Baptists are a variety of Evangelical Protestantism. Baptists claim 90 million members worldwide, approximately seventy percent of which reside in the United States. It should be noted that Baptist members are those who have reached the "age of reason" and been baptized. Baptists do not count infants and young children as members.
Baptists cannot trace their denomination's beginnings to any one founder. Most reputable historians teach that John Smyth and Thomas Helwys, two Englishmen connected to the separatist movement from the Church of England, gave this group its general ideas, though. Smyth and Helwys disagreed with the Church of England on doctrines such as infant baptism (hence the name Baptist), ecclesiastical authority, and church-state relations, among other things. Since the separatist movement was persecuted by the English government, Smyth exiled himself to the Netherlands and established the first Baptist church there in 1609. Helwys, however, stayed in England and started the first English Baptist church two years later. Today, this schismatic group is referred to as the General Baptists. Years later, though, the Particular Baptists, who shared a more Calvinist theology, arose. They offically emerged in 1644 with their London Confession of Faith.
Some also believe the Baptists got their start from the Anabaptists. However, this is unlikely, due to the fact that Baptists and Anabaptists disagree on many issues (such as practices and doctrines relating to church discipline and pacifism).
Another view known as Landmarkism teaches that the first Baptists were the discples of St. John the Baptist. This, however, is extremely unlikely as Baptism espouses many doctrines that developed either in post-schism Catholicism or in other Protestant sects, more than a millennium after Christ. The most notable denomination that holds this view is the American Baptists.
Since there are at least sixty-five Baptist bodies with no structured ecclesiology, it's hard to precisely define their doctrines. Nevertheless, there are some points common to all Baptists. For example, most adherents place strong emphasis on the independence of the individual person ("individual soul liberty"), independence of each church, affirmation of believer's baptism, and distinctively American concepts such as freedom of religion and separation of church and state.
Orthodoxy disagrees with Baptists on:
Baptists are part of the "congregationalist" heresy, meaning that they don't have bishops or any traditional ecclesiological structures. Instead, Congregationalist church governance gives autonomy to individual local churches in areas of policy, polity and doctrine. Baptist churches are not under the direct administrative control of any other body, such as a national council, or a leader such as a bishop or pope. Administration, leadership and doctrine are usually decided democratically by the lay members of each individual church, which accounts for the variation of beliefs from one Baptist church to another. Such a system allows for each person to decide independently to believe whatever they wish, making it effectively impossible for a single Tradition or the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to be preserved. Also, Baptists ascribe to a doctrine called the "priesthood of all believers." This notion states that every Christian has direct access to God and the truths found in the Bible using his own rational faculties, without the help of a priest to cleanse the noetic faculty to see the Light of Christ. Thus priests are made into mere church leaders or financial managers, not guides of Christian life as the presiders of the Divine Liturgy.
Baptists firmly believe in sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). Properly understood, this is the concept of Scripture as a unified whole, utilizing literary criticism called "historical Biblical scholarship," which was pioneered in the late 19th century, while rejecting the previous two millennia of commentaries by the Holy Fathers. Orthodoxy, however, knows Holy Tradition to hold and interpret the Bible within itself. Like all Protestants, Baptists reject the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament, considering them to be less than divinely inspired. Biblical inerrancy is yet another common heresy among fundamentalist Baptists.
Baptism, commonly referred to as "believer's baptism" among Baptists, is an ordinance that according to Baptist doctrine plays no role in salvation. That is, the act of baptism does not actually save a person or cleanse him from all his sins. Instead, it is merely an outward observance, properly performed only after salvation, which occurs when a person professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This completely opposes Orthodoxy, which regards baptism as a real supernatural transformation, through which the believer dies and rises again with Christ in a very real manner.
Through Anabaptist influence, Baptists reject the practice of pedobaptism, or infant baptism, because they believe parents cannot make a decision of salvation for an infant. Related to this doctrine is the disputed concept of an "age of accountability" when God determines that a mentally capable person is accountable for their sins and eligible for baptism. In contrast, reason and mental capacity are not essential factors in either Orthodox baptism or Holy Communion. This "tradition" arose from the legalistic, overly rationalistic theology of the Roman Catholic Church, which puts the rational intellect above all else, whereas Orthodoxy places the noetic faculty above all.
Baptists, like nearly all Protestants, hold a sola fide soteriology. This is an interpretation contrary to the Fathers, placing central emphasis of a Calvinist reading of Ephesians 2:8 ("For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God"). Their interpretation states that a person must only willfully repent of sin, accept the substitutionary payment of his own sin by faith in Christ's death, and declares that Jesus is Lord in order to attain salvation. Like most Western Christians, there is a dichotomy placed between "faith" and "works." Thus, any mention of the necessity of "works" such as fasting, prayer, or charity being necessary or even helpful for the soul are anathema. However, it should be noted that most Baptists, like other evangelical Christians, believe that a reformed life and continued spiritual growth following conversion are important proofs that one's conversion was genuine. When an individual claims to have placed faith in Christ but does not show spiritual and moral growth, the sincerity of that individual's conversion is doubted. Baptists, like other Western Christians, do not speak of theosis like the Orthodox. Like other evangelical Christians, most Baptists do speak of sanctification, a process whereby the saved individual is gradually reformed by the interior action of the Holy Spirit to become more and more like Christ.