Resources On Defining Reformed

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

  1. Recovering the Reformed Confession (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008).
  2. “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.

Audio/Interviews

  1. Talking Baptism And Defining “Reformed” With Theololgy Gals
  2. Office Hours: On Being Reformed
  3. Covenant Theology (Theology Gals)
  4. Heidelcast Series: I Will Be A God To You And To Your Children
  5. With Calvinist Batman On Covenant Theology And Reformed Identity
  6. The Reformed Pubcast: Vade Mecum Toward The Reformation
  7. Heidelcast 13: Why the Focus on the Confessions?

Articles

  1. If You Want To Know What P&R Christians Believe, Read The Confessions
  2. The Reformed Churches Confess Infant Baptism
  3. A Wonderful Illustration Of The Necessity Of An Objective Definition Of Reformed
  4. A Response To Rachel Held Evans Regarding Wilson And The Definition Of “Reformed”
  5. Who or What Gets to Define “Reformed” (re-posted)
  6. The Problem of the Minimalist Definition
  7. Is the Reformed Faith a Second Blessing?
  8. A Little More On Defining Reformed
  9. Why the Focus on the Confessions?
  10. Divine Sovereignty, Evil, Mystery, and “Calvinism”
  11. A Curriculum For Those Wrestling Through Covenant Theology And Infant Baptism
  12. Did Calvin’s Theology, Piety, and Practice Need To Be Rounded Out With Müntzer’s?
  13. Engaging With 1689 
  14. One Important Difference Between The Reformed And Some Particular Baptists: God The Son Was In, With, And Under The Types And Shadows
  15. What Is And Is Not New About The New Covenant
  16. Putting Your Stamp On An Iconic Brand
  17. Of Confessional Christianity And The Cult Of Personality
  18. On Traveling From Münster To Geneva
  19. Straight Out Of Münster
  20. Is John Piper Reformed? Or Holding The Coalition Together (Updated)
  21. Why (Some) Reformed People Are Such Jerks
  22. Pilgrims (And Their Hosts)
  23. Is the Confession of the Substance of Our Faith?
  24. Is the Reformed Faith Just an “Accent”?
  25. Should We Stop Using the Expression “Reformed Faith”?
  26. The Real Question is Whether There is An Objective Definition of Reformed
  27. Was Barth Reformed?
  28. “Informed” or Reformed? A Sub-Text of the PCA Strategic Report?
  29. The Fork in the Road for the “New Calvinists”
  30. Calvinism Old and “New”
  31. The Trouble with TULIPS
  32. Growing Beyond The Tulip
  33. Growing Beyond Bi-Polar Spirituality Or Why You Should Be In A Confessional P&R Church
  34. Post-Thanksgiving Cartoons: Reply to James White
  35. Are Reformed “Evangelical” or “Evangelicals”?
  36. Reformed and Evangelical Redux
  37. What The Court-Packing Debate Teaches Us About Defining The Adjective Reformed
  38. More On New Definitions
  39. French Bakery or Winchells?
  40. What Would Calvin Say? (re-post)
  41. What Did Calvin Say? (re-post)
  42. Kim Riddlebarger, “Why John MacArthur Is Not Reformed” (including Richard Muller’s, “How Many Points?”)
  43. Was There a Mainstream of Reformed Orthodoxy?
  44. John Owen Did Not Read Hebrews Like A Baptist (Part 1)
  45. John Owen Was Not A Baptist
  46. John Owen Was Not A Baptist (Part 2)
  47. Update: John Owen Is Still Not A Baptist
  48. Daniel Featley: The Sweet Dipper

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
    Author Image

    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 ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


8 comments

  1. This is one of the most important and comprehensive studies on this topic to date in my opinion. The links almost seems exhaustive and yet it cannot be taken in on one sitting. A pen and pad is needed for this study, thank you Dr. Clark for making this available on one easy to find page!

  2. Great list! Thank you. I have had many discussions with my baptistic friends who like to refer to themselves as “Calvinists.” I’ve referred them to Dr. Muller’s submission to the 1993 Calvin Theological Journal, “How Many Points?” The next time I see them, after they’ve had a chance to read it, they usually confess something about not being very Reformed. We’re in a semantics game nowadays and words easily become stolen, twisted, and distorted in such a way that it’s sometimes difficult to comprehend exactly which meaning the author or speaker intends to convey. In my opinion, “Reformed” is one of those.

    BTW, you may want to consider adding Muller’s article to your list. Thanks again.

  3. If Baptists want to appropriate the term “Reformed” when they don’t accept Covenant Theology, I wonder if they would mind the Reformed appropriating the term “Baptist” while holding to infant baptism?

  4. Dr. Clark,

    Thank you for this list of resources. It is helping me see the confusion in my thinking from the blurring of this key word, ‘reformed’. When I left an Arminian environment I happened into an ARBCA. Being told that it was ‘reformed’ I was curious. Arminians rejected theology and probably reformed also. Unfortunately I did not know enough to inquire about their confessions, so I did not actually learn about Reformed Theology.

    After studying RRC and Church History, the record of men’s fabrications is a constant. Actually having the right definition of the word ‘reformed’ positions me historically and eternally, equipping me to recognize counterfeiters. I believe, as a Christian, it is healthy to hold onto the correct definition of Reformed Theology. I must understand and be able to defend, winsomely, the correct definition of ‘reformed’ based in Confessional Reformed Theology. However, facing the challenge of defining the word ‘reformed’ in the Confessional Reformed Church, among people who do not want to exclude people by making these distinctions is quite another task.

  5. From a practical, day-to-day standpoint, this is perhaps the most useful post I have ever read on The Heidelblog. THANK YOU for this. My only request is that you add a section specifically giving these type of both historic and modern references and links to the Reformed understanding of communion. I know it is addressed in many of these links, but the list is long and the ease with which the core Reformed beliefs about communion can be discerned are not nearly as obvious as the ones presented here about baptism. Considering the “examine” approach, which I believe can apply to both of the sacraments, a family or a congregation sometimes only thinks deeply about this when a new child is born. However, regarding communion, each self-examining believer should be deep in reflection on this on a weekly (or monthly) basis – hopefully asking, and answering, the very important question, “What am I about to do here?”

  6. This is a wonderful resource page I’ll be reading through for a while! Thank you, Dr. Clark!

    A note: under “Articles,” numbers 35 and 36 have the same name, but number 35 is a different article.

Comments are closed.