Sunday, December 6, 2009

Can Baptists be Reformed?

I recently had a discussion on facebook with a friend about whether or not Baptists can rightly claim the adjective reformed. I am sharing our discussion here to get further insight [1]. I do not want a debate about the merits or demerits of reformed theology. Please, stick to the subject at hand in your comments. No off topic comments will be posted.

Seth Miller:I do not understand the phrase "Reformed Baptist". Aside from believing predestination in the Augustinian sense, what is so "Reformed" about you? Most, if not all, Reformers practiced paedobaptism and persecuted those who did not. Most, if not all, Reformers did not believe in religious liberty but rather ruled through synods and councils rejecting the idea of the autonomy of the local church.

Jeremy Lee: I've been thinking about this lately although from a different angle. Some Reformed people think it is inappropriate for Baptists to use the adjective reformed because they reject paedobaptism. My opinion on this is that Baptists who believe as you say in Augustinian predestination are accurately called Reformed. The reason for this is that while there are disagreements between the Reformed and Reformed Baptists, Reformed Baptists are within the Reformed tradition.

The question you are asking is not a new one and seemed to be the question that motivated Baptists in London to write the 1689 London Confession. The 2nd London is based on the Westminster Confession in order to show that these Baptist were not Anabaptists as they were accused of being. They wanted to demonstrate they were in agreement for the most part with Reformed theology. This history suggests that reformed is appropriate to use in reference to Baptists who believe in Augustinian predestination.

Seth Miller: It is interesting to see you appeal to the events surrounding the construction of the LCOF to defend the usage of the phrase "reformed." Seeing that none of the Baptist involved used it. They called themselves Calvinistic or Particular Baptist. It was actually the "Reformed" part THEY WERE trying to distant themselves from. Hence, the removal of paedobaptism and church censures when they referred to the Westminster Confession as basis for LCOF. Both of these doctrines are distinguishing marks of Classical Reformed Theology and very anti-Baptist. How can one claim the name "Reformed" and yet deny two major tenets of it?

Jeremy Lee: I still think the point of the LCOF was to demonstrate agreement more than distance themselves. Although, your point that they did not call themselves reformed is telling.

The question is what is the definition of reformed? Is it defined soteriologically or both soteriologically and ecclesiologically? Since I believe the most important aspect is the gospel, I would define it soteriologically and call myself reformed. I have a friend who suggested that Baptists are truly reformed because they alone took Sola Scriptura to its logical conclusion and rejected paedobaptism.

Seth Miller: I was actually thinking the same thing when I was writing: What is the definition of Reformed? I would say that both soteriology and ecclesiology are crucial to the definition since these were the major issues that the Reformers faced. They challenged the Roman Catholic view of salvation and how church is to be. I would agree to what your friend said in that sense: Baptists finished what the Reformers started.

See also:

Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church
[1] This is a slightly edited version of our conversation.


A. Amos Love said...

Can Baptists be Reformed?

Reformed =
Make changes in order to improve something.

From my experience a Baptist can be reformed,
depending on their desire to know truth,
believeing the Bible is really the final authority,
be willing to set aside ‘The traditions of men”
taught in “The Religious system” and seminary,
and trust the teachings of Jesus in the Bible,
over the teachings of Calvin, a man.

Many Baptists (any denomination) I’ve met are stuck
in “The Traditions of men” and have bcome
hardened clay no longer moldable or refomable.

In the scriptures water is a type of the word of God. Christ also loved the church, (called out ones)
and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word...

If God is the one who takes the clay and “reforms it”
the clay needs to have some moisture.

Jesus warned us that “the traditions of men”
would make the word of God of “none effect,”
would “nullify” the word of God,
would “cancel out” the word of God,

Like Rome, traditions become more important
then”The Word of God.”

And the clay no longer has any moisture.
It has become hardened.
In order to “reform” the hardened clay...

it must be broken, crushed, and ground into powder.

Then the water of the word of God can be added
and the clay once again can be “reformed,”
as the potter wishes.

Yes, when God chooses a Baptist to be “reformed”
the breaking and crushing are soon to follow.

Everything they’ve trusted in starts to fall apart.

It’s the things God teaches after you know it all
that really count. ;-)

John 6:45
It is written in the prophets,
And they shall be all taught of God.

Deuteronomy 4:36
Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
that he might instruct thee:

Psalms 32:8
I will instruct thee and teach thee
in the way which thou shalt go:
I will guide thee with mine eye.


Kaitiaki said...

I write this hesitatingly. I have many Baptist friends and was even instrumental in gathering together a group of young Baptists who had come to believe the 5 points so they could form a Church where they would feel comfortable worshiping God.
You have, it seems to me, seen through to the heart of the matter (in one sense) by understanding that what is a major difference is not the issue of soteriology but ecclesiology. I really wish I could say it is a matter of little concern when talking about what it is to be Reformed. If we were talking about what it is to be Christian - then those who call themselves Reformed Baptists have their soteriology 100% correct.
But, being Reformed is more than soteriology and (though it shows most clearly there) more than ecclesiology as well. It is a way of looking at the Bible and a matter of the principles involved in its interpretation. Reformed theology begins in the Old Testament and finds its roots there in covenantal theology. It sees the covenant as the way God dealt with his people in the past and the way he still deals with them today.
Let me give an example. A young married man from a pagan home becomes a Christian through the gracious working of the Holy Spirit. Neither he nor his wife have ever been baptized. He comes to his pastor and says he has heard that he needs to be baptized since he is now a Christian and he wants to live in obedience to God's commands. At this point, whether a Baptist or a Presbyterian, the pastor's response would be the same. "Of course, as long as you believe, you may be baptized." The difference is seen as soon as we move our attention to his wife.
The Baptist will allow her to be baptized as well as long as she also believes. The Presbyterian would consider her husband's faith to include her in the "household of faith" because of the covenant. She would still be urged to repent and believe but the Reformed understanding of the covenant is that those to be baptized are "believers and their households."
Your respondent who pointed out the desire for those who framed the London Confession to be known as Calvinistic or Particular Baptists is right.
As a Presbyterian (Reformed theologian) I rejoice to know you wish to be associated with others who stand for the doctrines of the Reformation and am happy to welcome any Baptist, who loves the Reformed soteriology and wants to use the Reformed title, as a brother in the Reformed faith. You need to be aware that we, who hold to "household" baptism (a more correct term than paedobaptism), know that we are both using the term differently.
Do we want you to change your title from Reformed Baptist? Never! The greatest need for the world today is for a Reformed soteriology and in this we both stand together. Does it mean we will stop trying to convince you that you have more to learn of the glory of God (or that you will stop doing the same)? Never!! We would not have it any other way.
I hope this is helpful. I know we are not using the term traditionally but labels are ways of showing something about the person wearing it. It is not the whole person nor is it intended to be. The addition of "Baptist" makes it quite clear where you stand and the only reason I responded to the question was because I felt clarity is important in those who walk together as brothers in Christ.