Individual Soul Liberty
One of the outstanding principles and doctrines of Baptists through the centuries has been what we call individual soul liberty. By this phrase is meant the right so far as any human intervention is concerned, of every soul to approach God and interpret God for himself. It does not mean that the soul is sovereign above all other souls. If an individual makes a mistake in the exercise of his soul’s sovereignty in his approach to or interpretation of God, then he must settle with God on that score; but no other human, or combination of humans, anywhere on the face of the earth can coerce him to approach any other way or to interpret God in any other fashion than he chooses for himself. Romans 14:5–12 is the key passage which instructs us on our individual liberty to interpret the Word of God. Also, Joshua 24:15 teaches that we have the responsibility, right, and privilege to choose to follow God or not. Acts 17:11 teaches us about the example of the Bereans who constantly on their own searched the Scriptures to determine what was correct doctrine.
Does believing in individual soul liberty mean that we can be opposed to the historic cardinal doctrines of the faith if we so choose to read it that way?
Baptists have always been creedal people. We have been people that have come together around a common doctrinal commitment. These doctrinal statements have stood the test of time, like the First and Second London Baptist Confession, the Philadelphia Baptist Confession, and the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith. These doctrinal statements were the central point of convergence for these churches. Their people served in churches that were committed to these teachings. Creeds are a very important part of the church of Jesus Christ. It helps to develop a systematic understanding of doctrinal teachings which we can rally around. Even our church, has a doctrinal statement which in itself is like a creed.
We can have the freedom to interpret the Word for ourselves and yet still hold to a central confession of faith. The key here is, if one chooses based on their soul liberty to reject that confession, they have the freedom to do so and can choose to fellowship with a church that better reflects their doctrinal stands.
Hello Mr. Mickle,
Thank you for your explaination of Individual Soul Liberty. I am currently studying Bible Doctrine at Boise Bible College, and came across this term anew. I am researching the life and doctrinal beliefs of Oswald Chambers and understand that his faith was influenced by the teachings of Charles H. Spurgeon and the Baptist Church of England. My understanding is somewhat limited regarding the Baptist stance relative to Calvinism, which appears to be in conflict with Individual Soul Liberty. Could you provide enlightenment on this subject, or offer direction to resources that could provide clarity.
Thank you and God bless you brother,
Dale W. Sims
Glad you found my site and I am glad the brief article here was helpful. Perhaps you could clarify for me what you mean by the Baptist stance relative to Calvinism is in conflict with Individual Soul Liberty? Then I might be able to help answer your question.
Interestingly enough, an interesting recent article by Dr. Michael Haykin on being both Baptist and Calvinist: http://www.andrewfullercenter.org/wp-content/uploads/being-baptist-and-being-calvinist.pdf