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Soul competency

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Part of a series of articles on
Baptists
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Historical Background
Christianity  · Anabaptists
General · Strict · Reformed

Doctrinal distinctives
Sola scriptura
Congregationalism
Priesthood of all believers
Ordinances
Individual soul liberty
Separation of church and state
Offices
Confessions

Pivotal figures
John Smyth · Thomas Helwys · Roger Williams · John Bunyan · Shubal Stearns · Andrew Fuller · Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Baptist Associations and Conventions

Baptism logo Baptist Portal

Soul competency is a Christian theological perspective on the accountability of each person before God. According to this view, neither one's family relationships, church membership, or ecclesiastical or religious authorities can effect salvation of one's soul from damnation. Instead, under this view, each person is responsible to God for his or her own personal faith in Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.

Baptist view

The basic concept of individual soul liberty, as Baptists refer to soul competency, is that, in matters of religion, each person has the liberty to choose what his/her conscience or soul dictates is right, and is responsible to no one but God for the decision that is made.

A person may then choose to be a Baptist, a member of another Christian denomination, an adherent to another world religion, or to choose no religious belief system, and neither the church, nor the government, nor family or friends may either make the decision or compel the person to choose otherwise. In addition, a person may change his/her mind over time.

Lack of creeds

In line with soul competency, the Southern Baptist Convention has no official creeds. They do, however, have the Baptist Faith and Message, a statement of the consensus of participating conventions.

Origin of soul competency

Before the Protestant Reformation, the Church was seen as having authority over the interpretation of the Bible. The Magisterial Reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, translated the Bible into the common language so as to allow the laity to read it and understand. However, they did not so much attack the authority of the church in interpreting and teaching Scripture as perceived abuses by the church of Rome. Baptists with the doctrine of soul competency went further, denying any church the authority or responsibility to teach people the truth that they need in order to be saved.

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