Friday, June 20, 2008

Isms, in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself.

Instead of "Calvinism," I greatly prefer "Reformed," for a variety of reasons ... not that there's anything wrong with an ism per se. But that raises another question:

What does it mean to be Reformed?

As a Reformed Baptist this is one of those love/hate conversations. I can't help but jump in, all the while knowing it's an uphill battle.

Some Presbyterians will say Baptists cannot be Reformed because they don't adhere to infant Baptism. Even some Baptists will say that other Baptists are not Reformed if they are not strict sabbatarians.

What does it mean to be Reformed?

How tight do we draw the circle?

This is from our church's "About Us" page ...

We are a Reformed and Southern Baptist Church.

* What does Reformed mean?

First of all, it doesn't mean that we've "arrived." We're not perfect, as individuals or as a church, but we pursue such through reliance on the Holy Spirit. In fact, part of being a Reformed church entails a recognition that it is always in process. Or, as it was put centuries ago, ecclesia reformata semper reformanda est ("The Reformed church is always reforming").

Being "Reformed" means an adherence to and advancement of the theological principles of the Protestant Reformation. This is most clearly seen in our doctrinal statement and in our subscription to the "5 Solas" of the Reformation as expressed in The Cambridge Declaration. It declares that our authority is Scripture Alone by which we hold to salvation by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, because of Christ Alone. Thus, we proclaim To God Alone Be the Glory! Our theological framework might also be referred to as Calvinistic or Augustinian.

As you can see, I'm thinking the Reformation is better captured by certain principles, rather than the by-products of working out those principles.

Others would obviously answer differently, limiting the label to those embracing certain creeds.

It's a stretch to require adherence to doctrinal statements that the Reformers did not produce nor endorse (e.g., WCF). Sure, much of it gels, but neither Calvin, nor Luther would embrace the WCF's Sabbatarianism, for example.

Also, the term is often employed in such a way that Zwingli would not be included or congregationalists, who would not have embraced a Presbyterian form of government (e.g., Edwards & Owen).

Interesting topic to ponder, especially since the term "evangelical" has received so much etymological discussion. Of course, we could really open a can of words as well with definitions of who is truly covenantal and/or Calvinistic (cf. Are Five Points Enough?).

So, for those of you who claim the label Reformed, what say ye?


At 20 June, 2008 15:07, Blogger M. Jay Bennett said...

I like the Providence Church statement. I think it is most useful to define the label "Reformed" with the five solas as expounded in the Cambridge Declaration.

I don't consider "Reformed" to be equivalent to "Covenantal" or "Presbyterian." So when labeling myself with precision, I use all three.

But I love my sweet clean Reformed Baptist brothers very much. :-)

At 20 June, 2008 15:27, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a baptist who prefers wine at communion - not grape juice! Does this make me "reformed"? lol Just kidding....kinda! :)

At 20 June, 2008 16:52, Blogger Jade said...

I don't know Gunny. Others do say that to be Reformed one must embrace Covenant Theology, Normative/Regulatory principle, etc. The word "Reformed" is a historical word. It refers to those who believe in the 1689 or Westminster confession.
My old pastor is a 5 point Calvinist and believes in the 5 solas but would not associate himself with the world reformed because he doesn't believe in those confessions.

At 20 June, 2008 22:02, Blogger Rev. said...

While I'm quite comfortable asserting I'm a "Reformed Baptist," you bring out certain points where some would consider that oxymoronic. I've also used the adjective, "Reformational," meaning I adhere to the 'solas' of the Reformation and the doctrines of grace.

At 20 June, 2008 23:01, Blogger Rev. said...

I could be the Walrus...

At 21 June, 2008 14:50, Blogger Jared Nelson said...

if 5 solas = Reformed, are Lutherans Reformed? 5 solas just make you Protestant, right?

It's hard to define Reformed Baptist because you have dispensationalists like John MacArthur claiming the title as well as New Covenant guys like Piper. I think to be Reformed Baptist, you need to be able to sign the 1689 London Baptist Confession in good conscience.

At 21 June, 2008 15:58, Blogger GUNNY said...

There is certainly a strong strain of Baptists holding to "Reformed Theology" who would insist on adherence to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith in order to merit the label.

However, I find it more than a bit forced. For example, what about those holding to the 1st London Baptist Confession (1644)?

Why not insist on that earlier version?

Also, it's tough to insist on a particular document that none of the Reformers would have endorsed as the de facto requirement.

I mean, it's one thing to say that the 1689 is an expression of Reformed principles through a Baptist lens, but it seems another thing to me to say that it's only lens.

I don't want to sound unkind to either, necessarily, but it reminds me of the King James only folks who insist on that one "Authorized" Version being the only legitimate one.

Of course, in the day of the Protestant Reformation, "Reformed" would have only applied to Zwingli and his boys.

I said all that to say this, labels can change over time and I find it very helpful to define a term like "Reformed" when dealing with various audiences.

Jared also raises a good question regarding the relationship between the words "Protestant" and "Reformed." On some level, it's inconceivable to think of a "non-Reformed Protestant," but I certainly don't think we can in 2008 say that Protestant means one adheres to the 5 solas, though I do think one adhering to the 5 solas would be Protestant.

Jade, you also brought up the Regulative Principle which is another interesting discussion, but that might require it's only post/thread.

As a tease, I often wonder if any church/person/denomination truly adheres to it, but that's just a quick hot sports opinion.

Also, if the label is limited to adherents to the 1689 or the WCF, then you cannot call any use the label for any of the following: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Owen, Edwards, etc.

Jay, I can assure you that you are quite loved among the sweet, clean faithful!

Kelly, a Baptist who prefers wine in the Lord's Supper?! Well, you might keep that on the down low. In some circles I know that puts you at DEFCON 5 on the heresy meter.

Rev, "Reformational" and "Reformissional" are interesting terms that have sprung up and attained some popularity.

I know some actually see "Reformed Baptists" and cold, mean-spirited cerebral types who are either apathetic or hostile to missions, etc.

I think that's a bit of a caricature, but I can understand the need/desire for fresh language.

Lastly, is a Reformed group/person different from a group/person embracing/espousing Reformed Theology? Have we must moved the microscope a bit to question the definition of Reformed Theology?

To ask it another way, what is its sine qua non?

At 21 June, 2008 19:09, Anonymous Anonymous said... preference to wine (over grape juice) is just one of the reasons I recently left the staff of a baptist church (after 13 years)...of course, there were other "issues", too....ha!

At 21 June, 2008 21:20, Blogger GUNNY said...

Rev doesn't believe in Beatles. He just believes in me.

At 21 June, 2008 21:28, Blogger Sean Crowe said...

"Yeah, there's a lot of bad isms floatin around this world"

Great post Gunny. As I always say, go reformed, or go home. Actually, this is the first time I have ever said that, but it does have a good ring to it.

At 21 June, 2008 22:00, Blogger GUNNY said...

Sean, that reminds me of a professor one time explaining how we change the introduction to quotes we use.

1st time: "So and so said ..."

2nd time: "It's been said ..."

3rd time: "I've always said ..."

I ain't going home, so I guess it's Reformed for me.


At 23 June, 2008 08:22, Blogger Matthew Bradley said...

Gunny, you hit close to what I believe to be the beginning of an answer when you say the term would only apply to Zwingli and his boys. Historically speaking, "reformed" is not synonymous with "protestant", but instead refers (primarily) to the Swiss reformation and its offspring. So Zwingli and Calvin with some German and French protestants and later, of course, Knox and others in the British Isles would all be reformed. In this regard, perhaps the 2nd Helvetic Confession is a better standard of what it means to be reformed? However, Luther, the original English reformation, and the wild children of the Radical Reformation would not be considered reformed. I think this is why WCF is so often offered up as a standard. It is the longest standing and most widely recognized product of a indisputably reformed community. Could Calvin sign up to it without exception? No. But "reformed" has never been defined by perfect agreement on every point. Broadly speaking, the two most widely recognized communities that are directly descended from this historic "reformed" community are the English and Dutch. These two are codified in the WCF and Catechisms, the Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort, and Heidelberg Catechism. These are our standards. And they differ very little from one another. They are covenantal in their system. They are Presbyterian in their government. And the argument that Edwards was reformed by not Presbyterian suffers on two points. First, his first church was Presbyterian. He was congregational later only due to circumstances. And they fired him from that job! Second, Edwards was a heretic. (OK...that's an inside joke between Jay the Bennett and me).

Just some things to consider.

At 23 June, 2008 10:42, Blogger GUNNY said...

Matt makes some good points and as always they give the appearance of wisdom.

Just kidding, really, good thoughts to the discussion you have added.

However, you lost a lot of credibility with your comments about Edwards.

The equivalent would be 100 years from now for me to claim that the great Matt Bradley was a Baptist because his first church was Baptist. He was Presbyterian later only due to circumstances.


Thanks for weighing in and giving me license to forever claim you as a wandering SBC brother.

Oh, et tu, Jay the Bennett!


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