Post-Thanksgiving Cartoons: Reply to James White

mercedes hood ornamentYes, I’m aware that James White has posted a caricature of my views. Thanks to everyone who wrote to make sure I saw that. Rather than trying to respond to all of his claims, let me focus today on just one to illustrate how badly White has misunderstood me and the Reformed faith.

He begins his post by writing about how it important to get the other fellow’s views right before criticizing those views and then proceeds to offer a fairly ridiculous caricature:

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, a professor at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, California, 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.

If this is what I had actually argued, then White would have a basis for complaining but it doesn’t begin to describe my argument with those Baptists who want to be regarded as Reformed. Had White spent just a few minutes here or even better had he bothered to read Recovering the Reformed Confession, he would have seen that my account of what constitutes the Reformed faith is rather richer and more complex than he seems to understand.

White’s critique assumes the very question that is in debate, i.e. whether Reformed theology is reducible to the five heads of doctrine of the Synod of Dort (1619). Confessional Reformed folk, who actually know the history and theology of the Reformed churches, understand, as Richard Muller (among others) has pointed out, that Reformed theology is not reducible to the five heads of doctrine promulgated by the Synod of Dort. Making this case was a major burden of the book Recovering the Reformed Confession.

In a sense, I don’t blame White for thinking that Reformed theology can be so reduced since Reformed folk, who should know better, have too often given the impression that the only thing that makes us Reformed is the so called “Five Points.” This tendency in our own circles is in large part to our inordinate desire to be accepted by others beyond our circles. There are 60 million “evangelicals” (whatever that means) in N. America. There are about 500,000 confessional Reformed folk in N. America. This disparity between those numbers creates a great temptation to minimize the differences between the broader evangelical world and the Reformed confessional theology, piety, and practice.

Nevertheless, even a cursory reading of the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort, and the Westminster Standards (all of which I like to call “the six-forms of unity”) will not permit such a reductionist definition of the Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

The genuine catholicity of Reformed theology should not be minimized. We have always confessed the “holy catholic church” and the catholic creeds (the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon,  the Apostles’ Creed, and the Athanasian Creed). Much of what Reformed theology has done is to re-arrange our inheritance from the patristic and medieval eras. Still there are Reformed formulations of the doctrines of Scripture, God, man, Christ, church, and sacraments which one must affirm to be Reformed. Soteriology is an essential part of that package, if you will, but only one part. Affirming the Reformed soteriology is a necessary condition of being Reformed but it is not the sole or sufficient condition.

The same is true of our Christology. If, e.g. one affirms the ubiquity of Christ’s humanity one may be a Protestant (e.g. a confessional Lutheran) but one is not Reformed. The same is true of paedobaptism. One must affirm paedobaptism to be Reformed but that affirmation alone is insufficient for being Reformed since many traditions, which are not Reformed, have affirmed paedobaptism. Again, there is a difference between a necessary and a sufficient condition.

Though it is not possible to reduce the Reformed faith to its view of baptism it is not possible to eliminate the Reformed view of baptism from our faith and remain Reformed. If we ask the question, “Did the original Reformed churches accept as Reformed, in their day, those who denied infant baptism?” the answer is clear and unequivocal

As I responded, in the pages of Modern Reformation, sometime back to another critic who was shocked by my claim that paedobaptism is essential to the Reformed faith: Tell it to the Reformed churches. Here is that response:

Evidently the earliest Baptists did not think it necessary to call themselves “Reformed.” They called themselves “General” or “Particular” Baptists. In the Reformation, the Reformed Churches confessed infant baptism as essential to the Reformed faith. In 1530 Huldrych Zwingli did so to the Diet of Augsburg as did the Tetrapolitan Confession (ch. 18; 1530). The First Confession of Basel (Art. 12; 1534), First Helvetic Confession (Art. 22; 1536), Calvin’s catechisms (1537, 1538, 1545), The Geneva Confession (Art. 15; 1536/1537), and the French Confession (Art. 35; 1559), all confessed the moral necessity of infant baptism. In the Belgic Confession (Art. 34; 1561) the Dutch Reformed Churches confess, “We detest the error of the Anabaptists” specifically the practice of re-baptizing believers and denying infant baptism. The Second Helvetic Confession (1561/1566; ch. 20) specifically condemned the denial of paedobaptism. The Heidelberg Catechism (Q. 74; 1563) insisted on infant baptism. The Westminster Confession 28.5 (1647) arguably calls the “neglect” or condemnation of infant baptism “a great sin.” In the light of this evidence it is hard to see how insisting on it is anything but consistent with confession of the Reformed Churches in which one finds not only a soteriology but also an ecclesiology and doctrine of the sacraments

The distinction at work here is that between a necessary condition and a sufficient condition. Paedobaptism is a necessary condition to being Reformed but it is not a sufficient condition. If we take the Heidelberg Catechism as a guide to being Reformed, as the Reformed churches have done for hundreds of years, then it is interesting that the German Reformed church spent several questions and answers on the doctrine of baptism and went out of their way to specifically reaffirm the doctrine of infant baptism but wrote not a single question and answer specifically or explicitly on the doctrine of election. Now, to be sure, the doctrine of election is implied throughout the catechism and there are historical reasons for that but the fact remains that, were we to judge by the Heidelberg Catechism as what constitutes the Reformed faith we should come up with a rather different answer than that offered by White. We confess:

74. Are infants also to be baptized?

Yes, for since they belong to the covenant and people of God as well as their parents, and since redemption from sin through the blood of Christ, and the Holy Spirit who works faith, are promised to them no less than to their parents, they are also by Baptism, as the sign of the Covenant, to be ingrafted into the Christian Church, and distinguished from the children of unbelievers, as was done in the Old Testament by Circumcision, in place of which in the New Testament Baptism is instituted.

Above you may have noticed that I referred to the “five heads of doctrine of the Synod of Dort.” I did so deliberately. By referring to them, as is often done, as the “Five Points of Calvinism” a misleading picture is created. First of all, the popular phrase gives the false impression that Calvin is the be all and end all of Reformed theology (but that is a subject for another post). Second, these are not just five abstract theological points. These were canons, rules formulated by baby-baptizing Reformed pastors and theologians from across Europe and the British Isles and the same points were adopted by Reformed, churches. Our church orders required the Baptism of infants.To refuse to present one’s children for baptism was a cause for church discipline. Thus, not surprisingly, there wasn’t a single Baptist at the Synod of Dort. Why not? Because no Baptist was eligible to join a Reformed church. Why not? Because the denial of infant baptism wasn’t tolerated in the Reformed churches.

There were Independents, Presbyterians, and a small number of Episcopalians involved in the drafting of the Westminster Confession, thus relativizing the question of church polity, but they agreed on many things and infant baptism was one of them. The Scottish Presbyterians were able to adopt the Westminster Confession with the understandiing that it implied presbyterian polity but no one could have adopted the Westminster Confession with the understanding that it allowed for the denial of infant baptism.

WCF chapter 28 says:

4. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.

5. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it; or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

6. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.

7. The sacrament of baptism is but once to be administered unto any person.

It is arguably the case that, by this construction of the chapter on Baptism, the divines intended an implicit reply to the Baptists. Whatever the outcome of that question it is beyond dispute that the Reformed churches in the British Isles confessed infant baptism and required it of their members and disciplined those who refused to have their children baptized.  Once more, to state the obvious:  there wasn’t a single Baptist involved in the Westminster Assembly. The Baptists had promulgated their own confession in 1644. There were heated pamphlet wars between the Baptists and the Reformed in that period. Baptists were not recognized as Reformed. Why not? Because paedobaptism was regarded as essential to the Reformed faith.

Why is infant baptism essential to the Reformed faith? It is so because we confess that God’s Word  requires it. We confess that the promise that God made to Abraham is still in effect: I will be a God to you and to your children. White and our Baptist friends disagree with us. We understand that but they cannot reject a doctrine a doctrine and practice that we regard as essential to the faith and still call themselves Reformed. We might say that they have sympathies with aspects of the Reformed faith but they are not Reformed. Mercedes and GM both have wheels but that doesn’t make a GM a Mercedes.

The Reformed churches confess a theology, a piety, and practice and which infant baptism is essential to it. Undergirding our doctrine and practice of infant baptism is a certain way of reading Scripture (a hermeneutic), an understanding of redemptive history—both of which White rejects. So, how is it that those who reject our hermeneutic, who reject our reading of redemptive history (which we learned from Irenaeus), who reject our covenant theology, who reject our sacramental piety, and practice, get to define what we are? This is bizarre. As I’ve argued many times here it’s like allowing GM to define what constitutes a Mercedes Benz. Yes, there are many more GM vehicles on the road than there are Mercedes but numerical superiority does not grant GM the right to re-name or re-define Mercedes. No, Mercedes Benz gets to say what qualifies as a Mercedes Benz vehicle and a Mercedes is one that has the marks or the intrinsic qualities of a Mercedes Benz. One cannot slap a Mercedes hood ornament on a GM and call it a “Mercedes.”

Finally, this discussion is a good illustration of what I call “Reformed Narcissism.” The syllogism runs this way:

1. I am Reformed

2. I think x

3. Therefore x is Reformed.

As I explained at length in Recovering the Reformed Confession, to state the syllogism is to expose the silliness of it. The first premise is not at all a given but let’s assume, for the sake of discussion that it’s true. The middle premise is undoubted. The conclusion, however, does not at all follow from the premises. As private persons Reformed folk may think any number of things but thinking them doesn’t make those thoughts “Reformed.” Yet this sort of logic seems to be rampant today. The point is that there is an objective, historical, ecclesiastical, and public definition of the adjective “Reformed” and that definition is embodied by the confessions of the Reformed faith. In other words, there are not as many definitions of the adjective Reformed as there are definers. White and other Baptists certainly reject essential elements of our theology, piety, and practice. This is understandable but it is not easy to understand why they continue to complain about being excluded from the definition of the adjective Reformed.

Resources

  1. Resources On Defining Reformed
  2. Recovering the Reformed Confession
  3. “House of Cards?” in On Being Reformed
  4. Resources on Infant Baptism

    Post authored by:

  • 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.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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191 comments

  1. RSC, thank you for your irenic and pointed response to James White’s blog post. I am a Reformed Baptist, and call myself that because my theology traces it’s lineage back to the Reformation. But I do not call myself Reformed in the WCF or Presbyterian sense of the word, nor do I seek to do so. I believe Reformed Baptists (and by that term I mean confessional Baptists who hold to Covenant Theology) do themselves a disservice by chasing after the approval of the Reformed crowd. No such approval is needed. While I disagree with you, your response to James White highlights what is really at play, and to hide those differences is a service to no one.

    • So can I call myself a “Baptist” since I believe in and practice baptism of converts? I just wouldn’t use the word the “LBC” sense of the word.

      Now, what kind of world would that be? Alice in Wonderland.

      • Do you belong to a church that practices/administers baptism? If so, call yourself whatever you like. I’m certainly not going to be jealous or out of sorts because you are somehow “infringing” on the Baptist name. Last I checked there is no copyright on “Reformed” or “Baptist.”

        • Of course that would be silly and that’s the point.

          The adjectives “Baptist,” “Reformed,” “Lutheran,” and “Roman Catholic,” have each meant certain things for a long time.

          At the end of the day my concern is less about what Baptists do and say than it is about how Reformed folk think about their theology, piety, and practice. Since, however, there are 60 million of you it makes it complicated for us to maintain clear lines and to maintain our confession when we are immersed in the Baptistic evangelical culture.

          • Is not Roman Catholic an oxymoron? If Catholic means universal, and Roman means those that follow the Church of Rome, does that not limit the universality of Cathlic in “Roman Catholic”? A contradiction in terms, no? Instead of Roman Catholic, call them Papists or Romanists, no?

            Reformed Theology as properly defined in our Standards from the 1500’s-1647, included the doctrine of Infant baptism. Calvin railed against those that denied infant baptism as monsters.

            Is not then, as Dr Clark points out, Reformed Baptist, given how both terms are historically defined (Reformed including paedobaptism and Baptist excluding it) a contradiction in terms. Oxymoronic? Seems so.

            A name is worth alot and worthy to be protected…this is the gist I am getting from Dr. Clark’s refusal to give in to the Baptists that use the adjective Reformed.

            • Edgar,

              You and I might think “Roman Catholic” is an oxymoron. I suspect Dr. Clark might agree. But that doesn’t stop him from referring to Papists or Romanists as “Roman Catholics” (see above). Whether we like it or not, the phrase has gained a place in ecclesiastical usage and dictionaries. Similarly, there are churches today that go by the name “Reformed Baptist” despite the fact John Calvin may think them “monsters.” Actually, he doesn’t any longer because I suspect he’s now a baptist by conviction. 🙂 Indeed, he’s come to realize that he didn’t reform enough. But that’s okay. He was a man of his times, and we won’t fault him for that.

              Respectfully yours,
              Bob Gonzales

                • Sounds like you’re trying to have your cake and eat it too. Are you now saying Romanists may not use the appellative “Roman Catholic”? If so, why did you say above, “The adjectives “Baptist,” “Reformed,” “Lutheran,” and “Roman Catholic,” have each meant certain things for a long time.” You’ll allow Romanists to use the appellative “Roman Catholic” though you think it a bit nonsensical. But you won’t afford us silly Baptists the same liberty?

                  Speaking of oxymoron. Isn’t it also “moronic” that some Reformed folk claim to believe in semper reformanda yet stopped reforming in the 17th century?

                  Okay, now I’ll quit.

                  Have a good night, Dr. Clark. And please understand some of my comments as a bit of brotherly jousting.

                  Humbly yours,
                  Bob Gonzales

                  • Bob,

                    I misspoke. It’s hard to break old habits. By definition a “catholic” church cannot be “Roman.” It is oxymoronic. I usually try to say “Romanist” or “papist.”

                    The rhetoric and arguments of the Baptists hasn’t changed much since the Anabaptist critique of the magisterial Reformation but it’s as misguided today as it was in the 1520s.

                    It’s not true that we haven’t changed our theology since the 17th century. Virtually all the Reformed have rejected theocratic views widely held in the 16th and 17th century. There’s a change. We’ve also rejected the geocentric astronomy of the 16th and 17th centuries. There are other smaller changes. Few of us believe in the perpetual virginity of the BVM. Few of us are traducianists. There were developments in covenant theology in the 17th century and beyond.

                    If you’ll read RRC you’ll see that I tackle this question.

                    As to ambiguous relations to uncomfortable relations, you seem to have a similar problem with the Anabaptists don’t you?

                    • Dr. Clark,

                      You wrote, “It’s not true that we haven’t changed our theology since the 17th century. Virtually all the Reformed have rejected theocratic views widely held in the 16th and 17th century. There’s a change.”

                      Now if you mean by theocratic what has been confessed by various Reformed Confessions as the proper role of the Civil Magistrate in regards to being a nursing father to the Church and to suppress blasphemy & violations to both tables of the law, then I must declare that such rejection is in violation of the Word of God and of the collective Reformed doctrine that the Reformed Church has codified in her confessions. Now I am NOT talking about the modern Reconstructionist movement which is in variance with the Word of God and the historic Reformed view of the Establishment Principle vis a vie the Civil Government & Church.

                      Since you correctly state that Infant Baptism is found in every Reformed Confession and therefore part and parcel of Reformed doctrine, then you need to admit the same in regard to the proper doctrine of the Civil Magistrate. The modern American Confession of Faith (misleadingly named the Westminster Confession) in 23.3 is a departure from the original Reformed understanding of this doctrine. Not only did well respected Reformers (Knox, Gillespie, Rutherford, etc) teach that the Civil Magistrate was to protect & promote the true religion, but so did the Confessions that speak to the doctrine.

                      Therefore the modern Reformed church has not reformed in this regards, but rather has deformed or has backslidden on this doctrine. The change has been for the worse. One can even go and say that Presbyterians & Reformed folk that accept the American rendition of the Confession on the Magistrate cannot claim the title Reformed in this respect. Just like the LBC changed the doctrine on Infant Baptism and is rightly rejected by the Reformed & Presbyterian, the American Confession of Faith (1782) held by the PCA and OPC has departed from the historic Reformed view on this doctrine of the Magistrate. Can they then claim to be Reformed when the historic confessions collectively teach against the modern Presbyterian views? Here are the Reformed Confessions that speak to the subject:

                      The French Confession of Faith (1559)

                      XXXIX. We believe that God wishes to have the world governed by laws and magistrates, so that some restraint may be put upon its disordered appetites. And as he has established kingdoms,…and all that belongs to a just government, and wishes to be considered as their Author, so he has put the sword into the hands of magistrates to suppress crimes against the first as well as against the second table of the Commandments of God.

                      The Scottish Confession of Faith (1560)
                      Chapter 24: Of the Civil Magistrate

                      Moreover, to kings, princes, rulers, and magistrates, we affirm that chiefly and most principally the conservation and purgation of the religion appertains; so that not only they are appointed for civil policy, but also for maintenance of the true religion, and for suppressing of idolatry and superstition whatsoever: as in David, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, and others, highly commended for their zeal in that case, may be espied.

                      The Belgic Confession (1561)
                      Article 36: The Civil Government

                      …And being called in this manner to contribute to the advancement of a society that is pleasing to God, the civil rulers have the task, subject to God’s law, of removing every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel and to every aspect of divine worship…And the government’s task is not limited to caring for and watching over the public domain but extends also to upholding the sacred ministry, with a view to removing and destroying all idolatry and false worship of the Antichrist; to promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ; and to furthering the preaching of the gospel everywhere; to the end that God may be honored and served by everyone, as he requires in his Word.

                      THE SECOND HELVETIC CONFESSION (1564)
                      Chapter XXX: Of the Magistracy

                      Therefore, let him draw this sword of God against all malefactors, seditious persons, thieves, murderers, oppressors, blasphemers, perjured persons, and all those whom God has commanded him to punish and even to execute. Let him suppress stubborn heretics (who are truly heretics), who do not cease to blaspheme the majesty of God and to trouble, and even to destroy the Church of God.

                      Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) — ORIGINAL
                      Chapter 23: Of the Civil Magistrate

                      III. Civil magistrates… has authority, and it is his duty, to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administrated, and observed.

                    • Edgar,

                      As you know the mainstream of confessional Reformed Presbyterian and Reformed churches have revised the WCF and the BC to eliminate the theocratic language. Of course you may not agree with those actions but they are historic facts.

                      You call it a deformation but isn’t it more consistent with our understanding of the unique nature of national Israel?

                      I’m guessing you’ll say no, but it seems to me that we’re much better off letting the magistrate enforce civil justice and leaving theology and ecclesiastical polity to the church. Christendom was a mistake we don’t need to try to resuscitate.

                    • Seems then that the mainstream of confessional Reformed Presbyterians /Reformed churches that have revised the WCF and BC to suit the US Constitution (or some other misinformed notion) instead of the Wod of God have placed a Jaguar hood ornament on their Ford.

                      Who were these guys that thought they could overturn 2.5 centuries of solid Reformed teaching on this topic? The Reformers were strong on this teaching. Ironically the changes/revisions to the WCF & BC occured during the dawn of the liberal, free thinker, take over of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches in America (out went the historic view of the RPW, Sabbath Keeping, entrance of Popish festivals & etc).

                      I thank God that there are still a few solid old school Presbyterian denominations that maintain the Establishment Principle today and some ministers in NAPARC churches as well. I pray that there will be a return to the Biblical teaching in this respect and therefore a reformation among those (denominations and TEs) that became overwise in their acceptance of such revisions.

                      Samuel Rutherford-Due Rights of Presbyteries (pgs cited):

                      The magistrate is not to be an indifferent spectator of men’s religion, but in a Christian commonwealth is to be a nurse father of Christ’s church (pp. 395-397*, 413-414*, 417*, 446*), preserving and promoting obedience to the two tables of the law (pp. 354*, 395-398*, 402*, 413*, 431*, 442*, 446*, 448*).

                  • Bob, I understand what you’ve been arguing. It’s been my de facto position for the past several years, sans Carson and linguistics footnotes. 🙂 “Reformed Baptist” is a useful label at times. Al Martin’s church is something very different from the average SBC and there should be a term for that.

                    I think there are two very weird tendencies that go with this concession, however. First, if you are an RB, you’re well aware that an RB can mean:

                    1) A member in an ARBCA church
                    2) A member in a self-identified Reformed Baptist church that self-consciously abstains from the ARBCA, per Baptist ecclesiastic convictions
                    3) A member in an SBC/other baptist church that teaches ‘calvinism’
                    4) A member in an SBC/obc that holds privately to the LBC1689 or just predestination, against the broader congregation
                    5) Someone who attends any church or has not yet found a church with baptistic and predestinarian impulses.

                    Micah Burke identified himself as part of category 5. This is often the loosest and craziest category, including people who preach in their living room every Sunday to their hamsters, but he’s attending a URC and is one of the most self-conscious RB’s that I know.

                    Thus, the first weird tendency: to a Reformed person, meaning someone pulling from the 16th/17th century definition along with the post-reformation developments (covenant theology, particularly) that Muller traces in his set, this is a completely insane category. There’s nothing objective whatever about it. If you want to fight for the Reformed Baptist label to mean that you’re neither Ergun Caner nor Jimmy Carter, okay. But you all otherwise don’t even know what it means among yourselves.

                    The second and weirder tendency is to extrapolate from the RB label that you genuinely stand in the tradition of the Reformation. And again, when Haykin’s sense is coupled with your linguistic arguments as restrictions, I don’t see the world-ending harm in conceding that. But invariably the RB application of “Reformed” to themselves results in Whitefield, Edwards, Piper, Driscoll, Grudem, dispensationalism, home churches, tongues, praise choruses, and the death of the “means of grace” all being incorporated as legitimate heirs of the Reformation, while someone like Nevin, if they’ve even heard of him, is read as a quasi-heretical proto-Catholic. This is what I took as being RSC’s greater concern in RRC. There’s also this guy named “Hart” whose work begins to apply here.

                    I’m indebted deeply to James White. I’ve visited both PRBC and Trinity Baptist in Montville. I believe both are wrong confessionally, though I wish many presbyterian congregations had as high a view of the WCF as they both do of the LBCF. The funny thing is that when you try to do exactly that, Baptists wonder why we’re no longer extending the “Reformed” compliment.

                    • Mike,

                      I appreciate your sympathetic response. I think Dr. Clark has oversimplified the matter in one direction. Perhaps some of my arguments seem oversimplified in another direction. But I think the list of variations you give above sort of makes my point. Any given word or term should be understood in light of the semotactic markings in the context in which it is used. In other words, anyone who uses the term “Reformed” today in an ecclesiastical sense should be careful to qualify their use of that term. When I lived in Grand Rapids, it almost universally meant that one was part of a communion that practiced infant baptism. So we appended “Baptist” to “Reformed.” Many of the subgroups you listed above, don’t actually name their churches or denominations as “Reformed.” They simply say things like “we hold a ‘Reformed’ soteriology” or “we believe in the five ‘solas’ of the Reformation.” When they make such qualifications, they are well within the bounds of honesty and propriety, at least in my view.

                      Just want to emphasize that I do agree with you and Dr. Clark with respect to the need for truth-telling. If someone says they’re “Reformed” in the 16th or 17th century sense of the term but is really not, they need to fess up.

                      Thanks for the interaction.

                • Avoid misconceptions and misperceptions by ever using the terms “Roman Catholic.” False Church, Antichrist, Baalamites, Edomites, Papist and Romanist are serviceable.

                  I never ever allow the use of the term “Catholic” for them. They surrendered that by their condemnation of the Gospel and cut themselves off from the Catholic Faith.

            • I do not like or read Anabaptist literature, e.g. MacArthur, Dever, etc. Nor will I call them Calvinistic or Reformed Baptists. “Particular Baptists” is my fixed useage.

              Also, switching metaphor, don’t put a GM label on a BMW. Rather than the Mercedez metaphor, not giving up my BMW—it’s not a GM. I could have bought a GM, but in the BMW-tradition.

              “Particular Baptists,” not Reformed Baptists.

            • I never use the term “Roman Catholic,” ever. Always “Romanist” or “Papist.” The first is sensibly, as an adjective, workably equivalent to “Protestant.” Or, rightly, “Antichrist.” “Baalamites” and “Edomites” arises from the English Reformers, rightly. They are. I would never use the term “Catholic” except for the “Catholic Churches of the Reformation,” Confessional Protestant Churchmen (Lutheran, Reformed or Presbyterian, or old school Anglican). “Baptists” and Anabaptists.

  2. Bill,
    #1 You said, “I am a Reformed Baptist, and call myself that because my theology traces it’s lineage back to the Reformation.” Because your theology traces it’s self back to the reformation?? What are you half credo, half peado? If your statement above was true about being Baptistic you’d call yourself a Calvinistic Baptist.

    #2 “But I do not call myself Reformed in the WCF or Presbyterian sense of the word, nor do I seek to do so.” If you don’t call yourself in the “sense” that the historical value of the word has, then don’t call yourself that at all.

    The lack of historical value in words and definitions have destroyed American Protestantism.

    • “The lack of historical value in words and definitions have destroyed American Protestantism.”

      I couldn’t agree more. And it’s not just American Protestantism either. Thankfully here in Australia, “evangelical” still has a more useful meaning than in the U.S.A. but that usefulness is diminishing and it is in no way synonymous with “reformed”.

      Chris Ashton

  3. Michael,

    Calvinistic Baptists come in all shapes and sizes. John Piper is a Calvinistic Baptist, but he is not confessional. The same for Al Mohler and Mark Dever. I consider myself united with those brothers in the doctrines of grace, but they are not “historically” confessional Baptists.

    You also seem to be missing my point. The term “Reformed Baptist” is not a term for Presbyterian approval. Confessional Baptists have set themselves apart – by definition, belief, and practice – from the generic “Calvinistic Baptist.” Our theology is covenantal in nature (please not that), whereas many Calvinistic Baptists are dispensational. We follow the RPW and subscribe to either the 1644 or the 1689 LBC, something that Calvinistic Baptists don’t do. The historical value of Reformed in Reformed Baptist is rooted in those truths, which are very much in the spirit of the Reformation.

      • Edgar,

        No, not really. Particular Baptists where thus called because of their view on particular redemption. It was more a separation between themselves and the General Baptists. Reformed Baptist is a more inclusive term that incorporates the doctrines of grace, confessionalism, and covenant theology.

    • The expression “Calvinistic” Baptist is as puzzling as the expression “Reformed Baptist.” Presumably a “Calvinist” is one who agrees with John Calvin.

      Well, walk into St Pierre’s on any Sabbath and tell Monsieur Calvin, “I’m with you on the sovereign grace stuff, but when it comes to that hold over from medieval superstition, infant baptism, I just can’t buy it.”

      What would Calvin say? We don’t have to guess. There were Anabaptists who part of that argument (that infant baptism was just medieval remnant) and Calvin’s reply was unequivocal. The covenant children of Geneva were baptized and they were catechized to believe and confess infant baptism. Refusal to baptize one’s covenant children was a cause for discipline. Calvin’s opposition to the denial of infant baptism was vociferous, even violent.

      Thus, it seems weird for one who hold, on the question of Baptism, the Anabaptist view, to call himself a “Calvinistic” Baptist.

      Could I be a “Spurgeonist Paedobapist”? I don’t think so. Spurgeon would burst a blood vessel and rightly so.

      • Calvinistic, not Calvinist. ha 🙂

        Um, for the sake of what I was trying to say.

        I was referring to Dr. Oliver’s Ph.D. Dissertation – History of the English Calvinistic Baptists 1771-1892. Here he shows the history of those Baptist that were Calvinistic in “some sense”, although not totally like the Reformed/Covenant Theologians were, they had some Calvinistic theology. Understand what I was saying now?

        • I understand what you’re saying. I just don’t buy it. I think it’s linguistic nonsense.

          “Calvinist” cannot be reduced to “predestinarian.” Calvin’s theology was comprehensive of a hermeneutic (which all Baptists necessarily reject) and a covenant theology and a practice and a piety which is not that of the Baptists.

          In what way are Baptists “Calvinist”? Augustine was a predestinarian and so was Thomas but they weren’t (proto-Calvinist). This appellation suffers from the same problems as the Baptist appropriation of “Reformed.”

      • As far as in answering your question on “Could I be a Spurgeonist Paedobapist”?

        I guess you could if you were an Independent (Congregationalist) Presbyterian like R.C. Sproul or Burk Parsons? right? ha!!!

        Independent = Spurgeon
        Presbyterian = Peado baptism
        Independent Presbyterian = Spurgeonist Paedobapist

          • This is material in that St. Andrews practices congregationalism (independent-presbyterianism) and practices peado-baptism.

            So they must NOT be Reformed!! Correct?

            • As I noted, there were independents, Presbyterians (of various kinds), and Episcopalians at the Westminster Assembly. There were at least two distinct polities at Dort. We’ve never made polity of the essence of the church.

              What’s of the essence here is that St Andrews recognizes the continuity of the covenant of grace between Abraham and us.

            • Michael:

              I would have to say that St. Andrews is NOT Reformed or Presbyterian, due to their polity. I doubt if they are subscriptionistic either.

              They are “Congregationalists” or “Independents.” Notwithstanding whatever R.C. might say on the matter, he is NOT Reformed. You may quote me and he is a friend of many years.

              Confessionally “Reformed” have a “connexional” ecclesiology and are “confessional.”

              I am Anglican. I also am a Dordtian Calvinist. I cannot, however, rightly claim the historic title of “Reformed” for a number of reasons, although the term was used by many English writers and, in 1701, was required for post-Jacobite, royal coronation oaths: “…to uphold and defend the Protestant and Reformed religion.”

              Baptist hermeneutics, whether General or Particular Redemptionists, are what they are…Anabaptistic. Name it, claim it and own it.

              • Phil,

                That’s just bizarre.

                R. C. IS Reformed. I may not agree with his polity but I don’t agree with yours! We’ve never made polity a defining issue. It wasn’t a defining issue, however hotly debated, at the Westminster Assembly and it wasn’t at Dort.

                Perkins was an Anglican and Reformed.

                Owen became an Independent and was Reformed.

                Ames was an Independent and Reformed.

                Voetius was presbyterial and Reformed.

                They were all Reformed. It’s crazy to say they weren’t.

                • Scott:

                  Here’s my basic understanding. “Reformed” has generally meant subscriptional membership, close communion, Confessional membership (3 FU), and generally Psalm-singing.

                  Ecclesiology, along with the Reformed corollary of paedo-baptism, for the Reformed and Presbyterian has generally, so far as I know, meant no “independence” and “no bishops” Along with wider assemblies (not higher, for the Reformed) and higher assemblies (for the Presbyterians with the GA).

                  If there is a wider use of the word “Reformed” to include Anglicans and Congregationalists, and ecclesiology is not an issue, it would appear that “paedobaptism” remains the single boundary between Reformed and the (Ana)baptists. There are Confessional Anabaptists that differ but for baptism and ecclesiology.

                  I still think of St. Andrews and RC as “Congregationalists,” not “Reformed” in the Continental sense.

          • RSC: as my family members hold church membership at Saint Andrews, I can tell you that Saint Andrews identifies itself explicitly as “a Reformed congregation” not affiliated with any Reformed denomination. Burk Parsons was ordained this month as a teaching elder in the Central Florida presbytery of the PCA. Though I have not heard Burk address his exact status in the presbytery, I presume he labors out of bounds, as does Dr. Sproul.

            • Fowler:

              Good to see you hear.

              St. Andrews is old school “Congregational” or “Independent,” notwithstanding the claim of “Reformed.”

              I believe RC “is” what he “practices,” not what he “says.” There’s confusion here that must be cleared up. Or, what “they say” is to confuse “Confessional Reformed” with Calvinism–again. RC is a Calvinistic “Independent.” Or, Congregationalist. He handily could have led St. Andrews into the PCA. He built the place from scratch-up. Feel free to quote me, saying, “Phil doesn’t think you’re ‘Reformed,’ but rather are a `Congregationalist’ as in New England style.”

              St. Andrews, on their own terms, does not need nor desire a relationship to a presbytery. Actions talk, not words alone.

              Just tell him you met the “Viking” or “Navy Chaplain from Italy.” He’ll get it. I’m just a little too old and experienced to much care who or what anyone thinks of me. I do but I don’t. Sic et non. Again, “Congregationalists,” not “Presbyterians” and not “Reformed.”

              RC may be labouring “out of bounds” from his presbytery (in fact, he does), but the “in bounds” of St. Andrews—is not Reformed polity any more than this Calvinist Anglican is Reformed.

              I am not Reformed. Nor is RC.

      • Maybe I use the term “Pauline Baptist” because everyone knows that it was Paul who articulated the doctrines of grace. Of maybe a Jereminian (is that a word?) Baptist, since our Lord wrote in Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

        Honestly, what is it with all this pedantic parsing of words? Is it somehow wrong to recognize the scholarly work of Calvin in the area of the doctrines of grace? Would it be okay then if we drop any mention of Calvin and simply call it “the doctrines of sovereign grace”, or is there some Presbyterian clearing house that we need to check with first? Scott, you’re using a second rate attempt to conflate the issue. The fact that Reformed Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists share a common view of the doctrines of grace is not the impetus behind the term “Reformed Baptist.” Here are some thoughts of mine on the issue from another venue:

        “If Reformed Baptists (RB for short) were trying to align themselves with their Reformed Presbyterian brethren that would, indeed, be ironic. But what keeps getting lost in discussions on this topic is that most RB’s are not seeking such identification. RB’s use the term to denote the historicity of their beliefs and to distinguish themselves from those Baptists who hold to the doctrines of grace but not confessionalism or Covenant Theology.

        How many times does it need to be said that RB’s are not seeking to be like their Presbyterian brethren? There is no attempt to redefine what Reformed means in it’s historical context. For RB’s it takes on it’s own meaning; similar to Reformed Presbyterianism, but within it’s own theological construct. And if I can be indicted for being pedantic myself, RB is more precise than simply calling us Particular Baptists. What we believe is more than just an agreement on particular redemption. The confessional and covenantal component of our faith makes a more precise definition warranted and necessary.”

      • Granted for infant baptism. What would Monsieur Calvin say about the days of creation? or politics (theonomy)?

        If he won’t discipline you then you are a Spurgeonist Paedobaptist =)

  4. Dear Dr. Clark,

    From a strictly historical perspective, you may have a case. That is, the term “Reformed” denoted in the 16th and 17th centuries primarily that branch of Protestantism that expressed its faith in Symbols that were paedo-baptist in sacramental and covenantal theology.

    But a diachronic study of the semantic range of the term “Reformed” would reveal, I suspect, that the term “Reformed,” like the appellative “Lutheran,” has changed with time. Early on in the Reformation, the term “Lutheran” was applied, as I understand it, more broadly to include various kinds of anti-Romanists or “Protestants.” In time the semantic range of “Lutheran” eventually narrowed and was applied to those who affirmed The Augsburg Confession (1530) and/or The Formula of Concord (1576).

    On the other hand, the appellative “Reformed” has, it seems, broadened in its semantic range. In point of fact, churches, theological literature (popular and academic), and other media apply the term “Reformed” to Protestant/Evangelicals that are no longer paedo-baptist sacramentally or covenantally but who share much of the same theology expressed in the earlier Reformed Symbols.

    So synchronically, the term “Reformed” is no longer used to refer exclusively to paedo-baptist Christians or churches. And since the art/science of lexicography is primarily descriptive and only secondarily prescriptive, I don’t see how you can continually protest against the modern usage of the term “Reformed.” You might as well get offended when someone calls you a “nice guy” and insist that they just classified you as “stupid” or “ignorant” based on an older use of the term. In other words, you’re committing two lexical fallacies: “semantic obsolescence” and “unwarranted restriction of the semantic field” (See D. A. Carson,Exegetical Fallacies, 34-36, 57-62).

    Of course, I understand your zeal for the earlier kind of Reformed theology, which was paedo-baptist. That’s fine. As a “Reformed Baptist” (please excuse my liberty with the term), I’m just as zealous for the credo-baptist version. But I think you’ll make a better case arguing from Scripture rather than using a debunked form of linguistics. Besides, your insistence that those of us who confess the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (which draws most of its language and doctrine from the Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration) be excluded from “the club,” gives the appearance of “circling the wagons” rather than of extending the right hand of fellowship.

    In Christ,
    Bob Gonzales
    Dean of Reformed Baptist Seminary
    Editor of RBS Tabletalk

    • Well said, Bob.

      I also found the Mercedes-Benz / GM analogy to be a bit over the top myself. Smacks of intended snobbery and elitism, doesn’t it? What love is this?

      In Christ,
      CD

    • Bob,

      You can claim historical development til you’re blue in the face but the Reformed churches still confess the SAME FAITH we confessed in the 16th and 17th centuries. Popular abuse of an ecclesiastical term doesn’t change the essential meaning of that term. “Catholic” properly denotes that which has been believed in all times and places. “Evangelical” still properly denotes those who confess the Reformation understanding of the gospel (as distinct from modern “evangelicalism”) and Reformed still means “that which is confessed and practiced by the Reformed churches since the early 20th century.”

      As I’ve said here many times, you’re proposed redefinition is nothing less than theft or squatting.

      • With all due respect, Dr. Clark, your use of language does betray linguistic naïveté. In point of fact, the term “Catholic” means something quite different than your definition when one places it in juxtaposition with “Roman.” Similarly, prefixing “Neo-” to “Evangelical” also changes the semantic range. So your examples only serve to prove my point. When the term “Reformed” is contiguous with “Baptist” it denotes something similar but not precisely the same as the ecclesiastical term “Reformed” by itself.

        Of course, your welcome to keep your head in the historical sand of the 16th and 17th centuries, insisting upon a narrow usage of “Reformed.” The rest of us live in the 21st century. And whether you like it or not, language changes. So why don’t you start being “nice”–in the modern sense of the term 🙂

        Sincerely yours,
        Bob Gonzales

        • Bob,

          I’m not naive, but I’m also not a nominalist. There is a connection between the word “Reformed” and a certain set of doctrines and practices. I don’t think that folk who reject those doctrines and practices are entitled to re-define that word.

          On your rationale, how would you stand with Machen against the Modernists/liberals in Christianity and Liberalism? Your argument seems to be the same as the modernists. “Words change. Yes, Christian used to mean ‘believes in the historic Christian faith but it doesn’t any more.'” Machen didn’t accept that so why should I accept your attempt to redefine “Reformed” to include a denial of a doctrine that the Reformed churches have confess and that they continue to confess. I could see where, if we left the house, folk might move in, but if we’re still living here it gets a little crowded.

          • Dr. Clark,

            I still don’t think you get it. I’m not arguing that a word can mean whatever someone wants it to mean (i.e., nominalism). I’m simply pointing out that the meanings of terms are relative to their usage in particular contexts (Linguistics 101).

            So let’s examine your example of Machen. Machen understood well that the appellative “Christian” was used to describe both “nominal” Christians as well as “real” Christians. This wasn’t just true in the 20th century. It’s been a fact throughout the history of the church. His argument was that nominal Christianity of the liberal/modernist sort is not genuine “Christianity” relative to NT usage. That is, the liberals are welcome to use the term “Christian” if they like so long as they understand that their version of Christianity is not the sort commended by the NT.

            Similarly, folks like myself make no claim that our version of “Reformed” Christianity is the 16th and 17th century paedo-baptist sort. That would be disingenuous. So we’re careful to qualify our use of the term by adding “Baptist.” So you’re welcome to join with us and make sure the whole world knows that we’re really not “Reformed” relative to the 16th and 17th century ecclesiastical usage of the term. But beginning in the 20th century, Baptists who adopted the 1689 LBCF began referring to themselves as “Reformed Baptists.” That’s just a fact. Sure, we’re not the older sort of “Reformed” any more than the liberal/modernists of Machen’s day were the older sort of “Christian.”

            Of course, in the case of the usage of “Christian,” the newer usage signaled something negative–a movement away from NT Christianity. In the case of the newer (and broader) usage of “Reformed” (now applied to non-paedobaptists), we can only ultimately evaluate it as “good” or “bad” in a biblical sense not on the basis of where its usage falls on the historical timeline. Rather, when making biblical evaluations, we must measure the theological perspectives and practices denoted by the term “Reformed” (by itself) or the phrase “Reformed Baptist” by the standard of Scripture.

            Respectfully yours,
            Bob Gonzales

            • Bob,

              When exactly did the word “Reformed” come to denote both “believes in paedobaptism” and “denies paedobaptism”?

              If we, who have the original lease on the word since the 1540s, don’t consent then how is it not theft?

    • Dr. Gonzales,

      I’ve seen your linguistic critique of Dr. Clark’s view over at RBS Tabletalk before. Could I ask you to justify your presupposition that linguistic analysis is in anyway directly relevant to the issue at hand? It is as if you were arguing that the whims of the surrounding culture (in this case, linguistic whims) have higher authority over ecclesiastical decisions.

      Also, unrelated to this, I saw that your research project in Genesis was recently published. Congratulations! What an achievement!

      Grace and Peace,
      Brandon

      • Brandon,

        If you read all the comments I’ve posted here, you’ll see that I’ve done more than simply appeal to the brute fact of contemporary usage. There were many early “Lutherans” who didn’t have a refined “Lutheran” theology as would later be defined in that denomination’s symbols. In some ways they were Lutheran. In other ways they were not. Similarly, changes have taken place over time among the followers of the theology of John Calvin. Some took a great deal of Calvin’s insights but modified his views on polity and baptism. So the fact that they share 80% or more of theological commonality with Calvin and other Protestant Reformers prompted them to call themselves “Reformed Baptists.” They did not pick up a post-modern dictionary, find the term “Reformed,” and decide on a whim to assume the appellative. It’s not the whims of modern culture but careful reflection on the huge amount of theological continuity between our views and those of the Puritans and Reformers that has influenced many of us who assume the name “Reformed Baptist.” You alluded to “ecclesiastical decisions.” Was there a synod or council that copyrighted the name “Reformed” and anathematized all who dare to employ that term without permission?

        Brandon, I realize that my arguments won’t persuade Dr. Clark and others. That’s okay. I’m really not hung up on the terminology as he seems to be. For what it’s worth, I respect Dr. Clark’s right to argue for a restricted use of the term Reformed. He hasn’t gained my conscience, but I don’t want to spend my whole life engaged in logomachy. Besides, I would never want my disagreements with Dr. Clark to be interpreted as representing a lack of love or respect for him. I consider him a brother in Christ and unquestionably an expert in the historical theology of the 16th and 17th centuries.

        Thanks for the encouraging words regarding the book!

        Gratefully yours,
        Bob Gonzales

        • Dr. Gonzalez,

          Your argument from the Lutheran tradition is interesting, and one that I am unable to make any significant commentary on because I am simply not knowledgable enough on the history of Lutheran thought to recognize areas of continuity and discontinuity with the current issue. One thing that does strike me based on what you have said (again from a perspective of great ignorance) is that it was the Lutheran confessions that solidified the meaning of what it meant to be “Lutheran.” That seems to be a similar argument to the one Dr. Clark has made in RRC.

          Regarding synods and councils, I think Dr. Clark’s argument is that the Westminster Assembly and Synod of Dordt rendered an ecclesiastical decision on what it means to be Reformed through their confessions and catechisms. As I read your comments, it sounds as though you see this as primarily an artifact of history (hence diachronic in significance). But I think the significance of these assemblies and their confessional documents isn’t so much their historical intrigue as it is their ecclesial-binding authority down to the present day. This is why I am not convinced that a syn-/dia-chronic analysis is useful to this debate (though it is an important distinction in exegesis).

          I agree with you that there are ultimately more important things than this, but one of the reasons I find this issue noteworthy is because of the response it engenders among RBs. I think RBs communicate more than they mean to. It sounds too much as though the sentiment goes, “if we can’t call ourselves Reformed, then you have severed the bonds of our fellowship and cooperation in the work of the Gospel.” That might be true if we were being built up into a new man with Calvin as our Head, but in reality it demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the basis of our unity and the catholicity of the Church: the accomplished work of Jesus Christ. Theological precision is not a hindrance to true catholicity unless we have sought to unify ourselves around the wrong things.

          Grace and Peace,
          Brandon

            • Brandon,

              First, sorry you give the accepted science of linguistics little voice in this debate. While ecclesiastical language nomenclature may be more resistant to change over time than other kinds of vocabulary, it’s certainly not immune to change. The undeniable fact of the matter is that denominational nomenclature has been modified over the years and that new denominations or church bodies often borrow adjectives or nouns from other established denominations. Just take the time to read through Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill, and Craig Atwood, Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 12th edition (2005). You’ll see what I mean.

              Second, you said above that the “Westminster Assembly and Synod of Dordt rendered an ecclesiastical decision on what it means to be Reformed through their confessions and catechisms.” Did they actually say, “This is the essence of what it means to be “Reformed” and any deviation from what is defined in these standards disqualifies one from use of the adjective “Reformed””? Is that what they said? Can you produce a reference or citation to this effect? Of course, you well know that the Synod of Dordt defined “Reformed” in more general terms (mainly soteriological) than Dr. Clark is comfortable with. It so happens that many Reformed Baptist churches I know also affirm the Canons of Dordt. So if we can affirm the Canons of Dordt (with a few minor exceptions) can we be “Reformed”? And in reality, the Westminster Standards of the 17th century defined what it means to be “Reformed” in some ways that Clark himself now rejects. So even if those assemblies actually included in their documents a statement to the effect, “To be ‘Reformed,’ one must agree with everything in these standards” (which I don’t recall such a specific delimited pronouncement), it would exclude not only “Reformed Baptists” but most modern “Reformed” churches too.

              Third, it appears that you’re concerned about a lack of a catholic spirit among Reformed Baptists with reference towards our Reformed brothers. You write, “It sounds too much as though the sentiment goes, “if we can’t call ourselves Reformed, then you have severed the bonds of our fellowship and cooperation in the work of the Gospel.”” I think you know well from my exchanges on another post on this blog (click here) that I see it the other way around. Dr. Clark not only wants to kick us RBs out of the “Reformed” camp, he wants to kick all Baptists out of the “visible church.” We, in his view, are simply sects and not “true churches of Christ.” Ironically, he’s still willing to call us “brothers” and assures us that our eternal welfare is not at stake. Yet he also confesses with the “Reformed” that “outside the visible church … there is no ordinary possibility of salvation” (WCF 25.1). Either he takes exception to that portion of the Confession or he just doesn’t take it seriously, which means he has a dim view of the importance of the visible church. I, on the other hand, affirm the WCF 25.1 and insist that its sectarian to de-church those who are in fact members of true (though in some cases weak) visible churches. So Clark is not merely bent on insisting that we remove “Reformed” before “Baptist”; he also wants us to remove “church” too. That doesn’t sound very catholic to me.

              Sincerely yours,
              Bob Gonzales

              • Bob,

                Brandon is exactly right. I think you misunderstand the nature of confessional documents. They are not mini-systematic theologies, as people often seem to think. In the very nature of them, particularly in the case of of the Belgic Confession, the HC, and the WCF, they are ecclesiastical summaries of what the churches regard as essential.

                I distinguish the WCF, the HC (and the Westminster catechisms) from the CD because the latter were formed to respond to fairly narrow question.

                The documents did not have to say what you ask because it’s the very intent and nature of them to do as Brandon says. That’s why they were drafted. That’s how and why they were received by the churches.

                • Dr. Clark,

                  What you claim the Reformed churches did in the 16th and 17th centuries, Reformed Baptists did at the end of the 20th century. From the ARBCA website:

                  The ASSOCIATION OF REFORMED BAPTIST CHURCHES OF AMERICA was founded on March 11, 1997. On that day the first General Assembly met to establish a charter membership of 24 churches from 14 states.

                  And on that day they ratified an ecclesiastical constitution that identifies their doctrinal standard, which would define them theologically and ecclesiastically:

                  While we hold tenaciously to the inerrant, infallible and sufficient Word of God as found in the sixty-six books of the Bible (this being our final source of faith and practice), we embrace and adopt the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 as a faithful expression of the doctrine taught in the Scriptures.

                  So these churches used the 1689 as a means to define themselves as an association of “Reformed Baptist” churches just as you allege the delegates at Dordtrecht and Westminster Abby did previously. To use your words, “That’s how and why [the 1689 was] received by the [Reformed Baptist] churches.”

                  Do you or does your denomination have ecclesiastical authority to overturn what the ARBCA churches have done? Can you take them to court for stealing the adjective “Reformed”? Didn’t the PCUSA force Machen’s group to change it’s name? Why don’t you do the same if you feel like there’s been a copyright infringement? I doubt your argument wouldn’t hold up in court, and you probably do too.

                  • Dr. Gonzalez,

                    To the extent that you advanced any kind of argument in the comment above, its form is identical to the fallacy of “Reformed Narcissism” identified by Dr. Clark in the original post:

                    Finally, this discussion is a good illustration of what I call “Reformed Narcissism.” The syllogism runs this way:

                    1. I am Reformed
                    2. I think x
                    3. Therefore x is Reformed.

                    • Chunck,

                      I’ve given a rejoinder to your little syllogism above. But for readers who may have missed it, here it is again:

                      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., 3Fu/WS]
                      3. Therefore, x is “Reformed”

                      Dr. Gonzales’s 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 Reformed; we are Reformed Baptist.”
                      2. They said, “We think x [i.e., 2LBCF]
                      3. Therefore, x is “Reformed Baptist.”

                      Observations:
                      (1) Formally, what we did is precisely the same procedure that forms the basis of Clark’s claim to property rights on the singular adjective “Reformed.”
                      (2) We neither claimed “We are reformed” (major premise) nor “Therefore, x is Reformed” (minor premise). Instead, we carefully qualified our language. We are not “Reformed,” we are “Reformed Baptist.”
                      (3) Our point: “Reformed” is not enough. “Reformed” by itself may find support in the 3FU or the WS, but it is sub-biblical. Hence, we need a different animal. And we choose to identify ourselves (without Dr. Clark’s permission) as something other than simply “Reformed”–we are “Reformed Baptist.”
                      (4) If you think that those terms are incompatible, then prove your case from Scripture not from the repeated harangue that we RBs wouldn’t have been welcome at the Synod of Dordt or Westminster Assembly. Fact is, most Paedo-Baptists today treat us with a great deal more respect and brotherly kindness than do their 16th and 17th century predecessors.

                      In conclusion, I find your logic, as Dr. Clark’s, to be fallacious and something of a caricature. Reformed Baptists have no desire whatsoever to be simply “Reformed.” That, in our thinking, would be a more backward not forward.

                      Bob Gonzales

                    • Dr. Gonzales:

                      You’re being dishonest when you insert the words “in essence” to represent the premise of Dr. Clark’s argument, as well as the premise of your own argument.

                      Dr. Clark never wrote that “The 16th and 17th century PB Reformers and Puritans said in essence ‘We are Reformed.’” You added the words “in essence,” which dilute the original meaning of “Reformed” (the subject of this discussion) and contradicts your admission that the term “Reformed” did not originally apply to Baptists:

                      the term “Reformed” denoted in the 16th and 17th centuries primarily that branch of Protestantism that expressed its faith in Symbols that were paedo-baptist in sacramental and covenantal theology.

                      It’s okay if you want to add the qualifying words “in essence” to your original definition, but then you have to backtrack from all of your previous arguments concerning the diachronic study of the semantic range of the term “Reformed” et al.

                      Additionally, when you stated the premise of your argument, you took a few liberties with history by writing, “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 Reformed; we are Reformed Baptist.’”

                      According to their history on their web page, they claim to be the direct descendents of the Particular Baptists and they do not explain why they call themselves “Reformed.” It appears to be the collective decision of a self-described association of “autonomous churches,” which is an amusing irony. Therefore, for you to be consistent with your arguments about the semantic range of terms, you should explain to us how the word “Particular” really means (or has come to mean) “Reformed,” at least “in essence.”

                  • Dr. Gonzales,

                    To the extent that you advanced any kind of argument in the comment above, its form is identical to the fallacy of “Reformed Narcissism” identified by Dr. Clark in the original post:

                    Finally, this discussion is a good illustration of what I call “Reformed Narcissism.” The syllogism runs this way:

                    1. I am Reformed
                    2. I think x
                    3. Therefore x is Reformed.

                    1. I am Reformed

                    Dr. Clark,

                    What you claim the Reformed churches did in the 16th and 17th centuries, Reformed Baptists did at the end of the 20th century. From the ARBCA website:

                    The ASSOCIATION OF REFORMED BAPTIST CHURCHES OF AMERICA was founded on March 11, 1997. On that day the first General Assembly met to establish a charter membership of 24 churches from 14 states.

                    2. I think x

                    And on that day they ratified an ecclesiastical constitution that identifies their doctrinal standard, which would define them theologically and ecclesiastically:

                    While we hold tenaciously to the inerrant, infallible and sufficient Word of God as found in the sixty-six books of the Bible (this being our final source of faith and practice), we embrace and adopt the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 as a faithful expression of the doctrine taught in the Scriptures.

                    3. Therefore x is Reformed.

                    So these churches used the 1689 as a means to define themselves as an association of “Reformed Baptist” churches. . . .

            • Dr. Gonzales,

              First, I want to clarify something I said previously. When referring to speaking “from a perspective of ignorance” I was referring to myself. As I re-read that sentence it occured to me that the referent of that parenthetical comment was ambiguous.

              I don’t want to undermine the usefulness of linguistic studies– even in HT. Theological terminology does change over time (as you show in your discussion of “passionate”). But in this case, I think we are discussing something different. Above you wrote, “And since the art/science of lexicography is primarily descriptive and only secondarily prescriptive.” I think this point nullifies the importance of the syn-/dia-chronic to this issue. Your analysis of the changing meaning of Reformed is only descriptive (and not normative), which means it is unable to answer the question, what *should* the term Reformed mean? I would suspect this kind of unilateral absolutizing of definitions is lost on most linguistic studies today. Yet, church synods and councils do have authority to make such terminological pronouncements about their own identity (“we are this, and not that”). It is my opinion that to deny this kind of authority to the church (or a denomination) on linguistic grounds is to make the church and its language utterly enslaved to the fancies of the surrounding culture.

              To the more particular circumstances of the Synod of Dordt and the Westminster Assembly– Unfortunately, I do not have the resources on hand (nor the historical expertise) to address them adequately. If I remember correctly, Dr. Clark spills a lot of ink addressing these kinds of historical issues in RRC. Personally, I wonder if in a pre-Kantian age it was possible to distinguish “the essence of what it means to be ‘Reformed'” from the actual churches that confessed Reformed faith and practice. The question may not so much be “did they define the essence of Reformed,” as “did they identify themselves as Reformed churches” and “how did they describe their faith and practice.” At any rate, I simply unable to answer this question.

              I am glad to hear that there are RB churches that subscribe the Canons of Dordt, but I can only assume that they have revised the CD to fit Baptistic covenant theology. The CD do confess the reality of covenant children. Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that the Synod of Dordt also established the Three Forms of Unity as the doctrinal standards for the Reformed churches. Whatever Baptistic appropriation of the Synod there has been, it would have to be very partial.

              Lastly, I do think that the quest to be “Reformed” is a stumbling block to some Reformed Baptists. To the extent that they refuse to treat non-Reformed folk as brothers and sisters in Christ and fellow co-workers (or talk as if this was the case), they are quite sectarian. When was the last time you heard a Reformed Baptist say a nice thing about a Lutheran 😉 The issue of the marks of the church is of course an interesting discussion, but it is different from this one.

              Blessings on your Sabbath Day,
              Brandon

  5. Why is it that “Baptist” meant “denies infant baptism” in the 17th century but now, “Reformed” no longer means “affirms infant baptism?”

    By what act of congress?

    This is why I used the GM analogy. Just because there are 60 million Baptistic evangelicals in this country the fact of numerical superiority doesn’t give them a right to redefine us or the adjective “Reformed.”

  6. Dr. Clark writes:
    When exactly did the word “Reformed” come to denote both “believes in paedobaptism” and “denies paedobaptism”?

    Bob replies:
    Context, context, context, my brother. Just as the Greek terminology agape/agapao may in one context denote a noble kind of love and in other context a debased form of lust (e.g., the case of Amnon’s “love” for his sister Tamar, 2 Samuel 13:18), so the term “Reformed” can in one context refer to a guy like you and in another a guy like your colleague Dr. James Renihan, professor at the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies, which is an extension of Westminster Seminary of California. In both cases there will be semantic overlap. But semotactic marking will enable most of us to tell the differences.

    Dr. Clark writes:
    If we, who have the original lease on the word since the 1540s, don’t consent then how is it not theft?

    Bob replies:
    Yes, and the Church of Rome used the term “Catholic” long before the Reformed, yet the Reformed (including yourself) have had no qualms about employing that term in the service of their theological and ecclesiastical jargon.

    • Whose context?

      If in the Reformed house we all baptize our babies, in obedience to God’s command to Abraham repeated in the great commission and by Peter at Pentecost, then that’s a context.

      Here comes another context, composed of 60 million Baptists who don’t share our theology, piety, and practice but they want our vocabulary.

      How is that not theft?

      Doesn’t consent have any role in redefining terms?

      • Yes, in your “Reformed house,” infant baptism is practiced. But in my “Reformed Baptist house,” it’s not. Two different contexts.

        So, Baptists who adhere to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, which draws most its language and theology from the Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration, “don’t share in [your] theology, piety, and practice”? Well, well. Isn’t that a bit of an overstatement?

        Does “consent” have any role in redefining terms? I suppose if one possesses the copyright to a term, he owns it. Then we might have to ask his permission to use it. So if you or folks you work for have a copyright on “Reformed,” by all means take advantage of the system of justice that exists in our land. But if you don’t own the term, then no one has to get your permission to use it.

        Look, at the end of the day, Dr. Clark, you can have your precious term if it means so much to you. Since it’s not biblical vocabulary, I’m not going to die at the stake over it. Indeed, at the Great Assize, I doubt King Jesus will be all that concerned about historical denomination labels. I don’t know whether the anecdote is true to history but it illustrates the point. Allegedly, as Whitefield was preaching in Philadelphia, he raised his eyes towards heaven and cried:

        “Father Abraham, whom do you have in heaven? Any Episcopalians?”
        “No!”
        “Any Presbyterians?”
        “No!”
        “Have you any Independents or Baptists?”
        “No!”
        “Have you any Methodists there?”
        “No! No! No!”
        “Then whom have you there?”
        “We don’t know those names here. All who are here are Christians—believers in Christ—those who have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.”
        “O, if this is the case,” said Whitefield, “then God help me, God help us all, to forget party names and to be Christians in deed and truth!”

        • Bob,
          Your linguistic argument does very little to show how Clark keeps his head in historical sand. That likely has a lot to do with the fact that his claims are really more ecclesiastical than linguistic. (However, I do think it goes a fair distance to help show how Walter Martin’s day has eclipsed: it just doesn’t work anymore to say that folks like the Mormons are “cultists,” not in our post-Jonestown-Waco-Applegate-Manson age at least. All cultists are false religionists, but not all false religionists are cultists. And by cultist I mean social misfit.)

          And that you employ Whitefield says quite a bit about how you may not grasp that this is less a linguistic than an ecclesiastical debate—he wasn’t exactly a friend to ecclesiology. If the lesson you suggest comes from Whitefield’s anecdote is valid, then it would seem you should probably stop flying the “Reformed Baptist” flag. But since the age of the militant church hasn’t given way to the church triumphant (faith hasn’t become sight), neither is this sort of debate. So until you’re willing to drop your own labels you might want to re-consider what some might construe as a bit self-congratulatory at best and impious at worst.

          • Zrim,

            Anyone smart enough to read my citation of the anecdote about Whitefield in the context of everything else I’ve said on this post would conclude that I’m not opposed to labels nor ignorant that the church is still militant, not glorified. My point was to suggest, as I’ve elsewhere stated more plainly, that Clark’s views are sectarian. The fact that Calvin and other Reformed excommunicated (and drowned) genuine Christians who didn’t agree with them on the recipients of baptism wasn’t right then and isn’t right now. Yet Clark insists on perpetuating that error and exclude as true churches of Christ those among whom Jesus does indeed have his lamp. He can justify his sectarianism on historical grounds if he likes. But he has no biblical grounds to do so. Indeed, causing unnecessary division in the visible church of Christ is no trifle.

            Respectfully yours,
            Bob Gonzales

            • Bob,

              “…God help us all, to forget party names and to be Christians in deed and truth!”

              Whitefield’s anecdote does nothing to show Clark’s alleged sectarianism. What it does is reinforce the all too ubiquitous reality of low ecclesiology.

              You’re right, Jesus won’t care much for denominational contours in the future. But consider that he’ll also dissolve our marriages. Does that mean we should “forget our martial vows” in the here and now? Is it sectarian to insist that a true marriage in the here and now has certain traits (and is absent others), even if that marriage will be dissolved in the future? It just seems to me silly to suggest that just because a temporal institution will give way to an eternal reality that it’s sectarian to insist on the true marks of said institution. There’s good reason Scripture employs familial analogies.

    • Romanism is not “Catholic” and the Reformed have claimed that term “Catholic,” along with Lutheran and Anglican version.

      Rome is a false church with a false gospel, yeah, Antichrist.

  7. For anyone reading Heidelblog and books by Dr. Clark and the WSC faculty will know that James White’s comment to Dr. Clark’s view is completely misinformed on the subject and is not only on a different page but on a different book. It built a straw man. There is nothing wrong with the definition of ‘reformed’ as has been provided by Dr. Clark. This comes from a Calvinistic, covenantal, confessional baptist. I guess one could argue that a baptist can not be Cavinistic but only disagreement with Calvin I have is on theocracy and baptism (at least) I agree on his view of instruments in public worship which most paedobaptists calling themselves Calvinistic do not. In today’s world of thinking history is meaningless White’s and other’s comments are not surprising, but sad. – The more attention I pay, the less of a baptist I am…

  8. Vaclav,

    Actually the exchange between RSC and Bob has done much to validate Dr. White’s initial observation. Throughout this combox exchange RSC has staked out the claim that “the Reformed churches confess a theology, a piety, and practice and which infant baptism is essential to it.”

    Yet this was precisely Dr. White’s point! RSC doesn’t bother to identify any Reformed Baptist theology, piety or practice that stands over and against the “Truly Reformed” theology, piety, or practice with the exception of…paedobaptism!

    Ironic, don’t you think?

    In Him,
    CD

    • CD,

      Dr. White produced a troll of a post; that becomes already problematic in a bloging situation. He has four assertions: 1) a complaint of Dr. Clark that he deconstructs ‘reformed’ to paedobaptism; 2) a complaint that Dr. Cark is not taking time to listen to the other side; 3) Dr. White argues that credobaptism is biblical while paedobaptism is not; 4) Dr. White also asserts that covenantal baptists are more true to the word ‘reformed’ than is pressumably Dr. Clark. So, simply too many assertion for a post.

      As to answers, well:

      Reading the WSC faculty books and specifically Dr. Clark’s books and posts, I as a covenantal baptist know he is not doing any such deconstruction albeit taken isolated and out of context one could produce such an argument though it does not reflect truth.

      Just because Dr. Clark keeps disagreeing with someone does not make him one who does not listen. This assertion can not be proven as it is an opinion. Circumtential evidence would indicate otherwise.

      3) Making a pro credobaptist argument should be its own article, as I metioned a trolling post that has too many assertions.

      4) Redefining vocabulary is an american pastime, just because someone is reforming past the ‘reformed’ church does not make them ‘reformed’ – see Radical Reformation.

      all in a spirit of brotherly love
      Vaclav

      • Sorry, somehow my ‘1)’ AND ‘2)’ for the post were deleted. They are reflected in the first and second paragraph respectively.

  9. Could I suggest that you maybe call up James White’s webcast and talk with him. I’d hate to see this turn into some acrimonious Internet controversy. Those are soooo productive.

  10. To all the baptist brothers, I’m sorry, the Reformed table is taken. But we do have a table for Covenantal Baptists. Would you like to be seated?

  11. Dr. clark,

    It’s interesting you insist on a monopoly for the word “Reformed” to include those holding to the Hedielberg and WCF. Are Reformed Baptists not to use the word “Calivinist” either? Does a Reformed congregation also have to subscribe to Calvin’s views of Amil? If so, Jonathan Edwards would not fit the definition of a Reformed pastor.

    To be reformed means to reclaim or rescue from error and return to a rightful course. Where does does paedobaptism rescue Rome from her error of paedobaptism. Is not a credobaptist even more reformed on this point?

    • Go back and read my original post. Did I say that there was a distinctively Reformed eschatology? No. Why not? Because I know better. In the history of Reformed theology there have been three eschatological views: historic premil, postmil, and amil.

      It’s a red herring.

      I addressed the problem of using “Calvinist” in the comments above.

      We don’t subscribe Calvin’s theology. We subscribe the Three Forms and the Westminster Confession

  12. How, then, did “Reformed Baptists” achieve gaining institutional cooperation with WST California by operating an Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies there???
    Where the rubber meets the road, the differences and distinctions are not located where our respective systems of doctrines as a whole hinge upon.

    • Roberto,

      Fair question, if expected.

      Westminster Seminary California hosts and has friendly relations with the Institute for Reformed Baptist Studies (IRBS), which is a distinct school from WSC. It is connected with the ARBCA. We receive credits from IRBS students by transfer. Jim Renihan is a neighbor, scholar, a gentleman, and a friend. His sons are my students this semester. FWIW, unlike Bob Gonzales, Jim has read RRC with appreciation and recommended it to his students and to others. He is well aware of my views as we’ve discussed them more than once.

      The difference is this: WSC is not a church. It is a school. We don’t practice church discipline at school. School and church are two very different institutions. I presume that I’m not eligible for communion in Jim’s congregation, since he cannot recognize me as a baptized person and I would oppose communing Jim on the basis of his membership in a congregation that denies one of the marks of a true church.

      I don’t accept the premise that the school is the only place where the “rubber meets the road.”

  13. [So, how is it that those who reject our hermeneutic, who reject our reading of redemptive history (which we learned from Irenaeus), who reject our covenant theology, who reject our sacramental piety, and practice, get to define what we are? This is bizarre. As I’ve argued many times here it’s like allowing GM to define what constitutes a Mercedes Benz. Yes, there are many more GM vehicles on the road than there are Mercedes but numerical superiority does not grant GM the right to re-name or re-define Mercedes. No, Mercedes Benz gets to say what qualifies as a Mercedes Benz vehicle and a Mercedes is one that has the marks or the intrinsic qualities of a Mercedes Benz. One cannot slap a Mercedes hood ornament on a GM and call it a “Mercedes.”]

    exactly dr. clark. does not the “reformed baptist” have the right to define himself/herself? if the reformed baptist, which i am, wishes to connect himself/herself to the spirit of reformation teaching and yet distinguish themselves from the particular position of infant baptism, can they not do so? the theologians who drafted the documents constituting the six forms of unity do not hold a monopoly of the term ‘reformed’. reformed in it’s broader terminology refers to order of things which seeks to amend and/or improve upon that which is established by removing the perceived faults. the established way of things in that era of the reformation was that of the roman catholic church. and the reformed baptist largely identifies with those reformed views which were central in opposing the established.

    furthermore, the adoption of the adjective “reformed” is not an attempt to identify with the “historic” view of reformed teaching held by denominations such as the presbyterians. rather it is a way to make positive distinctions from the various baptist positions that exist. in other words, one might wish to say, “yes i am a baptist; however, it must be noted that my baptist position is distinguishable from others in that i am confessional (LBC), covenantal and hold to calvinistic soteriology.” i struggle to see the problem with this. language has always been culturally relative and less strictly defined than lets say logic, science or mathematics. in which case, i am not convinced by your appeal to the “historic” reformed confessions and catechisms as a way to possess sole ownership of an adjective such as reformed.

    thus, i end where i began. i see no justification for your absolutist view of the adjective ‘reformed’. surely the reformed baptist can adopt such an adjective at his/her discretion for the purposes of identification, and this is not at all an attempt to redefine the historic meaning of reformed (whatever that means). reformed can certainly be more broadly defined than you are allowing for. and certainly you can see how this is entirely appropriate seeing as how the baptist denomination is distinguished by a practice instead of a position of church polity. thus making the need for distinction very beneficial. just as the pca would like to maintain its distinct doctrinal positions and practices from that of the pcusa, so the reformed baptist would like to maintain distinction from baptists which are dispensational, arminian and/or merely “five point calvinists.”

    • Aaron,

      As far as I know in the early 16th century the terms “evangelical” and “Reformed” and “Lutheran” were used interchangeably. Gradually, however, as the word “Reformed” came to be associated with the “sacramentarians,” i.e. the Zwinglians and the Swiss-German Protestants “evangelical” came to be the term used to denote all Protestants (by the 1530s and 40s). Romanists continued to use the terms “evangelical” and “Lutheran” to refer indiscriminately to all Protestants late into the 16th century. By the middle of the century, however, among Protestants, “Reformed” referred to the “Zwinglians” and others including Bucer, Oecolampadius, Vermigili, and the Calvinists (itself a term of opprobrium invented by the Lutherans to mock one wing of the Reformed churches). Among the Lutherans there were “gnesio” (Genuine) and “Philippist” Lutherans.

      Calvin preferred to call all the magisterial Protestants as “evangelicals” though he sometimes referred to himself as “Reformed’ and even as “Lutheran” (especially relative to Rome).

      By the end of the 16th century the word “Reformed” denoted the Reformed churches of the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Second Helvetic Confession and the like. In the 17th century it came to include the Canons of Dort and the Westminster Standards. That sense was more or less fixed until probably the early or middle part of the 20th century.

      Well into the 19th century there were “General” and “Particular” Baptists.

      I haven’t done the research to prove it but my hunch is that, as part of the reaction to modernity and liberalism, in the mid-20th century, just as Reformed folk formed alliances with “fundamentalists” (though Machen disliked being considered a “fundamentalist”) so too by the mid-20th century we also formed alliances with predestinarian Baptists to form a bulwark against the growing tide of Arminian fundamentalism and neo-evangelicalism.

      Thus the use by Particular Baptists, the historic name for those Baptists who identified with aspects of the Reformed reformation, of the oxymoronic title “Reformed Baptist” is relatively new.

      I think that what I’m trying to do is to reassert the older, ecclesiastically sanctioned definition of the word “Reformed,” mainly for our sakes but I do think it’s helpful for those who are outside the Reformed confession to see clearly where the lines are. I hope that perhaps they might wish to keep coming our way and abandon the halfway house between the Anabaptists and the Reformation.

      • Actually, most historians are sharp enough not to equate the Puritan Particular Baptists (who are the forefathers of modern day Reformed Baptists) with the Anabaptists of the 16th and 17th centuries. The PBs themselves rejected this identification. See James Dolizal, Credo-Baptism During the Reformation.

        Furthermore, the rejection of infant Baptist that followed the reforms of Luther was not viewed then nor should it be viewed now as a “halfway house.” Actually, it was an attempt to bring about further reforms relative to the doctrinal corruptions present in the Orthodox and Roman communions. Unfortunately, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli remained in the “halfway house” on the issue of baptism. Not until the sacral society that characterized much of Christendom in the 16th and 17th centuries began to crumble did the light begin to dawn for many. True, some have continued to hold to infant baptism to this day thanks to the ingenuity of some of the Reformers in concocting a new “covenantal” argument for infant baptism. But that argument has lost its persuasiveness over the years and most Bible-believing Christians in the US don’t buy it. So, maybe one tactic for luring some of us who love much of the theology of the Reformers and Puritans back into the infant baptism fold is to tell us we can’t be part of the “Reformed” club unless we swallow infant baptism. We’re only half-breed “Reformed,” so to speak. Isn’t that what the Judiazers told those Gentile Christians who refused circumcision? You’re not quite “in.”

        As I’ve said before, it’s Scripture not historical theology that’s our ultimate rule. So the weight of an argument like that given in RRC will carry little weight for most of us except, perhaps, for those who venerate historical traditions above the Word of God.

        • Maybe most historians are sharp enough, but the label is very confusing to the average church-goer (speaking as one myself). I never realized the vast difference between Reformed and “Reformed” Baptist, but when I did I felt like I had been having one pulled over on me. If I had been identified with Particular Baptist I might have looked into the Reformed a little more to understand the difference, instead of just assuming we agree on everything except infant baptism. Is it a very misleading label, “Reformed” Baptist that is.

          If one wanted to get into name calling, then one could say in reply to the accusation that infant baptism argument only holds weight to those who venerate historical traditions above the word of God, that the reason most of you don’t buy the covenantal argument MIGHT have something to do with the anti-intellectualism that pervades the church and culture as a whole. If it is obvious that adults who come to faith are baptized, then that’s all we can determine by a surface reading of Scripture. Infant baptism requires too much thinking, I mean I got to watch TV. I don’t have time to worry about what the Bible says I should do with my children if it can’t just come out and say baptize your infants too, then they can just be baptized if/when they repent. But making accusations like that doesn’t really get us anywhere now does it. If you don’t buy the covenantal argument, fine. But you don’t have to say that the infant baptism argument only holds weight to those who venerate historical traditions above the word of God. And you don’t have to call yourself Reformed either, try particular baptist or confessional baptist.

          • Brother,

            You’re correct. Rejecting the doctrine of infant baptism could be due to an anti-intellectualism. As you suggest, some of us Baptists may be spending too much time watching TV or playing PS3 or hunting Whitetail. On the other hand, scholars like Donald Carson, John Piper, and Thomas Schreiner are not idiots. The inferences drawn by PBs to support infant baptism are certainly complex. That may be an indication that we Baptists need to learn to think harder. Or it may be an indication that PBs rest their case for infant baptism on an elaborate house of cards that just doesn’t hold up to careful scrutiny.

            So I simply repeat what I said above: “it’s Scripture not historical theology that’s our ultimate rule. So the weight of an argument like that given in RRC will carry little weight for most of us except, perhaps, for those who venerate historical traditions above the Word of God.”

            • Bob,

              I agree that American evangelicalism (most which is Baptist) is anti- intellectual and activistic. That was certainly my experience in the SBC and it’s been my observation since leave broad evangelicalism for the Reformed churches.

              There are “complications” in the Reformed view of baptism. It does involve changing the way one looks at Scripture. Frankly, in that respect, I’ve yet to see an account by Baptists of the Reformed view that a thorough grasp of the Reformed view. I’m thinking here of the recent volume by Schreiner et al. I was quite disappointed with that volume. I expected better from them. They don’t seem to understand our view well at all.

              I will concede that sometimes we have not been very good at explaining it (I’m thinking here of Mr Murray’s volume of baptism which was quite muddled partly because of his rejection of the distinction between the visible/invisible or internal/external) but I also know from experience that some of the complication is in changing paradigms from the individualist, Anabaptist, pietist, American paradigm to what I call the Abrahamic paradigm.

              I don’t, however, accept your claim that the Reformed view is more complicated. The Baptist view is plenty complicated for those of us who live/think and read Scripture within the Abrahamic paradigm. My children, who were raised thus, cannot understand how any Christian would willingly deny to their children the sign of admission to the visible covenant community and the visible promise of what is true of those who believe. They are as shocked at that as Abraham would be if someone said, “Abe, I love this theology but I just can’t buy this infant circumcision thing. After all, my children haven’t even made profession of faith. How can they receive the sign of circumcision if they haven’t professed faith?”

              What’s complicated with “I will be a God to you and to your children”?

              What is complicated is explaining how “that was then, and this is now.” What is complicated is explaining how “For the promise is to you and to your children” doesn’t really mean what it seems to say. What is complicated is the series of deductions Baptists make to exclude infants from the “households” in the NT that were baptized.

              What complicates the discussion, in my view, is the Baptist a priori that Abraham and Moses played exactly the same role in redemptive history and the a priori assumption that the new covenant must be so utterly eschatological as to exclude the admission of children into the visible covenant community, despite God’s command and promise to Abraham.

            • …“it’s Scripture not historical theology that’s our ultimate rule. So the weight of an argument like that given in RRC will carry little weight for most of us except, perhaps, for those who venerate historical traditions above the Word of God.”

              This seems like an important refrain. The assumption seems to be that ecclesiastical formulations are not the result of biblical mining, at least on the parts of those who have another sacramentology than the speaker. But they exactly are (what else do scriptural footnotes in catechisms mean?). What the modern credo-baptist seems to mean is that his biblical mining doesn’t square with the paedo’s biblical mining. That would be much easier to swallow than this odd assertion that those who formulated paedo-friendly confessional standards relied on mere traditionalism. The other interesting premise seems to be that tradition is a four-letter word. But tradition also protects those ecumenical doctrines like the Trinity. Tradition is also something credo’s use to perpetuate their sacramental theology and practice.

              It is eternally curious as to why paedo’s are faulted by credo’s for being unduly lax on biblical mining and overly-reliant on tradition when all that is meant is that credo’s simply come to different conclusions. It seems like a classic case of “You’re at fault because you’re you but I’m not because I’m me.”

    • While I agree in basic principal; one must ask to “surely the reformed baptist can adopt such an adjective at his/her discretion for the purposes of identification” but is this profitable for the church as a whole? The terms ‘reformed’ and ‘Calvinistic’ are being thrown about left and right these days. A clear definition must exist or communication and peace in the greater church is impeded and the congregants confused.

      • this is okay to say at base, but it wrongly presupposes that there exist any one, “clear definition” for term “reformed” in the first place. also your comment suggests that the baptist adoption of the word reformed brings glaring ambiguity to the term. that is simply mistaken. you seem to indict the reformed baptist as having “thrown about the term ‘reformed’ left and right.” i think that is an irresponsible caricature of the reformed baptist position. as i wrote in my original post, those ideas which were central in opposing the established doctrines of the roman catholic church unto what became the age of the reformation are those things which confessional, convenantal baptists hold in common with those denominations who hold to the six forms of unity. in this case the baptist’s denial of infant baptism and simultaneous adoption of the term reformed does not bring complete and utter nonsense of the word. the heart of reformation teaching is not infant baptism, if it was then what would be the point in distinguishing the reformers from rome? rather, the heart of the reformation was particularly focused on soteriological and ecclesiastical matters. in which case i disagree with your implied notion that the term reformed baptist brings so much ambiguity to the term reformed as to bring about confusion and unrest in the church. most people in the church don’t even have a clue what reformed means. moreover, most of those who do grasp some understanding of it certainly do not see infant baptism as necessary to understanding it. rather the central tenets of the reformation are what they consider part of the definition. thus, the term reformed baptist brings clarity (i.e. those baptist who adhere to covenant theology, confessionalism, calvinism, etc. over and against those who do not).

        and while i fully respect, and even admire, dr. clark’s attention to history and its implication on the term reformed, in the end it is just that…a term. it is not a doctrine. this being so, his zealous defense of the TERM reformed does not go far in debate. the use, misuse or non-use of the term reformed does not entail any doctrinal heresy. the historical meaning of the term reformed (which was not fully definable even then) cannot reach into the present and dictate the semantics of the current use of the word. if dr. clark wishes to restrict his definition of the term reformed to all and everything represented in six forms of unity and thus see infant baptism as, he says, necessary to the definition, then that’s fine. ultimately, however, that is relative. he might see various aspects of doctrine as necessary to define the term reformed, but his definition of reformed is itself not necessary or binding upon any and all others (reformed baptists included) who wish to adopt the term. he has no warrant for doing so.

        when considering what it was that actually reformed against the roman catholic church, you would be hard pressed to see infant baptism as a necessary facet of that reform. simply put…it wasn’t. but what was central (much of which is stated in the five solas of the reformation) is what baptists agree upon. thus, when considering a more broad definition of the term reformed, baptist are more than appropriate in adopting the term reformed. furthermore, the term “reformed baptist” is not oxymoronic. this would only be the case if reformed is being given the narrowly restricted definition of dr. clark. however, as i mentioned above, there is no warrant for doing so.

        • My assertion that ” the terms ‘reformed’ and ‘Calvinistic’ are being thrown about left and right these days.” was nor referring to baptists only, for example PCUSA and others come to mind.

          A general mixup of terminology — the Protestant Reformation created Protestants not all Protestants are Reformed. All reformed were paedobaptists. One can not change these facts no matter how much one wishes to do so.

          • your comment is noted. however, one of my points in my original post was precisely this: the reformed baptist’s adoption of the word “reformed” is not an attempt to change any kind of historical meaning that may be bound up in some narrowly restricted definition of the term. rather it is a way to bring positive and distinct identification from the baptists which do not largely adhere to those central tenets of doctrines which reformed against the roman catholic church.

            in any event, in the end i don’t even see the point of sparking such debate about whether or not reformed baptists can call themselves reformed. what is dr. clark’s main gripe? what damage is done to the church, or even to the presbyterian or traditionally reformed churches by the baptists adoption of the word reformed? wherein lies the doctrinal heresy? in the end there seems to be no real and persuasive reason in dr. clark’s impassioned defense of the exclusivity of the word reformed. it really all seems to merely stir controversy for the sake of controversy. i mean let’s say we grant dr. clark’s plea. ok, ok, so the reformed baptist is not truly reformed…so what? what difference has been made? its not like anyone is going to make the mistake of confusing the reformed baptists with the other reformed denominations any way. the word baptist brings enough distinction between the various reformed camps to prevent that from happening.

            • Aaron,

              As I’ve said before, clear lines are helpful. I hope to try to communicate to the broader evangelical world that the Reformation still lives and has something very important to say to them, namely, that much of what they’re hearing on Sunday (and during the week) isn’t truly “evangelical” or Protestant or Biblical. I sincerely wish that those who hear that message will find their way to a confessionally Reformed congregation. When folk are already unclear about the Reformation generally it’s very confusing on the way out of evangelicalism and into the Reformation to find that there are ostensibly Reformed churches that teach quite contradictory things.

              Second, it’s about the the identity of the Reformed churches. We have much to recover. Getting this right is an important step toward clarifying our own identity so that we can begin to recover our theology, piety, and practice–much of which has been lost due to the influence of both pietism/revivalism otoh and fundamentalism otoh.

            • “its not like anyone is going to make the mistake of confusing the reformed baptists with the other reformed denominations any way.”

              yes it is (see my earlier comment)

      • But Baptist churches, Reformed or otherwise, are not considered true churches. If that is true than Baptist are prohibited from profiting the church, but able to hinder it. What is wrong with that?

    • I appreciate this, of course, but it doesn’t really advance the discussion much except to suggest that Baptists have tried to hide behind baby-baptizing Presbyterian and Congregationalist skirts for a long time.

      It’s not that I don’t understand how Reformed sympathizing Baptists feel. I do. The Lutherans, with whom we Reformed have a good deal in common, by and large despise confessional Reformed folk and we, for similar reasons to the Baptists in the 17th century, hid behind the Augsburg Confession in the 16th century.

      It’s worth noting, however, that the 17th century Baptists, so far as I know, did not call themselves “Reformed,” did they?

      He’s not suggesting, is he that, had the Particular Baptists formed prior to 1618, they might have been welcome at the Synod of Dort?

  14. I was disappointed with Dr. White’s post regarding things that you have said (which he clearly did not understand). He used the old “well we’re honoring Calvin by going back to scripture and not simply believing everything he said” argument which is the same one used by Karl Barth and NT Wright. I understand your frustration, as whenever I mention Reformed theology, John Piper and Mark Driscoll are the first two names which come to the minds of most people.
    I am not Reformed, but a Lutheran. I am similarly frustrated with the fact that the ELCA holds on to a name it does not deserve. I am sure they could argue that “Lutheran means something different now than it did in 1580 and so it’s ok.” It is annoying that a man like Rudolph Bultmann can take the name of my Confession though he would agree with virtually none of the Book of Concord.
    If you do not agree with the historic Confessions of a Christian tradition then you have no right to the name of that tradition. In the same way that one cannot deny baptismal regeneration and remain a Confessional Lutheran, one cannot deny infant baptism and remain reformed.

  15. Dr. Clark,

    If the “Reformed Baptists” hold to every position of the WCF or BC EXCEPT on who gets baptised and the form of church govt, can they not qualify to carry the adjective “Reformed”? If not, then why can those Presbyterians and Reformed that accept the revisions on the Papacy not being Antichrist and the rejection of the Establishment Principle, call themselves Reformed or call their version of the Confession the WCF or BC?

    At least the credobaptists had the honesty to NOT call their Confession the Westminster CF but instead renamed it the Savoy or the 2nd LBC. Seems to be that there is a double standard at work here in regards to the Reformed Baptists vs.the Presbies/Reformed. Afterall the American revisions are on two points…seems to me that on two points or one the Reformed Baptists lose their title Reformed…but the American mainline Presbies and Reformed can still claim the title and NOT just that but still call their American Confessions either “Westminster” or “Belgic” when on those two points that they thought to revise would have been thoroughly resisted by the Reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries as much as they would have resisted (as they did) the rejection of Infant Baptism.

    Oh, wait they did…they resisted the the Anabaptists who rejected infant baptism AND the notion that the Civil Magistrate could be a nursing father to the Church, punishing the violators of BOTH tables of the Law.

    True, there are more Fords out there than Jags…so I guess they can misrepresent the historic reformed position on what were the bounds and duties of the Civil Magistrate in regards to the Church. Mind you the Reformers did NOT advocate Erastianism…they fought it…your last sentence in your last comment to me is more against Erastianism than the Reformed view of the Civil Magistrate.

    Maybe the Baptists that believe like us Presbies/Reformed except on who gets wet & how we govern the Church should be able to call themselves Reformed…afterall the modern day Presbies have RECENTLY revised their historic REFORMED confessions (without renaming them) and got away with it. An historical fact that lives today…my, my the mirror shows the beam.

  16. Great input, Edgar. I hope Dr. Clark is working on providing a much better answer than he gave. If departures from the confessions, such as those by baptists, disqualify them from valid use of the term “Reformed,” then, as you’ve noted, it follows, that “Presbyterians & Reformed folk that accept the American rendition of the Confession on the Magistrate cannot claim the title Reformed.”

    Furthermore, it requires the original content to be confessed in order for anyone to rightly claim the name “Reformed” even today (this means a rejection of the revision – or any revisions – ever). If that is the case, then according to the quote below, not even Scott Clark is “Reformed.”

    Quote: “It’s not true that *we* haven’t changed *our* theology since the 17th century. Virtually all the Reformed have rejected theocratic views widely held in the 16th and 17th century. There’s a change.” (Clark)

    If it is permitted for Clark to maintain the name “Reformed” even though his confession is *not* identical with the seventeenth century Reformed churches, then it seems contradictory for him to legislate over use of a term that he himself is disqualified from using, that is, unless it is from a purely historical observation.

    • One other think I should mention in this regard is the matter, which I discuss in the book –so, if you want a more thorough answer, read the book — of animus imponentis, i.e., the way confessional documents are received by the churches.

      • Dr. Clark,

        Thanks for your replies. You must be exhausted. I’m still unconvinced by your reasoning, but I genuinely respect the way that you’re dealing patiently with your detractors. As you said in another response on this post, you recognize that you have to live with certain “tensions.” I think all of us will have to live with some “tensions” until the eschaton. May the Lord continue to grant us patience and charity toward one another until then.

        And before I go–thanks especially for the great work you and others at WSC are doing in defending the doctrine of justification. Your contributions to this debate have been a blessing to the church universal.

        Sincerely yours,
        Bob Gonzales

  17. Scott,

    I like that you use the term “six-forms of unity”. I used the term years ago, while at WSCAL, when many were looking to leave the CRC. I said to a classmate that those churches should join a current Presbyterian denomination and bring the three forms with them. Then we could have a church, which has the “six-forms of unity” We in the OPC have a lot of Dutch theological influence, why not bring the three-forms as well?

  18. Dr. Clark,

    I went through your post and read James Whte’s post as well. I would like to make just one comment: As someone coming from India, where “Reformed Theology” is unheard of, I have learned about Reformed Theology more from John Piper, John MacArthur, R C Sprou and to some extent James White (his books are available here) than from confessional Reformed people.

    But for the ministry of these people “Reformed Theology” is virtually beyond the bounds of people like me. So, if confessional Reformed people really want to claim “Reformed” title for themselves, I think they should start spreading its tenets with greater zeal and vigour than these men whom I have just mentioned.

    • Well, we’re doing the best we can. Of the people you mention, R. C. is actually Reformed so we should get some credit. Have you read Mike Horton? He not only publishes a magazine 6 times a year, he also does a weekly radio show and has published numerous (25?) books. You can see them at the bookstore at WSC http://www.wscal.edu/bookstore

      See also http://www.whitehorseinn.org

      http://www.modernreformation.org

      http://www.wscal.edu/clark

      Please remember that we are a tiny little band here with virtually no money. When I say “tiny” I mean 500,000 people.

      I do what I can. There are over 2,000 posts on the HB. I’ve answered 1000s of questions here on the HB and I do it gratis. I’m trying to do what I can to get the Reformed message out. I’m doing two podcasts and I’m editing a series of Classic Reformed Theology volumes gratis. I preach the gospel as I have opportunity and I’ve posted as much audio here as I can.

      The broader evangelicals you mention are part of a movement that is 60 million people. Just by sheer numbers they have resources which we can hardly imagine.

      It’s not a matter of effort, it’s a matter of scale.

      • Dr. Clark:

        And keep at it. Good stuff.

        As for RC, he is a (Calvinistic as they usually were) “Congregationalist” by practice; that taxonomy should be assumed and believed until there is presumptive or indubitable evidence otherwise, e.g. book or public statement.

        Influential re: Calvinism, however, he has been…and thankfully so.

      • Dr. Clark,

        Yes, I do give RC Sproul a great deal of credit. He is indeed “Reformed” according to the standards you promote. But he himself does not seem to set such “high” definition of Reformed Theology. For eg. I read his book “What is Reformed Theology”. It was mainly about the 5 solas and the doctrines of Grace. Paedobaptism hardly had a reference in his book as being definitional to Reformed Theology. And what more, in his new site for the teaching Series What is Reformed Theology R C quotes C H Spurgeon (a “non-Reformed” according to you) to promote Reformed Theology (“As C.H. Spurgeon once said, Reformed theology is nothing other than biblical Christianity.” ). I find this bizarre. What do you say about that? And in addition to this, the teachers mentioned in his site include 4 baptists – John Piper, Al Mohler, MacArthur and Mark Dever. And yet the site title reads -“Reformed Theology from RC Sproul”. So, would you mind just informing R C how he is betraying the classical “Reformed” definition, since you also wanted credit to the so-called “Reformed” people on behalf of his ministry.

  19. Dr. Clark,

    How do you respond to a theocratic confessionalists who read your comment:

    “As you know the mainstream of confessional Reformed Presbyterian and Reformed churches have revised the WCF and the BC to eliminate the theocratic language. Of course you may not agree with those actions but they are historic facts.”

    And then argue that you are not REFORMED in the following manner:

    R. Scott Clark has no right to misuse the term “Reformed”. When exactly did the word “Reformed” come to denote both “believes in the historic Reformed view of the Establishment Principle vis a vie the Civil Government & Church” and “denies the historic Reformed view of the Establishment Principle vis a vie the Civil Government & Church”? If we, who have the original lease on the word since the 1540s, don’t consent then how is it not theft?

    There is a connection between the word “Reformed” and a certain set of doctrines and practices. I don’t think that folk who reject those doctrines and practices are entitled to re-define that word. Just because there are 490,000 revisionaries in this country the fact of numerical superiority doesn’t give them a right to redefine us or the adjective “Reformed.”

    • I anticipated this criticism and answered it in the book, Recovering the Reformed Confession. The short answer is that there were internal tensions between our confession of the uniqueness of the Israelite state and implicit claim that post-canonical states could fulfill the same theocratic role. The collapse of Christendom gave us an opportunity to re-think theocracy. The same thing happened with geocentric astronomy. The collapse of geocentrism gave us opportunity to re-think how we understood the intent of Scripture.

      In neither case has the actual THEOLOGY changed. The substance of the Reformed faith is unchanged but we are more consistent now. Our approach to astronomy is more consistent now with our confession of the condescension of God in revelation.

      On this see Machen’s essay on “Creeds and Doctrinal Advance”

      http://genevaredux.wordpress.com/2009/11/14/your-weekly-machen-fix-the-creeds-and-doctrinal-advance/

      There’s are several sections in the book on this.

      Look, we get it in the neck from the biblicists for being static. We get it in the neck from theocrats and fundamentalists (on geocentrism) for maturing.

      This isn’t proof that we were right about these issues but given the quality of the criticisms, I can live with the tension.

      • Dr. Clark,
        Thank you for your response as it gives me more of an idea of where you are coming from. I must admit it’s rather intriquing but I must also be honest that I do have some questions about all of this.

        Assuming the theocratic confessionalist position, I can see how someone from that camp respond to you in their defense using the same line of reasoning as you have employed, and insist that Dr. Clark is not truly “Reformed”:

        1.) “I anticipated this criticism and answered it in the book, Recovering the Reformed Confession. The short answer is that there were internal tensions between our confession of the uniqueness of the Israelite state and implicit claim that post-canonical states could fulfill the same theocratic role.”

        A Theocrat Confessionalist Response: I appreciate this, of course, but it doesn’t really advance the discussion much except to suggest that mainstream Presbyterians have tried to hide from what the Confession really says. Is it a legitimate observation that there were internal tensions within the confession? Sure, and so we get it in the neck from some who use the label “Reformed” who are not theocratic for being static. This isn’t proof that we were right about these issues but given the quality of the criticism, I can live with the tension. Afterall, the Confessions themselves contain that tension. If you don’t like someone’s tension don’t go change it and say you are one of them.

        2.) “The collapse of Christendom gave us an opportunity to re-think theocracy.”

        A Theocrat Confessionalist Response: But does that grant people to throw out any concept of theocracy out of someone else’s confession and then squat on being “Reformed” when they are not?

        3.) “In neither case has the actual THEOLOGY changed. The substance of the Reformed faith is unchanged but we are more consistent now.”

        A Theocrat Confessionalist Response: This is the most interesting part of your response. You state that actual theology has not changed (from the Confessions?) in the first sentence then the next you state that the you and those in your camp are more consistent (consistent to what? to the Confessions? internally consistent within your own beliefs?) now. And in what ways are you more consistent, in faith (theology) and practice? Do note that your theology has changed from those who are truly Reformed by the absence of theocratic doctrines. Theocratic beliefs are theological in character, so to change this belief and call yourself Reformed is actually making a change away from the original Confessions that is theological in nature (unless you have a different taxonomy of theology than I am assuming). You state that “we are more consistent now,” but are you assuming “we” (including you) to be those who are Reformed? Surely this seem to be question begging, for how can you be Reformed if you do not hold to the first through the last articles? You are right that “the substance of the Reformed faith is unchanged,” even though 499,000 people hijack the term “Reformed” but now we (the 1,000 theocrats) are more consistent with rediscovering the rich heritage of our Reform Confession.

        4.) “Look, we get it in the neck from the biblicists for being static. We get it in the neck from theocrats and fundamentalists (on geocentrism) for maturing.”

        A Theocrat Confessionalist Response: Doesn’t this dilemma arise from the fact that those of your camp have set up quite an arbitrary choice of calling yourself Reformed and then decide what stays and what goes from the confession? You selectively are static with some aspects of the Reformed Faith but then deviate from it in some areas. Can you be arbitrary and pick and choose what you want to believe and not believe from the Confessions? Sure, don’t misrepresent me I believe you are entitled to your own beliefs but that does not give you the right to call yourself “Reformed”.

        • “SlimJim,”

          I appreciate your observations regarding a lack of consistency in Dr. Clark’s views. He often reminds us that those holding credo-baptist views would not have been welcomed either at the Synod of Dordt or the Westminster Assembly. I don’t dispute that.

          But I wonder whether he would have been welcomed at these councils if they knew he rejected a 6-day timeframe for creation and their view of church and state. Of course, he might reply that those men would be of a different opinion today if they could be re-situated in our modern context. True enough. But maybe a few of them would also embrace or at least be a bit more tolerant of credo-baptists who confessed a faith like that found in the Second London Baptist Confession.

          Bob Gonzales

          • Bob,

            While I might sympathize with your usage of “Reformed Baptist” to mean someone who holds to the LBCF … although this is still different from a Reformed confessionalism, which is defined by the confession of a church, not individuals … your argumentation here strikes me as a desperate flailing. The church/state distinction in history is a two-kingdoms question that is addressed at length elsewhere, and has confessional support that is only one century younger than the LBCF. And since every baptist faults the Reformers for their position on this matter, this is an especially inconsistent point to argue in favor of Reformed acceptance of credobaptists over RSC et al.

            The salient, Biblical argumentation for non-24-hour creation is grounded in the covenant theology of the WCF, and I’d like to think that the Divines would have agreed with RSC that the length of the days in Genesis 1 & 2 is not the point of the text, but I don’t have access to primary sources there. I’m also reasonably sure that “24 hours!” would have never been the battle cry of the original Israelite audience when they rushed into Canaan, regardless of whatever the Canaanite science of the time was saying.

            But what’s since changed in the credobaptist position that would make the Reformers reconsider their opinion? Granted that you’re not their contemporary Anabaptists, but recognizing that doesn’t mean replacing the 3FU with the Five Points of ‘calvinism’, nor the Shorter Catechism for the First Answer of Desiring God. It might just mean that they would be more gentle and less panicked as they coaxed you the rest of the way into the fold. Call me biased, but that sounds a lot like what RSC has been doing here.

            • Mike K.,

              Can’t a Theocrat confessionalist say that you are not Reformed because you do not subscribe to what the Confession clearly teach?

          • Thanks Bob! I find it fascinating that there can be discussion of reading into the text that the confession can not possibly mean 6 days creation.

  20. I’m just starting to really begin to grasp the difference between Reformed, Reformed Baptist, and Lutheran over the last few years. I’m amazed at how much I didn’t know before, and how much I just accepted some of the slurs that were tossed back and forth, mostly from the Lutheran camp toward both Reformed camps, since I have been mostly in Lutheran churches. (around here there are very few Reformational churches to choose from, and fewer that haven’t been bitten by the church growth virus).

    As much as I feel WAAAAYYYY out of my league to offer this, I started reading James’s reply first and from the start I thought “he’s missing something.” So here’s something I told a friend on facebook (who is a Reformed Baptist – I’ll keep using that term, just because everyone knows what it means).

    I think White is wonderful. I also think Scott Clark is wonderful (and Riddlebarger has mentioned the same thing Clark did too) — I think White i just not seeing something here. I started reading the article and I do admire how White better than just about ANYONE else really does try to accurately understand and represent the other side. But I… See More kept having this niggling sense that hmm I just don’t think he quite got it here. Then I got to this couple of lines:

    ” 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.”

    Of course Scott and Riddlebarger would do that. These lines illustrate clearly for me where White (bless his soul! I love the guy!) is missing it just a little. Because of the Covenantal sign yes they would be considered Reformed. BUT that doesn’t mean they are SAVED as long as they are walking contrary to Scripture. And also I don’t think that Scott is saying “reform baptists” are unsaved while liberal Reformed *are.* White seems to be missing the part about the visible and invisible church and how that plays into this whole thing. And I am sure he believes in the visible and invisible church doesn’t he? I’m almost sure I’ve heard him talk about that.
    ***********
    end fb comment
    ***********

    I still think one of the best debates on paedo/credo is between Gene Cook and Paul Manata. I really think Manata cleaned up on that one. Myself I’m still stuck between Lutheran and Reformed (not RB however) and wrestling through those issues.

    • In the post I didn’t deal with this aspect of his argument but I reply that the PCUSA is not Reformed, as argued in the book, (I wish White and others would read the book rather than asking me to type it all out here all over again!) for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their view of Scripture.

      That’s why the confessional Reformed/Presbyterian churches have joined together in NAPARC to continue a witness to authentic, confessional Reformed Christianity in N. America. The fact that liberal, mainline presbyterians continue to practice infant baptism hardly invalidates infant baptism nor does it require us to regard them as Reformed.

      In this criticism, once more, White has ignored the distinction between a necessary condition (e.g.. a certain doctrine of Scripture) and a sufficient condition. Paedobaptism is a necessary condition to being Reformed but it is not a sufficient condition otherwise we should have to say that Methodists, the UCC, Rome, and E. Orthodoxy are “Reformed.” That’s just silly.

  21. Dr. RSC:

    “One cannot slap a Mercedes hood ornament on a GM and call it a ‘Mercedes.'”

    Au contraire mon fraire. 🙂

    In fact, one can easily do this. And the image of someone doing it, I find stupendously, even screamingly, jocular.

    • Forget the Mercedez ornament. That’s for the Reformed.

      I’m not Reformed.

      BMW’s rule the road.

      Speaking of ornaments or seals. $79 + free installation for a new hood ornament on my Beamer–stone hit the original, cracked the transparent plastic seal, and rain undermined the seal. As an aside, $145 for an oil change.

      No GM ornaments for this man’s car!

  22. It strikes me as somewhat strange what a Baptist who describes themself as being a Reformed Baptist hopes to denote by the term “Reformed”, i.e. what meaning does the term have for a Baptist who chooses to use it? Could I describe myself as an Anglican Baptist or a Baptistic Anglican?

    • Richard,

      You could describe yourself as an “Anglican Baptist” or a “Baptistic Anglican” if you were an Anglican who denied the validity of infant baptism like John Tombes. See Mike Renihan, Antipaedobaptism in the Though of John Toombes (B&R press, 2001).

      Bob Gonzales

      • Bob,

        Not sure Tombes was an Anglican, sure he communicated at an Anglican Church, but did he subscribe to the Articles of Religion which states “The baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the Church as most agreeable with the institution of Christ”? If simply attending a specific denomination makes you that denomination then creeds have no meaning. Can I be an Anglican Baptist if I, being Anglican by conviction, happen to attend a Baptist church?

        • Tombes wasn’t just an Anglican. He was an ordained Anglican minister. And it was while he was in the Anglican church that he began writing against infant baptism.

          • If I joined a Baptist church, became an ordained Baptist minister and whilst I am in the Baptist church I begin writing against credobaptism am I a Baptist?

            • Richard,

              This entire discussion reminds me of a dog chasing his tail. To answer your question aog, “No.” The moment John Tombes began writing against infant baptism, he was in effect calling into question one of the 39 Articles. He didn’t convince his communion to change its position. Yet his communion didn’t immediately excommunicate him. The history is a bit complicated. But I’m really not interested in arguing in favor of an “Anglican Baptist” unless of course one means a Baptist who’s Anglo-Saxon.

              But just as Clark claims historical precedent for the nomenclature “Reformed” so there are a whole communion of Baptist churches that can claim historical precedent for the nomenclature “Reformed Baptist.” To repeat what I said elsewhere on this thread:

              What Dr. Clark claims the Reformed churches did in the 16th and 17th centuries, Reformed Baptists did at the end of the 20th century. From the ARBCA website:

              The ASSOCIATION OF REFORMED BAPTIST CHURCHES OF AMERICA was founded on March 11, 1997. On that day the first General Assembly met to establish a charter membership of 24 churches from 14 states.

              And on that day they ratified an ecclesiastical constitution that identifies their doctrinal standard, which would define them theologically and ecclesiastically:

              While we hold tenaciously to the inerrant, infallible and sufficient Word of God as found in the sixty-six books of the Bible (this being our final source of faith and practice), we embrace and adopt the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 as a faithful expression of the doctrine taught in the Scriptures.

              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.

              Does Dr. Clark or his denomination have ecclesiastical authority to overturn what the ARBCA churches have done? Can he take them to court for stealing the adjective “Reformed”? Didn’t the PCUSA force Machen’s group to change it’s name? Why doesn’t he do the same if he feels like there’s been a copyright infringement?

              Truth of the matter is, Dr. Clark doesn’t believe that the Baptist congregations that formed ARBCA are “true churches.” They are simply “sects” to use his term. So not only does he insist we not call ourselves “Reformed,” he insists that we stop identifying ourselves as true visible churches of Christ. That leaves us in a very precarious state since, according to one of the Confessions to which Clark subscribes, there is “no ordinary possibility of salvation” outside the visible church.

      • Bob, not very good re: Anglicans.

        Anglicans always believed in infant baptism. The 42 Articles, though scaled back to the 39 Articles, took a direct, if not rigourous, shot at Anabaptists.

        Further, Bp. Grindal of London (later Archbishop of Canterbury) wrote Heinrich Bullinger in 1566 that “all of us” accept the Helvetic Confession, including the section, to wit, that we “have no communion with Anabaptists” (Re-baptizers). Unfortunately, Queen Exegete 1 ruled and the Reformed Churchmen did not get the HC to confessional status.

        The Gorham Ruling of 1850 ruled that the “evangelical Anglican view” of paedobaptism was the view of historic Anglicanism. That view is that of the WCF almost to a tee.

        There is no such thing as a Baptistic Anglican or Anglican Baptist. Just as there is no such thing as a Reformed Baptist. Take your title as “Particular Baptist.” It’s a matter of good taxonomy.

  23. I think this is not quite much ado about nothing, for the issues are important. Dr. Clark is right that there were General and Particular Baptists. He is right also to question the Baptist use of Reformed as a label since Baptists differ from classic Reformed theology over issues of baptism and church government. There are many ways that Particular Baptists agreed with their Presbyterian brethren as seen in a comparison of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the London Baptist Confession of 1677. However, Particular Baptists identified themselves as such to stress their understanding of particular redemption. Perhaps the Reformed Baptists of today should follow their example.

  24. I thought it might help the discussion to post a link that lists out many differences between the 1689 London Baptist Confession and the 1646 Westminster Confession. The link is: http://www.oldschoolbaptist.org/Articles/Comparison1646W.and1689B..htm

    Although I don’t find this comparison exhaustive, it is interesting to note that on first glance the differences include much more than just credo/paedo baptism. I wonder, in genuinely wanting to help folks understand the differences in doctrine between the two groups, if the terms ‘confessional’ or ‘London’ Baptist might be helpful to employ. This distinguishes then between Arminian baptists and 5-point baptists. Thus intra-baptist relations are clarified (confessional and non-confessional) and then also the relations with the confessional Reformed groups are clarified. Just a suggestion.

  25. Bob said:

    Truth of the matter is, Dr. Clark doesn’t believe that the Baptist congregations that formed ARBCA are “true churches.” They are simply “sects” to use his term. So not only does he insist we not call ourselves “Reformed,” he insists that we stop identifying ourselves as true visible churches of Christ. That leaves us in a very precarious state since, according to one of the Confessions to which Clark subscribes, there is “no ordinary possibility of salvation” outside the visible church.

    This is a provocative and astute observation, Bob. In fact it reminds me of an observation made by another “important theologian of our time”:

    LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy — For the second time in a week, Pope Benedict XVI has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, reasserting the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church and saying other Christian communities were either defective or not true churches.

    Benedict approved a document released Tuesday from his old office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which repeated church teaching on Catholic relations with other Christians.

    In Christ,
    CD

    • The Belgic Confession says:

      Article 28: The Obligations of Church Members We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it, no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, regardless of his status or condition.

      But all people are obliged to join and unite with it, keeping the unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline, by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and by serving to build up one another, according to the gifts God has given them as members of each other in the same body. And to preserve this unity more effectively, it is the duty of all believers, according to God’s Word, to separate themselves from those who do not belong to the church, in order to join this assembly wherever God has established it, even if civil authorities and royal decrees forbid and death and physical punishment result.

      And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God’s ordinance.

      Article 29: The Marks of the True Church We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by the Word of God, what is the true church– for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of “the church.”

      We are not speaking here of the company of hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there. But we are speaking of distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects that call themselves “the church.”

      The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church– and no one ought to be separated from it.

      As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ.

      They love the true God and their neighbors, They love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works.

      Though great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.

      As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases; it bases itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.

      These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other.

  26. Anglicans were at Dordt by invitation of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands. Five went, as I recall. Three returned supporting CD. one became Amyraldian in thought, and the other became an Arminian. Whitgift’s successor, Bancroft (ABC), advocated with J1 for the adoption of CD. It is Anglicanism’s gross failure. (They got the wickednesses of Laud and Wesley as a result.)

    There is an abundance of references to the “Reformed Church of England.” Unfortunately, I cannot think of it—other than 1550-1625–as a “Reformed Church.” There were plenty of Calvinists, e.g. Augustus Toplady and others, but they were not Reformed.

    Nevertheless, when, in my BMW–not Mercedez–when I drive by a church with a physical sign on the front lawn that says __________ Reformed Church, I do not think of Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists and surely not Baptists.

    I think of subscriptional membership, close communion, Confessional membership (3 FU), and generally Psalm-singing. Generally with Dutch, German or French roots.

    I guess my sense is more “populist.”

    I am aware that the term “Reformed” is taken by Independents, Congregationalists, Presbyterians and…as argued here by some…the Anabaptists. But I don’t think of them as “Reformed” but Calvinistic in soteriology and sacraments, e.g. RC.

    BTW, I view “bishops” as a human invention and modifiable as “presbyters” see fit. Even dispensable if there is a need of impeachment. A “gopher” for the presbyters. “Go do our admin work while we get on with ministry.” A superintendent or clerk of presbytery. Celtic Christianity (pre-597) viewed bishops as “deacons to the presbyters,” an healthy perspective. I support the introduction of “term limits” also. LOL. My views are not widely appreciated.

    By the same “populist” sense, I don’t view Anglicans as “Reformed.” I see some–few of us left–as Calvinistic on soteriology and sacraments. Even Confessional, but not “Reformed” as noted above. Same for RC–a Congregationalist.

  27. http://andynaselli.com/theology/i-am-a-fundamentalist-calvinistic-separatist-baptist?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+nasellitheology+%28Andy+Naselli%29

    Andrew Naselli cites Mark Dever’s self-identity as a fundamentalist, Calvinistic, separatistic Baptist. According to this, Mark does not adopt “Reformed” as an identifier.

    I think “Particular Baptist” serves as well–identifying “definite atonement,” credobaptism and hermeneutics, and the separatistic or independent ecclesiology and autonomy. I think this is workable, historic, accurate and respectful of the differences between the Baptists and the Reformed. For Sproul, he believes or practices the first and the third–“L” and “independence,” but not credobaptism. Similarly, “Congregationalist” or “Independent” is workable, accurate, historic and respectful of St. Andrew’s differences with Presbyterianism.

    The taxonomy needs to be workable, accurate, historic and respectful. A Mercedez is a Mercedez, a BMW a BMY, a JAG a JAG and a GM a GM.

  28. RSC
    After reading your reply I have to agree with you 100 percent, being a baptist myself and honestly looking at the foundation of the reformed church its hard to understand James White’s hostility to factual and historical statements concerning the term ” reformed ” .
    Just because some baptist through history called themselves or considered themselves reformed doesn’t change the fact that historically the reformed were not baptist,
    It seems that in order to justify ones position men will at times try to redefine, or broaden the meaning of terms in order to fit in, or feel more secure or to justify their position . I disagree whole heatedly with infant baptism, but you are right in your assertion. and Hopefully James will rethink and agree

  29. RSC
    After reading your reply I have to agree with you 100 percent, being a baptist myself and honestly looking at the foundation of the reformed church its hard to understand James White’s hostility to factual and historical statements concerning the term ” reformed ” .
    Just because some baptist through history called themselves or considered themselves reformed doesn’t change the fact that historically the reformed were not baptist,
    It seems that in order to justify ones position men will at times try to redefine, or broaden the meaning of terms in order to fit in, or feel more secure or to justify their position . I disagree whole heatedly with infant baptism, but you are right in your assertion. and Hopefully James will rethink and agree .. there is no debate about the origin of the term in the strict sense,

  30. Not everyone in Westminster holds the same view about Reformed Baptists as Dr. Clark. There’s a great interview given at the Reformed Forum out at the main Westminster base in Philly on Credo-Baptism During the Reformation. The interview is long, but well worth the listen. James Dolezal (a PhD candidate at Westminister in Philly) gave a phenomenal interview on the roots of Credo-baptists during the Reformation. James is a Reformed Baptist but the rest present during the interview (and conducting the interview) were paedo-baptists. The paedo-baptists were quite gracious and gave a great discussion and they had absolutely no trouble calling these credo baptists of the Reformation, Reformed Baptists! 🙂

      • wjhinson,
        take a listen on the interview and you’ll know what I mean. I think for paedo-baptists, it would be an eye opener…. I say that these paedo-baptists were quite gracious because they can see that there’s more in common than what divides reformed paedo-baptists and reformed credo-baptists. I’d really encourage all to listen to this interview.

        • I’ve already listened to the interview and posted several comments on the blog with my thoughts on James articulation of the credo-baptist positions during the reformation. It’s not eye-opening because I already knew there was a difference between general, particular, and anabaptists. Neither did I find his argument for credo-baptism as great as everybody claimed it was. Read my comments there…

          Btw, you still didn’t answer my question about whether you are saying Dr. Clark isn’t gracious. I realize there are things in common, but Baptists still aren’t Reformed.

  31. This whole argument seems to be about the meaning of the word Reformed.
    To some it means holding to all the Creeds except the LBC.
    To others it means having beliefs that agree with the Reformation or all the common points of the Reformed confessions including the LBC.
    In fact the Reformation changed nothing about paedobaptism at all as Calvin just kept on doing it, but introduced a justification for it on the grounds of a carry on from circumcision. He never explained how females were included on these grounds either.
    I hope this post shows how ridiculous it is to define Reformed using paedobaptism when the Reformation never Reformed the practice of baptism at that time. There were always groups that were credo baptists from John the Baptist, Jesus’ disciples and the beginning of the Church in Acts 2 and the practice of paedobaptism started as early as the second century, but definitely was linked with government and hierarchy in the fourth century after Constantine became both pope and Roman god at one time. It was used to control the membership and entry into heaven just like indulgences and confession, etc.
    Its a pity that Calvin didn’t also reform this form of control of the people as the Reformation gave people a Republican liberty that monarchs and Pelagianism never did.

  32. I often get the impression from our ‘Reformed’ or ‘Calvinistic ‘ brethren that they actually do consider themselves to be THE true or consistent representatives of the Reformation. You can see this ,for example in Fred Malone’s book ‘The Baptism of Disciples Alone’ as well in MacArthur’s recent comments about dispensational Calvinism – and the jab by our Reformed Baptist brother Gonzales and his (tongue-in cheek ) remark about how Calvin now that he is in heaven is finally a Reformed baptist.

  33. Dr. Clark,

    Respectfully, I don’t agree with you. I have read a lot of your online work in the last 3 years or so and it has been a great help in my journey into Calvinism. I wrote you when you posted about how Charismatics couldn’t be Reformed, but even that and this included is your opinion. Other Presbyterians have stated differently, even on the Charismatic part. I’ve read James Whites work and it’s excellent. His book on the Trinity was really a good help to me and I also had another one of his books at a Charismatic University that I attended years back. Yes, we had Reformed books there! White, Sayers and others around that time were the driving forces behind me become a Calvinist and now attending an Anglican Church.

    So with all respect regarding the history even in Presbyterianism this is your opinion. The danger is that your opinion on this appears to be, “us four and no more”. I don’t believe that it’s your intention to look sectarian, but it does appear that way. With your blog you have narrowed who can be Reformed to just a small group of people.

    In Christ alone,

    Ken

    • Why is that when Scott insists on letting the Reformed confessions define what they considered to be ‘Reformed’ people are quick to charge Scott with being ‘narrow-minded’ ? By the way ,neither the First or Second London Confession uses the word ‘Reformed ‘ to describe their theology- which does say alot about how they understood their position.

      • I don’t know where you got ‘narrow minded’ from GLW Johnson, because I didn’t write that if you are referring to me. After reading Scott for sometime I wouldn’t call him ‘narrow-minded’ anyways, but maybe brilliant minded. I don’t think that anyone who has read, listen, debated Scott could say that. I just said that he narrowed who can be reformed.

        Ken

  34. Why are those who hold to paedobaptism so quick to attack those of us who hold to biblical covenantal Christianty but also see no reasoning in scripture for baptism of infants? I am reminded of Spurgeon on this issue, who said, “I am amazed that an unconscious babe should be made the partaker of an ordinance which, according to the plain teaching of the Scriptures, requires the conscious acquiescence and complete heart-trust of the recipient. Very few, if any, would argue that infants ought to receive the Lord’s supper; but there is no more Scriptural warrant for bringing them to the one ordinance than there is for bringing them to the other.”

    I am a Reformed Baptist, converted by the hand of God from Oneness pentecostalism. If I am rejected by those who claim to be the ONLY Reformed believers, my stance shall not change. I believe and hold firmly the historical creeds and confessions which align with scripture. Now, if those who hold to paedobaptism do not accept me, then I am going to go on.

  35. DR Clark,
    I”d thought the reformed came from the reformation leaders who left the Roman church and its many errors , thus they were reformed…as I understand these were not baptist and didn’t hold to the Anabaptist positions.
    I’d also thought that the reformers all practiced infant baptism, and it was part of who they were .. not to mention their many other beliefs… for someone to want to be identified as reformed and baptist would seem to be contradictory ….. as baptists were not part of the reformation, I can understand how baptist have picked up some of their doctrine from the reformers, but I fail to see why they put such importance on wanting to label themselves reformed, Possibly they want to distance themselves from the majority of Baptists, who are thought to be somewhat either dispensational or conservative, or lacking education,, the hardshell, or sovereign grace baptists wanted to distinguish themselves from the typical baptists, but apparently didnt feel the need to be called reformed , and confuse people as to what they believe as they are baptists, just a thought ,

  36. Dr. Clark,

    I appreciate your zeal to preserve the reformed faith in the face of an ever increasing erosion by the individualism of modern evangelicalism; but I do wonder if you would apply this same standard to yourself and to others who claim to be the confessional reformed today. It seems to me that the reformed emphasis was to see children/infants as members of the covenant community, rather than outside of it until they personally professed faith. All children were considered covenant members, and were to be regarded as sacred. The question of baptism seems secondary to this. It largely flowed from the idea that they were members of the covenant community through their parent(s). However, Calvin, the Westminster Divines, and the Synod of Dort all consider children who have yet to be conceived also covenant members to be, and therefore sacred. Each of these included within their covenant theology the idea that contraceptive practices were evil. I’m wondering, therefore, if you would also not consider anyone who used contraceptive practices, in disregard from those three reformed sources, reformed. Why is that one must gain his definition from ALL that these sources include in their identifications of covenant children, except for the ones that the modern day “reformed” no longer believe?

    So here would the syllogism:

    1. I am reformed
    2. I don’t believe contraceptive practices have anything to do with the reformed view of covenant theology and its implications for infants
    3. Therefore, the reformed view has nothing to do with this

    This is silly, so how do you escape it?

  37. Dear All,

    Dr. Clark gave a convincing argument based on a particular historical context. The people who first identified themselves as “reformed” drafted confessions that exclude any Baptists. As far as I have understood the argument, infant baptism is an essential belief of those Christians who first identified themselves as “reformed”. Without it, the word loses its meaning given the historical context. In short, one cannot just pick and choose parts of the “reformed” confession and claim to be “reformed”.

    However, why do some Baptists label themselves “reformed”? I call myself, “reformed” Baptist for a different historical context though. In Baptist history, there are those who do not adhere to the “doctrines of grace”. The internal disagreements among Baptists have led to different modifiers to identify those who do not agree with the “doctrines of grace” and those who do. Adjectives like “particular” and “general” were utilized. There are those who distinguish Baptists as “Calvinistic” and “Non-calvinistic”. Recently, the term “reformed” and “non-reformed” were utilized among Baptists. Since the “doctrines of grace” are closely associated with Calvin and back to the reformation, these terms were used to help distinguish those Baptists that adhere to those beliefs. I think this is the historical context within our own Baptist history that has partly contributed why the label “reformed” was attached. That historical context has no intention of demanding from “Presbyterians and Anglicans” to accept us as “reformed” in the sense that they call themselves “reformed” by adhering to all of their confessions. That historical context has, also, no intention of hijacking the term “reformed” from those Christians who believe in infant baptism to the Baptists. It is a necessary modifier that some Baptists have attached to themselves so that communities of Baptist believers can easily distinguish the doctrinal stance of a particular church with regard to the “doctrines of grace”.

    The Presbyterians and Anglicans have every right deny any Baptists of the term “reformed” in the sense that we do not adhere fully with their confessions. I respect that stance. But, I would also appeal to those Presbyterians and Anglicans that the modifier “reformed” were not utilized by Baptists to create a fog of confusion on who is worthy to carry the name “reformed”. The attachment of that modifier sprang from a different historical context demanded from our own Baptist history which Presbyterians and Anglicans should recognize and also respect.

    Regards,
    Joey

    • Joey,

      Early on, you wrote that Baptists were called “particular” to indicate their stance in relation to the doctrines of grace. Later, you wrote that “reformed” was a necessary modifier to the 20th century baptists. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but it doesn’t appear that “reformed” was necessary in the slightest. In fact, the term “particular” was available that would have identified 20th century predestinarian baptists with their 17th century forefathers.

      You also wrote that “reformed” was “not utilized by the Baptists to create a fog of confusion”. Maybe that wasn’t the intention, but it’s definitely happened! “Particular Baptists” would have created no confusion. Particular Baptists had the opportunity to maintain an historical name that would identify them with a confessional tradition. They decided that the word “reformed” (which had a different historical definition!) could be utilized to simply refer to the “doctrines of grace”.

      Maybe I’m dense – Bob, help me out! – but historical context seems a really weak place to argue from. I work with students in a Christian student society. Those that believe in some form of unconditional predestination want to differentiate themselves from those that don’t, so they typically adopt the modifier “Calvinist” or “Reformed”. Based on their historical context, “Reformed” means “I believe in unconditional predestination”. I also network with church leaders frequently. Some refer to themselves as “Reformed” simply because there aren’t flags and dancing in church. Based upon their historical context, “Reformed” means “more conservative than the Charismatic church down the road”. Therefore, “Reformed” becomes whatever we want it to be, identifying us with whatever doctrine(s) we imagine that Calvin believed. In the end, the word loses all meaning.

      The same would happen if I called myself a “Baptist” right now. Many students that call themselves “Christian” have never been baptized (as children or adults). Based upon my historical context, maybe I should call myself a Baptist to emphasize the importance of receiving the sign and seal of the new covenant…

      Zac

      • Zac,

        If you look at how our own Baptist history, you will appreciate why “particular”, “Calvinistic” or “reformed” was utilized to distinguish those who believe in the doctrines of grace.

        Please also realize that as the modifiers are used and claimed by different communities, some of them becomes blurred. Let me give you an example. Based on a certain historical context, there was a point whereby a necessary modifier is attached to the word “christian” to identify those who believe with the inerrancy of Scripture, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the Gospel of grace alone through faith alone, and his physical return on earth. The modifier used was “evangelical” Christians. As that modifier was used overtime, the meaning was blurred as somebody who do not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture or believes the Gospel are still labeled “evangelical”. Several modifiers emerged to clarify further what used to be the clear meaning of the adjective “evangelical”. Now, modifiers such as “conservative” christians were employed. Modifiers like “neo-evangelical” emerged also.

        The point I am making is that, as our Baptist History have benefited the delineation of “particular” and “general”, some have felt that such distinguishing adjectivies have become blured. There are Baptist who believes in unconditional individual (contra purely corporate) election but denies limited atonement and still call themselves “particular” Baptist. I think, as the terms, were used overtime, some have felt to clarify further what used to be a clear delineation. The term “reformed” was used as well as “calvinistic”.

        Do we have to stick to the modifier “reformed”? No. I am glad to be identified as “particular” or “calvinistic” among my Baptist colleagues. But, our Baptist history has now generally used “reformed” Baptist to identify those who adhere fully to the doctrines of grace. Maybe, as the years go by, that modifier will change in consideration to the opposition of some Presbyterian Christians of having to use that term.

        For now, the modifier “reformed” attached to the Baptist stands as it is. It is understandable and known by and large within our Baptist context. Just note that we have not used that modifier outside of our own Baptist historical context that should create confusion as to how “Presbyterians and Anglicans” have used it in their own historical context.

        Regards,
        Joey

  38. Dear Chumph,

    Sorry but you’ve misrepresented me. Let me give you a more accurate rendition of my argument in relation to Dr. Clark’s:

    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., 3Fu/WS]
    3. Therefore, x is “Reformed”

    Dr. Gonzales’s 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 Reformed; we are Reformed Baptist.”
    2. They said, “We think x [i.e., 2LBCF]
    3. Therefore, x is “Reformed Baptist.”

    Observations:
    (1) Formally, what we did is precisely the same procedure that forms the basis of Clark’s claim to property rights on the singular adjective “Reformed.”
    (2) We neither claimed “We are reformed” (major premise) nor “Therefore, x is Reformed” (minor premise). Instead, we carefully qualified our language. We are not “Reformed,” we are “Reformed Baptist.”
    (3) Our point: “Reformed” is not enough. “Reformed” by itself may find support in the 3FU or the WS, but it is sub-biblical. Hence, we need a different animal. And we choose to identify ourselves (without Dr. Clark’s permission) as something other than simply “Reformed”–we are “Reformed Baptist.”
    (4) If you think that those terms are incompatible, then prove your case from Scripture not from the repeated harangue that we RBs wouldn’t have been welcome at the Synod of Dordt or Westminster Assembly. Fact is, most Paedo-Baptists today treat us with a great deal more respect and brotherly kindness than do their 16th and 17th century predecessors.

    In conclusion, I find your logic, as Dr. Clark’s, to be fallacious and something of a caricature. Reformed Baptists have no desire whatsoever to be simply “Reformed.” That, in our thinking, would be a more backward not forward.

    Bob Gonzales

  39. I noticed over on James White’s blog that he accuses Scott of misrepresentation because of a comment over at The Puritan Board where Dr. Clark said that RB’s would refuse to recognised anyone as being ‘properly ‘ baptised if they did not undergo ‘credo’ baptism by immersion. Thus if a person was baptised by sprinkling or pouring as an infant they would in the eyes of RBs lack the proper baptism signifying that they are in fact ‘Christian’. White claims that is a gross distortion. Is it? Would our RB brethren following this discussion care to deny or confirm one way or another?

    • Quick answer. The LBCF 26.2 reads,

      All people throughout the world who profess the faith of the Gospel and obedience to Christ on its terms, and who do not destroy their profession by any errors which contradict or overthrow Gospel fundamentals, or by unholy behaviour, are visible saints and may be regarded as such. All individual congregations ought to be constituted of such people.

      The Confession predicates qualification for church membership on (1) a credible profession of faith and (2) the lack of any professed gospel-subverting error or immoral behavior that would contradict or undermine such a profession.

      I’m not aware of any RB who views belief in or practice of infant baptism as a “gospel-subverting error” or as blatantly “immoral behavior,” such as undermines the person’s profession of faith. Accordingly, the RBs I know (perhaps there may be exceptions) view PB folk who make a credible profession of faith as genuine brothers in Christ.

      And most of the RB pastors I know even invite PB brothers to the Table, provided that they’re members in good standing of a Bible-believing church. And it just so happens that we view Bible-believing PB churches as “true churches” though Clark, bound to his reading of the Belgic Confession, doesn’t return the favor. (BTW, I’ve been told by other folk his his denomination that his narrow reading of the 3FU which prompts him to reject Baptist churches as true churches is a minority view and that men like Dr. Robert Godfrey disagree with him.) Some of us would even make provision for PBs to be members of RB churches with the limitation that they couldn’t hold office or vote on amendments related to the church’s doctrinal standards or Baptist identity.

      Of course, we still view infant baptism as a case of being “not properly baptized.” But the term “properly” can mean either “no baptism at all” or “triune baptism really administered but incorrectly.” Many of my colleagues and I fit into this latter category. We would not allow anyone to the Table or into our membership who absolutely refuses to obey Jesus and be baptized. But we’re not willing to label someone “non-Christian” who has submitted to Christian baptism though they may be confused about the timing (should it every precede faith or should it always follow faith) or mode.

      I can’t speak for everyone. But this is my view and the view of most the RBs I know.

      Bob Gonzales

      • Bob,

        So, according to at least some Baptists, those of us who were baptized only once and only as infants are actually baptized?

        Can you document where this is confessed or taught explicitly in some ecclesiastical document?

        • Dr. Clark,

          Yes, I would treat you as truly “baptized” though not correctly.

          I’ve already cited the 1689 regarding what constitutes a credible profession of faith, which in turn is an essential qualification for church membership. On this basis, I know that it is the practice of many RB churches to open the Table to PB brothers and sisters who are members in good standing of a gospel-preaching church. Some of us are even willing to allow PBs to become members of our churches provided that (1) they’re not divisive, (2) they’ve been willing to study the issue but haven’t been persuaded (yet) by the CB arguments, and (3) cannot find a suitable church home alternative in the area. In the church where I formerly served as a pastor, we even wrote up a polity statement regarding this issue.

          But as I’m sure you’re aware, Baptist churches hold an Independent or Congregational polity. So while we may associate under a common Confession of Faith like the 1689, each congregation has some freedom in the way they apply or implement the Confession’s teaching. Consequently, I’m not aware of any official ecclesiastical document supporting or mandating the above practice that would apply at an associational level. There are some RB churches that would practice a more closed communion and forbid a PB to the Table while still treating him as a brother and his church as a true church. But there are others, like myself, who see no reason, biblically or Confessionally, to keep a PB brother or sister who’s a member in good standing of a true church away from the sacramental expression of the communion of saints.

          Bob G.

            • Well, that would depend on at least two factors: (1) your own conscience, and (2) the policy of the Baptist congregation with which you were seeking communion. If you in your conscience viewed your baptism as valid and applied for communion in my church, I would not require you to be “re-baptized.”

              That’s one reason why I don’t call myself an “anabaptist.” Of course, I couldn’t guarantee that every RB church would operate in the same way. Some would not require you to be “re-baptized” in order to sup at the Table, but they would require you to be submit to their view and practice of “profession-then-baptism” in order to join the membership of the church.

              Dr. Clark, I could be wrong but wouldn’t the view I hold be similar in some ways to the practice of some Reformed PB churches or Presbyteries that allow for infant communion? Would all Reformed PB congregations that practice infant communion force or compel parents to make their children partake of the elements of the sacrament? Or would they allow the parent’s own conscience have any say? In other words, could a PB family that doesn’t believe in infant communion join a church that practices infant communion? I’ve been under the impression that PB churches that practice infant communion don’t necessarily force it upon its congregants but allow the head of the household some part in the decision. I may be wrong.

              Bob G.

              • Isn’t the point of being a “Baptist” and of baptizing only those who make profession of faith to say that whatever was done to them as infants wasn’t actually a baptism?

            • Bob,

              In other words, could a PB family that doesn’t believe in infant communion join a church that practices infant communion?

              Whatever the answers to these questions may be, I have wondered if we there can be such a thing as (credo) Baptists, why not, eventually, (paedo) Communionists?

              Both would claim to descend from it and have an abiding affinity for the Reformed system in general, yet have a sacramentology that departs the classical Reformed understanding; both would self-identify by way of said sacramentology, which would seem to suggest a high view of it, yet make it a matter of mere conscience for those of us who aren’t persuaded (“Think your baptism as a child was valid? Ok, no need to be re-baptized, pull up a s eat.” “Don’t think your child should take communion? Ok, whatever you think, welcome aboard”).

          • Bob G.
            Please define the phrase you used in reference to paedobaptism as- ” though not correctly”. Is that semantically the same thing as ‘invalid’? If not, then what does it actually mean?

            • GLW,

              By “incorrect” I meant “not correct in form, use, or manner.” In the case of infant baptism, triune Baptism has been applied but not after the NT pattern. The NT pattern, as I see it, is profession-then-sign. The OT pattern was normally sign-then-profession. So just as a worship service, for example, may be “disorderly” (1 Cor. 14) yet be a valid worship service, so I’m willing to view infant baptism as “not correct in form” yet not necessarily, on that account, invalidated. Check the dictionaries. While “incorrect” may in some contexts share a semantic overlap with “invalid,” they are not treated as precise synonyms.

              Hope this helps.

              Bob Gonzales

              • Bob,

                Are you suggesting that the validity of baptism is determined by the subjective experience of the baptized? In other words, if one thinks that one’s baptism is valid, it is?

  40. Chunck,

    Sorry about the confusion. By the phrase “in essence” I didn’t mean to dilute Dr. Clark’s argument or statement. I used it simply as an indicator that I was trying to summarize or paraphrase. If I understand Dr. Clark correctly, the Reformed churches (as they were already known) defined themselves theologically in 16th and 17th century in the 3FU and WS. In the 17th century, Particular Baptist churches also defined themselves in the 2LBCF.

    In the 20th century, however, Baptist churches embracing the 2LBCF by-and-large no longer prefer the nomenclature “Particular” since it focuses very narrowly on just one facet of soteriology. As they’ve had time to reflect on history and on their own theological pedigree, they believe the phrase “Reformed Baptist” better represents what they stand for since “Reformed” highlights the fact that they agree with the WS in more areas than merely particular redemption. Accordingly, they have generally called themselves “Reformed Baptists.” And when a body of these RBs met at a general assembly to form an association of churches, they used the 2LBCF to define what they meant by “Reformed Baptist.” So it’s the same Confession. But in the opinion of some of us, “Reformed” serves as a better and more comprehensive adjective than “Particular.” So that’s how I would explain “how the word ‘Particular’ really means (or has come to mean) ‘Reformed,” at least ‘in essence'” Does that help?

    Of course, if one does not believe that a Baptist church can be a true church at all, then I suppose he would simply disregard the ARBCA general assembly as a non-ecclesiastical council.

    • Dr. Gonzales,

      On the one hand you make a case for the “diachronic study of the semantic range of the term ‘Reformed,’” though you cite no historical evidence to support your case; and on the other hand you claim that at one moment in time an association of autonomous churches decreed themselves “Reformed” according to the terms of a confession that was drafted by men who called themselves as “Particular” and who clearly saw themselves outside the Reformed pale. This looks more like an identity crisis than an ecclesiastical council. Whatever it may be, I recognize Baptist assemblies as true churches, but I can’t figure out why an association of autonomous churches would ever refer to itself as an ecclesiastical council.

      • Chunck writes:
        On the one hand you make a case for the “diachronic study of the semantic range of the term ‘Reformed,’” though you cite no historical evidence to support your case

        Bob replies:
        The fact is that the term “Reformed” as ecclesiastical nomenclature broadened in its semantic range from what it denoted in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is just an empirical fact that ecclesiastical bodies that do not hold the 3FU or WC (at least in their entirety) include that adjective in their nomenclature. Once a usage becomes established over time, it makes its way into dictionaries. If you’d like something more official, by way of proof, then pick up the latest edition of Frank S. Mead’s Handbook of Denominations in the United States (Abingdon Press). It’s a kind of dictionary of ecclesiastical nomenclature. Unfortunately, I only have an old edition (1985), which was published before the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America was officially formed. Nevertheless, even in my dated edition, there’s a whole entry for “Reformed Baptists.” Interestingly, they are described as subscribing to the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, which is, I think an adaptation of the 1689. In reality, most RB churches I am aware of confess the 1689 proper.

        Chunck writes:
        on the other hand you claim that at one moment in time an association of autonomous churches decreed themselves “Reformed” according to the terms of a confession that was drafted by men who called themselves as “Particular” and who clearly saw themselves outside the Reformed pale.

        Bob replies:
        Sorry, but that’s not what I said. I’m not aware that any of the churches who formed ARBCA actually called themselves “Particular Baptists.” At least not in any official sense. You wouldn’t have found them under that name by searching the phone book or Internet. What I said is that they took the Confession drafted and confessed by Particular Baptists in the 16th century (i.e., 2LBCF), and they said, “This best defines who we are and what we believe. Moreover, we think that (1) because of the huge amount of continuity that exists between this Confession and that Savoy and WCF and (2) because the preface and appendix of the 2LBCF makes it clear that the Puritan Baptists adopted much of the language of the Savoy and WCF in order to show their large amount of agreement with these brothers and to promote a healthy kind of catholicity, the adjective “Reformed” appended to Baptist better defines us than us “Particular,” the significance of which is too narrow. So there is and was no, to use your words, “identity crisis.”

        The insistence that churches may not use “Reformed” to describe their beliefs unless those beliefs correspond precisely to a more narrow usage of “Reformed” in the 16th and 17th centuries strikes me as analogous to the same kind of thinking that condemns statements like, “God’s passion for his own glory” on the basis that the 17th Confession(s) describe God as “without passions.” Such reasoning does hold up to linguistic scrutiny. A careful study of the usages of the terminology “passions” and “passionate” reveals that the term could signify either a vice or a virtue in the 17th century. And in the 20th and 21st century, the virtuous usage of “passions” or “passionate” has become more predominant. So, as I argued elsewhere, “Yes, We May Be Passionate,” and so may we speak of God as passionate.

        Similarly, though the term “Reformed” was apparently not predicated of Baptists in the 16th and 17th century, it is today and I think with sufficient warrant.

        Chunck writes:
        Whatever it may be, I recognize Baptist assemblies as true churches, but I can’t figure out why an association of autonomous churches would ever refer to itself as an ecclesiastical council.

        Bob replies:
        Because the 2LBCF refers to and legitimizes ecclesiastical counsels. Have you ever read the 2LBCF? See 26.14-15.

        Your servant,
        Bob Gonzales

  41. Scott,

    I think that may have been “the [defining] point” of anabaptists during and subsequent to the Reformation. For those of us who call ourselves “Reformed Baptists” today the point of being a “Baptist” is to highlight what we believe about the proper recipients and mode of baptism. That the Baptist position says something to those who may have been baptized prior to a profession of faith is certainly a consequence of our position. But I don’t see it as “the point,” as if the real definitive reason I’m a Baptist is to spend my time censuring Paedo-Baptists.

    Moreover, as I said above, I’m a Baptist and though I would view “whatever was done to them as infants” as incorrect, I’m not inclined to view what was done to them as “invalid,” i.e., no baptism at all, provided that it was a Christian baptism, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, what was done to them was in fact “a baptism.” But it was administered after the pattern of most OT circumcisions–sign-then-profession–rather than what I, as a Baptist, see as the NT pattern–profession-then-sign. Granted, this is how I view things through my Baptist lenses.

    • “But it was administered after the pattern of most OT circumcisions–sign-then-profession–rather than what I, as a Baptist, see as the NT pattern–profession-then-sign.”
      -Abraham was in the New Testament?

        • But wait “and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.” -nkjv

          -Bob, why is it such a big thing of importance for the Baptists to slap the term Reformed on their name and hassle the confessionally reformed about getting acceptance of their terms? Baptists acknowledge certain doctrines but deny others. A baptist is a baptist. I’m not a Baptist, nor do I want to be confused with one, nor do I seek validity of being called a baptist despite me being a paedobaptist.
          This seems a game of historical and theological hustling. Baptists are (at best) confessionally baptists, Reformed are confessionally reformed.

          • drollard cites my statement,
            “But it was administered after the pattern of most OT circumcisions–sign-then-profession–rather than what I, as a Baptist, see as the NT pattern–profession-then-sign,”

            then drollard writes,

            -Abraham was in the New Testament? and he adds, But wait “and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.” -nkjv

            Bob replies:
            Yes, precisely! Abraham can be a father not only to the Jews but also to New Covenant believers (Jew or Gentile) whose faith precedes the sign precisely because in his case Abraham’s faith preceded circumcision. So Abraham’s faith-then-circumcision serves as a model and prototype for the New Covenant faith-then-baptism order.

            drollard writes:

            Bob, why is it such a big thing of importance for the Baptists to slap the term Reformed on their name and hassle the confessionally reformed about getting acceptance of their terms?

            Bob replies:
            Brother, we’re not trying to hassle anyone. We love you guys, and we owe a great deal to your forefathers. We stand on their shoulders. And we want to acknowledge our agreement with much of their teaching by identifying with them, by employing the adjective “Reformed.” Yet, we also don’t want to cause confusion or be deceptive. So we add the term Baptist to make it clear that there is discontinuity. We are like Calvin and the Reformed Puritans in many, many ways but we differ in our view of the recipients and mode of baptism and also in some matters related to church polity.

            If you guys don’t want to accept us, that’s okay. We’re not taking you to court or anything. We would hope that you wouldn’t give us the “cold shoulder,” as Luther reportedly gave Zwingli, and at least be willing to treat us as brothers and our churches as true churches.

            Thanks for the interaction.

            Your servant,
            Bob Gonzales

            • “So Abraham’s faith-then-circumcision serves as a model and prototype for the New Covenant faith-then-baptism order.”
              -Bob, what then is covenant circumcision supposed to prototype in baptist theology? What was it then a misunderstanding in types and shadows and thousands of babies and family members went through pains needlessly?

              -A bit back you stated something about Baptists accepting the COD with a few “minor exceptions”. I’m assuming one of these “minor exceptions” were issues of comfort, election, covenant, and by implication sacrament and discipline/discipleship, specifically in COD I:17. In Scripture, when the sacraments are misused or in this case disused with unbelief, castigation or judgement follows. I don’t expect that the confessionally Reformed would just drop the matter. Too much is at stake.

              “We would hope that you wouldn’t give us the “cold shoulder,”
              -No. Warm even heated caring admonishment.

              -On the side and speaking of cold, you mentioned you lived in GR for a time? I’m in Wayland, and the weather just decided to stick it to us in the eyeball giving us a thorough white washing. You know any Copples or Colliers or Marshalls or Gentrys?

              -BTW, it’s D-R-O-L-L-O-R-D.

  42. I have a series of questions for Dr Clark:

    1. What is your opinion on The White Horse Inn’s inclusion of Particular Baptist Ken Jones in the ‘movement’ which is supposed to usher in a second Reformation? He has also been given forum in the magazine called ‘Modern Reformation’ and ‘Tabletalk’. Since he’s not Reformed, why does Horton have him around?

    2. Do you also consider Reformed all those Dutch Reformed/Presbyterian/Anglicans who disregard one single point of the historic creeds (examples: people who insist on not naming the Bishop of Rome as ‘the AntiChrist’, and even say he’s a ‘great theologian’?) If so, why is it that makes the character of baptism essential, and not say ecclesiology (since Dutch Reformed, Presbyterians and Anglicans all disagree on this), the nature of the Sabbath (continental vs British), sacramental or magisterial (original WCF vs revised WCF)?

    3. Both the 3FU and the WCF defend the institution of the State-Church and sign the civil magistrate as its leader. Do you agree with this?

    I hope you don’t see this as mean-spirited. I just wanted to discern your consistency.

  43. I have a series of questions for Dr Clark:

    1. What is your opinion on The White Horse Inn’s inclusion of Particular Baptist Ken Jones in the ‘movement’ which is supposed to usher in a second Reformation? He has also been given forum in the magazine called ‘Modern Reformation’ and ‘Tabletalk’. Since he’s not Reformed, why does Horton have him around?

    2. Do you also consider Reformed all those Dutch Reformed/Presbyterian/Anglicans who disregard one single point of the historic creeds (examples: people who insist on not naming the Bishop of Rome as ‘the AntiChrist’, and even say he’s a ‘great theologian’?) If so, why is it that makes the character of baptism essential, and not say ecclesiology (since Dutch Reformed, Presbyterians and Anglicans all disagree on this), the nature of the Sabbath (continental vs British), sacramental or magisterial (original WCF vs revised WCF)?

    3. Both the 3FU and the WCF defend the institution of the State-Church and sign the civil magistrate as its leader. Do you agree with this?

    I hope you don’t see this as mean-spirited. I just wanted to discern your consistency

    • Nuno,

      These questions have already come up in this discussion.

      Most all of the NAPARC churches have revised the Belgic and the WCF to reflect our rejection of the old theocratic ideas. Obviously we don’t think that the theocratic views (like the geocentric views of the 16th-17th centuries) were essential to the system of doctrine confessed by the churches.

      Take a look at RRC where I discuss this.

      I’ve been asked about Ken before. The WHI is not a church. It’s a talk show. Ken doesn’t think Mike is baptized and Mike, obviously, has problems with Ken’s doctrine of the church. Ken is a friend but one with whom I have some pretty intense disagreements.

      Obviously you missed the WHI/MR response re the stupid comments re Mike’s endorsement of a summary of Ratzinger’s theology. I won’t rehash that stupid debate here. Search the HB archives for that.

  44. Bob,

    No confessional Reformed churches, of which I’m aware, admit infants to communion. That would be a Baptist mistake of confusing the sign of initiation for the sign of renewal. We admit infants to baptism because it is the sign of initiation to the visible covenant community but communion is the sign of covenant renewal or nourishment (Petrus van Mastricht) for which infants are not eligible. Thus, the HC says:

    81. Who are to come to the table of the Lord?

    Those who are displeased with themselves for their sins, yet trust that these are forgiven them, and that their remaining infirmity is covered by the passion and death of Christ; who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to amend their life. But the impenitent and hypocrites eat and drink judgment to themselves.

    Historically we required children to memorize the catechism before coming to the table.

    See the lengthy survey and review of Cornel Venema’s treatise contra paedocommunion on the HB.

    http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/children-at-the-lords-table-1/

    http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/paedocommunion-answered/

    • Thanks, Dr. Clark. Your explanation is helpful. I don’t know a whole lot about the subject except that, apparently, some ministers within the OPC and PCA do affirm the appropriateness of paedo-communion even though they may not practice it in their churches.

      • Bob,

        To be clear, the private, deviant, opinions of ministers in our churches do not constitute Reformed doctrine. The Reformed churches do not teach or permit paedocommunion. In my view it’s a more serious error than is sometimes recognized and the FV controversy illustrates that.

        • Thanks, Dr. Clark. I didn’t mean to treat the error of paedo-communion lightly. And I appreciate the stand you and other Reformed scholars have done in addressing the errors both in the NNP and also the FV.

          Bob G.

  45. If Particular (Confessional, etc.) Baptists are using the adjective reformed in a different way than it has been historically used in relation to churches, then that only leaves one other possible definition (i.e. changed for the better). So by reformed Baptists they must mean Baptists who have changed for the better, which I would take to mean they’ve started acknowledging their children as members of God’s visible, covenant community and began administering the covenant sign of initiation to them.

    You know if one said he was a reformed drunkard that would mean he’s no longer a drunkard, so when one says he’s a reformed Baptist wouldn’t that mean he’s no longer a Baptist? Is this what they’re really trying to tell us? I don’t understand how we can take it any other way. Surely they aren’t just making up definitions, they aren’t relativists are they? Yet there isn’t any other definition given for the word.

    Look it up (www.m-w.com). Btw, notice the ad by Google for the seminary when you do. Dr. Clark, are you the one responsible for that? 🙂

  46. Here is the thing, we Baptists believe a Baptism is a creedal statement of faith and an IDENTIFICATION with Christ.
    Thus why we are called credobaptists.

    You consider your Baptism a declaration of your faith and an identification as a Christian with Christ and the Body of Christ.

    Therefore you are Baptized just as much as we are.

    The issue is we disagree with the notion that a Baptism is a necessary Covenantal symbol like circumcision. It isn’t, in our view.

    It is a different symbol altogether.
    One of dying and being buried to our sins and being raised again in Christ, anew.

    • Who considers baptism a declaration of our faith? Isn’ that the Baptist view? We baptize infants in view of the divine promise, “I will be your God and your children’s God.”

  47. Simple answer: No, the objective validity of the sign is not determined by the subjective experience of the one baptized any more that eating meat that had been offered to an idol is intrinsically sinful simply because the one eating may subjectively think so.

  48. Bob,

    Earlier, you commended a post by Joey, which concerned historical context. I’m really confused by it. Would you mind clarifying this for me?

    Joey wrote that, based on the historical context, “Reformed” was a necessary modifier to use to distinguish those Baptists that believe in the doctrines of grace. How in the world is that necessary?! “Particular” was readily available and would have served to identify you with the Particular Baptist tradition rather than a self-selected portion of the Reformed tradition.

    I work with college students in a Christian student society. Those that believe in some form of unconditional predestination want to differentiate themselves from those that don’t, so they typically adopt the modifier “Calvinist” or “Reformed”. Based on their historical context, “Reformed” means “I believe in unconditional predestination”. I also network with church leaders frequently. Some refer to themselves as “Reformed” simply because there aren’t flags and dancing in church. Based upon their historical context, “Reformed” means “more conservative than the Charismatic church down the road”. Therefore, “Reformed” becomes whatever we want it to be, identifying us with whatever doctrine(s) we imagine that Calvin believed. In the end, the word loses all meaning.

    The same would happen if I called myself a “Baptist” right now. Many students that call themselves “Christian” have never been baptized (as children or adults). Based upon my historical context, I could call myself a Baptist to emphasize the importance of receiving the sign and seal of the new covenant…

    Please, clarify this for me. It seems like this line of reasoning means that we can redefine words whenever it’s convenient for us. I doubt that’s what you mean, though.

    Zac

  49. Well isn’t it interesting how “Reformed” people contribute to the lack the confusion of the word “Reformed”. On the the White Horse Inn web page, I remember seeing a book being promoted that dealt with what I think were Christians who embraced Reformed theology, yet still remaining Baptist. I think Ken Jones is one of the authors.

  50. Just a follow-up:

    Mike K. wrote of me:

    “5) Someone who attends any church or has not yet found a church with baptistic and predestinarian impulses.

    Micah Burke identified himself as part of category 5. ”

    This is untrue.

    I consider myself confessionally Reformed. I have attended many kinds of churches in the past but since becoming Reformed I attend confessionally “Reformed” churches. Currently a URC.

  51. I’d like to see a response to Dr. White’s point about inconsistent hermeneutics on the part of his paedobaptist brothers. This to me seems to be the crux of the issue. The hermeneutics of Reformed theology is what he says he is using to come to his conclusions about baptism. Please someone answer me this: is he violating the hermeneutical standards of Reformed theology? If someone could address his claim that he is being consistent in his use of Reformed hermeneutics but the paedobaptists aren’t, I’d be much obliged. I thought that this was the main point in Dr. White’s post.

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