Monday, April 15, 2024

Today on the Christian History Almanac, we head to the mailbag to answer a question about modern-day Baptists.

It is the 15th of April 2024. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.


A very happy Monday and tax day here in America, where, according to the Tax Complexity Index, we are the 43rd most difficult place to file taxes out of the 64 countries rated, so… it could be worse.

First, let’s start with a little thing I’m gonna do every once in a while- corrections and retractions! I do a lot of these shows and write a lot of words, and sometimes I make mistakes- if you find one, e-mail me. I’m not delicate when it comes to this- first, from a dear listener who can always offer corrections: On the show about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin- the less important issue is that I was pronouncing the “L” in what should be pronounced “tay-hard”- I’m good with German and Spanish and outside of that I use pronunciation guides but sometimes mess up. But. More importantly, where he gets sticky is his Christology- you’ll need to import your own Creedal Jesus, the God-Man in time and space, as Teilhard’s is almost pantheistic- a Jesus “spirit” imbued in the universe.

And then, Roy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, pointed out that I had indeed swapped “slavery” for the “slave trade”- William Wilberforce did see the end of the slave trade in his lifetime- in both the UK and the U.S., it was easier, and earlier, to stop the international trade but allow existing slaves to be enslaved or in some instances traded domestically. It took longer for slavery abolition acts to pass as law. Thanks, Roy.

Ok, like clockwork, on a recent show, I mentioned the Anabaptists, and this almost triggers an email with the question, “Are the Anabaptists the original Baptists?”- I’ve received many an email with this question or a variation of it- this one from Tory in Bozeman, Montana- the “valley of the flowers” home to Montana State Bobcats and at one time Jan Stenerud, the first full-time placekicker to make the NFL hall of fame- also home to what my young believes is the best hamburger he ever ate- we were there a few years ago, beautiful country.  

Ok- so are the “Anabaptists” the same as the modern “Baptists”? Part of what makes this such a perennial question is that the Baptists of today tend to stress tradition and historical lineage less than some other denominations. It’s not that they don’t, but often, the issue is that the history of Baptists is often tied up with the general history of the church. The Baptists as we know them today, and this in the American tradition, do not have a direct lineage to the Anabaptists but more from the English Puritans and nonconformists that came in the 17th century to the New World.

The Anabaptists were part of the “Radical Reformation”. These were those not content to “reform” but rather to “build anew.” They believed that the church had become so enchanted with power and ritual that it would be best to form their own communities. Some extreme radicals chose violence, but for the most part, they were pacifist, and they wanted to “re-baptize”- that’s what the prefix “ana” means. They are the ancestors of the groups known as Mennonites, the Hutterites, the Swiss Brethren, and even the Amish, with their desire to separate from the world.

As we know them today, the Baptists broke off from the Reformation and had their roots in the Reformed/Calvinistic branch of the Reformation. You might hear someone call themselves a “Reformed Baptist” because they hold to a generally Reformed soteriology- that means, “how someone is saved.” Some of these would call themselves “particular baptists,” meaning they held to the doctrine of “limited” or “particular” atonement, which meant that the death of Christ was effective for those he came to save.

As I mentioned on the weekend show, the early Baptists were very keen on religious liberty- after all, they came from the non-conforming English groups that were persecuted for not belonging to the established Anglican Church- and so some of the best protections we have as a church today against state encroachment are thanks to our Baptist friends. The modern Baptist likely has one thing in common: they do not Baptize infants and tend to be congregational- so, with little to no overarching hierarchy, each church does as they see fit- and some of the questions in the largest American Baptist church body: the Southern Baptist Convention have to do with oversight and autonomy. One more note: I know some folk who refer to the cousin of Jesus as “John the Baptizer” because you don’t want to have anyone think he was a baptist… that’s… that’s a decision.

Thanks for the corrections and for the question, Tory in Bozeman. You can send me your questions, comments, recipes, and pictures of adorable animals to


The last word for today is from the daily lectionary- this season, spending a lot of time in the Epistle of 1 John, this is from the 3rd chapter:

Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 15th of April 2024, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man who has his very own Radical Reformation Study Bible in neon, a cover with a guy wakeboarding, and is sponsored by Prime Energy- he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man from the generation that still uses the word “Rad” non-ironically, at least I think… sometimes our irony is really complex, and we’re not sure if it’s passed from one side to the other… I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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