The Southern Baptist Convention met and fought this week. Some who lost are talking about “leaving.”One person, seriously or in jest I cannot tell, proposed that Baptists and P&R churches should merge. This is impossible for many reasons:
- The words Reformed and Baptist mean something and they are and always have been mutually exclusive. In the 16th century, the Reformed rejected the Anabaptists as “sects,” and “fanatics” for their reading of redemptive history (denying the unity of the covenant of grace), for their Christology, their soteriology, their view of the church and sacraments (of course), and their views of the Christian’s place in society.
- The Reformed churches of the British Isles (and Europe) rejected the Baptist churches in the 17th century for many (not all) of the same reasons. The same problems with the reading of redemptive history remained, the problem of the church and sacraments remained. The initial response by many British Reformed theologians was to denounce the Particular Baptists (i.e., the wing that affirmed some aspects of the Reformed doctrine of salvation) as “Anabaptists.” That was not entirely correct but it is telling that they responded that way.
- No one, certainly not the Particular Baptists, was calling the Particular Baptists (as distinct from the General Baptists) “Reformed.” Neither should we.
- No one called the Particular Baptists “Calvinists” either. Neither should we. The expression “Calvinistic Baptist” implies that Calvin’s and Calvinistic theology can be reduced to some aspects of the doctrine of salvation. That would be a shock to Calvin, who confessed a great deal more than the “doctrines of grace.” The historical and theological reality is that the Baptists and the P&R traditions are distinct. They are not essentially one with, as many people assume, some minor differences.
- As I compare the differences between the Second London (Baptist) Confession (1689) with the Westminster I realize that I have been mislead by the formal similarities between the two. I am not alone. When we compare them closely we will find there to be significant differences between them, which differences are illuminating of the substantial differences between the two confessions.
- We know that both traditions realize that the words Baptist and Reformed are distinct when a Baptist minister seeks admission to the ministry of a P&R church without changing his views on the history of redemption (e.g., he still denies one covenant of grace, multiple administrations), church, and sacraments). He cannot be admitted and the same would be true of the P&R minister who, because he baptizes hitherto unbaptized converts, wants to call himself a Baptist. The Baptists rightly protest: “But there’s much more to being Baptist.”
- I hope to address these in an upcoming series. For now see the resource page on defining Reformed.
©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.
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