of these activities do Baptists generally frown on?

None of these activities are forbidden by Baptist doctrinal statements. But the culture of the Baptist denomination looks on these things as vices to be avoided.

Which of these political ideals is particularly important to Baptists?

Many Christian denominations appreciate, in general, the separation of church and state -- it's the basis of their tax-free status, after all. But for Baptists, it's an important point of doctrine. This reflects the persecution John Smyth and his followers suffered in England.

Which of these do Baptist churches generally not allow?

Baptist churches have individual autonomy; despite this, it's safe to say it's common for them to shun gay marriage and women in pastorships. However, many churches allow women to be deacons.

Many Baptist churches take the name "Shiloh." What does this refer to?

The temple at Shiloh predated the grand one that Solomon built in Jerusalem. It was where the wise prophet Samuel, so influential in the Books of Kings, served.

What descriptive word do Baptists sometimes object to?

Some Baptists believe that their faith tradition precedes Martin Luther (even going back to Christ's time). They consider Baptists "pre-Protestant."

Which of these is the largest and best-known organization?

Nearly 47,000 Baptist churches make up this convention. Though each church is autonomous, churches within the SBC tend to present a unified front on issues like abortion and homosexuality.

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed out of a crisis over what issue?

Southern and Northern Baptists would split over the issue of slavery. Prominent Baptist leaders in the South were slaveholders at the 19th century, which means they had a strong financial incentive to claim that the Bible condones slavery.

Which Protestant denomination outnumbers Baptists in terms of members?

Only Catholics outnumber Baptists in the United States. (Not that it's a competition, eh?)

Approximately how many Baptists are there in the US?

The Baptist denomination is a thriving one in the United States. The number might be even larger, given that autonomous churches may not be reporting their numbers to any larger body.

What percentage of the world's Baptists live outside the US?

Only 40 percent of Baptists live in America. The religion, which started in Europe, has truly spread around the world.

True or false: Do most black American Baptists belong to the Southern Baptist Convention?

Although many African-American Baptists might live in the southern United States, they are not required to affiliate with the Southern Baptist Convention -- and instead many churches are part of the National Baptist Convention instead. It's headquartered in the southern city of Nashville, TN.

In what decade did the Southern Baptist convention elect its first African-American president?

In 2012, the SBC elected Fred Luter as its president. This was probably overdue, given the strong black presence in the Baptist church in the American South.

Which of these American preachers was Baptist?

King was a Baptist minister and the son of a Baptist minister. His faith was a key part of his civil rights message, though he also took inspiration from a Hindu leader, Mahatma Gandhi, whose methods of nonviolent resistance he emulated.

The ___________ Baptist Church is known as one of the most virulent hate groups in America.

Disclaimer: The views of the Westboro Baptist Church and its late leader, Fred Phelps, are not typical of the views of most Baptists. They're known for picketing the funerals of gay people, holding signs with a slogan so distasteful we can't repeat it here.

Another somewhat black-sheep Baptist is Jack Chick. What was he best known for?

Chick wrote "fire and brimstone" tracts that showed Jews and Catholics burning in the flames of hell. He was an Independent Baptist, not representing the views of the major conventions.

The old-fashioned, "hard-shell" form of the denomination found mostly in Appalachia is called _______.

Among the things that differentiate Primitive Baptists from others is the a cappella singing in their services. They do not believe in introducing musical instruments into the church service, because instruments are not mentioned as part of worship in the New Testament.

What differentiates General Baptists from Particular Baptists?

It might surprise some people to know that some Christians -- not just Baptists -- believe that only an "elect" are chosen by God to be saved. It's part of a theological debate between schools of thought called Calvinism and Arminianism, with Particular Baptists falling on the Calvinist side of the debate.

True or false: More US presidents have been Baptists than any other denomination.

The Episcopalians hold the record here. This reflects the tendency of American presidents to come from the nation's upper middle class, where Episcopalian is a popular denomination. The Baptist tradition is more a blue-collar one in the US.

Which of these US presidents was NOT Baptist?

Little is known about Richard Nixon's personal religious leanings, but he had a Quaker upbringing. Fun fact: Nixon swore the oath of office of the president despite the Quaker prohibition on oaths.

True or false: Is there a world organization of Baptists?

The Baptist World Alliance is not a ruling body, but a coalition. It allows Baptist churches around the world to support each other in common goals, including charity.

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