Calvinism is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians. Calvinists broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. Calvinists differ from Lutherans on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, theories of worship, the use of God's law for believers, among other things; as declared in the Westminster and Second Helvetic confessions, the core doctrines are predestination and election. The term Calvinism can be misleading, because the religious tradition which it denotes has always been diverse, with a wide range of influences rather than a single founder. In the context of the Reformation, Huldrych Zwingli began the Reformed tradition in 1519 in the city of Zürich, his followers were labeled Zwinglians, consistent with the Catholic practice of naming heresy after its founder. Soon, Zwingli was joined by Martin Bucer, Wolfgang Capito, William Farel, Johannes Oecolampadius and other early Reformed thinkers.
The namesake of the movement, French reformer John Calvin, converted to the Reformed tradition from Roman Catholicism only in the late 1520s or early 1530s as it was being developed. The movement was first called referring to John Calvin, by Lutherans who opposed it. Many within the tradition find it either an indescriptive or an inappropriate term and would prefer the word Reformed to be used instead; some Calvinists prefer the term Augustinian-Calvinism since Calvin credited his theology to Augustine of Hippo. The most important Reformed theologians include John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Bucer, William Farel, Heinrich Bullinger, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Theodore Beza, John Knox. In the twentieth century, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, Karl Barth, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Cornelius Van Til, Gordon Clark, R. C. Sproul were influential. Contemporary Reformed theologians include J. I. Packer, John MacArthur, Timothy J. Keller, David Wells, Michael Horton. Reformed churches may exercise several forms of ecclesiastical polity.
Calvinism is represented by Continental Reformed and Congregationalist traditions. The biggest Reformed association is the World Communion of Reformed Churches with more than 100 million members in 211 member denominations around the world. There are more conservative Reformed federations such as the World Reformed Fellowship and the International Conference of Reformed Churches, as well as independent churches. Calvinism is named after John Calvin, it was first used by a Lutheran theologian in 1552. It was a common practice of the Catholic Church to name; the term first came out of Lutheran circles. Calvin denounced the designation himself: They could attach us no greater insult than this word, Calvinism, it is not hard to guess. Despite its negative connotation, this designation became popular in order to distinguish Calvinists from Lutherans and from newer Protestant branches that emerged later; the vast majority of churches that trace their history back to Calvin do not use it themselves, since the designation "Reformed" is more accepted and preferred in the English-speaking world.
Moreover, these churches claim to be—in accordance with John Calvin's own words—"renewed accordingly with the true order of gospel". Since the Arminian controversy, the Reformed tradition—as a branch of Protestantism distinguished from Lutheranism—divided into two separate groups: Arminians and Calvinists. However, it is now rare to call Arminians a part of the Reformed tradition. While the Reformed theological tradition addresses all of the traditional topics of Christian theology, the word Calvinism is sometimes used to refer to particular Calvinist views on soteriology and predestination, which are summarized in part by the Five Points of Calvinism; some have argued that Calvinism as a whole stresses the sovereignty or rule of God in all things including salvation. First-generation Reformed theologians include Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Bucer, Wolfgang Capito, John Oecolampadius, Guillaume Farel; these reformers came from diverse academic backgrounds, but distinctions within Reformed theology can be detected in their thought the priority of scripture as a source of authority.
Scripture was viewed as a unified whole, which led to a covenantal theology of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper as visible signs of the covenant of grace. Another Reformed distinctive present in these theologians was their denial of the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord's supper; each of these theologians understood salvation to be by grace alone, affirmed a doctrine of particular election. Martin Luther and his successor Philipp Melanchthon were undoubtedly significant influences on these theologians, to a larger extent Reformed theologians; the doctrine of justification by faith alone was a direct inheritance from Luther. John Calvin, Heinrich Bullinger, Wolfgang Musculus, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Andreas Hyperius belong to the second generation of Reformed theologians. Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion was one of the most influential theologies of the era. Toward the middle of the 16th
Martin Bucer was a German Protestant reformer in the Reformed tradition based in Strasbourg who influenced Lutheran and Anglican doctrines and practices. Bucer was a member of the Dominican Order, but after meeting and being influenced by Martin Luther in 1518 he arranged for his monastic vows to be annulled, he began to work for the Reformation, with the support of Franz von Sickingen. Bucer's efforts to reform the church in Wissembourg resulted in his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church, he was forced to flee to Strasbourg. There he joined a team of reformers which included Matthew Zell, Wolfgang Capito, Caspar Hedio, he acted as a mediator between the two leading reformers, Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli, who differed on the doctrine of the eucharist. Bucer sought agreement on common articles of faith such as the Tetrapolitan Confession and the Wittenberg Concord, working with Philipp Melanchthon on the latter. Bucer believed that the Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire could be convinced to join the Reformation.
Through a series of conferences organised by Charles V, he tried to unite Protestants and Catholics to create a German national church separate from Rome. He did not achieve this, as political events led to the Schmalkaldic War and the retreat of Protestantism within the Empire. In 1548, Bucer was persuaded, under duress, to sign the Augsburg Interim, which imposed certain forms of Catholic worship. However, he continued to promote reforms until the city of Strasbourg accepted the Interim, forced him to leave. In 1549, Bucer was exiled to England, under the guidance of Thomas Cranmer, he was able to influence the second revision of the Book of Common Prayer, he died in Cambridge, England, at the age of 59. Although his ministry did not lead to the formation of a new denomination, many Protestant denominations have claimed him as one of their own, he is remembered as an early pioneer of ecumenism. In the 16th century, the Holy Roman Empire was a centralised state in name only; the Empire was divided into many princely and city states that provided a powerful check on the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor.
The division of power between the emperor and the various states made the Reformation in Germany possible, as individual states defended reformers within their territories. In the Electorate of Saxony, Martin Luther was supported by the elector Frederick III and his successors John and John Frederick. Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse—whose lands lay midway between Saxony and the Rhine—also supported the Reformation, he figured prominently in the lives of both Luther and Bucer; the Emperor Charles V had to balance the demands of his imperial subjects. At the same time, he was distracted by war with France and the Ottoman Empire and in Italy; the political rivalry among all the players influenced the ecclesiastical developments within the Empire. In addition to the princely states, free imperial cities, nominally under the control of the Emperor but ruled by councils that acted like sovereign governments, were scattered throughout the Empire; as the Reformation took root, clashes broke out in many cities between local reformers and conservative city magistrates.
It was in a free imperial city, that Martin Bucer began his work. Located on the western frontier of the Empire, Strasbourg was allied with the Swiss cities that had thrown off the imperial yoke; some had adopted a reformed religion distinct from Lutheranism, in which humanist social concepts and the communal ethic played a greater role. Along with a group of free imperial cities in the south and west of the German lands, Strasbourg followed this pattern of Reformation, it was ruled by a complex local government under the control of a few powerful families and wealthy guildsmen. In Bucer's time, social unrest was growing as lower-level artisans resented their social immobility and the widening income gap; the citizens may not have planned revolution, but they were receptive to new ideas that might transform their lives. Martin Bucer was born in a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire, his father and grandfather, both named Claus Butzer, were coopers by trade. Nothing is known about Bucer's mother.
Bucer attended Sélestat's prestigious Latin school, where artisans sent their children. He joined the Dominican Order as a novice. Bucer claimed his grandfather had forced him into the order. After a year, he was consecrated as an acolyte in the Strasbourg church of the Williamites, he took his vows as a full Dominican friar. In 1510, he was ordained as a deacon. By 1515, Bucer was studying theology in the Dominican monastery in Heidelberg; the following year, he took a course in dogmatics in Mainz, where he was ordained a priest, returning to Heidelberg in January 1517 to enroll in the university. Around this time, he became influenced by humanism, he started buying books published by Johannes Froben, some by the great humanist Erasmus. A 1518 inventory of Bucer's books includes the major works of Thomas Aquinas, leader of medieval scholasticism in the Dominican order. In April 1518, Johannes von Staupitz, the vicar-general of the Augustinians, invited the Wittenberg reformer Martin Luther to argue his theology at the Heidelberg Disputation.
Here Bucer met Luther for the first time. In a long letter to his mentor, Beatus Rhenanus, Bucer recounted what he learned, he commented on several of Luther's Ninety-Five Theses, he agreed with them and perceived the ideas of Luther and Erasmus to be in concordance. Because meeting Luther posed certain risks, he asked Rhenanus to ensure his letter did not
Thomas Helwys, an Englishman, was one of the joint founders, with John Smyth, of the General Baptist denomination. In the early seventeenth century, Helwys was principal formulator of that distinctively Baptist request: that the church and the state be kept separate in matters of law, so that individuals might have a freedom of religious conscience. Thomas Helwys was an advocate of religious liberty at a time when to hold to such views could be dangerous, he died in prison as a consequence of the religious persecution of Protestant dissenters under King James I. Thomas Helwys was born in Gainsborough, from Edmund and Margaret Helwys who were descendants of an old Norman family. Edmund had sold his land in Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire and had taken a lease on Broxtowe Hall in Bilborough parish. In 1590 when his father died, Thomas Helwys assumed control of the estate, but in 1593, left the care of the estate in the hands of his father's friends and began studies in law at Gray's Inn, one of the four Inns of Court in London.
Helwys' family was on the rise in London. Geoffrey Helwys, his uncle, was an alderman and the sheriff of London, his cousin, was knighted by King James before becoming lieutenant of the Tower of London. After completing his studies at Gray's Inn in 1593, Thomas himself spent some time in the capital. Thomas married Joan Ashmore at St, Martin's Church, Bilborough, in 1595, they lived at Broxtowe Hall. During this time, the Helwys' home became a haven for early Puritans, one of the many groups of English dissenters within the Church of England and it is that Thomas contributed financially to their mission. At some point, Thomas Helwys developed a close bond with dissenter John Smyth and he and his wife became committed members of Smyth's separatist congregation in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire; the sixty or seventy Separatists in Gainsborough were allowed to meet in secret in Gainsborough Old Hall by the Hall's sympathetic owner Sir William Hickman. The Church authorities were unable to tolerate any significant degree of puritan independence.
In 1607, the High Court of Ecclesiastical Commission resolved to clamp down on the Gainsborough and Scrooby dissenters. Sometime in the winter of 1607/08, John Smyth, around 40 others from the Gainsborough and Scrooby congregations fled to the safety of Amsterdam in the more tolerant Dutch Republic, he is one of the leaders of the foundation of the first Baptist Church in 1609. On 11 April 1611 Anabaptist Edward Wightman became the last religious martyr to be burnt. Assuming their safety, Helwys allowed his family to remain in England, his wife was soon arrested and, after refusing to take the oath in court, she was imprisoned. It is that she was banished after three months in prison, it was in the Dutch Republic that a distinctive Baptist faith first emerged amongst the English émigrés. Open debate amongst the émigrés, close contact and interaction with earlier English exiles and continental Protestants, led the congregation to question the meaning and practice of baptism, among other things.
John Smyth became convinced that baptism should be for Christian believers not for infants. The other English émigrés agreed. However, at the same time as Smyth started to embrace Mennonite doctrines. Helwys and other believers separate from Smyth because of some different ones on christology. Helwys and a dozen or so others began to formulate the earliest Baptist confessions of faith; this "confession" became the twenty-seven articles in A Declaration of Faith of English People Remaining at Amsterdam in Holland. In the next twelve months or so, Helwys wrote three more important works: an argument for Arminianism, a polemic explaining his differences with the Mennonites, most A Short Declaration on the Mystery of Iniquity, a critique and apocalyptic interpretation of the Papacy as well as criticisms of Brownism and Puritanism, the first English book defending the principle of religious liberty. For Helwys, religious liberty was a right for everyone for those he disagreed with. Despite the obvious risks involved and twelve Baptist émigrés returned to England to speak out against religious persecution.
They founded the first Baptist congregation on English soil in east end of London. Early in 1612, Helwys was able to publish A Short Declaration of the Mistery of Iniquity, he wrote an appeal to King James I arguing for liberty of conscience and sent him a copy of his book. "The King," Helwys said, "is a mortal man, not God, therefore he hath no power over the mortal soul of his subjects to make laws and ordinances for them and to set spiritual Lords over them." The king had Helwys thrown into Newgate Prison. Helwys' presentation copy of A Short Declaration of the Mistery of Iniquity is still preserved in the Bodleian Library. Thomas Helwys is honoured with the Helwys Hall at Oxford. Thomas Helwys Baptist Church, in Lenton, Nottingham is named after him. Broxtowe Hall, the Helwys' family home, is now only a remnant but in nearby Bilborough Baptist Church there is a simple plaque to his memory. "If the Kings people be obedient and true subjects, obeying all humane lawes made by the King, our Lord the King can require no more: for men's religion to God is betwixt God and themselves.
— A Short Declara
The Heidelberg Catechism, one of the Three Forms of Unity, is a Protestant confessional document taking the form of a series of questions and answers, for use in teaching Reformed Christian doctrine. It was written in 1563 in Heidelberg, present-day Germany, its original title translates to Catechism, or Christian Instruction, according to the Usages of the Churches and Schools of the Electoral Palatinate. Commissioned by the prince-elector of the Electoral Palatinate, it is sometimes referred to as the "Palatinate Catechism." It has been translated into many languages and is regarded as one of the most influential of the Reformed catechisms. Elector Frederick III, sovereign of the Electoral Palatinate from 1559 to 1576, commissioned the composition of a new Catechism for his territory. While the catechism's introduction credits the "entire theological faculty here" and "all the superintendents and prominent servants of the church" for the composition of the catechism, Zacharius Ursinus is regarded as the catechism's principal author.
Caspar Olevianus was asserted as a co-author of the document, though this theory has been discarded by modern scholarship. Johann Sylvan, Adam Neuser, Johannes Willing, Thomas Erastus, Michael Diller, Johannes Brunner, Tilemann Mumius, Petrus Macheropoeus, Johannes Eisenmenger, Immanuel Tremellius and Pierre Boquin are all to have contributed to the Catechism in some way. Frederick himself wrote the preface to the Catechism and oversaw its composition and publication. Frederick, Lutheran but had strong Reformed leanings, wanted to out the religious situation of his Lutheran territory within the Catholic Holy Roman Empire; the Council of Trent had just finished its work with its conclusions and decrees against the Protestant faiths, the Peace of Augsburg had only granted toleration for Lutheranism within the empire where the ruler was Lutheran. One of the aims of the catechism was to counteract the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church as well as Anabaptists and "strict" Gnesio-Lutherans like Tilemann Heshusius and Matthias Flacius, who were resisting Frederick's Reformed influences on the matter of the Eucharist.
The Catechism based each of its statements on biblical source texts. Frederick himself defended it at the 1566 Diet of Augsburg as based in scripture rather than based in reformed theology when he was called to answer to charges of violating the Peace of Augsburg; the Catechism is divided into fifty-two sections, called "Lord's Days," which were designed to be taught on each of the 52 Sundays of the year. A synod in Heidelberg approved the catechism in 1563. In the Netherlands, the Catechism was approved by the Synods of Wesel, Dort, the Hague, as well as the great Synod of Dort of 1618–19, which adopted it as one of the Three Forms of Unity, together with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort. Elders and deacons were required to subscribe and adhere to it, ministers were required to preach on a section of the Catechism each Sunday so as to increase the poor theological knowledge of the church members. In many Reformed denominations originating from the Netherlands, this practice is still continued.
In its current form, the Heidelberg Catechism answers. These are divided into three main parts: This part consists of the Lord's Day 2, 3, 4, it discusses: The Fall, The natural condition of man, God's demands on him in His law. This part consists of Lord's Day 5 through to Lord's Day 31, it discusses: The need for a Redeemer The importance of faith, the content of, explained by an exposition of the 12 Articles of the Christian faith, known as the Apostle's Creed. The discussion of these articles is further divided into sections on: God the Father and our creation God the Son and our salvation God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification Justification The Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper And the keys of the kingdom of heaven The Preaching of the Gospel and Church Discipline This part consists of the Lord's Day 32 through to Lord's Day 52, it discusses: Conversion The Ten Commandments The Lord's prayer The first Lord's Day should be read as a summary of the catechism as a whole. As such, it illustrates the character of this work, devotional as well as dogmatic or doctrinal.
The first Question and Answer reads: What is Thy only comfort in life and death? The answer is: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; the Catechism is most notoriously and explicitly anti-Catholic in the additions made in its second and third editions to Lord’s Day 30 concerning "the popish mass,", condemned as an "accursed idolatry." Following the War of Palatine Succession Heidelberg and the Palatinate were again in an unstable political situation with sectarian battle lines. In 1719 an edition of the Catechism was published in the Palatinate that included Lord's Day 30; the Catholic reaction was so strong, the Catechism was banned by Charles III Philip, Elector Palatine. This provoked a reaction from Reformed count
Christianity is an Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament. Depending on the specific denomination of Christianity, practices may include baptism, prayer, confirmation, burial rites, marriage rites and the religious education of children. Most denominations hold regular group worship services. Christianity developed during the 1st century CE as a Jewish Christian sect of Second Temple Judaism, it soon attracted Gentile God-fearers, which lead to a departure from Jewish customs, the establishment of Christianity as an independent religion. During the first centuries of its existence Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, to Ethiopia and some parts of Asia. Constantine the Great decriminalized it via the Edict of Milan; the First Council of Nicaea established a uniform set of beliefs across the Roman Empire.
By 380, the Roman Empire designated Christianity as the state religion. The period of the first seven ecumenical councils is sometimes referred to as the Great Church, the united full communion of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, before their schisms. Oriental Orthodoxy split after the Council of Chalcedon over differences in Christology; the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church separated in the East–West Schism over the authority of the Pope. In 1521, Protestants split from the Catholic Church in the Protestant Reformation over Papal primacy, the nature of salvation, other ecclesiological and theological disputes. Following the Age of Discovery, Christianity was spread into the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, the rest of the world via missionary work and colonization. There are 2.3 billion Christians in the world, or 31.4% of the global population. Today, the four largest branches of Christianity are the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodoxy.
Christianity and Christian ethics have played a prominent role in the development of Western civilization around Europe during late antiquity and the Middle Ages. In the New Testament, the names by which the disciples were known among themselves were "brethren", "the faithful", "elect", "saints" and "believers". Early Jewish Christians referred to themselves as'The Way' coming from Isaiah 40:3, "prepare the way of the Lord." According to Acts 11:26, the term "Christian" was first used in reference to Jesus's disciples in the city of Antioch, meaning "followers of Christ," by the non-Jewish inhabitants of Antioch. The earliest recorded use of the term "Christianity" was by Ignatius of Antioch, in around 100 AD. While Christians worldwide share basic convcitions, there are differences of interpretations and opinions of the Bible and sacred traditions on which Christianity is based. Concise doctrinal statements or confessions of religious beliefs are known as creeds, they began as baptismal formulae and were expanded during the Christological controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries to become statements of faith.
The Apostles' Creed is the most accepted statement of the articles of Christian faith. It is used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes, most visibly by liturgical churches of Western Christian tradition, including the Latin Church of the Catholic Church, Lutheranism and Western Rite Orthodoxy, it is used by Presbyterians and Congregationalists. This particular creed was developed between the 9th centuries, its central doctrines are those of God the Creator. Each of the doctrines found in this creed can be traced to statements current in the apostolic period; the creed was used as a summary of Christian doctrine for baptismal candidates in the churches of Rome. Its main points include: Belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Holy Spirit The death, descent into hell and ascension of Christ The holiness of the Church and the communion of saints Christ's second coming, the Day of Judgement and salvation of the faithful; the Nicene Creed was formulated in response to Arianism, at the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople in 325 and 381 and ratified as the universal creed of Christendom by the First Council of Ephesus in 431.
The Chalcedonian Definition, or Creed of Chalcedon, developed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, though rejected by the Oriental Orthodox churches, taught Christ "to be acknowledged in two natures, unchangeably, inseparably": one divine and one human, that both natures, while perfect in themselves, are also united into one person. The Athanasian Creed, received in the Western Church as having the same status as the Nicene and Chalcedonian, says: "We worship one God in Trinity, Trinity in Unity. Many evangelical Protestants reject creeds as definitive statements of faith while agreeing with some or all of the substance of the creeds. Most Baptists do not use creeds "in that they have not sought to establish binding
The Confession of Faith, popularly known as the Belgic Confession, is a doctrinal standard document to which many of the Reformed churches subscribe. The Confession forms part of the Three Forms of Unity of the Reformed Church, which are still the official subordinate standards of the Dutch Reformed Church; the confession's chief author was Guido de Brès, a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, who died a martyr to the faith in 1567, during the Dutch Reformation. The name Belgic Confession follows the seventeenth-century Latin designation Confessio Belgica. Belgica referred to the whole of the Low Countries, both north and south, which today is divided into the Netherlands and Belgium. De Brès was a Presbyterian and a Calvinist, the initial text he prepared was influenced by the Gallic Confession. De Brès showed it in draft to others, including Hadrian à Saravia, Herman Moded, Godfried van Wingen, it was revised by Franciscus Junius, who abridged the sixteenth article and sent a copy to Geneva and other churches for approval.
In 1566, the text of this confession was revised at a synod held at Antwerp. It was adopted by national synods held during the last three decades of the sixteenth century; the Belgic Confession became the basis of a counter to the Arminian controversy that arose in the following century and was opposed by Arminius himself. The text was revised again at the Synod of Dort in 1618-19, was included in the Canons of Dort, adopted as one of the doctrinal standards to which all office-bearers and members of the Reformed churches were required to subscribe; this revision was drafted in the French language. The Belgic Confession consists of 37 articles which deal with the doctrines of God, humanity, Christ, the Church, the end times; the first French edition is extant in four printings, two from 1561 and two from 1562. The Synod of Antwerp of September 1580 ordered a copy of the revised text of Junius to be made for its archives, to be signed by every new minister; the first Latin translation was made from Junius's text by Theodore Beza, or under his direction, for the Harmonia Confessionum, passed into the first edition of the Corpus et Syntagma Confessionum.
A second Latin translation was prepared by Festus Hommius for the Synod of Dort, 1618, revised and approved 1619. It appeared in Greek 1623, 1653, 1660, at Utrecht. Bangs, Carl, "Arminius and the Reformation", Church History, Cambridge University Press, 30: 155–170, doi:10.2307/3161969, ISSN 0009-6407, JSTOR 3161969 Bangs, Carl, "Review: God and Providence in the Thought of Jacob Arminius", Church History, Cambridge University Press, 66: 118–120, doi:10.2307/3169661, ISSN 0009-6407, JSTOR 3169661 Cochrane, Reformed Confessions of the Sixteenth Century, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, ISBN 978-0-664-22694-7, retrieved 2013-02-13 Gootjes, The Belgic Confession, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, ISBN 978-0-8010-3235-6, retrieved 2013-02-13 Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, ISBN 978-0-310-40918-2, retrieved 2013-02-13 Jackson, Samuel, ed. "Belgic Confession", The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, II, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, retrieved 2013-02-13 Latourette, Kenneth.
William Bullein Johnson
William Bullein Johnson was one of the founders of the South Carolina State Baptist Convention in 1821, was the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1845 to 1851. Johnson is the founder of Johnson Female Seminary renamed Johnson University, in 1848 the predecessor to Anderson University. Johnson was born on 13 June 1782 on John's Island, South Carolina, near Charleston and was educated at home in Georgetown, South Carolina by his mother and by private tutors, his mother was of the Particular Baptist faith, believing that the redemptive work of Christ only applied to those who were saved. As a child he met President George Washington and Dr. Richard Furman, pastor of the First Baptist Church Charleston, who made a great impression on him, he attended Brown University, receiving a degree in 1804. He had intended to become a lawyer, but was converted during a Baptist revival in 1804, devoted the rest of his life to Christian service, he married Henrietta Hornby in 1803. One of their eight children who reached maturity, Francis C.
Johnson, became a Southern Baptist missionary to China in 1846. After preaching in several churches from 1804 to 1806, Johnson was appointed pastor of the Baptist church at Euhaw near Beaufort, South Carolina. In October 1809 he baptized five new converts in the Congaree River in Columbia, SC; that day he organized First Baptist Church Columbia with these 5 new converts and 7 other local Baptists, under the leadership of Jonathan Maxcy, first president of the University of South Carolina and ordained Baptist preacher. In 1810 he was invited to become chaplain of Columbia. In 1811 he accepted an offer to become pastor of the Baptist church in Georgia, it was here that Johnson met Luther Rice, who interested him in foreign missions, whom he helped arrange the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions, or Triennial Convention, in 1814. He was one of the framers of the constitution of this convention. Returning to South Carolina, after serving again as pastor of the Columbia church Johnson moved to Greenville, South Carolina where he was principal of Greenville Female Academy, founded a Baptist church in the town.
Johnson was one of nine men who formed the South Carolina State Baptist Convention in 1821. He succeeded Richard Furman as president of the convention and served from 1825 to 1852. In 1830 he moved to Edgefield to become principal of Edgefield Female Academy and pastor of Edgefield Baptist Church. Johnson became the last southern president of the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions between 1841 and 1844; as tensions grew between the northern and southern Baptists over the issue of slavery, he attempted to avoid a split but in 1845 was asked become first president of the breakaway Southern Baptists Convention, serving until 1851. In this role he helped found the Furman University, which became Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1859, based in Greenville, South Carolina. Towards the end of his life he was chancellor of Johnson University, South Carolina; the period between the American Revolution and the Civil War marks a period of dramatic increase in the number of institutions providing higher education.
In noting the part Baptists played in the movement, historian J. Bradley Creed called it a "cottage industry" due to the number of Baptist institutions established during the period. W. B. Johnson was among the Baptist leaders in the expansion, his vision for Baptist higher education went further than the more conventional schools of the time. The earliest schools for women were called "seminaries" and were places where they were trained as teachers. Few of these schools existed when Johnson Female Seminary was founded in Anderson, South Carolina in 1848. Known as Johnson University, the institution did not survive Johnson's death and the onset of the Civil War; the legacy of Johnson University continued, however. Its presence in the community left a lasting impression on the local young people of that day; as the late Anderson College professor, Charles S. Sullivan, said, "the continuity that runs through the life of a community from one generation to the next is expressed in cultural traditions as well as in visible institutions.
Shortly after the turn of the century, those who fondly remembered the impact that Johnson University had on the community developed a compelling vision of resurrecting the institution in the form of Anderson College which became Anderson University. The home in which Rev. Johnson lived in the City of Anderson was still standing as of 2014, his portrait hangs in perpetuity in the Truett Cathy Old Common Room in Merritt Hall on the Anderson University campus. William Bullein Johnson; the gospel developed through the order of the churches of Jesus Christ. H. K. Ellyson. Southern Baptist Convention Presidents Anderson University William Bullein Johnson Papers - Furman University Special Collections