On Oct. 25-26, 1861, a group of Baptist delegates from several churches met with the Valley Town Baptist Church on Valley River in North Carolina and organized the Friendship Baptist Association.1 Among the first orders of business was adoption of a confession of faith which all the churches forming the alliance could embrace. Below is the Confession of Faith originally adopted by the Friendship Baptist Association in 1861.
1. We believe in one only living and true God, and that there are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and that these three are one.
2. We believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the word of God and the only true rule of word and practice.
3. We believe in the doctrine of original sin.
4. We believe in man's incompetency to recover himself from the fallen state he is in by nature, and that justification in the sight of God is only obtained by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
5. We believe in the doctrine of election through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
6. We believe that saints shall persevere in grace, and that none of them shall ever fall away and be lost.
7. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and a general judgment, and that the punishment of the wicked and joys of the righteous shall be eternal.
8. We believe that Baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances instituted by Christ, and that true believers are the only proper subjects thereof.
9. We believe the only true mode of Baptism is Immersion.
10. We believe that none have a right to administer the ordinances but Ministers of the Gospel regularly ordained to that office.
Several traits stand out in these ten articles of belief.
First, the articles bear a refreshing simplicity about them. Unlike the 1689 London Baptist Confession with its towering beams of High Calvinism on every corner, this confession cuts through the fog indicative of Calvinistic code language and substitutes instead a short faith proposition.
Second, no a priori definitions are expressed concerning what moral depravity of the human heart must mean. A simple affirmation—"We believe in the doctrine of original sin"—presumably supported both by universal human observation and explicit biblical teaching—moral depravity indicates "man's incompetency to recover himself from the fallen state he is in by nature." It takes the one and only Savior, Jesus, to accomplish fallen humanity's redemption.
Third, there exists no focus—indeed not even a hint—on or about the doctrine of predestination so prominent in the 1689 London Confession of Faith. Rather the confession simply asserts belief in the "doctrine of election through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth," an assertion fully reflecting the language of Scripture on election. The Calvinistic rendering of "Unconditional Election" is ignored.
Fourth, there exists no focus on nor even a hint concerning Limited Atonement, another highly emphasized doctrine in Particular Baptist confessions. Indeed no assertion in the confession indicates Friendship Baptist Association was decidedly Calvinistic in any meaningful sense at all.
Hence, if no distinctive Calvinistic language is employed to mark this association as an alliance undeniably made up of strict Baptist Calvinists, then is it not reasonable to assume this association was a non-Calvinistic association?
1Content for this post taken from History of Tennessee River Baptist Association, North Carolina, from the year 1830 to the year 1892: introduced by early sketches of the Baptist Church, closing with twenty-four life sketches and a miscellaneous supplement by Elder Jno. S. Smiley. 1893. Kindle Locations 228-234