- Soul freedom
- Believer's baptism
- Priesthood of every believer
- Local church autonomy
- Religious liberty for all people, and the separation of church and state so that both can operate freely
God-given freedom is at the base of these Baptist distinctives. This freedom isn't ours to give. Neither is it ours to take away.
Because of our freedom, Baptists will always find ourselves arguing over one issue or another, and so it is today. Whether in Sunday School classes, within churches and/or conventions, or between churches and/or conventions, Baptists will disagree. Some of the issues today are the same issues that have troubled our churches from the beginning, while other issues have come to the fore only in recent years.
Whatever the issue, it is essential that we remember what unites us - our faith in Christ and our commitment to the freedom that He has given us . . . freedom not only for ourselves but for our sisters and brothers who are on the other "side" of one issue or another. Our commitment to listen to our sisters and brothers in the community of Baptists, with open ears and open hearts, even as we work through our disagreements. Our commitment to respect Baptist church polity, which may mean accepting a decision with which we disagree.
There's a lot of shouting going on today in our national life, and it often spills over into our Baptist life. I pray that we'll remember what we're about as Baptists, cling to the principles that birthed and sustained our Baptist movement, and live out those principles in respecting each other's freedom and giving others the grace that Christ has given us.