Baptists and the Concept of Liberty–A Thought

Some historians are arguing that Baptist thought about individual freedom and soul-liberty is an influence of the Enlightenment. While there are definitely some good indications of such an influence in the 19th century with Francis Wayland and his exaltation of individualism at the expense of the community, I fear this line of thought is a failure to see that the roots of Baptist convictions about individual freedom before God are rooted in the Separatist movement of the late 16th century, hardly a period of Enlightenment thinking! Men like Robert “Troubelchurch” Browne were central in the development of thinking in this direction. And even earlier than Browne, Jean Morelli, that remarkable Huguenot author with whom Bèze clashed over church government and who defended a Congregationalist polity, developed some of these ideas. No, the roots of Baptist thinking in this regard lie in the 16th century and that because of the re-reading of Scripture in fresh ways.