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Sophia wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a Baptist friend that insists that Baptists were the first Christians because John was called John the Baptist.

  • How do I reply?

Sophia

  { Seeing John was called 'John the Baptist', were the first Christians actually Baptists? }

Eric replied:

Sophia,

Airtight logic! There is no historical proof for this. Just because someone uses someone else's name or title doesn't give them a historical claim of continuity from that person. Baptists are called such because of their emphasis on full immersion adult baptism, not because they continuously have existed from John the Baptist's days.

The Baptist movement was started in 1609 by John Smyth (Wikipedia). There is no evidence of it before that point. There are so-called Primitive Baptists who claim to go back earlier, but when challenged to produce evidence of this, they claim the Catholic Church destroyed all the records. How convenient.

Maybe if you point out that only one person was called a Baptist in the New Testament they might pause for a while. Remember that John the Baptist's followers weren't even Christian because John was the last Old Testament prophet and you had to have Baptism from Christ (i.e. Christian Baptism) in order to be considered a Christian.

I'm not sure how much effort is worth arguing with such people who, in their own mind, are likely stuck in circular reasoning.

Eric

Sophia replied:

Eric,

Thank you so much!

  • So do you have any sources I could use to prove Protestants, in general, didn't exist before the Reformation?

Thanks,

Sophia

Eric replied:

Sophia,

It's their burden of proof to prove that their group existed before the Reformation.

There are some groups that sprouted up that had a few similar ideas, such as the Albigensians and the Hussites and the Waldensians, but none of these has a pedigree going back to the early church, and they often believed in things (such as ritual suicide, for example) that Protestants would recoil from.

It's very hard to prove that something didn't exist.

  • For example, can you prove that intelligent life on other planets doesn't exist?

The most we can say is that evidence that it exists is lacking. That's what makes this kind of claim difficult to prove.

Eric

Mike replied:

Hi, Sophia —

As I say on the home page of my website, the word Catholic means universal, in the sense that it is the Christian Faith according to its totality or in keeping with the whole.

As St. Ignatius of Antioch said in 107 A.D.:

Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God.

As Eric said, the followers of John the Baptist weren't even Christian as they followed the Old Testament at that time.

Hope this helps,

Mike

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