SGBC Modesto

SGBC and the GARBC

March 2, 2024 by

William Heinrich

Some have asked why Sovereign Grace Baptist Church has chosen to affiliate with the GARBC.  The answer lies in three primary fields.  First, the history of the GARBC is solidly rooted in the sovereign grace position (5 points of Calvinism).

Second, the church government is congregational with strong Pastor leadership.  Third, the GARBC took a strong position on separation, both personal and ecclesiastical.  These three positions are simply not found together anywhere else (as far as I know). Since each church is autonomous and Pastors are trained in different schools, the churches vary in the importance they put on each of these. 

            Our purpose in this setting is to look at the term “Regular Baptist”. What was the meaning of this term when the organization of the GARBC chose it? The minutes of the Philadelphia Association reveal that those known as “Particular Baptists” in England came to be designated as “Regular Baptists” in the American colonies. They shared common statements of faith and they were Calvinists and vocal against all forms of Arminianism.  The GARBC adopted the London confession of faith held by the “Particular Baptists” of England.  This was later known as the Philadelphia Confession.  Therefore Regular = Particular or Calvinist.

 The historian Philip Schaff says, “The great body of Baptists are called Regular or Particular or Calvinistic Baptist, in distinction from the smaller body of General, Arminian or free will Baptist.”  Robert Handy writes, “The largest and most significant group of Baptists in North America in the eighteenth Century was the Particular or Regular Baptist.”

             Time is not always a friend to word meanings.  Words can loose their historical meaning when we fail to teach history or fail to explain the historical meanings. This has happened to the title “Regular” Baptist.  To most Baptists and others “regular” no longer means “Calvinistic,” even in the Regular Baptist churches.  For example, one Regular Baptist Pastor historian writes, “the term regular to historic Baptists was used in contrast to irregular who were not tainted with denominationalism and liberalism.”  Hopewell, Odell and Stowell in consensus states, “Regular Baptists are those who are not tainted with modernism and who have not forsaken the Baptist distinctives for Liberal theology, or surrendered their autonomy to denominational machinery.”  It’s obvious then even leading Regular Baptists have not been historical Regular Baptist’s.  

            The whole truth is that well over 50% of the GARBC are not historical Regular Baptists.  Most of them do not believe any of the five points that Calvin taught.  In place of total depravity (total inability), they teach man has a free will.  In place of unconditional election, they say God chose those who He knew would choose Him.  In place of limited atonement (particular redemption), they teach He died for everyone even those who go to hell.  In place of irresistible grace, they teach God’s saving grace can be resisted.  In place of perseverance of the Saints (the truly saved will never fall, but persevere in faith), they teach eternal security.  

            Those who have changed every point that the Regular Baptist once held, still desire to be called regular Baptist and even Calvinistic.  Many of them (probably most) see themselves as the true Regular Baptist and we who hold the historical position that the GARBC was founded upon as false and irregular Baptists.

            In conclusion, remember that together we can accomplish more but unless the Regular Baptist return to their historical position, the future associational fellowship for SGBC is uncertain.