Primitive Baptists

Primitive Baptists
Michael Rivera/Wikimedia Commons

Primitive Baptists say that their name means "original," in doctrine and practice. Also known as Old School Baptists and Old Line Primitive Baptists, they differentiate themselves from other Baptist denominations. The group split from other American Baptists in the 1830s over disagreements about missionary societies, Sunday School, and theological seminaries.

Today, Primitive Baptists are a small but zealous group that hold to Scripture as their only authority and have basic worship services resembling those of the early Christian church.

There are approximately 72,000 Primitive Baptists in about 1,000 churches in the United States and overseas.

Founding of the Primitive Baptists

Primitive, or Old School Baptists, split from other Baptists in 1832. Primitive Baptists could find no scriptural support for mission boards, Sunday Schools, and theological seminaries. Primitive Baptists believe their church is the first New Testament church, established by Jesus Christ, simple and free of the theology and practices later added by men.

Prominent primitive Baptist founders include Thomas Griffith, Joseph Stout, Thomas Pope, John Leland, Wilson Thompson, John Clark, Gilbert Beebe.


Churches are located primarily in the midwestern, southern, and western United States. Primitive Baptists have also established new churches in the Philippines, India, and Kenya.

Primitive Baptists Governing Body

Primitive Baptists are organized in Associations, with each church independently governed under a congregational system. All baptized members may vote in the conference. Ministers are males chosen from the congregation and have the biblical title "Elder." In some churches, they are unpaid, while others provide support or a salary. Elders are self-trained and do not attend seminaries.

Sacred or Distinguishing Text

The 1611 King James Version of the Bible is the only text this denomination uses.

Primitive Baptists' Beliefs and Practices

Primitives believe in total depravity, that is, only a predetermined act of God can bring a person to salvation and that the individual can do nothing to save him or herself. Primitives hold to unconditional election, based "solely on the grace and mercy of God." Their belief in limited atonement, or particular redemption, set them apart, stating that "the Bible teaches that Christ died to save his elect only, a definite number of people who can never be lost." Their doctrine of irresistible grace teaches that God sends the Holy Spirit into the hearts of his chosen elect, which always results in new birth and salvation. Finally, Primitive Baptists believe all elect will be saved, although some hold that even though the person does not persevere, they will still be saved (preserved).

Primitives conduct simple worship services with preaching, praying, and a cappella singing. They have two ordinances: baptism by immersion and the Lord's Supper, consisting of unleavened bread and wine and in some churches, feet washing.