In 2009 Time Magazine hailed the rise of “The New Calvinism” among the 10 ideas that are changing the world. Behind that article was the publication of Collin Hansen’s Young, Restless, and Reformed (2008) and the formation of The Gospel Coalition (2005), which signaled a new movement among (mostly) Baptistic evangelicals. The Baptistic appropriation of the adjective Reformed, however, also signaled a redefinition of the the word. The notion that Baptists could be Reformed had been in the air among conservative predestinarian evangelicals since World War II, when Presbyterians made informal alliances with Particular Baptists in the wake of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. In 1997, when the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA) was formed, their appropriation of the adjective Reformed was not very controversial.
There is another point of view, however. Recovering the Reformed Confession was published in the same year as Hansen’s book. These two volumes represent competing visions of what it means to be Reformed. Where RRC argues for the historic understanding of the adjective Reformed, YRR assumes a minimalist definition.
The reader should be aware that the nomenclature Reformed Baptist was unknown to the Reformed Churches in the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Indeed, those whom some now call “Reformed Baptists” originally called themselves Particular Baptists because they understood the depth of the differences between their theology, piety, and practice and the Reformed. The Reformed Churches did not recognize the churches of the first London Confession (1644) or those of the Second London Confession (1689) as Reformed.
Why does this matter? It is worth discussing because (as argued below) the Baptist theology rests on a significantly different reading of redemptive history (covenant theology) and, behind that, a different way of reading Scripture (hermeneutic). As B. B. War field said, covenant theology is “architectonic” for Reformed theology, piety, and practice. To change our covenant theology (e.g., to turn the Abrahamic covenant into a covenant of works) is to change fundamentally our theology, piety, and practice. The Reformed baptize their children because of the way they read the Scripture. They administer communion as they do because of the way they read the history of redemption. We raise our children as we do because of the way we understand hermeneutics and salvation history. These things leaven our entire theology, piety, and practice.
Below are resources addressing the question of the definition of the adjective Reformed.
Books and Chapters
- Recovering the Reformed Confession (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008).
- “A House of Cards? A Response to Bingham, Cribben, and Caughey,” in Matthew Bingham, Chris Caughey, R. Scott Clark, Crawford Gribben, and D. G. Hart, On Being Reformed: Debates Over a Theological Identity (London: Palgrave-Pivot, 2018), 69–89.
- Talking Baptism And Defining “Reformed” With Theololgy Gals
- Office Hours: On Being Reformed
- Covenant Theology (Theology Gals)
- Heidelcast Series: I Will Be A God To You And To Your Children
- With Calvinist Batman On Covenant Theology And Reformed Identity
- The Reformed Pubcast: Vade Mecum Toward The Reformation
- Heidelcast 13: Why the Focus on the Confessions?
- If You Want To Know What P&R Christians Believe, Read The Confessions
- The Reformed Churches Confess Infant Baptism
- A Wonderful Illustration Of The Necessity Of An Objective Definition Of Reformed
- A Response To Rachel Held Evans Regarding Wilson And The Definition Of “Reformed”
- Who or What Gets to Define “Reformed” (re-posted)
- The Problem of the Minimalist Definition
- Is the Reformed Faith a Second Blessing?
- A Little More On Defining Reformed
- Why the Focus on the Confessions?
- Divine Sovereignty, Evil, Mystery, and “Calvinism”
- A Curriculum For Those Wrestling Through Covenant Theology And Infant Baptism
- Did Calvin’s Theology, Piety, and Practice Need To Be Rounded Out With Müntzer’s?
- Engaging With 1689
- One Important Difference Between The Reformed And Some Particular Baptists: God The Son Was In, With, And Under The Types And Shadows
- What Is And Is Not New About The New Covenant
- Putting Your Stamp On An Iconic Brand
- Of Confessional Christianity And The Cult Of Personality
- On Traveling From Münster To Geneva
- Straight Out Of Münster
- Is John Piper Reformed? Or Holding The Coalition Together (Updated)
- Why (Some) Reformed People Are Such Jerks
- Is the Confession of the Substance of Our Faith?
- Is the Reformed Faith Just an “Accent”?
- Should We Stop Using the Expression “Reformed Faith”?
- The Real Question is Whether There is An Objective Definition of Reformed
- Was Barth Reformed?
- “Informed” or Reformed? A Sub-Text of the PCA Strategic Report?
- The Fork in the Road for the “New Calvinists”
- Calvinism Old and “New”
- The Trouble with TULIPS
- Growing Beyond The Tulip
- Growing Beyond Bi-Polar Spirituality Or Why You Should Be In A Confessional P&R Church
- Post-Thanksgiving Cartoons: Reply to James White
- Are Reformed “Evangelical” or “Evangelicals”?
- Reformed and Evangelical Redux
- What The Court-Packing Debate Teaches Us About Defining The Adjective Reformed
- More On New Definitions
- French Bakery or Winchells?
- What Would Calvin Say? (re-post)
- What Did Calvin Say? (re-post)
- Kim Riddlebarger, “Why John MacArthur Is Not Reformed” (including Richard Muller’s, “How Many Points?”)
- Was There a Mainstream of Reformed Orthodoxy?