A question from a reader: i like this church but its presybeterian and im baptist so whats the difference?????
Oh, I know this one. “The Baptists don’t make eye contact and say ‘hello’ when they pass by each other at the liquor store.”
Seriously though, read this:
Presbyterian Church (USA) Minister responding to you here. The 16th century French Reformer, John Calvin, is the “father” of Presbyterianism and theologically the “father” of all the various Protestant denominations which subscribe to a sub-set known as the Reformed Tradition in the church (in the wider sense of the word, “church.”) That Reformed Tradition includes Presbyterian, United Church of Christ—not to be confused with Church of Christ; also Dutch Reformed, and the various different churches with “Reformed” in their name; also the Cumberland Presbyterian Church—and there are probably other strands which I just can’t think of, right at this moment.
The Baptists are associated with a man named Meno. I know much less about him…Presbyterians accept the two historic creeds which have been universally adopted: the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed. We have other “Confessional” Statements, too. (“Confession” as in PROFESSION, professing the faith we believe in.) These Confessional Statements are occasional declarations of faith which down through the years at particular times were composed and made public in order to address a particular error or crisis.
Baptists will not touch creeds. It’s like their own creed, not to subscribe to or appeal to any creed at all.
-Presbyterian: water is water is water. It doesn’t matter whether in your baptism you are sprinkled or poured-upon or immersed. The emphasis is on what we believe God is doing in that ritual, not that the ritual has any merit of its own.
-Baptists: you gotta be immersed/dunked.
As for Communion/The Lord’s Supper/Eucharist:
In both cases, the understanding of the presence of the Lord in the sacrament is not so literal as with the Orthodox and Roman Catholics. You might say that the Lord’s presence is believed to be larger than mere words can describe. Is Christ present in the bread and wine? Yes. Is he limited to just that? No.
Further, re: the sacraments…I will presume to say that Baptists would not even use the word, sacrament, but rather, “ordinance.” What the difference is, well, you’d have to ask them…And the Baptists will not allow baptism of infants or youngsters who are not yet mature enough to make a decision for Christ. Baptists are baptized at the time they commit to Christ in a way that is similar to what others would call “Confirmation.” In the PC(USA) we refer to it as making one’s “Public Profession of Faith.”
Infant baptism is common in the PC(USA.) The baptism of infants and children witnesses to the fact that God has a claim upon our lives even before we are ready to make our own decisions. The baptism of adults—upon their own profession of faith, witnesses to the fact that God’s grace calls for a response in faith from us.
In general, there is less emphasis on the sacraments in the Baptist tradition. Let us say that their entire orientation toward the sacraments is “low” as opposed to “high.” Much more emphasis is given to the Word, as opposed to the sacraments. You Baptists out there can correct me if I’m wrong, but functionally for the Baptists, the sacraments are almost an after-thought, no?
Institutional Structure: the Baptists are generally within either the Southern Baptist Convention or are American Baptists. I’m entering into territory here which may offend some, but I’m only trying to describe: the connection of the churches within those “Conventions” is quite loose. Most every decision about policy, etc. is left up to individual congregations.
The Presbyterian system is called, “connectional.” It is looser than what the Catholics and Anglicans have. (“Episcopal” = Anglican in the USA.) But in the Presby. system, there are higher governing bodies beyond the congregation.
I am a former Catholic, so my “take” on the rules and regulations in the Presbyterian Church (USA) is that our rules “have no teeth.” But our system recognizes that the bible—which is our touchstone— does not have the answer for all of our questions, so we need to extrapolate and come up with guidelines, and these guidelines are constructed, so we hope, in such a way so as to be consistent with the gospel message.
BIBLE: There are Baptists who are avowedly fundamentalist, maybe most of them. The PC(USA) rejects this literal approach to reading and understanding the bible. “We must approach the bible with literary and historical understanding.” And we must learn from what the sciences have to teach us. Science and the bible are not enemies, and we freely admit that the bible was written at different times, over the course of centuries, in a pre-scientific era. Therefore the bible begs to be interpreted, not taken word-for-word. There are a great many discrepancies in the bible, but that’s not a problem unless you try to reconcile and iron-out all of those differences in a misguided way.
The experience of blacks in the USA has meant that the social gospel has been quite important for any historical description of Baptists in this country. The black-Baptist experience has emphasized justice, liberation and equality under God, in the face of the discrimination they lived through for so long, particularly in the American South, but elsewhere, too…Names like Vernon Johns and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Andrew Young come to mind.
The “social gospel” is the HEART of the Christian message. We are called to self-sacrifice for the sake of all who have no voice and are disenfranchised, who suffer in any way. But it does seem to me that Baptists, Presbyterians and everybody else—Christians of all stripes today—have not acted in a concerted way in this regard. We’re too busy “accepting Jesus into our hearts”——as if he could FIT in there in the first place. If Jesus were not resurrected, he’d be spinning in his grave over this mutated, twisted “gospel.”
There is so much more to say, but this will get you started, I hope. Steer clear of any group that tells you that you need to be re-baptized THEIR way. Seek out and settle into a congregation which understands the essence of the Christian faith, which is to work for justice, under God, in Jesus’ name. Christianity and politics are not the same thing, but our votes, our approach to public policy, needs to be informed by our faith. There is no arena of life that is immune to the gospel-call to do good for others. That’s true both personally and socially. That’s why my denomination even has a Public Policy Witness Office in Washington, D.C.
God bless you.
Someone from a Presbyterian (PCUSA) church has already responded so I’ll give you my response as a Presbyterian (PCA). Below is my response to a similar question from a few days ago:
I grew up Baptist, but am now a Presbyterian (PCA). Here is what I can think of off the top of my head. Please note that when describing Presbyterians, I am describing PCA (the more conservative branch) not the PCUSA (more liberal branch). The PCUSA is very broad in their beliefs and practices.
Church Goverment – Baptist churches usually have a pastor and a deacon board. When it comes to things that affect the entire church body, the entire congregation will vote on it. Presbyterian churches have Elders and Deacons. The pastor is one of the Elders. The entirety of the elders and deacons makes up the Session. The Session votes on things, not the congregation (except for voting for elders and deacons).
Baptism – Baptists believe that only those who have professed faith in Christ should be baptised, and that this baptism is only to be done through immersion (dunking). Presbyterians baptize those that have professed faith in Christ and the infants born into a Christian family. Baptism is viewed as a replacement for circumcision. It identifies you with Christians, just as circumcision identified people as Jews in the Old Testament. Just as a Jewish child would be circumcised, and then when he was old enough, he made his own decisions about his beliefs, Presbyterians will baptize their infants, but when they grow older, the person is responsible for where they put their faith.
Creeds/Confessions – Southern Baptists hold to the “Baptist Faith & Message” as their doctrinal statement. Presbyterians hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Church service – Baptist churches vary quite a bit in what their service is like. It can be very quiet and subdued with just a piano, or upbeat with a full band/orchestra. Usually there aren’t any times during the service that the congregation recites anything together out loud. In Presbyterian churches, the service is more liturgical, with corporate prayers (where everybody recites the same prayer out loud), reciting the Apostle’s Creed, and responsive reading of Scripture. Most Presbyterian churches I have been in have had either just piano & organ accompaniment or piano, organ, orchestra, and acoustic guitar.
Free Will vs God’s Sovereignty – Most Baptist churches shy away from Reformed Theology (Doctrines of Grace, 5 Points of Calvinism) and focus on man’s “autonomous” free will, although the Founders wing of the Southern Baptist Church and the Reformed Baptist churches hold to Reformed Theology. All PCA churches hold to Reformed Theology as it is explicitly taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith. This causes more of a focus on God’s Sovereignty.
Communion – Baptists use only grape juice, Presbyterians use either grape juice or wine.
Alcohol – Most Baptists are very opposed to alcohol and hold either a prohibitionist view (all drinking of alcohol is wrong), or an abstentionist view (drinking alcohol isn’t necessarily wrong in and of itself, but we should abstain for testimony’s sake). Presbyterians tend to hold to the moderationist view (As long as it is done in moderation, there is nothing wrong with drinking alcohol). Last month, my church had a men’s ministry theology study at an Irish Pub.
Origin of the world – Baptists always teach literal 7-day creation. Presbyterians either teach that or teach a form of Theistic Evolution (God created using evolution), more specifically the Literary Framework view.
Rapture – Baptists usually believe the rapture will be before the 7 year period spoken of in Daniel often called the tribulation (think Left Behind). Presbyterians lean more to the Post-tribulation view or the Pre-Wrath view. There are overlaps though – some Baptists will hold to Post-Trib or Pre-Wrath, some Presbyterians will hold to the Pre-Trib rapture.
I hope this helps. God bless.
If you’re interested, this is a popular forum for Baptist Christians, you may find more answers here…
Here is one for Presbyterian Christians…
I am southern baptist and this is in response to the idea that baptist only believe in baptisim by immersion. I’ve seen multiple people be baptized other ways than just immersion at my church although immersion is prefered it is not the only way to be baptized.
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