Pillars of Truth for Baptist Churches
A creed is a formal statement of Christian belief. The word derives from the Latin term credo, which means, “I believe.” Sensing their critical importance, Christians have been crafting doctrinal creeds since the days of the apostles. The Apostle Peter himself may have offered the first creed when he confessed to Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt.16:16).
In 1 Timothy 6:12, the Apostle Paul commends his young protégé Timothy for having “professed a good profession before many witnesses.” It is most reasonable to understand this statement as referring to Timothy’s confession of the truth, his creed, before the men of the world—some of whom were violent persecutors and before whom Timothy, like an immovable pillar, bravely declared the truth of Christ Jesus according to the tradition he had received from Paul
(2 Thessalonians 3:6).
In making his good confession, Timothy publicly identified himself as a member of Christ’s Church, which Paul describes in that same epistle as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). This means that the Church has been entrusted with the responsibility of preserving, proclaiming, and defending the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.
Among the earliest manuscripts of Church history, we have records which inform us that new converts were often required to make a public declaration of faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit prior to their baptism. These served as public confessions of the apostolic faith to the world around them.
Over time, these primitive baptismal confessions expanded into more formal creedal statements for the purpose of better preserving sound doctrine and combating heresies.
Some creeds became so widely accepted that they would later be identified as ‘ecumenical creeds,’ which is to say, creeds adopted by the whole universal Church. These were the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon. These creeds were not meant to replace Scripture, but rather to accurately summarize key teachings contained within Scripture. In this way, they acted as a standard of correct belief. And by holding them forth, the Church was fulfilling its responsibility to be that pillar and ground of the truth.
In subsequent centuries, the Church would find itself needing to clarify additional truths pertaining to the faith. This happened during the Protestant Reformation, for example, when the Scriptural doctrine of justification by faith alone (among others) required codification.
To further clarify the faith, Protestant Reformers and their post-Reformation successors drew up lengthy confessions and catechisms summarizing all the significant doctrines of their various traditions, thus institutionalizing those hard-fought doctrines and preserving them for future generations.
In this sense, the Protestant confessions and catechisms served a similar and complementary purpose to the early Church creeds. They were banners of truth that those within the Church could rally around, and those without could identify Christians by.
Pillars of Truth for Baptist Churches is a collation of three important expressions of the Christian faith produced during the years 1677 to 1693 by the so-called “Particular Baptists.”
These three documents are historically known as the Second London Confession of Faith, The Baptist Catechism, and
An Orthodox Catechism. They were originally published with the twofold goal of (a) providing Baptist churches with pillars of biblical truth; and (b) bearing testimony before the world that their beliefs were faithful to the wider Reformed tradition, fully set apart from the false and defamatory charges often levelled against them by opponents.
This becomes patently evident when after close comparison one discovers that the Second London Confession of Faith is a careful revision of the earlier Westminster Confession of Faith of the Presbyterians and the Savoy Declaration of the Congregationalists. Additionally, the Baptist Catechism commissioned in 1693 is little more than an edited version of the Westminster Shorter Catechism of 1647. An Orthodox Catechism, authored by Baptist minister Hercules Collins in 1680 and here slightly adapted for the present publication, is a thoughtful revision of the cherished Heidelberg Catechism originating from within the continental reformed tradition.
As faithful and responsible stewards of sound doctrine, these early Baptists built their works upon earlier Reformed confessions and catechisms, utilizing cautious and scholarly precision and making revisions only where necessary. Their refinements resulted in a body of Reformed, orthodox divinity which, more than any others, carried the great principles of the Reformation to their logical and finest conclusions.
It is our conviction that these Pillars of Truth for Baptist Churches are squarely built upon the Bible. In placing the three documents together in one volume, we hope that they might serve today’s Baptist churches as a kind of ‘Three Forms of Unity’ for their faith and practice.
We are convinced that the welfare of Baptist churches will be promoted and maintained by a proper appreciation and loyal holding of these citadels of truth. A church with a well-defined, biblically-rooted, and comprehensive confession of faith and catechism is apt to maintain its integrity and doctrinal purity far longer and far better than a church with a truncated or unwritten creed.
This collation of historic, biblically-based beliefs, written and defended by former generations of Baptists, is published here with the desire that it will not only be considered a precious heirloom of the Particular Baptist forefathers, but will also continue to be raised and carried forward as a bulwark of truth, lifted up in the power of the Spirit, for those times when the enemy comes in like a flood to attack the faith once and for all delivered unto the saints.
History has taught us the unfortunate consequences which follow when Baptist churches neglect their doctrinal heritage: rising generations lose their moorings and either scatter into other denominations or get swept away entirely by the endless winds of error that ever seem to blow amid this age of indifference to fixed doctrinal truth.
If there was ever a time when familiarity with our historic Particular Baptist confessional and catechetical heritage might be considered an absolute necessity, that time is now. If we choose to neglect it, we are certain to lose it.