Baptists, The Definition Of Reformed, And Identity Politics (Part 2)

In part one, we began a survey of Reformed statements to demonstrate how the Reformed and the Baptists are two different traditions with distinctly separate understandings of redemptive history.

Theodore Beza’s personal confession of faith (Confession De Foi Du Chretien, 1559) was not adopted by the churches, but it did influence other Reformed Christians and confessions (e.g., the Heidelberg Catechism). He devoted an entire article to the baptism of infants:

We do not cease to communicate baptism to young children even though their faith is unknown to us. We have said before that it is requisite that they should be partakers of the fruits of the sacraments (Acts 8:36–37). And it is not very likely that they have faith because they do not have the use of understanding (Deut 1:39; Rom 10:14, 17), except God works in them extraordinarily (which does not appear to us).

First, there is now the same reason for baptism which was once in circumcision (called by St. Paul “the seal of righteousness which is by faith,” Rom 4:11), even the express commandment of God by which the male children were marked the eighth day (Gen 17:12).

Second, there is a special regard to be had to the infants of believers, for although they do not have faith in effect such as those do who are of age, yet they have the seed and the spring in virtue of the promise which was received and apprehended by their elders. For God promises not only to be our God if we believe in Him, but also that He will be the God of our offspring and seed; yes, to the thousandth degree, i.e., to the last end (Ex 20:6). Then by what right or title do they refuse to give them the mark and ratification of what they have and profess already? And if they allege further that although they come from faithful elders or parents, does it not follow that they are of the number of the elect and as a consequence that they are sanctified (for God has not chosen all the children of Abraham and Isaac, Rom 9:6–8), the answer is easy. It is true, all those are not of the kingdom of God who are born from believing parents, but with good right we leave this secret to God to judge who alone knows it (2 Tim 2:19). Nevertheless, we justly presume to be the children of God all those who are the issue and descended from believing parents according to the promise (Gen 17:7; 1 Cor 7:14). For it does not appear to be the contrary to us. Accordingly, we baptize the young children of believers, as has been done from the time of the apostles in the church of God (Origen, Commentary on Romans) and we do not doubt that God by this mark (joined with the prayers of the church, their assistants) seals adoption and election in those whom He has eternally predestined, whether they die before the age of discretion or whether they live to bring forth the fruits of their faith in due time, and according to the means which God has ordained.1

Again, our Baptist friends should observe the remarkable consistency among the Reformed on the fundamental unity of the covenant of grace and the strong connection, in the minds of the Reformed, between the promises given to Abraham and the nature and administration of the new covenant.2

The Belgic Confession (1561), drafted by Guy de Bres (1522–1567) and adopted by the Reformed in the 1560s and 70s and finally by the Great Synod of Dort (1619), picked up the substance and tenor of the earlier rejection of the Anabaptist errors. Article 34 says:

For that reason we detest the error of the Anabaptists who are not content with a single baptism once received and also condemn the baptism of the children of believers. We believe our children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as little children were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises made to our children.

The Reformed understood that implied in the Anabaptist rejection of infant baptism was a rejection of their baptism. The Anabaptists had effectively, as it were, unbaptized the entire church since at least AD 205.

It was not only the European Reformed churches who spoke this way. John Knox (c. 1514–1572) drafted the Scottish Confession, which was adopted by the Scottish Parliament in 1560.3 It used similar language in article 23: “We confess and acknowledge that baptism appertains as well to the infants of the faithful as unto those that be of age and discretion. And so we damn the error of Anabaptists who deny baptism to appertain to children before they have faith and understanding.”4

The German Reformed churches, in 1563, did not mention the Anabaptists but in the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the reader will hear the echoes of the earlier Reformed confessions and note the strong consensus among the Reformed on the continuity of the covenant of grace and the administration of baptism:

HC 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.

Heinrich Bullinger (1504–75), in the Second Helvetic (Swiss) Confession (1566), in article 20, used the same sort of language used in the 1530s by the Swiss, by Knox, and in the Belgic, regarding the Anabaptists:

We condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that newborn infants of the faithful are to be baptized. For according to evangelical teaching, of such is the Kingdom of God, and they are in the covenant of God. Why, then, should the sign of God’s covenant not be given to them? Whey should those who belong to God and are in his Church not be initiated by holy baptism? We condemn also the Anabaptists in the rest of their peculiar doctrines which they hold contrary to the Word of God. We therefore are not Anabaptists and have nothing in common with them.5

It is worth rehearsing the early Reformed language regarding the Anabaptists, which our modern Baptist friends may perhaps be less familiar with, in order to help Baptists feel how strongly the Reformed repudiated the Anabaptist reading of redemptive history and the Anabaptist practice of believers-only baptism.

We could point to other documents—for example, Franciscus Junius’ 1566 Antwerp Confession:

I believe that baptism is the sign of the covenant of God with the seed of Abraham, ought to be given to those who belong to the covenant of grace, and, as a consequence, to the infants of believers. Thus I reject the error of the Anabaptists who detest the baptism of small infants (Rom 4:11ff; Col 2:11; Gal 3:27; Matt 9:14; Gen 17:2, 3; Acts 3:25).6

If the reader takes away nothing else from this survey, he should conclude that, right or wrong, the Reformed were (and remain) deeply convinced of the unity of the covenant of grace and the continued administration of the sign of admission to that visible church to the children of believers. One should also be impressed by the force with which the Reformed tried to distance themselves from the Anabaptists on these points.

The Reformed consensus on the fundamental points of difference between the Reformed and the Anabaptists are material to the contemporary discussion because the Reformed have the very same disagreements with modern Baptists. Our Baptist friends ought not affirm the very errors denounced by the Reformed churches across Europe and the British Isles to then turn around and call themselves Reformed. It is as incoherent as Reformed people calling themselves Baptists because we baptize hitherto unbaptized adult converts. We both know that the Reformed and the Baptists fundamentally disagree on cardinal points of the Baptist confession. We all know that the Reformed may not redefine the adjective Baptist to imply that the Baptist reading of redemptive history and the Baptist covenant theology is immaterial to being Baptist, any more than they can redefine Reformed theology to imply that our covenant theology is immaterial.

Some Baptists (e.g., the Particular Baptists) are Reformed-adjacent (i.e., they identify with parts of our theology, piety, and practice), but they reject core tenets of the Reformed confession as demonstrated above.

The Identity Politics Of The Debate

In On Being Reformed I raised the issue of identity politics relative to the definition of the adjective Reformed.7 Since 2018, identity politics have become pervasive culturally. The issue before us is the relation between signs and things. This is the question that Augustine discussed wonderfully in On Christian Teaching. Is the relationship between the word Reformed merely nominal (i.e., not real, arbitrary, subjectively determined), or is there a real relationship between the sign Reformed and certain qualities. Is one Reformed because one identifies as Reformed? The medieval (Franciscan) nominalists said there is no inherent relation between signs and things. The Postmodernists agree. That is the project of the French Deconstructionists, to destroy any relation between signs and things.

The mainstreams of the Christian tradition, however, have resisted such nominalism. We have affirmed that creation is real, that the world was made to be known and we were made to know it, that there are divinely ordained norms and patterns in nature, that God has a nature, and that he has revealed his nature, to a certain degree in creation, and to a greater degree in holy Scripture. In short, the world as we experience it is not a mere human construct. It is a divine institution. The Reformed tradition is not nominalist. We affirm the natural, non-saving knowledge of God and of his natural law (i.e., fixed patterns as designed by God for creation). We affirm that words mean what they were intended to mean by the author. We affirm that the creational pattern is such that there is a real (i.e., a genuine) relation between signs (words) and things. The sign or word woman denotes a human female with a certain genetic code and certain biological traits. We can answer with certainty the question, “What is a woman?” because we can observe creational patterns. We can trust that there is a stable relationship between signs and things signified. Bruce Jenner may identify as a female, but that subjective identification with the opposite sex does not create reality or a real relation between the adjective female and the sign Bruce Jenner. There is only a nominal relation between the adjective female and Bruce Jenner.

The Baptist appropriation of the adjective Reformed has certain similarities to the late-modern subjectivist approach to language and to the identity politics of our age. Despite the manifest and substantial differences between the Reformed tradition and the Baptist traditions, a large number of those who were historically known as Particular Baptists today identify as Reformed and insist upon being recognized by actual Reformed Christians as such. This raises the question of the relation of the word Reformed to the thing. Do Baptists, who identify as Reformed, actually have the characteristics of the Reformed?

According to the Reformed churches and the broader Reformed tradition (e.g., Beza and Junius), they do not. Thus, as a matter of history, the Reformed recognized neither the General Baptists (c. 1611) nor the Particular Baptists of the 1640s et seq. as Reformed. When the Reformed were confronted with the existence of the Particular Baptist movement they denounced it as Anabaptist.

To be sure, as I have acknowledged repeatedly, there are important ways in which the Particular Baptists are not Anabaptist. They reject the heretical “celestial flesh” Christology of Anabaptists. Unlike the Anabaptists, the Particular Baptists affirm the Reformation doctrine of salvation. These are important differences between the Particular Baptist movement and the Anabaptists; but real continuities also exist between all Baptists and the Anabaptists on the nature of redemptive history (i.e., the unity of the covenant of grace), the nature of the new covenant, and the proper recipients of baptism.

When I and others object to the Baptist appropriation of the Reformed identity, more than one Baptist has told me explicitly (and many have said implicitly) that the Reformed objection to the Baptist appropriation rests on matters that are immaterial. If the continuity of the covenant of grace, the nature of the new covenant, and infant baptism are immaterial, then why do not Baptists accept our baptisms, join our churches, and affirm our confession? Evidently, they do matter when Baptists are asked to confess them.

Baptists believe in a real relationship between signs and things when it touches Baptist theology, piety, and practice. But some of them insist that these things should not matter to the Reformed and that we should willingly accept a minimalist redefinition of the adjective Reformed to denote merely a shared soteriology. It is unclear to me why the Reformed should accept this bargain.

Notes

  1. James T. Dennison Jr., Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: 1523–1693, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008–2014), 2.293–94.
  2. This is not to say that the Reformed all agreed with everything Beza argued. His doctrine of the seed of faith (semen fidei) has roots in Luther’s early replies to the Anabaptists but it did not gain much purchase in ecclesiastical documents.
  3. Dennison, jr., Reformed Confessions, 2.186.
  4. Dennison, Jr., Reformed Confessions, 2.204.
  5. Emphasis added.
  6. Dennison, Jr., Reformed Confessions, 2.885.
  7. A House of Cards? A Response to Bingham, Gribben, 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).

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.

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24 comments

  1. There is a widely accepted understanding that there is such a thing as a uniquely Reformed doctrine of salvation. It should not be controversial that there is such a thing as a uniquely Reformed doctrine of baptism.
    I attended a popular Calvinistic Baptist conference in Nairobi last year in which the senior pastor made a rallying call for a “Reformed Catholicity” – I was taken aback. Regardless of the important things we do share, there can be no Reformed ‘Catholicity’ where our baptisms “since at least AD 205” are rejected on the basis of what one party purports to redefine as valid baptism. A basis that in substance is identical to what has been historically rejected by “the Reformed churches across Europe and the British Isles”
    There is no Christian catholicity when on the basis of that redefinition, our members are denied Holy Communion and membership in their churches unless we agree to their terms.

  2. The responsibility of this confusion falls directly on the shoulders of a certain parachurch teaching ministry which used the rise of the YRR movement to boost their own exposure in the broader evangelical community. Had they stood their ground on the historic position on the use of the designation “Reformed” and not watered it down to mean only monergistic soteriology and classical theism, you would not have to be cleaning up their mess. I appreciate the Chairman of the Board for of that particular ministry because he has stayed the course, but the ministry as a whole has taken the approach that inclusivity was necessary for mission success. Thanks to the HRS for being willing to stand firm on the historical definitions.

  3. Wonderful teaching Dr. Clark, thank you. As a reformed (meaning ex) Baptist myself I struggled with really understanding the practice of paedobaptism for many years. Not content to just accept it, it became a matter of continual study and fervent prayer. It was William Hendriksen that finally helped me to see that my error was attempting to fit paedobaptism into my dispensational framework. Once I grasped the concept of covenental theology, paedobaptism seemed quite natural, even undeniable.

    But while we are distinguished by our theology, piety, and practice, I wish this issue could be less divisive. I expect to share eternal glory with my Baptist friends and family….this issue will not divide us there, and it should not divide us here.

    • Fully agree, Jerry M. I’ve been members of both ‘camps’ and love the brethren from both. I find it rather ridiculous to incriminate either side as ‘guilty!’ When young and dumb in the early 80s I bounced around with stretches involved with Baptists, Presbyterians, and some Pentecostal and yes, even for a while, w/Charismania. By 1985 I ‘came out from among them’ to enjoy fellowships w/Reformed Baptists AND Reformed ‘otherwise.’ Particularly thru our RC-US brethren! I find no real obstinate faults w/either! You kiddin?!’ With all the problems Biblically c/o the high majority of all those other camps! I’m just fine indeed with our Brethren in both camps✝️📖🛐😊👍

    • Hi Jerry,

      If it helps, I have lots for Baptist friends, former students, and colleagues. I love and appreciate them but I think this is an important discussion, which is why I wrote these pieces. Yes, I expect to see Baptists in heaven but I also expect to see some Roman Catholics there too, so I’m not sure that the standard you’re offering works very well.

      Is there one covenant of grace with multiple administrations? Has God ordained the application of the sign & seal of the covenant of grace to believers and their children? Are the believers who lived under the types and shadows in limbo (as Sam Renihan argues) because they died before the New Covenant? Was the covenant of grace actually present under the types and shadows or is the New Covenant the only actual expression of the covenant of grace in redemptive history? Is virtually the entire church prior to 1523 unbaptized? These aren’t small questions.

      Of course my main job in these essays is to clarify Reformed theology, piety, & practice as distinct from the Baptist. In that sense I’m trying to MBGA: Make Baptists Great Again.

      • Thanks Scott, and an emphatic YES to all your questions. I also agree with you about the importance of the subject, but I think my larger point is that many, if not most Baptists push back against paedobaptism because they attempt to fit it into their Dispensational framework (square peg, meet round hole). Before I was able to understand it, I had to dismantle the 30 years of dispensational beliefs that my theology was built upon and rebuild a Covenantal framework pretty much from scratch. Naturally this didn’t happen overnight, but the result is that scripture came alive for me. It was seeing the truth of reformed covenantal theology that made paedobaptism understandable.

        In a recent conversation with my old pastor (from 20 years ago) he indicated that he couldn’t buy into infant baptism “because I don’t see it in the Bible.” My response is that he was reading the Bible with dispensational glasses and he might want to try on a pair of covenantal glasses, at least for understanding…..covenantal theology is all through the Bible. William Hendriksen said, in his wonderful little book The Covenant of Grace, “…the spirit of covenant-consciousness must be caught rather than taught.” His meaning, I think, is that while the facts can be taught, conceptual understanding must be caught. Having read many books on covenantal and reformed theology prior to Hendriksen’s, it all came together within a page of that statement….I caught it! It was like a light came on…..suddenly it all made sense.

        So now, rather than debating about the merits of paedobaptism with my Baptist friends, I start with the basics of covenantal theology….once that is “caught” infant baptism becomes self-evident. Sign mu up for MBGA….I’m in!

        • Jerry,

          I agree entirely. The real issue is covenant theology, or, in the case of our disagreement with Particular Baptists, it’s competing covenant theologies. PBs often assume that “if covenantal, then Reformed,” which is untrue. There have been lots of covenant theologies in the history of the church. In its own way Dispensationalism is a (bad) covenant theology. Every Christian, whether he knows it or not, has a covenant theology.

          Baptism is a symptom of much deeper issues.

  4. “The Anabaptists had effectively, as it were, unbaptized the entire church since at least AD 205.”

    Can someone pls enlighten me… What is the significance of AD 205? I don’t remember the reference before. Thx.

    • John,

      The earliest post-biblical/extra-biblical evidence for infant baptism dates to AD 205/06. Both Origen and Tertullian testify to the existence of infant baptism by that date. Presumably it existed well before that date since we have no evidence whatever that the practice of infant baptism was controversial. Augustine said that infant baptism was the universal practice of the ancient church.

      It was the universal practice of the church then, from at least the mid (AD 150)-late (AD 170) 2nd century until the rise of the Anabaptist movement. If the Anabaptists (and the Baptists followed them on this) are correct, then virtually the entire church, until the Anabaptists, was unbaptized.

  5. Can’t really agree w/ those last 10 words, Mr Clark! So ‘your’ 10 word assumption there is Biblical?! Hmmmm?🤔 Not to me/us! Lord Bless ye.✝️📖

  6. In my opinion it is the rejection of the Reformed understanding of the unity of the Bible, as having one message of salvation and one covenant of grace that encompasses the entire Bible, that is most disturbing about the Baptists who want to call themselves Reformed. In fact it is their denial of the covenant of grace existing before the new covenant that provides their view of baptism as an ordinance that has no prior existence before the crucifixion and therefore only applies to those who believe the New Testament gospel, as though people in Old Testament times had no administration of the means of grace, but were only taught the Law. As many times as I have asked, I have never received an answer that made sense to me regarding how any one could be saved among God’s people before the crucifixion in this Baptist understanding. It is as though God treated his Old Testament people on a totally different basis than those under the New Testament who were the only ones to be under the covenant of grace, and believers only baptism is it’s unique sign. It just seems to me that it divides God’s people into those who only had the Law in the old covenant and those who have grace in the new covenant. This is a fundamental difference in how they understand the Word of God. Yet they want to call themselves Reformed although they deny the foundation of the Reformed theology, as taught by the Reformers, which is one covenant of grace throughout redemptive history, under different administrations. It threatens the very basic foundational teaching that defines the Reformation by replacing it with a different understanding of redemptive history.

  7. ALL my true Baptist, Doctrines of Grace, Calvinists are my true Brothers and Sisters in Christ! Everyone whom I know=as Mr Spurgeon Biblically AND wisely often stated=“Calvinism IS the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Period AND Exclamation Point! Amen and AMEN! Thank You, Lord Jesus✝️📖🛐👍😊(To God be the Glory! ALL the Glory!).

    • Rob,

      I count my believing Baptist friends as brothers and sisters, but most of them (Bunyan was an exception) have regarded those of us who were not baptized as believers as unbaptized. This is a serious thing. If I am, as most of them say, willfully unbaptized then I am in gross sin. Formally, I am outside the visible church. I am not eligible for the Lord’s Supper by a traditional Christian measure and thus I am in sin for willfully coming to the Lord’s Table as an unbaptized person. Further, to the degree Reformed congregations practice infant baptism and receive those as members who were baptized only as infants, are we even a church? After all, Cyprian said and we confess in the Belgic Confession (art. 28) “outside of the church there is no salvation.” We’re talking about the visible church.

      From the Reformed side there is a problem too. If the Baptists lack one of the marks of the true church (Belgic Confession art. 29), in this case the “pure administration of the sacraments,” then are they part of “the true church,” as we say? I call them irregular congregations and I recognize them as Christian congregations because they are sincerely convinced that they are following Scripture and in the Particular Baptist congregations the gospel is purely preached and discipline is administered (Belgic 29) and I am trying to be gracious. The Reformed churches recognize their baptism and we receive into membership those who agree with our confession, who were baptized as believers in their congregations—even though most of them will not receive into membership those of our members who were only baptized as infants. That’s sort of the point of being Baptist, isn’t it?

      I’m not saying that they are not brothers and sisters but I am saying that the issues between us are not small.

  8. Frankly, YOU’RE making it BIG, when it’s just not! I/We accept you easily as wonderful Brethren! And I KNOW that I’m speaking for zillions of Baptist brothers and sisters. I can name them in whom I KNOW you know! I’ve never heard ANY of them say anything close to “oh, those Reformed folks…they’re just not truly/fully Christian!” None! We have Biblical business to attend to (as I know you do, as well!). Why the harshness and divisiveness from you! Never have I heard Pastors Walker, West, Merica, Schlegel, etc., speak thusly as harsh as you do! They are wonderful Brethren!✝️📖🛐👍😊

    • R S Clark! I both believe AND give you= that you probably know of more Baptists’ beliefs than I may, but I assure you I’m being honest when I state and claim that in my 40+ years as a Baptist, Doctrines of Grace, Calvinistic Christian man, I have not heard these accusations you claim of. Are you positive, Sir, that during THESE days, Baptists are actually blabbering all over how that you Reformed’ are not truly ‘in?!’ Is it quite honestly like that today, verses ye ole yesterday?!
      I truly love the history of our Faith, too! Reading Beeke’s “Puritan Reformed Spirituality” wonderfully opened my eyes more to the ‘divisions’ of yesteryear very well. I read it twice.

      • I hear you Rob, but I find among my Baptist friends many simply don’t understand reformed covenantal theology, even though they think that they do. I’ve never been accused of not being “saved” per se, but have been accused of adhering to a heretical theology that they mistakenly call “replacement theology,” sometimes also called supersessionism. When they tell me that my theology is heretical, make no mistake, they are calling me a heretic, although they are quite careful to avoid the actual word, the pejorative implication is there.

        In simple terms, replacement theology is a errant perception by dispensationalists that us reformed folk “replace” God’s Israel with the Church based on our position that Christ’s covenant is less of a new covenant as it is the consummation, fulfillment, or “renewing” of the one true covenant made with Abraham, and reiterated to Isaac and Jacob successively. A key point of Dispensationalism is a clear distinction between Israel and the Church. Many, if not most, see two peoples of God, and therefore Israel will be handled in a distinct manner from the Church. Much, much more could be said, but you get the point.

        Now it’s true that gentiles are grafted into the vine, but we are still just one vine, not two. In that sense believing Israel has always been the church…..no replacement has taken place…..there never were two peoples of God. One flock, one sheepfold, one shepherd, one Lamb’s Bool of Life, and therefore one people, the Elect of God. Paul made this very clear in many places, for example Romans 3 and a large part of Galatians to name just two.

        More than a few churches have split over the issue of paedobaptism. Some of my Baptist friends refuse to discuss the subject. Any issue that divides God’s people is Big and therefore worth studying and understanding. The hope is that with good teaching, love, and a prayerful desire to be united we can overcome our differences.

        God Bless my friend.

        • Thank you much, brother Jerry! I just read your comment twice and fully agree with you! Back in the late 80s thru the early 2010s I continued to basically attend AND become a member of both Baptist Reformed and non reformed, as well as Reformed Churches-US. Tho not very many brothers be friended one another, there were some. I can’t change anything particularly between the 2, yet I remained close to both in unified brotherhood. I don’t believe it really should be that difficult, let alone becoming enemies of one another! I love and care about my Baptist Calvinists AND Reformed brethren! It’s not at all like trying to unite Fundamentalists and Reformed and/or Calvinistic Baptists! Took me a few years to clearly see Fundies and we are indeed much different in our beliefs. I find myself most usually witnessing to the lost and babes in Christ with Baptist/Calvinistic convictions. Don’t really see this changing.
          Lord Bless, brother Jerry and ye all others in Christ! Titus 3:5 & 2:11-3:11.

          • Yes, Jerry. I re-read you again! I fully agree. I’m not dispensational, as I tossed both my Ryrie AND Schofield ‘study’ bibles away long, long ago. Still learning, as I never fully truly believed Jews were so special, particularly w/our Covenantal Biblical beliefs! Thank you again much!✝️📖
            I find it unbiblical AND unnecessary to ‘hate on’ the Jews, tho it doesn’t seem to bother me much from those who do. Just really trying to be Biblical. I don’t seem to ‘run with’all that allegoricalism.😊

  9. Seems we live in a world of redefining things to fit our agendas, and it’s a real temptation.
    I hold to what you teach Dr. Clark and get flack for it, even in reformed churches that are satisfied with Calvinism as being the definition of reformed.
    I’m in a youthful congregation and many babies are being born. One a week ago and twins yesterday with two or three more coming. We’ll be splashing water all over the place.
    I’m excited for their baptisms.

    Also they say Queen Elizabeth led a nominal reformation in light of a full break with anything of Rome. That she kept some ecclesiology at least and maybe didn’t clean up the soteriology of Rome enough in proclaiming Protestantism as the religious practice of England. I know Cranmer met with Luther and possibly Calvin ? Any thoughts on that ?

  10. Wait Dr i know im late to this but i Have theadore bezas confession that ur talking about and am getting through it right now. Its been amazing but why did nobody adopt his confession? I know that beza has been accused of many things

    • Beza wrote that for his Dad. It influenced other confessions/catechisms, including the Heidelberg. Our guys used to write confessions & catechisms regularly. They didn’t expect them always to be adopted by the churches.

      As to the things with which Beza has been charged, modern Beza scholarship has changed the story considerably. A lot of the older Beza scholarship is really poor. It is not well sourced. The Muller school changed the narrative about Beza quite a lot. Read Beza’s Treatise on the Supper. It’s very good. See also his defense of justification, recently published with Polanus and Turretin in the CRT series.

  11. Celebrations of rituals, eg baptism, are similar to the celebrations of holidays on a particular day or according to a particular schedule or done in a particular way … when people are looking for DIVISION and reasons to hate other human beings or not like their style, it’s the same as for all excuses … when a human being needs an excuse to divide or hate, ANY excuse will do.

    An individual can celebrate the fundamental principles behind ANY of these HUMAN holidays or HUMAN rituals ANY TIME that the individual wants to … but if the humans who love the rituals and their human church more than they love God want to find a way to ostracize the individuals, they will not have any problem finding an excuse, with full scriptural verification, for their reason to hate.

    It is far more important that you spend the time seriously contemplating the point or general gist of what the ritual or holiday is getting at … rather than worrying about when the crowd of gossips, busybodies and the whole peer-pressure lynchmob of scripture-based conformists is doing to drag the unholy into their tribalist conformance. The Reformation was a period of intense TRIBALISM … it was not especially a period of religious re-awakening or a time for Christians to becoming radically more like Christ … the Reformation was primarily about a bunch of inbred xenophobic idea-haters fighting TRIBALIST wars … and part of that was that the wars were good for certain kings and princes and financiers who were not part of the previously dominant tribal leadership.

    There’s no reason to go out and be deliberately antagonistic … but we can certainly let the lost souls and dead bury their dead and find all kinds of theological or scriptural defense for killing those who don’t accept the way a baptismal ritual is administered or when/how a religious holidays is celebrated.

    The POINT driving the holidays or rituals is fine … Lent is a perfect example of this — the whole point of Lent is to become Christ-like to tell Satan [and affluent excesses and addictions to human-based comfort] to “Get Away from me, SATAN — I don’t need any of your distractions; I’m fasting because I focused on drawing closer to God.”

    In the modern day version of Lent, it’s can be about quietly [without any public notice or ash mark on the forehead] be able to work on one’s discipline, to just go without [for an extended period of time] to re-prove to one’s self that one can actually leave the booze or any kind of addictive comfort or pleasure alone for forty days … and instead do a deep dive on how much one’s affluent lifestyle is diverting one’s focus away from the passion of the Christ, how much God loves His creation and what God gave up in sending His only Son into hell to double down on the love that drives the beauty of that entire Creation.

    When anyone feels called to celebrate the meaning of Lent, the forty days that are coming up are never a bad time … as people who try to live according to Heidelberg catechism, we might sometimes need reminders of what our only true comfort in this life and whatever comes after has to be.

    Similarly, if people enjoy the ritual of baptism … or a polar plunge to prove they are tough … so what? That does not exactly mean that they deserve criticism for public displays of some sort of personal commitment … unless feels called to act upon tribalist hate, it’s probably better to just kind of ignore the invitation to engage in old-school inbred tribalist division making.

    Human rituals are not really source of comfort for those who follow Reformed traditions … in the way that those things are a source of comfort for others … but the differences and distinctions are only for those who want to make distinctions and widen the differences, ie to judge their fellow humans.

    https://www.heidelberg-catechism.com/en/lords-days/1.html

    • Mark,

      You’ve taken a Pietist position but the catechism you cite isn’t a Pietist document. The framers of the Heidelberg cared deeply about the exclusion of infants from the visible church and the holy sacraments. They didn’t agree that the sacraments are man-made rituals, if that is what you are suggesting. The catechism explicitly affirms infant baptism against the (Ana)baptists.

      The Reformed churches never celebrated Lent. Indeed, it was the Reformed who led the rebellion against Lent and it’s a tragedy to see people going back to ashes and Lent and, eventually, to the bondage of medieval piety.

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