Baptists are well known for two principles, namely the primacy of the Scriptures, and liberty of conscience. The Baptist Union of Southern Africa (BUSA) has historically also sought to uphold these two principles. These two principles, however, can superficially appear to be in conflict with one another. The need to promote doctrinal orthodoxy by defining a doctrine of Scripture could be construed as limiting the liberty of conscience of the individual churches in the BUSA to interpret the Scriptures for themselves.

This thesis examines two questions. Firstly, what is the nature of the Baptist principle “liberty of conscience” or “religious liberty,” and how is the principle meant to be understood in the context of the churches’ ongoing mandate to “defend the faith?” Secondly, how, if at all, has the principle of liberty of conscience impacted on the doctrine of Scripture in the BUSA?