These questions continue to bump and push around the mush in my mind, especially when I read folks like James White taking exception to Presbyterians who want to say that Reformed Baptist is something of an oxymoron, and then read the follow-up discussion over at Scott Clarkâ€™s blog. I understand how some may take the narrowing of Reformed identity to exclude Baptists as needlessly exclusive. Though I also canâ€™t understand why no reviewer complained about the Dictionary of the Reformed and Presbyterian Tradition in Americaâ€™s exclusion of Baptists from the scope of entries. (Mark Noll and I didnâ€™t even include those Baptists who do baptize infants â€“ Congregationalists.) I also understand that a Baptist might try to be covenantal in his understanding of redemptive history and still reject infant baptism.
What I donâ€™t comprehend is how few seem to notice or take issue with the traffic for so long running between confessional Reformed and Baptists instead of between confessional Reformed and other confessional Protestants. Mind you, I enjoy the company of Calvinistic Baptists as much as the next Orthodox Presbyterian, and find all sorts of signs of health among those congregations known as Reformed Baptist.
But why are Lutherans chopped liver? Why, in fact, has Lutheran become in some Reformed circles almost as objectionable as the other l-word â€“ â€œliberalâ€? One could actually argue that confessional Lutherans share as much in common with confessional Reformed as particular Baptists, and our history is even longer (though it obviously has some rough spots). Could it be the objections to Lutherans run along ethnic lines â€“ dare we say the twentieth-century German problem that forced German-Americans in Pennsylvania to become â€œPennsylvania Dutchâ€? Or is it a problem of liturgy and the triumph of John Owen and Banner of Truth among American Presbyterians as opposed to the liturgical traditions of the Reformed churches on the continent?
If the latter, then as is so often the case, the turning point in American Presbyterian history is 1741 and the anointing of George Whitefield as the Boy George of vital Calvinism. Odd though that no one called that Episcopal priest Reformed.