The Primitive Baptist Church


How it Differs from Other Baptist Churches!

What is a Primitive Baptist Church? This is a question that frequently comes up when a person tells someone that he/she is a member of a Primitive Baptist Church. Primitive Baptists, also known as Hard Shell Baptists or Old School Baptists, have the same basic Biblical beliefs as other Baptist Churches—Missionary Baptists, Freewill Baptists, Independent Baptists, Southern Baptists, National Baptists, General Baptists, etc. The adjective, "Primitive", in the name is used in the sense of “original.” This name was adopted after a disagreement arose in the 1820's and 1830's over the use of Missionary Societies, Sunday Schools and Theological Seminaries, which were first introduced to the United States around 1800. Up until that time, all the Baptist churches (with the exception of a few general atonement Baptist churches) were identical in faith and practice.

The Baptist Church Split: Primitive Baptist Practices Distinguishable from those of Other Baptists

  • A cappella singing (music not allowed; no New Testament command for musical instruments)

  • Family integrated worship (no Sunday School; parents responsible for teaching their children)

  • Informal training of preachers (no warrant or sanction from the New Testament)

  • Foot Washing (performed as a symbol of humility and service among the membership; sexes separated during the ritual where one person washes the feet of another; this practice credited with increasing equality, as opposed to hierarchy)

In today’s society, Maundy (from Latin mandatum or mendicare), or Washing of the Feet, is a religious rite observed by several Christian denominations. John 13:1–17 mentions Jesus performing this act. Specifically, in verses 13:14–17, He instructs them:
14 "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."

As such, many denominations (including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics) observe the washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week.[1] Moreover, for some denominations, foot-washing was an example, a pattern. Many groups throughout church history and many modern denominations have practiced foot washing as a church ordinance including the Adventists, Anabaptists, Baptists, and Pentecostals.

All Primitive Baptists believe in the inspiration of the Bible and accept the Bible as infallible in religious teachings. They accept the Bible as a trustworthy record of the progressive revelation of God; and they believe the Bible climaxed by the supreme revelation of God, Himself, in Jesus Christ. “Progressive” and “Liberal” Primitive Baptists alike accept the Bible literally regarding it as infallible and final in every detail, but no official dogma prescribes how any individual Primitive Baptist shall interpret the Bible. Progressive Primitive Baptist Churches

Progressive Primitive Baptist Churches are embodied by three attributes:

  • They are identified with the Baptist tradition as they baptize only believers who have made a profession of faith and they baptize by immersion. 

  • The word Primitive in the name refers to their adherence to the original principles of their Baptist ancestors, the Particular Baptists of England. Their articles of faith are based on the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. 

  • The word Progressive refers to their inclusion of musical instruments, bible studies, youth camps, mission and charity organizations that are rejected by other factions of Primitive Baptists (often referred to as "old line" or "old school").

NOTE: Wikipedia. “Primitive Baptists, September 15, 2015.” Wikipedia Foundation, Inc., the Free Encyclopedia. (accessed November 11, 2015).

A study of the Primitive Baptist Church reveals that there is very little difference between Progressive Primitive Baptist Churches and other Baptist churches. Although not officially considered a Progressive Primitive Baptist Church, West Harpeth is “progressive” in its practices as disclosed in the history of our church. It could easily be named the West Harpeth Progressive Primitive Baptist Church.