Question: "What is the Regular Baptist Church, and what do Regular Baptists believe?"
Answer: The Regular Baptist Church is a fellowship of conservative, evangelical churches within the Baptist tradition. Their organization is called the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC), with about 1,300 churches in the association.
The Regular Baptist Church has its roots in various pre-Reformation groups who believed in believer’s baptism by immersion and eschewed the hierarchy and formalism of the established church at the time. By the end of the 1500s, the groups that would eventually call themselves “Baptist” began to separate themselves from other Nonconformist groups. Two strains of Baptists emerged: the General Baptists and the Particular Baptists. The General Baptists were so called because they believed in a general atonement—the Arminian teaching that Jesus died to make all men, in a universal sense, savable. Particular Baptists held to the more Calvinistic understanding that Jesus died only for the elect and that He died to actually secure their salvation, i.e., particular atonement.
In Colonial America, Roger Williams established the First Baptist Church at Providence (in present-day Rhode Island) in 1638. Eventually, the General Baptists in America began to be called Free Baptists, while the Particular Baptists were called Regular Baptists. The numbers of the more Calvinistic Regular Baptists outgrew those of the Free Baptists, especially after the First Great Awakening (c. 1735–1743), which had a decidedly Calvinistic bent.
Today, according to the GARBC, the term Regular in “Regular Baptist” has no direct implications for their view of the atonement. It is simply a generic term that refers to the “regulation” or “rule” (Latin regula) of Scripture. Being a “Regular” Baptist means being part of a church that holds to orthodox Baptist doctrine and affirms the rule of Scripture as the ultimate authority for faith and practice.
The official Regular Baptist view of the atonement is only moderately Calvinistic, holding to both unlimited atonement and divine election: God makes the benefits of Christ’s atonement equally available for everyone and provides especially for its appropriation by the elect. Other doctrines and practices of the Regular Baptist Church align with Baptistic tradition: congregational rule, two ordinances (baptism and communion), two church offices (pastor and deacon), the priesthood of the believer, and the requirement for church membership being salvation and baptism. Some, but not all, Regular Baptists also hold to “closed” communion, the teaching that baptism by immersion (and thus church membership) is also required before a person can partake in the Lord’s Supper.
The General Association of Regular Baptists is not a denomination but a fellowship of churches of like faith. Individual churches within the GARBC identify themselves as independent, autonomous congregations that have voluntarily joined together for mutual support. Together, these churches hold national and regional conferences; publish materials through Regular Baptist Press; provide disaster relief and fund new church construction and renovations of existing churches through the Baptist Builders Club; and organize Talents for Christ, a scholarship program for high schoolers.
Generally speaking, Regular Baptist Churches hold to biblical doctrine, are missions-minded, and seek to follow the New Testament model for God’s people in community. As with any association or denomination, individual churches have unique differences, and the doctrine and practices of any church should be assessed according to what Scripture says.