Before jumping out of the seventeenth century I should mention another Baptist preacher who was far less formally educated, yet was so grounded in Scriptural piety that he impacted England (and far beyond). John Bunyan (1628-1688) is better known for his writing of Pilgrim’s Progress but was a widely influential preacher , imprisoned for twelve years because of Baptist convictions. Inspirational and forceful, he famously declared: “I have not fished in other men’s waters; my Bible and concordance are my only library.”[ii] So, to other qualities, strong Biblical authority must be added. Of course, it should be noted, that this was true of most other Protestant preaching in the wake of the Reformation. Further, early Baptists contained both Arminian and Calvinistic theology among different groupings.
In its rapid expansion since these beginnings, Baptist life and witness now exhibits rich (and confusing?) diversity, especially in North America. Do some of the early characteristics, born out of persecution, still remain? Have other characteristics emerged? One certainty is that the authority of Scripture is held high by most Baptist preachers, but what else?