We Are Baptists, Not Protestants

The non-Christian world tends to categorise Christians into one of two groups. If we are not Roman Catholics, then we must be Protestants, they say. Those of us who attend Baptist churches can therefore fall into the confusion of considering ourselves to be Protestants.

The Protestant Reformation took place in the 1500s, and is said to have begun when when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.

The term “Protestant” was coined at the time of the Second Diet of Speyer, Germany in 1529. This was a Roman Catholic Council which addressed Lutherans and other Reformed churches that were not cooperating with the Pope. Certain Lutheran princes appeared before this Roman Catholic Diet with a formal written protest against those matters in which the Diet went contrary to the Christian faith. The church historian Philip Schaaf makes this statement: “From this protest and appeal, the Lutherans were called Protestants.” (History of the Christian Church, Volume VII).

The Lutheran and Reformed leaders who made this protest were speaking for themselves and not for Baptists. Their opinion of Baptists was declared in their written statement: “All Anabaptists and rebaptized persons, male or female, of mature age, shall be judged and brought from natural life to death, by fire, or sword or otherwise, as may benefit the persons, without preceding trial by spiritual judges.” The Baptists, then, were not a part of this protest and consequently do not share in the name “Protestant.”