Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Why 'Particular'?

'Particular' is another word that sounds strange to the modern ear. What does it mean to see a Church called 'Particular Baptist'? Does it mean fussy? Or does it mean 'peculiar', as some have put it? No, it means neither of those things. Simply put, it refers to doctrine. The word has its origins in the great controvery over the Doctrines of Grace - also known as Calvinism. 'Particular Baptist' as a title points to the distinction that existed in English Baptist circles from the 17th century onwards. On the one hand there were the 'General Baptists', with Anabaptist links, who believed in a 'general' redemption, that Christ had died for all men in general, and then there were the 'Particular Baptists', who held that Christ had died only for the Elect in Particular.
The Particular Baptists arose from Puritanism. They are a development of the spirit of Biblical inquiry that led to the early Puritans abandoning the hierarchical structure of the Church of England for the parity of ministers, then to the Congregationalists recognising that each Christian congregation is sufficient in itself for government. But although the Particular Baptists modified their doctrine of the Church, they never abandoned the great doctrines of the Reformation concerning salvation by grace.
In short, then, 'Particular' means Reformed or Calvinistic in modern language. Particular Baptists have avoided the term 'Calvinistic' as giving the false impression that we follow a man. We care nothing for any man except insofar as he teaches the Word of God. Some General Baptist writers have indeed twitted us with the fact that Calvin taught infant Baptism. We would reply that Arminius did the same.
'Particular' points to the great divide, the question 'for whom did Christ die?' We answer 'for His own people whom the Father had given Him'. The General Baptist replies that he thinks Christ died for many people who will never be saved. In fact (though he will not admit it), he thinks Christ died for millions who were already in Hell when He died. According to the General Baptist, Christ's death is insufficient to save many, probably most, of those for whom He died.
It is no accident, then, that General Baptists have usually abandoned the doctrione of Substitution, preferring a 'Rectoral' or 'Governmental' view of the Atonement. Only the one who believes in Particular Redemption can consistently believe that Christ died in the place of anyone at all.
We shall develop this argument in future posts, God willing. At the moment our main concern is to state what the word 'Paticular' means in 'Strict and Particular'.

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