Reformed?

Introduction

Several  years ago I began to use the word “reformed” to describe my theology. A few people at my church weren’t very thrilled by the use of that term. “Baptists aren’t Reformed. They have never needed to be. Jesus and Paul weren’t reformed, so why should we be?” they would reply. Our church is historically an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church that has held to a Calvinistic soteriology. It has also been influenced by Landmarkism. The church has never officially held to this “Baptist perpetuitism,” or its associated belief of “Baptist bride-ism,” but has seen that Baptists were never a part of Rome and therefore didn’t need to be reformed of anything.

Since we have adopted the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, we’ve come to be more open to associating formally as well as rejecting Landmarkism. As I continued to use the word “Reformed” in reference to my doctrinal beliefs I was given a short treatise on the subject of “Reformed Baptist” by Laurence Justice, a pastor of a Baptist church in Missouri. Let me begin by giving the title of his pamphlet: “Are Baptists Reformed? Emphasizing the Truth that Baptists Are Not Reformers and Reformers Are Not Baptists.

I do not intend to say anything about Dr. Justice himself. What I know about him is that he is a godly man, a faithful pastor, one committed to his church and God’s Word, as well as a man who takes doctrine seriously. I appreciate the work he has done in his church for missions, defending God’s sovereign grace, and his Credobaptist belief.

What I do intend to do is interact with what Dr. Justice has written in this pamphlet. I will state up front that I have no problem with being a Reformed Baptist. I own the title. I also don’t think one MUST call himself a Reformed Baptist. We will see that there are some Baptists who are “Calvinistic” while not being reformed. But we also must see there is no such thing as “just Baptist,” for there are all types of people who call themselves Baptist that have a broad range of doctrines. Let us begin our interaction with “Are Baptists Reformed?”

By way of introduction to his text, I want to summarize his pamphlet and review his sections outlining why he does not believe Baptists should be called “Reformed.” I will then answer each section in subsequent blog posts critiquing his argument.  He gives an introduction and then gives 5 arguments against being reformed as a Baptist. He defines Reformed as those “which had for its object the reform of the Roman Catholic church leading to the establishment of Protestant churches.” In other words, Reformed are Protestant and Protestant are Reformed. He continues in his introduction that, although the greatest Baptist confession of faith was the 1689 London Confession, Baptists aren’t Protestant. Even though Baptists believe the same things regarding salvation as the Reformed Churches and the Westminster Presbyterians, they aren’t Reformed or Protestant. He then continues with 5 statements.

  1. Because of What Baptists Believe About God’s Word
  2. Because of What Baptists Believe About the Church
  3. Because of What Baptists Believe About the Relationship of Church and State
  4. Because of What Baptists Believe About Baptism
  5. Because of the Un-Christian Way the Reformed Have Treated Baptists Through the Centuries

In my reading I saw that Dr. Justice makes 2 mistakes

  1. He generalizes his use of “Baptist.”

– He picks and chooses which Baptists he identifies with in making his various arguments

  1. He does poor history

– He doesn’t recognize the point of statements of faith throughout the last 2,000 years

– The Particular Baptists put out their statement of faith for a reason, and I don’t know that this is ignored or if it is unknown to Dr. Justice

These 2 mistakes permeate all of his arguments. I hope to point them out for correction, hoping this will lead to greater fellowship among Baptists who hold to a particular redemption. Also, confessional Baptism is at stake here. We must understand the context in which statements of faith are written and avoid an anachronistic reading of them. Next week we will pick up our interaction with his text, discussing Baptist Confessional history as well as looking at the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

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