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May Baptist Churches Use the Adjective “Reformed”? [Roundup]

capitol reformed baptist churchI’ve had these saved to post, but given that R. Scott Clark himself has been interacting on our blog as of late, I thought it would be a good time to post these.

Thanks for visiting our site R. Scott Clark!

Dr. Bob Gonzales introduces the issue:

Many Reformed Christians who believe in the validity of infant baptism find it odd that certain Baptist congregations would employ the nomenclature “Reformed Baptist.” Indeed, some Reformed ministers and theologians today accuse Reformed Baptists of something like “identity theft.” R. Scott Clark, for example, argues in his recently published book Recovering the Reformed Confession that a infant baptism is an essential element of covenant theology, that one cannot have one without the other. So despite the fact that most who call themselves “Reformed Baptist” today affirm a Confession of Faith whose language and theology was drawn largely from the Westminster Confession, we are, in the mind of Clark and others, unwarranted in our employment of the adjective “Reformed.” The ecclesiastical parameters of that adjective, argue Clark, were set in ecclesiastical stone by the synods and councils of the 16th and 17th centuries…

 

So these churches used the 1689 as a means to define themselves as an association of “Reformed Baptist” churches just as Dr. Clark alleges the delegates at Dordtrecht and Westminster Abby did previously.

 

One of Clark’s responses to this kind of reasoning is to accuse us of what he calls “Reformed Narcissism,” which he illustrates with the following syllogism:

 

1. I am Reformed

2. I think x

3. Therefore x is Reformed.

 

“To state the syllogism,” says Clark, “is to expose the silliness of it.”1 Perhaps stating the syllogism in such an oversimplified way does give it a ring of “silliness.” But if one reflects carefully on Clark’s own reasoning, it doesn’t appear too far removed from the contours of this syllogism:

 

Dr. Clark’s argument
1. The 16th and 17th century PB Reformers and Puritans said in essence, “We are Reformed.”
2. They said, “We think x [i.e., The Three Forms of Unity/The Westminster Standards]
3. Therefore, x is “Reformed”

 

If Dr. Clark and company are entitled to that kind of procedure, why not Reformed Baptists?

 

A Reformed Baptist argument
1. The 20th century Credo-Baptist adherents of the 1689 Confession (granddaughter to the WCF and daughter to the Savoy Declaration) said in essence, “We are not simplyReformed; we are Reformed Baptist.”
2. They said, “We think x [i.e., The Second London Baptist Confession]
3. Therefore, x is “Reformed Baptist.”

Read the rest [7 minute readout]

The above post includes a roundup of related post [some links are dead now and I added some more below]:

James White’s interactions with Dr. Clark:

  • R. Scott Clark and “Reformed” [11 min. readout]
    “A few days ago Micah Burke commented on R. Scott Clark’s regular practice of defining “Reformed” on the sole basis of the objects of baptism. That is, Dr. Clark… does not believe a credobaptist can ever be called “Reformed,” effectively transferring the primary weight of “Reformed” from the great central doctrines of the gospel, the sovereign power of God, the perfection of the work of Christ, the resulting emphasis upon worship, Scriptural authority and sufficiency, etc., to the single issue of covenantal signs upon infants. The result is that Clark is forced to identify as “Reformed” the liberal Presbyterians and others who continue to practice infant baptism as “Reformed” while denying the term to those who stand closest to him in the key areas just noted. Of course, it is his right to do so, just as it is my right to respond.”
  • Follow Up on R. Scott Clark and “Reformed” [2 min. readout]
  • Reformed Redux [3 min. readout]

Michael Haykin “The esse of Reformed: a current question” [7 min. readout]

 The desire to present a united Calvinist front in the face of persecution consequently led the Particular Baptists to employ the Westminster Confession, as modified by the Savoy Declaration, as the basis of a new confession,The Second London Confession of Faith (1677/1689). In the words of the preface to the Second London Confession [read here]

 

When I read this statement, I hear my forebears, those worthies of the seventeenth century, saying that they shared a common faith with their Presbyterian and Congregationalist brethren. Dr. White is by no means the first to have thought this.

 Keith Throop “Why I Call Myself a Reformed Baptist” [7 min. readout]

…the term reformed can be used in a broad sense to describe that which is changed for the better, and in our discussion it refers to the changes that were made by Protestants in their efforts to reform the Roman Catholic Church in accordance with Scripture. In this sense it could refer to any person or group that seeks to be consistent in reforming the church in this way. I believe John Quincy Adams had in mind this usage of the term in his famous little book Baptists: The Only Thorough Religious Reformers, and this is one sense in which I intend the word to be taken when I describe myself as a Reformed Baptist. It communicates my commitment to the principle indicated by the slogan semper reformanda (“always reforming”), and it declares my conviction that it is the Particular Baptists who have been more faithful reformers than their Presbyterian brothers, especially with regard to the issues of church government and baptism, as indicated above. Indeed, in this sense I think we have more right to use the term than they do.

Erroll Hulse “What is it to be Reformed?” [PuritanBoard]

Occasionally Presbyterians object to Baptists calling themselves ‘Reformed’. How can they be ‘Reformed’ if they do not follow John Calvin’s teaching on infant baptism?

 

Reformed Baptists believe that this issue was settled 320 years ago when the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith was published. Their confession follows the Westminster Confession of faith in all its chapters but makes progress in reform, firstly in rejecting infant baptism as having no scripture warrant and also in taking the doctrine of the Church forward by rejecting the idea of Corpus Christianum that is that the idea that the whole of society is ‘Christian’ by infant baptism. The 1689 implicitly lined up with the Presbyterians in rejecting Arminianism, Antinomianism, Quakerism and Millenarianism. Today that would mean rejection of New Covenant teaching on law, charismatic tongues and prophecies and dispensationalism. With regard to infant baptism the magisterial reformers were locked into the principle of Corpus Christianum. The 16th century reformation was only possible by submission to civil magistrates. To break rank and reject infant baptism, as the anabaptists found out to their cost, was to suffer the death penalty…

Richard Barcellos “Can Baptists Be Reformed? Is this a contradiction in terms? A Baptist’s Response” [10 min. readout]

I want to go on record (and I can because this is the internet) as one who thinks the BC of 1689 is of the “Old Side” persuasion concerning an ordinary means of grace ministry – it is a word and two-sacrament document.

Baptist churches not true churches? [PuritanBoard]

Any I missed?

 

  • Tom Chantry

    I addressed the origin of the term “Reformed Baptist” in part 1 of the “Reflections” series, and Pastor Dykstra and I address it again in the introduction to our forthcoming book, Holding Communion Together. The terminology was invented at Westminster Seminary in the early 1960s by my father and Geoff Thomas, possibly with input from Bob den Dulk. The point of the term was to emphasize general agreement with Presbyterian theology on points not directly related to ecclesiology, but also to indicate a robust confessionalism similar to other branches of the church hailing back to the post-Reformation period. These men recognized that they were not adequately identified by the phrase “Calvinistic Baptist,” a group which included many dispensationalists and others who had gone no further in Reformed theology than the five points. “Reformed Baptist” was a way of indicating a history, a hermeneutic, a theological system, and above all a consistent confessionalism which made them far more similar to their Presbyterian friends than to anyone they knew in Baptist circles or in broader evangelicalism.

    • Andrew K.

      Yes, even leaving claims of “historical accuracy” aside, I can’t think of a better descriptive term that would give the most meaning to the broadest group of people.

      I think someone has suggested a return to the “Particular Baptist” title, but that sounds really strange to the modern ear. “Strict Baptist” just sounds mean. RB the best term we’ve got, so let’s stick with it.

  • JD_Warren

    Some guy on credocovenant.com is writing a series of posts answering this very question. He’s only 1/3 of the way done though.