He finds the tone abrasive and high-handed at times, he accuses me of making arguments I don’t recall making (e.g., excluding congregationalists from the definition of Reformed. I’ve been accused of doing that but so far as I recall I didn’t discuss polity in RRC. Once more, there were representatives of three polities at the Westminster Assembly and at the Synod of Dort! I’ve never argued that polity is essential to being Reformed) and he doesn’t seem aware that I’ve not only edited an entire volume devoted to refuting the self-described Federal Vision movement but written thousands of words here, in a booklet, and elsewhere. Nevertheless, he finds RRC helpful, at least in some ways.
A couple of other responses and queries:
I’m very interested that he finds the volume abrasive. This is a topic of genuine interest (and research). It would be truly helpful to me if he could point out specific places where he finds the book abrasive or otherwise rhetorically offensive. I was pointed but I tried to be as charitable as possible. Is it just that I drew clear lines? Could that be why he dislikes the tone? What about the chapter on the joy of being Reformed?
On Clark sharing territory with the self-described FV movement. He’s partly right and partly wrong. I did write the book in part to demonstrate that it’s possible to have a high view of church and sacraments (a confessional view) without succumbing to the sacerdotalism of the self-described FV movement. We can have means of grace without magic. Shared territory? Well, only if the German invasion of France meant that they shared territory! The Reformed churches have categorically rejected the self-described FV movement and rightly so. The FV movement uses our vocabulary but they corrupt our doctrine of justification, our doctrine of salvation, our doctrine of perseverance, and our doctrines of church and sacraments. I can’t see exactly where the shared territory is.
Judging from comments after his post it appears that the ground of his perception that the book is “abrasive” is that I have argued that Baptists, by definition, aren’t Reformed. Once more, I’m sorry if my Baptist friends are offended by this argument but the it is driven by overwhelming evidence. As I’ve pointed out repeatedly every single major and (so far as I know) minor Reformed confession of the 16th and 17th century prior to and contemporaneous to the rise of the modern Baptist movement affirms infant baptism and many of them (e.g., the Belgic Confession, ) speak specifically to the rejection of infant baptism. If the Reformed confessions define what it is to be Reformed and if the Reformed confessions affirm infant baptism and deny the rejection of the same then it would seem to be hard to avoid the conclusion that to deny infant baptism is to remove oneself from the Reformed faith. The only avenue left would be to deny that the sacrament of baptism (which we understand to include infant baptism) is essential to the Reformed faith. This would be a hard argument to maintain. First, our Lord himself commanded baptism. So it has dominical authority. Second, the catholic faith teaches baptism (e.g., explicitly in the Nicene Creed and arguably implicitly in the Apostles’ Creed). Third, the Reformed confessions all confess baptism (including infant baptism). One is hard pressed to imagine how the sacrament of baptism (including infant baptism) is not essential to the Reformed faith? Isn’t the believer’s baptism essential to being Baptist?
A while back I reviewed, in Modern Reformation, volume 1 of the new, three-volume series of English translations of the Reformed confessions. Someone wrote in to complain that I want to exclude Baptists. Here’s my response:
I am grateful to Mr Balson for raising this important question. I wrote book to address it, Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice (2008). 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; 91534), 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.
Further, this was a topic of discussion with my good friend Mark Dever (I get along well with confessional Baptists!) a while back. Here’s the original response to Mark and the version published at 9 Marks.
The topic of defining “Reformed” has been discussed many times on the HB. Here’s the category.