What Does Reformed Modify?

Hint: the body of Christ we call church.

Kevin DeYoung defends a wide berth for Reformed Protestantism and quotes Herman Bavinck for support:

In particular, Bavinck claims, “From the outset Reformed theology in North America displayed a variety of diverse forms.” He then goes on to mention the arrivals of the Episcopal Church (1607), the Dutch Reformed (1609), the Congregationalists (1620), the Quakers (1680), the Baptists (1639), the Methodists (1735 with Wesley and 1738 with Whitefield), and finally the German churches. “Almost all of these churches and currents in these churches,” Bavinck observes, “were of Calvinistic origin. Of all religious movements in America, Calvinism has been the most vigorous. It is not limited to one church or other, but—in a variety of modifications—constitutes the animating element in Congregational, Baptist, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and German Reformed churches, and so forth” (1.201). In other words, not only is Bavinck comfortable using Calvinism has a synonym for Reformed theology (in this instance at least), he also has no problem affirming that Calvinism was not limited to one tradition alone but constituted the “animating element” in a variety of churches. Calvinism, as opposed to Lutheranism, flourished in colonial America as the typical orthodox, Reformational, sola scriptura-sola fide alternative to the various forms of comprised Arminianism and heterodox Socinianism.

The problem with this historically speaking, for starters, is that Lutheranism did precede Calvinism and so you could conceivably attribute all the variety of Calvinism to Lutheranism as the original Protestantism. Granted, the lines of continuity between Reformed Protestantism and the North American colonial churches were stronger than with Lutheranism. But that is much more a function of British Protestantism and what happened to Calvinism (or what didn’t) within the Church of England, the Union of England and Scotland, and the Puritans. British Protestantism turned Calvinism into a proverbial hot house of Calvinisms. This was not the case among the Dutch Calvinists who planted Reformed churches in North America. The colony of New Netherlands actually excluded Quakers and Lutherans, and enjoyed much greater uniformity than the Old World Dutch were capable of enforcing. Remember, the Netherlands, despite Dort, welcomed Descartes, Spinoza, and Anabaptists.

But aside from the history, the question is one of arbitrariness. If John MacArthur can exclude charismatics from being Reformed even though he doesn’t belong to a Reformed church, or if The Gospel Coalition can set up a tent broad enough to include disciplined Southern Baptists and wobbly PCA ministers, Calvinism, like evangelicalism, becomes simply what pleases the excluder/includer. Add to that the reality that conservative Presbyterian and Reformed communions invested great energy and resources to distinguishing themselves from communions, like DeYoung’s, those that are Reformed primarily in name rather than substance, and you begin to see why some Reformed Protestants are eager to give coherence to their wing of Western Christianity. I don’t mean that as a cheap shot. But so far, folks like MacArthur and the Gospel Allies have yet to acknowledge the hard work done by Reformed Christians to defend and maintain the ministry of word and sacrament within disciplined (read Reformed) churches. We had thought the task of reforming the church was arduous and long, but now you hold a conference or set up a blog and — voila — it’s Calvinism.

Dictionaries revise definitions all the time. But users of words and grammarians don’t approve of the revisions. The question comes down to whose pay grade it is to establish Calvinism’s meaning. Celebrity pastors? Parachurch agencies? Or church councils? I’m pretty sure I know how Calvin, Bucer, Knox, and Ursinus would vote. Do they carry as much clout as John Piper? As Bud Dickman is wont to say, “well. . .”

76 thoughts on “What Does Reformed Modify?

  1. Dr. Hart, over time I have begun to respect the distinctions you have drawn and the reasons for them. As a result, I no longer refer to a Baptist with calvinistic theology as a Reformed Baptist.

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  2. the author of Calvinism writes: If John MacArthur can exclude charismatics from being Reformed even though he doesn’t belong to a Reformed church, or if The Gospel Coalition can set up a tent broad enough to include disciplined Southern Baptists and wobbly PCA ministers, Calvinism, like evangelicalism, becomes simply what pleases the excluder/includer….

    mark: Amen to that. And then the question becomes– is this or that label worth fighting over? I am not evangelical, since I don’t like Billy Graham. I am not Reformed, because I am still ungrateful to the Reformers for killing those who disagreed with them about “sacraments’. I am not Lutheran, because I deny baptismal regeneration and losing your justification. I am not baptist, because I deny that there’s any water in Romans 6.

    But perhaps there are some labels worth fighting over. It would be interesting to see what labels others (not only Hart) on this list would argue that they should be included in. At the end of the day, it’s not only about who needs to be excluded, but also about what you think you still need to be included in so that you are part of the church “catholic’. A person who agrees too quickly that he’s not this and not that, will be an individual on the margins, outside the means of grace apart from which there is no ordinary salvation.

    from the Acts 29 conference, an answer from John Piper:
    So Piper, just be simple a minute, do you believe Jesus died for all people?
    Before I answer it, i’m going to force you to define for all people, i’m going to say, now just tell me exactly what you mean and i’ll answer you, because I dont want to answer in a way that would cause you to misunderstand.

    What do you mean by for all people?

    Now I think I know what most, is it okay if I use the word arminians? just, just most people who, who are having a hard time, they’re not all arminians, having a hard time with limited atonement. That is the atonement that effects something special for a limited group.

    I think I know what they all mean, and i’m going to quote Miller’s Erikson’s theology because I think he’s right. He says:

    “God intended the atonement to make salvation possible for all persons. christ died for all persons but this atoning death becomes effective only when accepted by the individual. This is the view of all arminians.” closed quote.

    If that’s the view of all arminians I totally agree with it. No qualifications. So if you say “did christ die for all people” and I say “what do you mean for all people?” and you answer “I mean did he die in such a way so that anybody anywhere who believes will be saved by that blood.”
    I say “absolutely he did.” That’s John 3:16 pure and simple. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son in such a way that whoever believes will not perish, I believe that totally without qualification. Every individual person on planet earth who believes in Jesus has their life covered by the blood of Jesus. so you preach that, you stand up on sunday morning and you say christ died in such a way so that anybody in this room who believes, your sins are covered by the blood of Jesus.
    (John Piper – Acts 29 conference – The Whole Glory of God – Imputation – Impartation of His righteousness – Part 2)

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  3. DeYoung claims in his article that Piper could likely sign off on 95% of a Reformed confession.

    I really wonder if the percentage is that large. After all, Piper is not just a Baptist he is also a fan of Jonathan Edward whose theology, even regarding subjects like predestination and soteriology, was perhaps more innovative than confessional.

    I also find it odd that one could subscribe to 95% of a Reformed confession and say that Doug Wilson gets the gospel right.

    Maybe Piper (and DeYoung?) want to associate themselves with the term “Reformed,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those who are confessionally Reformed are giddy about it.

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  4. D.G., maybe you should just start calling yourself a Reformed Baptists, since that’s actually a pretty accurate statement. I mean, you certainly believe in Baptism (adult converts and children of believers) and you have the Reformed view of Baptism. Why do Baptists get to define what being a Baptist is but Reformed aren’t allowed to define what being Reformed is?

    I propose a change to OPC – you should be called the ORBC.

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  5. Call my comments a ‘drive by shooting’ or whatever, but am I the only one getting sick of Kevin DeYoung’s rising prominence of being a notable voice for moderating (diluting) Reformed and disciplined ecclesiology? The lad is admittedly very smart, very astute and getting as much prominence as Tim Keller and all the other GC chaps. I would go as far as saying he is rising to the top of the pile of the GC galaxy, being perhaps the most youthful of the bunch and certainly very articulate.

    To use some weighty words from the post, Kevin is not ‘defending’ or ‘maintaining’ the word and sacrament within disciplined (Reformed) churches. Nor does he distinguish the Reformed practise from other forms. He certainly does not give much appearance either of ‘distinguishing’ himself from the churches who are anything but Presbyterian. If anything, he seems to blur boundaries and reduce them. What else though should we expect from a major player within the GC?

    Somehow (how?) Kevin has become another very popular mediating voice, like Tim Challies, between all sorts of groups.He praises CJ Mahaney on the one hand and then on the other uses Bavinck to put all sorts together as Reformed. The most insidious and pernicious way to erode Reformed belief and practise is to lower the barriers between groups and act as reconciler. While this will garner praise and respect, the separating and distinguishing nature of Reformed ecclesiology will not have the essential attention it deserves. But then again, the latter approach is not one for gaining popularity or gaining a bigger audience.

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  6. Nate, that would a Baptizer, as in John the. But then what about the other Protestant sacrament? Maybe Reformed Communicants? Then again, the term Reformed is like Ragu–it’s all in there.

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  7. D.G.,

    If Baptist aren’t truly Reformed, then why does the American Reformed Biography Series that you co-edit include James Boyce?

    I know you have already explained why you didn’t include them (baptist) in your history of Calvinism.

    Maybe you didn’t have a say on the Boyce bio or maybe I’m missing something?

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  8. Matt, showing how you make sausage is never something you do in public. Sorry to be evasive, but the series is not simply about (all about) me. I still stand by my point that the Reformed churches are the ones who get to make this call.

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  9. You have to account for the Particular Baptists in some way. Their categories were thoroughly Reformed and Calvinistic, despite the baptistic revisions they made to some of those categories. Consider the opinion of Richard Muller on the 18th century Particular Baptist John Gill:

    “The eminent Particular Baptist preacher, theologian, and exegete, John Gill (1697-1771), stands as proof, if any were needed, that the thought of English nonconformity and, within that category, English Baptist theology, is in large part an intellectual and spiritual descendant of the thought of those Reformers, Protestant orthodox writers, and Puritans who belonged to the Reformed confessional tradition. This must be acknowledged despite the pointed disagreement between Baptists and the Reformed confessional tradition over the doctrine of infant baptism; this one doctrine aside, their theology is primarily Reformed and what disagreements remain are disagreements with and often within the Reformed tradition rather than indications of reliance on another theological or confessional model”.

    -Richard Muller, “John Gill and the Reformed Tradition: A Study in the Reception of Protestant Orthodoxy in the Eighteenth Century,” in The Life and Thought of John Gill: A Tercentennial Appreciation, ed. Michael A. G. Haykin (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 51.

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  10. Luke & DGH, are not proper administration of sacraments and discipline (church govt) two marks of the church? Can we ever say that someone ONLY disagrees on these two points? Isn’t this like saying “that stool is ONLY missing two of three (or three of four legs) — no big deal?”

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  11. Luke, still, such baptistic revisions are not superficial and trifling but indications of a more organic problem for those who would claim Reformed:

    The Reformed assumption underlying this doctrine is that sacraments are indeed signs and, therefore, in a sense, means of grace — that the churchly administration of the sacrament holds out the promise of the divine work of grace, “washing, purifying, and cleansing our souls . . . renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort” (BC, XXXIV). What is more, this assumption concerning the legitimate inclusion of the children of believers in the covenanting community through the sign and seal of baptism stands as the natural adjunct of the five points: Salvation does not arise out of human merit but by grace alone through the acceptance, by graciously engendered faith, of the sufficient sacrifice of Christ for our sins. Baptism, rightly understood from the human side, signifies the placement of our children into the context where the promised grace of God is surely at work. And who more than an infant, incapable of meritorious works, can indicate to us that this salvation is by grace alone? By way of contrast, the restriction of baptism to adult believers who make a “decision” and who come forward voluntarily to receive a mere ordinance stands against recognition of baptism as a sign of utter graciousness on the part of God: Baptism here is offered only to certain individuals who have passed muster before a human, albeit churchly, court — or to state the problem slightly differently, who have had a particular experience viewed as the necessary prerequisite to baptism by a particular churchly group. If grace and election relate to this post-decision baptism, they can hardly be qualified by the terms “irresistible” and “unconditional.” There is an inescapable irony in refusing baptism to children, offering it only to adults, and then telling the adults that they must become as little children in order to inherit the kingdom of heaven.

    Richard A. Muller, “How Many Points?” (Calvin Theological Journal, Vol. 28 (1993): 429-30)

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  12. C-Dubs, or like saying one is thoroughly Catholic who denies papal authority or thoroughly Republican who favors bigger government and more taxes. Um…

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  13. CW and Zrim, as a Baptist, I certainly don’t want to make light of our differences over baptism and church polity. Those are important enough issues that they will inevitably (and ought to) divide our traditions into separate churches and denominations. My point is more historical. The PBs grew out of the soil of 17th century Reformed British Non-Conformity. Even in their revisions on baptism and polity, they were working within the basic categories of Calvinism–not Lutheranism, Anabaptism, or anything else. They maintained (in their own baptistic way) the covenants of redemption, works, and grace. They defended Reformed Christology over against the Lutheran innovations regarding the communicatio idiomatum. They spoke of Christ’s work in terms of the munus triplex, the two states, and the active and passive obedience of Christ. They defended, as their name suggests, particular redemption, along with the other four heads of Dort. Even their view of the Supper is much more Calvinian than Zwinglian. If this is not “Reformed,” at least in some broad sense, then what do you suggest we call it? Serious question.

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  14. Luke,

    Maybe you call it “Particular”. You admitted yourself “They maintained (in their own baptistic way) the covenants of redemption, works, and grace“. In their own way means something different, and redemption, works and grace are not something you want to ‘differ’ very much on. Although the differences in one sense may not be that significant, when compared with the broader evangelical world today, in terms of ecclesiastical communion with others they are very significant.

    As much as Piper may “borrow” from Calvin (and other Reformation figures), we can’t simply say “I’m Reformed” because I borrow doctrines from them, when the fundamental issues are not agreed upon, even if you want to boil that single issue down to the view of baptism.

    Even a family member of mine who is much older than I (who is a pastor at a non-reformed church) recognized this when he asked me “Why are all the Baptists calling themselves Reformed? That’s not what I think of when I think of ‘Reformed’.”

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  15. When I think of “reformed baptists”, I think of Al Martin, and when I think of Al Martin, I think of a scolding mother, questioning me about what I have done recently to prove that I am a Christian.

    Some of us Particular Baptists who agree with the First London Baptist Confession (1642) never say we are “Reformed” for this very reason.

    It’s not merely that some others are “not reformed enough”. Rather, some of us would rather flush the trash (Philippians 3) than reach our hands down into it, and attempt to use the same words in a different way.

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  16. You said : ”… Lutheranism did precede Calvinism ”
    Not true, the Book of Concord was not completed until 1580. Later Lutheran theology was not in complete accord with Luther’s theology (see Crypto-Calvinists, Philippists, Sacramentarians, Ubiquitarians and Gnesio-Lutherans debates). The Heidleberg Catechism was published in 1563. Reformed Theology was well spread and developing. Lutheranism was not as well developed.

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  17. Luke, how about modernist? That’s a serious answer, because modernity has a wonder working way of allowing all manner of mixing and matching to happen, up to and including paedobaptism which naturally arises from covenantal theology being unnaturally lopped off. Add to that the kind of stark novelty (another mark of modernity) that comes in the light of historical Christian practice.

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  18. Carl Trueman, p 96—”Owen claims that that the union of Christ with the elect in his atonement is not actual direct participation but that it must be understood in terms of federal representation. The imputation of sin to Christ is thus not strictly parallel to the imputation of Christ’s death to sinners. This is because it is not simply incarnation which is the foundation of salvation, but ‘covenant’ which lies behind the incarnation.”

    But of course if you agree with Owen about covenant and law, then you must also agree to “infant baptism”. And if you disagree with “infant baptism”, you cannot logically agree with John Owen about the atonement.

    And here’s the sarcasm alert. Anybody who disagrees with me about anything is confused and not a clear thinker. If you disagree with me about one thing, then to be consistent you should disagree with everything in my confession.

    Which confession? Dordt? revised Westminster? My reading of the two combined?

    Richard Gaffin and Sinclair Ferguson teach that those in the old covenants were not “united to Christ”. But we need to define “union with Christ” Is the most basic difference which the new covenant brings “regeneration”, which is how many folks think of as “union with Christ”.

    But if regeneration is not the most basic change brought by the new covenant, what is the most important distinctive of the new covenant? My answer would be about Christ having satisfied all the terms of the new new covenant.

    1 Corinthians 11:25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

    Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

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  19. Piper wouldn’t agree with the WCF on:

    Baptism
    the Church
    government of the Church
    the nature and use of the Sacraments

    for starters…

    that eats up a bit more than a measly 5% of the faith…

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  20. ..or the existence of the Covenant of Works in the first place, a tiny thing like that…

    [We have enough hassles within P&R over that and Republication.]

    “Hedonism” was important for those of us mulled in Arminianism and 98% disaffection at the time…

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  21. Leithart is on a journey to some world between CtC and James Jordan and St Andrews and and and Peter Leithart. But why not, if prot-catholic’s can be as ahistorical as not reconciling to the past 50 years of Vat II history, ‘virtual Vat II’s’ indeed, who’s gonna ding em for further inventions. Hermenuetics of continuity and coherence, principled distinctions that no longer serve the paradigmatic purposes of clarity but instead resolve potential conflicts which nobody of extraordinary charism ever intend to exercise, and finally, ultimately, noumenally appraised faith claims leave plenty of room for ‘development’.

    To say nothing of stealing EO historical antiquity claims and using them to prop up Tridentine Roman Catholicism. It’s like listening to Mormons defend the religious claims of Joseph Smith.

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  22. Leithart’s argument for “Reformed Catholics” is ironic considering that Protestantism (both Lutheran and Reformed) began as a protest movement within the Catholic Church (there was only one church at the time). Hence the term “Reformed” as in attempting to reform the church as opposed to, say, “Separatists.”

    Leithart fails to acknowledge that there was a significant change in the relationship between the protest / reform movements and the Catholic Church. Things would have been very different if the church had embraced justification by faith alone, reformed its sacramental doctrine and practice, etc.

    But that is not what happened. The RCC rejected the chance for theological reform and in doing so un-churched itself and thereby created the need for other churches, true churches. In the last 500 years, Rome has not reformed its doctrine or practice and it cannot be considered a true church.

    Calling oneself a “Reformed Catholic” in the way that Leithart means it is equivalent to calling oneself a “Reformed Heretic.” Personally, I think that I will just stick with “Reformed.”

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  23. Two thoughts:

    1) I agree that it is helpful to define terms and “Reformed” needs to be defined. It seems to be common today for anyone to just claim the Reformed moniker. Personally, I think the way that R.C. Sproul defines Reformed theology as the 5 Points and the 5 Solas in “What is Reformed Theology?” is the most helpful. What is wrong with that definition?

    2) If you exclude “Reformed Baptists” from the “Reformed” label, you are excluding the likes of Spurgeon and Bunyan (and all other 2nd London Baptists) from the “Reformed” tradition (MacArthur holds to 2nd London Baptist) – and all the Baptists that descended from the Puritan lineage. They might not be “Dutch Reformed,” but they certainly have every entitlement to the Reformed label as Bavinck or Kuyper. On Bunyan you write in your book on Calvinism history that he was a great example of practical theology that, “The account of the protagonist Christian’s ongoing struggle with sin and desire for holiness made Bunyan’s allegory appealing to readers well beyond Calvinistic circles; it would become a devotional staple among Arminians and Wesleyans.” So are you saying that Bunyan is a great example of a “Calvinist” but is NOT “Reformed” the way you are defining terms? But in your post, you seem to be using “Calvinist” and “Reformed” interchangeably. Can you clarify on this – are you saying that you can be a Calvinist and not Reformed?

    By the way, I very much appreciate your work. I really appreciate your History of Calvinism.

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  24. Yes, Spurgeon and Edwards and the like are held in the warm feelings of bosoms to be Reformed.

    Going through the trouble of actually reading their works and sermons leaves one with puzzzzzzlement as to how they were ever called Reformed.

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  25. “Sproul defines Reformed theology as the 5 Points and the 5 Solas in “What is Reformed Theology?” is the most helpful. What is wrong with that definition?”

    Nobody would argue that this definition is a very good starting point.

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  26. @GC The problem with the proliferating combos (reformed baptist, reformed catholic, etc…) is that it limits what it means to be reformed. Tulip and the five solas are important, but reformed Christianity is much more than that. The sacraments matter. The sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper aren’t just ordinances, and to deny your child the sacrament of baptism is a grave sin. Our faith is built by hearing the gospel proclaimed and by taking the Lord’s Supper – the Belgic confession doesn’t insist on quiet times, reading Christian books, or all the other works so many evangelicals like to insist on to build one’s faith (lists that almost uniformly ignore taking the Lord’s Supper and hearing the preaching of the gospel interestingly enough). Worshiping God the way he wants to be worshiped is not a so-called “non-essential” to the reformers. Contra MacArthur (for example), all 10 commandments are still in force.

    Particular Baptists have a number of exemplary members to their credit that those of us in reformed churches can learn from. So do Evangelicals, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, etc… But they aren’t reformed even if they happen to agree with us about some aspect of the faith we confess.

    It’s a free country, so anyone is welcome to pick and choose from various religions and create their own Bapticostal Reformed Lutheran Catholic denomination. And if calling it evangelical and adopting the right shibboleths gets you featured in CT and a book deal with IVP, more power to you I guess. But such a person shouldn’t be surprised when people from these traditions object to such syncretism if it dilutes distinctives for their own flock that they find crucial.

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  27. The Reformed faith requires proper preaching of the Word, proper use of the Sacraments, the willingness to submit to the discipline of those in office. This provides several other “hoops” to jump through in order to be accepted, far beyond the memorization and quoting of lists of 5 this-or-that.

    Several calling themselves Reformed refuse to submit or are not even aware of the implications of membership in a church prioritizing preaching, sacraments, and discipline.

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  28. sdb: Particular Baptists have a number of exemplary members to their credit that those of us in reformed churches can learn from.

    The lives and ministries and kindnesses of believers from all over the big tent of Christianity is embraced and thanked and prayed for in the future.

    It doesn’t mean they would be able to survive even a half-serious due diligence session by elders and gain membership in a Reformed church.

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  29. grant: If you exclude “Reformed Baptists” from the “Reformed” label, you are excluding the likes of Spurgeon and Bunyan (and all other 2nd London Baptists) from the “Reformed” tradition (MacArthur holds to 2nd London Baptist) – and all the Baptists that descended from the Puritan lineage.

    mark: So does this mean it’s ok with you if we particular baptists who are not sabbatarians get excluded? Do you have a problem with 1st London Baptists? Also, how are you going to decide which baptists only got their ideas from puritans? What about some baptists who got some of their ideas from anabaptists? The “descended from” is not as clean as you might think.

    When you say Puritans, do you mean the Separatists or do you mean the Puritans who want to take over or build a new Christendom? Do you mean the puritans like Richard Baxter who taught neonomianism and who found assurance in their “holy living” instead of in Christ?

    Don’t worry about leaving some of us out, Grant. Some of us “come-outer” baptists don’t want to be reformed. No matter how much other baptists think we need it.

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  30. Kent, since I’m never averse to dropping the proverbial foreign object in the punchbowl, let me say that I have tired of the “but Spurgeon” argument for loving on baptists. CHS had Driscollesque tendencies — he sometimes had direct revelations (recall one about a sabbath breaker he identified mid-sermon) and he was something of an over-the-top clown in the pulpit. He was also one of the biggest national and international celebrities of his day and it may be argued that helped along the rise of the celebrity pastor-evangelist though he was not the first, of course. Like Lloyd-Jones his church quickly fizzled after his death. Churchmanship was not his strong point, but as baptist he didn’t have much to work with.

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  31. Mark, I was just using the 2nd London as an example. Of course I would count 1st London Baptist Confessioners as Reformed.

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  32. (hedonist) Rob, you have to get past WSC 1 to maybe answer 85: “To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.” No enjoyment there.

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  33. Grant, The problem with Sproul’s definition is that it misses what Calvin wrote about the church — no salvation outside of her. Of course, you need to make lots of qualifications. But Reformed Protestantism started in the church and should have remained there. Now it’s not only in the parachurch (Gospel Coalition) but what individuals think it is.

    Bunyan is an example of experimental Calvinism, the wing of Reformed Protestantism that I believe began to sever Calvinism from ecclesiology. Plus, Bunyan’s quest for holiness became attractive to Wesleyans. How Wesleyans and Calvinists would see eye-to-eye on sanctification is beyond me. But once Calvinism is severed from the church, all things are possible.

    Thanks for your kind words about the book.

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  34. I don’t remember if Spurgeon stood outside the prime minister’s house to bless the next war, but maybe they never had a protestant pope over there. But Arminians were already preaching in “his church” before Spurgeon died. Assuming that whatever the taught was “the bible but not system” view of things, Spurgeon took the Arminian view of I Timothy 2:4

    I quote: “You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. “All men,” they say,–”that is some men”: as if the Holy Ghost could not have said “some men” if he had meant some men. “All men,” say they; that is, some of all sorts of men”; as if the Lord could not have said “All sorts of men” if he had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written “all men,” and unquestionably he means all men. . . .

    Spurgeon: “As it is my wish that it should be so, as it is your wish that it might be so, so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, he is not less benevolent than we are. . . . It is God’s wish that the sick should not suffer. Do you doubt it? Is it not your own wish? And yet the Lord does not work a miracle to heal every sick person. It is God’s wish that his creatures should be happy. Do you deny that? He does not interpose by any miraculous agency to make us all happy, and yet it would be wicked to suppose that he does not wish the happiness of all the creatures that he has made.”

    Hugh L. Williams, in his excellent article on this sermon, gives a (Reformed?) reaction to Spurgeon’s assertions: “This is wrong. The Holy Ghost did not by the apostle write ‘all men.’ He wrote pantas anthropous. Now the question is what does the phrase mean.” Williams goes on to show that this means “all without distinction” rather than “all without exception.”

    But hear more of what Spurgeon thinks he knows from the Bible: “God has an infinite benevolence which, nevertheless, is not in all points worked out by his infinite omnipotence; and if anybody asked me why it is not, I cannot tell…”

    Spurgeon can tell you dogmatically what the Bible texts means. When contradicted (by an invented rhetorical dissent), instead of examining again his own reading, Spurgeon affirms the contradiction. and labels all dissent as rationalism: “Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation..Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonizes them.”

    mark: yes, I know that a confession is more than a system of theology, but it’s not less.

    IN conclusion, let me quote a “hyper Calvinist” reading— “This passage of the apostle (1 Tim. ii. 4) was long ago brought forth by the Pelagians, and handled against us with all their might. . . . I have nevertheless extorted from Pighius this much: that no one but a man deprived of his common judgment can believe that salvation was ordained by the secret counsel of God equally and indiscriminately for all men. The true meaning of Paul, however, in this passage now under consideration is perfectly clear . The apostle is exhorting that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: for kings and all that are in authority. Who does not see that the apostle here is speaking of orders of men rather than of individuals? ” (John Calvin)

    Calvin: “But Paul teaches us (continues Georgius) that God would have all men to be saved. It follows, therefore, according to his understanding of that passage, either that God is disappointed in His wishes, or that all men without exception must be saved. If he should reply that God wills all men to be saved on His part, or as far as He is concerned, seeing that salvation is, nevertheless, left to the free will of each individual; I, in return, ask him why, if such be the case, God did not command the Gospel to be preached indiscriminately from the beginning of the world? why he suffered so many generations of men to wander for so many ages in all the darkness of death? ”

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  35. DGH says: (hedonist) Rob, you have to get past WSC 1 to maybe answer 85: “To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.” No enjoyment there.

    John Y: How do you square this with living in the land of chocolate? Or, was that misinterpreted sarcasm on my part? Then again it may be one of those passages in the WCF, like the end of the Gospel of John chapter 6, where many quite following the band that Jesus was leading. I will have to look at that passage again more carefully to determine if no enjoyment might have been the main reason for those leaving.

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  36. Late to the party… But I’ll ask a few rhetorical questions

    Why can’t the definition of Reformed be defined as those who confess the “Reformed” creeds and confessions regarding the church and sacraments?

    Why can TGC, which holds a netured confession, define itself by ”complementarianism” which seems rather arbitrary compared to the church and sacraments? (http://thegospelcoalition.org/about/who)

    And finally, does anyone else throwup a little bit in their mouth when they read these “middle of the road” posts by Kevin Deyoung et. al. at TGC? Isn’t everything and everybody swell!?!? Gotta keep selling books! Excuse me while I wash the bad taste out of my mouth with a little Old Life whiskey and a cigar.

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  37. DGH: The problem with Sproul’s definition is that it misses what Calvin wrote about the church — no salvation outside of her. Of course, you need to make lots of qualifications. But Reformed Protestantism started in the church

    mark: think of these questions as in the interest of helping you to share some those “qualifications”.

    What visible church did John Calvin become a member of when he was converted?

    When did John Calvin first become a member of a true visible church?

    Without asking any impolite questions about the water baptism Calvin already had, I am wondering if one of the “qualifications” we would need to make is that the Reformation was a transitional time, so that we cannot hold the Reformers themselves to the same standards we want to set for baptists and others who are not now in true visible churches.

    Or is one qualification that “there are churches among them”, despite their Zwinglianism? The alternative to that being salvation apart from a true visible church…..

    That was a time of discontinuity, but now there’s no need for flux, not even when most who are “Reformed” when it comes to ecclesiology and sacrament do not agree with Calvin about what salvation by grace means???

    “While we unwilling simply to concede the name of Church to the Papists, we do not deny that there are churches among them.” 4:2:12

    “As we are all vitiated by sin, we cannot but be hateful to God, and that not from tyrannical cruelty but the strictest justice. Of what injustice do those whom the Lord predestines to death complain?
    3: 23:3

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  38. Dr. Darly: You better put down those cigars and good aristocratic Kentucky Bourbon then. You can define hedonism, like Reformed, in a broad or narrow way. I am invoking sarcasm too.

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  39. Thanks for the comments on Spurgeon. I’m always puzzled when I hear a quote of his, because they don’t sound that great, but I just assume it out of context and from an awesome sermon I don’t want to track down.

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  40. cw: Kent, since I’m never averse to dropping the proverbial foreign object in the punchbowl, let me say that I have tired of the “but Spurgeon” argument for loving on baptists. CHS had Driscollesque tendencies — he sometimes had direct revelations (recall one about a sabbath breaker he identified mid-sermon) and he was something of an over-the-top clown in the pulpit. He was also one of the biggest national and international celebrities of his day and it may be argued that helped along the rise of the celebrity pastor-evangelist though he was not the first, of course. Like Lloyd-Jones his church quickly fizzled after his death. Churchmanship was not his strong point, but as baptist he didn’t have much to work with.

    CHS’s work is admired with all due respect, but it has little to do with my humble pilgrimage as an unlettered layperson in a NAPARC congregation.

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  41. Going through the trouble of actually reading their works and sermons leaves one with puzzzzzzlement as to how they were ever called Reformed.

    Kent, I agree with you. I once over-esteemed CHS and MLJ. I got over it when I figured out, as DGH put so well, that the church — a well-ordered biblical church that is not about one man — is where it’s at.

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  42. Did anybody ever notice that lloyd-jones never taught definite atonement? It was assumed to be there because he was “reformed”. Of course this could be said of many presbryterians and not merely “new school” congregationalists. When Kendall’s biograpahy spoke of the enthusiasm for L Jones (and his wife) for Kendall’s project ( insisting that Calvin taught universal assurance because Calvin equated assurance with faith), some Banner of Truth puritans objected but they couldn’t disprove anything from the many published writing of L Jones.

    Kendall of course was first a wesleyan nazarene and then an “independent baptist” (Henry Mahan) and then for the sake of influence, a Southern Baptist, and then when the opportunity came, the successor to the methodist preacher of Westminster Chapel, and then when the charismatics gained influence..

    Some of us baptists never liked Spurgeon, and that alone is enough to get you called “hyper” in many “Reformed” circles. Instead we quoted baptist Abraham Booth, slandered by Andrew Fuller and John Wesley alike. Booth, btw, never coveted the baggage which comes with being “Reformed”.

    Abraham Booth, Glad Tidings

    p 238 “According to fatalism, the word of truth having no influence, is of no use in regeneration, the salutary and important change being produced entirely without it..It is too hastily assumed that the mind is prepared to receive the light of spiritual knowledge before the truth have any influence on it.”

    p 247 “Now the question is: Do the Scriptures lead us to conclude that the mind and the conscience are brought into the new state by an immediate divine energy, without the medium of either the law or the gospel? I think not. By the law is the knowledge of sin.

    p 249 “For an ‘awakened sinner’ to be persuaded that regeneration is effected without the instrumentality of divine truth, is to give an injurious direction to his prayers and expectations.

    I suppose “the church” is the one where I have now arrived. All others are on their way there, just as soon as they get the grace I now have….

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  43. Booth and two other baptists on Christ’s atonement

    Abraham Booth, Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Character,3:60
    “While cheerfully admitting the sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to Him, we cannot perceive any solid reason to conclude that his propitiatory sufferings are sufficient for the expiation of sins which he did not bear, or for the redemption of sinners whom he did not represent. For the substitution of Christ, and the imputation of sin to him, are essential to the scriptural doctrine of redemption by our adorable Jesus…

    Dagg (Manual of Theology, p330): “Some have maintained that, if the atonement of Christ is not general, no sinner can be under obligation to believe in Christ, until he is assured that he is one of the elect. This implies that no sinner is bound to believe what God says, unless he knows that God designs to save him…

    Tom Nettles, By His Grace and For His Glory. “The New England error of ‘sufficiency’ is subtle in nature and involves a shift in the understanding of the sacrificial death. Although Jesus’ death is spoken of as passive obedience–and though the concepts of reconciliation and propitiation are defined as activities accomplished in the Father’s setting forth God the Son–when the sufficiency of the death of Christ arises, the emphasis shifts to what the Spirit now actively accomplishes by his infinite divine nature.”

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  44. Abraham Booth, The Reign Of Grace

    The potent prince and the abject slave, the wise philosopher and the ignorant rustic, the virtuous lady and the infamous prostitute,stand on the same level in the law’s comprehensive sight. The business of the gospel is with the worthless and miserable, whomsoever they be. But the
    self-sufficient of every rank are treated with a steady contempt. The hungry it filleth with
    good things, but the rich it sendeth empty away.

    Booth: These considerations may serve to show us the true state of the case, as it stood between Paul and his opponents. The situation of things was much the same between Protestants and Papists,. Nor will the apostolic doctrine ever fail to be attended with strenuous opposition and foul reproaches, while ignorance of its real nature, and legal pride, prevail in the hearts of men. Many, indeed, are the methods that have been devised, to render the unpalatable truth more generally acceptable, and to obviate the offence of the cross”

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  45. Why is Kevin Deyoung more palatable than others at the GC? He stands for the same ethos as Keller, Piper and Carson. Lewis, I share your sentiments about him. As his GC peers are rapidly showing their age he will be the GC top dog, being comparatively young ‘n all that.

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  46. How long between Calvin not going to mass and him again having the sacramental means of grace? And who ordained the “lesser clergy” rebels who administered the next sacrament (Calvin only needed the one sacrament to be in the true church outside which normally there is no salvation) . I am merely looking for those qualifications by which we know it was appropriate at that time for Calvin to come out. Was he not supposed to come out, unless he knew he already had a place to go the next Sunday?

    I am not asking about Machen and that recent bit of discontinuity. Nor am I asking about any baptists now who think of themselves as “church in exile”. I am asking about Calvin. Before he found a magistrate to enforce both tables of the law for him, back when he was in France, was the new church only in his head or was the continuity from the old church his own invention?

    I John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

    Calvin: We went out from them, but we were not them, even though we took the true them with us. For if we had been of them, we would have continued with them. But, on the other hand, if we were not of them, then there would be nothing left to reform.

    baptists: if only all we had from Calvin on water baptism was 4:15, because that appendix (4:16) is nothing but an ad hoc attempt to hold on to the continuity of that which had come about with the passing of time. But our disagreement about that appendix means we are not true churches, not even in exile.

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