In recent years Calvinism has become cool again in many evangelical circles. Popular evangelical preachers and authors like John Piper and John MacArthur have fueled interest in “the doctrines of grace” or “five point Calvinism.” Many mainstream evangelical churches now claim to some degree or another to be “Reformed” or to promote “Reformed” theology. I cannot help but think, however, that there is often no small degree of what might be called false advertising in that claim. I say this knowing that many of my Reformed Presbyterian friends might well say the same thing about “Reformed” Baptists altogether, since we do not embrace some things that they hold as essential to the Reformed faith, like infant baptism or highly structured connectionalism among churches. That might be a good topic for a future essay. For now, however, allow me to suggest five ways in which a “Reformed” Baptist Church will differ from an evangelical church which, for the moment at least, has embraced some measure of a Calvinistic view of salvation.
A Reformed Baptist Church will be:1. Confessional…2. Covenantal…3. Cessationist…4. Regulative in Worship…5. Sabbath-keeping…
Pastor Jeff Riddle has recorded a series of Word Magazine podcasts & Stylos blog posts in which he responds to Muslim Reza Aslan’s attack on the historical-theological Jesus Christ:
I finally got around to doing another edition of “Word Magazine” this afternoon. The topic is a review of an NPR interview with Reza Aslan discussing his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.
In this episode I focus on Aslan’s challenges to the historicity of the Gospel birth narratives, including his charge that the historical Jesus was born in Nazareth rather than Bethlehem and that the Gospel birth narratives are “ridiculous” and “unhistorical to the extreme.”
This week’s Word Magazine continues my review of the 7.15.13 NPR interview with Reza Aslan on his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, this time focusing on Aslan’s comments on the crucifixion of Jesus.
Was Jesus “an illiterate Jewish peasant from the hill country of Galilee”? This is the evaluation put forward by Reza Aslan in interviews and in his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, reviving a less than flattering view of the intellectual background of Jesus and correspondingly arguing that the sophisticated doctrinal aspects of the Christian faith were fabricated by later Christian preachers and apologists (like Paul).Aslan’s assessment of Jesus as “illiterate,” however, is extremely suspect if the Gospels hold any historical credibility at all.
This is the fourth (and final) issue dedicated to reviewing interviews with Reza Aslan on his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.
On October 2, 2011 Jeff Riddle of Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia interviewed Malcolm Watts of Emmanuel Church, Wiltshire, England for Word Magazine. The title of this podcast is “Watts on Worship“.
Singing Scriptures other than Psalms
“Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs”
The Elements of a Worship Service
Public Reading of Scripture
Collection Plate vs Collection Box
Here are the audio links to the 2013 Keach Conference messages by Richard Barcellos on the theme “Of God’s Covenant” (chapter seven, Second London Baptist Confession 1689) which focused on the Covenant of Works:
And here is the link to Pastor Ron Young’s Exhortation:
Occupy till I come (Luke 19:13)
And to the final Question and Answer session:
Pastor Jeff Riddle posted some more Scenes from the 2013 Keach Conference.
Pastor Jeff Riddle passes along some worship resource recommendations:
A friend who has worshiped with us at CRBC sent me an email a few months back that I have been meaning to share with you. His note provides some valuable aids that might enhance your participation in and enjoyment of the musical aspects of our worship at CRBC...
There is an online version of the Trinity Hymnal at http://www.opc.org/hymnal.html…
For the Trinity Hymnal (Baptist edition), they have information on Worship with Hymns, a set of 4 audio CDs available for purchase which have the piano accompaniment to 100 hymns…
In the June 25, 2011 episode of Pastor Jeff Riddle‘s Word Magazine podcast, Pastor Riddle offers a challenge to John MacArthur’s view of textual criticism, paying special attention to the traditional last 12 verses of Mark.
The focus is on a sermon preached by John MacArthur back on June 5, 2011 on Mark 16:9-20 completing a multi-year process of preaching expositionally through the NT.MacArthur’s message on Mark 16:9-20 is titled, “The Fitting End to Mark’s Gospel” (for an archive of all of MacArthur’s sermons over 42 years look here). In it he argues that the traditional (or Longer Ending) of Mark is not part of the original text of Scripture and that Mark’s proper ending is at Mark 16:8. He also gives equal validity to the so-called “Shorter” or “Intermediate” ending of Mark (as included in the ESV notes). Though, as I note in the broadcast, I appreciate the fact that MacArthur does not dodge this issue and that he teaches his congregation on textual issues, I disagree strongly with his conclusions.
Just about everyone now realizes the folly of Harold Camping in trying to set a date for the return of Christ. But in this May 23, 2011 episode of Pastor Jeff Riddle’s Word Magazine podcast, we see another problem with Camping’s eschatology: the secret rapture of the church.
I recorded another Word Magazine commentary titled: “The Overlooked Problem with Camping: Rapture Teaching.” Though many have rightly criticized Camping for weird hermeneutics (numerology), rejection of the local church, and false date setting, the problem with his teaching that has received less attention is his emphasis on the “rapture” borrowed from classical dispensationalism.
From Pastor Jeffrey T. Riddle’s blog, Stylos, May 12, 2011:
I had been thinking of creating an occasional commentary on theological, doctrinal, Biblical, and cultural issues. I finally sat down yesterday and recorded an initial episode of what I am calling “Word Magazine” (though on a listen back I realize I called it “Word Commentary” in the recording).
The commentary interacts with the cover article in the May 3-9, 2011 issue of C-ville that focused on the burgeoning “Christian” arts community in Charlottesville. Here are a few links that go along with the commentary:
The C-ville article “Signs of a Crossing.”
The website for The Garage, a “Christian” arts and performance space in C-ville.
Augustine’s Tractate VII on 1 John (the source for the quote “Love God, and do what you want” which I take exception with in my commentary).
Stylos is the blog of Jeff Riddle, a Reformed Baptist Pastor and Church Planter in Charlottesville, Virginia. On that blog he wrote a brief series on characters found in 2 Samuel. He explains:
The book of 2 Samuel describes the difficulties that arose during the reign of King David. Serious problems in David’s rule develop following his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite. Most disheartening is the rebellion of Absalom, David’s son, and the civil war that follows. The story of David’s rise and fall and his rising again is made all the more gripping in 2 Samuel by the colorful descriptions of the various characters within the narrative. They are historical figures, but their presentation in the narrative is also meant to convey timeless spiritual traits and situations. Anyone who has ever gone through a crisis in his family, school, work, or church has met with such characters. The reader might sometimes even the faces of friends, enemies, and acquaintances as he scans 2 Samuel. He may even see himself in some of the characters. They appear as illustrations and warnings.
Get to know some of these lesser known Bible characters, such as:
The Reformed Baptist Trumpet is the quarterly e-journal of the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of
Virginia (RBF-VA), a network of ministers, church officers, and congregations in Virginia
committed to promoting renewal and reformation in congregations throughout the
Commonwealth and beyond. The RBF-VA gladly affirms the Second London Baptist Confession
of Faith of 1689. The Reformed Baptist Trumpet editorial committee: Steve Clevenger, Pastor,
Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Warrenton, Virginia; Jeffrey T. Riddle, Pastor, Christ
Reformed Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia; W. Gary Crampton, Elder, Reformed Baptist
Church, Richmond, Virginia. The Editor is Jeffrey T. Riddle.
In this short post from a couple of years ago on Reformed Baptist Fellowship, Jeffrey T. Riddle presents four helpful ideas on how to make the Lord’s Day a blessing:
1. Understand the spiritual significance of the Fourth Commandment.
2. Set apart this day as special.
3. Make worship a priority.
4. Be intentional in preparation and planning for the Lord’s Day.
(The following is Jeffrey T. Riddle’s editorial from The Reformed Baptist Trumpet, November 2010, Volume 1, Number 2)
Listen to readout of article [8 min.]
Our generation has witnessed a revival of interest in the doctrines of grace or five-point Calvinism. Journalist Colin Hansen has tagged these new Calvinists as “young, restless, and reformed.” The movement has been spurred by the writing and preaching of men like R. C. Sproul, John Piper and Wayne Grudem. It has been celebrated and promoted in conference movements like “Together for the Gospel” and “The Gospel Coalition.”
There now appears, however, to be a divide forming in the ranks. On one side are the neo-evangelical Calvinists who are passionate about Calvinistic soteriology. On the other side, are those who say that merely embracing the five points of Calvinism does not go far enough. The latter contend that reformed theological principles must be applied to all other aspects of doctrine and practice, most significantly to the doctrine of worship.
I have attempted to trace below a few of the dividing lines on various issues between those who are seeking to be self-consciously “Reformed” and those whom I am calling “Neo-evangelical Calvinists.” I do this with caution, realizing that some Presbyterians (like R. Scott Clark) [Dr. Clark is Reformed not Presbyterian – Junior] would argue that Baptists cannot properly be identified as “Reformed” given that they depart from the magisterial reformers on the issue of baptism. For a counterpoint to Clark, see James Renihan’s book Edification and Beauty on early Particular Baptist ecclesiology (reviewed in this issue) in which he convincingly argues for the Reformed roots of these early Baptists who “believed that they had taken the principles of the reformation to their logical conclusion,” and thus “they were self-consciously more reformed than the paedobaptist reformed churches” (p.17)!
Dividing Lines between Reformed and Neo-evangelical Calvinism
Reformed: Prefer the detailed, robust, and historical confessions of faith and catechisms that come from the classical Reformation era (e.g., Canons of Dort, Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Westminster Confession of Faith, and Second London Baptist Confession of Faith).
Neo-evangelical: Argue that classic confessions of faith need fresh interpretations for the contemporary context or less strict subscription for evangelistic purposes. Often prefer confessions of faith that allow broader interpretation (e.g., among Baptists preference for the New Hampshire Confession over the Second London Baptist Confession).
Reformed: Hold to the abiding validity of the fourth commandment as part of God’s moral law, though recognizing that the day of rest is Sunday, the day of Christ’s resurrection, under the new covenant. Describe Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath.”
Neo-evangelical: Reject concern over the Lord’s Day as legalistic. See the fourth commandment as completely nullified, perhaps due to the influence of dispensationalism. Compare comments by John MacArthur in his Study Bible notes on Exodus 20:8: “Significantly, the command for the Sabbath is not repeated in the NT, whereas the other 9 are. In fact, it is nullified (cf. Col 2:16, 17). Belonging especially to Israel under the Mosaic economy, the Sabbath could not apply to the believer in the church age, for he is living in a new economy” (p. 125). Southern Baptist theologian Thomas Schreiner has likewise recently concluded, “Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath” (in his forthcoming book 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law).
Reformed: Hold firmly to the Regulative Principle of worship. The only proper elements in worship are those commanded by God in Scripture. See the worship service as a set and designated time on the Lord’s Day. Strive for reverence and simplicity. Likely to have minimal instrumental accompaniment or, increasingly, none at all. Likely to include the singing of canonical psalms. Those who speak publicly in worship services are ministers and elders.
Neo-evangelical: Hold to the Normative Principle of worship. Worship elements not expressly forbidden by Scripture are allowed. See worship as inclusive of all aspects of life and not just designated worship services on the Lord’s Day. Likely to make use of contemporary and “third wave” hymns and songs in worship and may have a choir or even a “praise band.” May allow persons other than elders, including women, to speak and lead in public worship.
Reformed: Hold to a cessationist view. Though God may perform miracles as he pleases, miraculous gifts and extraordinary signs ceased at the end of the apostolic era. The emphasis now is on the sufficiency of Scripture and the ordinary means of grace.
Neo-evangelical: Hold to non-cessionist view. Some, like Sovereign Grace churches, openly affirm and promote such practices. Others hold to an “open but cautious” view.
Purpose of the Church
Reformed: See the purpose of the church primarily as worship. Focus on the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The church’s call is clearly to preach the gospel and administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper till Christ returns.
Neo-evangelical: See the purpose of the church as evangelism and missions. Seek to study the culture and present the gospel in terms and through media that are intelligible to this age. Seek to be “incarnational” and “missional” in ministering to this culture. The church’s ministry includes concern for the environment, the arts, social justice, and mercy ministry to the poor and disenfranchised.
Reformed: Uphold the view of the ministry as a distinct office in the church and practice distinct ordination to gospel ministry. Though some have adopted the “parity” of elders view, most hold that the office of Ruling Elder is distinct from that of the Minister.
Neo-evangelical: Downplay the distinct role of the ministry and the practice of ordination to gospel ministry. Uphold egalitarian “parity” view of elders, though they may still provide for the role of a “Senior Pastor.”
Reformed: Uphold the doctrines of the infallibility and the divine preservation of Scripture as outlined in Reformed confessions (Westminster, Second London Baptist). More likely to make use of the traditional text of Scripture (Masoretic text of the OT; received text of the NT) and translations that are based on this text (e.g., Geneva Bible, KJV, NKJV, and NASB).
Neo-evangelical: Uphold doctrine of inerrancy of Scripture, including the inerrancy of the “original autographs,” as outlined in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Prefer modern critical Biblical texts (for the New Testament, the UBS/Nestle-Aland 27th ed.) and translations that are based on this text (NIV and, predominantly, the ESV).
One question that arises in making these distinctions is what the future will hold for neo-evangelical ministers, churches, and para-church ministries that have embraced Calvinistic soteriology without further Reformed commitments. Will they still be Calvinistic in soteriology in the next generation and beyond? Does a strong stand on the sovereignty of God in salvation alone ensure doctrinal fidelity? More foundationally, what do the Scriptures teach on all these subjects (Sabbath, worship, charismatic gifts, etc.)?