Recovering the Reformed Confession: The Interview

Recovering the Reformed ConfessionThanks to the CTC guys for inviting me to play with them on the most recent CTC podcast to discuss Recovering the Reformed Confession. We had a wide-ranging discussion (because it’s a wide-ranging book) and it was good clean fun. This is a podcast you can listen to with your parents without blushing.

There’s more audio on the forthcoming book. Here’s a 45-minute talk I did for the Gospel-Driven Conference last January and here is are a series of talks from the Recovering the Reformed Confession Conference at Westminster RPCNA in Lincolnshire, IL.

Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice is scheduled to be published by P&R Publishing in November. There’s nothing on the P&R site or Amazon just yet but I’ll let you know when you can pre-order it.

Here are related HB posts.

ps. On the question of “syllabi” v “syllabuses,” it depends upon whether one wants to speak Latin or English. The latter is an acceptable English form and the former is the correct Latin form. There’s some debate as to the root of the word syllabus. According to C. T. Lewis transliterated Greek (σύλλαβος) or it may have other roots, but as a Latin word it’s a 2nd declension masculine (-us, -i) so that the plural is indeed syllabi. So it’s a matter of whether one is speaking Latin or English. Personally I find it difficult to say “syllabuses.” According to the Oxford Shorter Dictionary (English) the plural can be expressed with the suffix -busses or -bi (prob. pron. “bee”). To paraphrase John Cleese: “Any bee which is a syllabi, must ipso facto half not be.”

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Scot, I listened to the interview, most interesting. A few points and questions.

    1. Edinburgh. It is pronounced “Edinbra” not “Edinboro”. Please teach all of your countrymen the correct pronunciation.

    2. On “turning my back on Father Abraham” – are you familiar with the term “below the belt”?

    3. I definitely agree on the need for New Confessions. The issues we face today in the global church are a lot different to the 16th century. The World Reformed Fellowship is writing a new confesson and its committee, I believe, includes a Reformed Baptist named Henri Blocher!

    4. Would you say that by using the self-designation “Reformed” that Reformed Baptists are lowering the currency of the term “Reformed”?

  2. Mike,

    1. At least it wasn’t “Edinburg”!

    2. re: Abraham — well, I mean it. Imagine telling Abraham, “I want to be a part of the covenant community, but this infant circumcision thing, I just can’t see it.” It think there’s a different relationship between Baptists and Reformed folks in North America than exists in the UK.

    3. I’m not sure that there issues we face are profoundly different. There were moralists then as today. I do think we ought to confess the faith against the NPP, FV, Open Theism, social trinitarianism, “death of God,” and the like.

    4. I appreciate Henr Blocher, but yes, it’s very confusing for Baptists, who deny an essential Reformed doctrine to call themselves Reformed. It’s like saying, “I hate Manchester and I hate football, but I’m a fan of Manchester United.” That’s nonsense. Infant baptism is of the essence of the Reformed faith. All the Reformed churches confess it. We discipline people for not Baptizing their children. It’s not an optional doctrine. Further, it tends to reduce the adjective “Reformed” to denote “predestinarian.” I deal with this at length in the book.

  3. ” Dilemma for me I have”,said Yoda to the Wise one. “Is not the Reformed Baptist something or other attached to Westminster seminary,Calif. ? And the man in charge, a Reformed Baptist theologian , is not he part of the extended faculty?” Reformed Baptist not I, but most courious I am.”

  4. Scot,

    Should a new confession make explicit reference to the NPP, FV, Norm. Sheph, etc? Aren’t these mainly (but not exclusively) American issues? I mean, presbyterians in Indonesia are facing different issues like religious pluralism, relating to Islam, Europeans are up against secular fundamentalism, American Christianity suffers from affluenza and liberal views of sexuality, Africans are dealing with things like polygamous elders, and syncretism, etc. Once we realize that America is not the theological centre of the galaxy, does a new confession have to be so parochially American? Should not a new confession deal with the issues on the table for the global church, rather than rehashing the Protestant concerns of 15th century Europe over and against Medieval Catholicism? Does a new confession have to focus 80% of its content on matters of personal and individual soteriology?

  5. Hi Gary,

    Yes, as I mentioned in the interview, WSC plays host to another institution, the Institute for Reformed Baptist Studies. In fact Jim is a neighbor (he lives about 100 yards from me). He’s a good man and a friend.

    He’s not a faculty member at WSC. We couldn’t appoint a Baptist to our faculty because it’s a contradiction of the confessional standards of the seminary. We have friendly relations but we also have profound disagreements. Jim’s heard me on this. He disagrees, of course. We receive credits from IRBS as we do from other schools.

  6. Hi Mike,

    Unfortunately, the NPP isn’t a North American phenomenon is it? Neither is Open Theism and the rest. I don’t know whether a confessional document would name the movements but we should certain reject them in substance. It would be a matter of wisdom and consensus in the drafting body how to phrase things but my hope is that the NAPARC churches might get together and draft something.

    Certainly local or national Reformed bodies have a right to confess the faith. The Belgic and the Heidelberg were written by local bodies. The Belgic was written by one man! The Westminster Assembly wasn’t exactly an international body. I don’t see any fundamental problem with a North American body writing a new confession that is faithful to the old confessions (i.e. retains the substance of what they confessed) and that applies the faith to questions that have arisen since. For example, the Pentecostalist strain in Anabaptism has become much more pronounced since the Azusa St revivals and the Topeka revivals and has spread across the world and into the Reformed churches.

    There are inherent limits to what an ecclesiastical body may do. It may not confess unchurchly things. This is the problem with the fundamentalists and the liberals. Both would have us confessing all manner of social policy.

  7. Mike

    I am so sorry that I mispronounced “Edinbra.” Can you now fix your understanding of union with Christ? I consider that an even swap.

  8. Dr. Clark,

    I didn’t understand what you meant by turning your “…back on Father Abraham…”, but it looks like your clarification is, “…Imagine telling Abraham, “I want to be a part of the covenant community, but this infant circumcision thing, I just can’t see it.”

    I would agree with you that “Reformed” is more than TULIP.

  9. Jr,

    Yes, that’s exactly right. If we’re in the same covenant of grace as Abraham then how can we refuse to initiate our children into that same covenant?

  10. Dr. Bird,

    I am wondering what doctrinal issues are “for the global church” that are not also for America? Isn’t justification by faith alone (i.e. the doctrine attacked by the NPP/FV/Shepherd) universal in its importance? Are you saying that the historic Reformed confessions are not good enough for the global church? I’m a little confused by this line of reasoning. When you say that NPP is “mainly (but not exclusively) an American issue” is that a way to downplay the huge influence N.T. Wright is having in “protestant” churches all over the world? I have met pastors, theologians, and missionaries from Peru, Morocco, and Scotland (to name a few select countries) who are propagating the theology of Bishop Wright across the globe. Seems like it is more than an American Phenomenon, right?

    The apostle Paul never, for one minute, pointed to all the enemies outside the church and said, “Brothers, don’t get so caught up in defending the truth within the camp.” In fact, he warned, time and time again, that false teachers would rise up from within, even from within the eldership (Acts 20). He said that Satan poses as an angel of light, and his workers as ministers of RIGHTEOUSNESS.

    BTW, medieval Catholicism was a manifestation of the self-righteousness that lies in the hearts of all men. That’s why the Reformed Confessions have lasting value. The battle they were fighting was a battle against the religion produced by a self-righteous heart. This was the same battle Jesus and Paul were fighting against the Pharisees and unbelieving Jews of their day. Unless we accept the NPP’s reformulation of Scripture we can affirm the abiding validity of the enemy within the heart of all men–sin and self. This is why individual salvation is an important emphasis in Reformed spirituality. This does not mean that stressing the need for individual salvation is mutually exclusive from stressing the corporate nature of the church. I think the Hebrew pronouns throughout the Torah show us this. Moses speaks to the nation corporately and yet calls individuals to get a circumcised heart.

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