Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Reformed" -- not for Baptists

Why Baptists Should Shun
the "Reformed" Label

Awhile back, a friend of mine who is a very keen and scholarly student of Baptist history sent me the following email about the word "Reformed" in its historical relation to Baptists:

Bro. Bob:
In my research over the years I have never found a historical reference where the term "Reformed Baptists" was used by missionary Calvinistic Baptists before the 1950s influence of the Banner of Truth men. It was, however, in the nineteenth century a term used to designate both the anti-missionary Primitive Baptists and the anti-missionary Campbellite movement, and as you know the latter was also anti-Calvinistic. The Campbellites were often referred to by Regular (Calvinistic) Baptists as "Reformers" and "Reformed Baptists."

I can cite a number of historical examples of this. Even "Reformed Baptist" Samuel Waldron, in his book, Baptist Roots in America, in order to find a historical use of the term "Reformed Baptists" had to cite a Primitive Baptist example. [Quoted in an email article I originally sent, "Reformed" in Baptist History, 05/26/04]


I certainly appreciate this information. Although I have in the past taught classes in a small theological school -- Texas College of Theology, Pasadena, Texas -- on Baptist History, I had never given this particular term much thought, and therefore had done no research on it whatsoever. I know this brother has done other work which demonstrates that he is one of the most diligent researchers on Baptist history, and I have the utmost confidence in his findings. If there is, however, any one who reads this who has found anything which conflicts with his findings, we would of course invite your sending that information. Inasmuch as some "Reformed Baptists" of our time have adopted some of the theories and practices of both the Campbellites and the Hardshells, we wonder just how far they may continue this drift.

I agree with the "Truly Reformed" who are known to scorn the idea that Baptists who hold to Calvinistic theology are properly designated as "Reformed." That term belongs to the Pedobaptists who (1) sprinkle babies for baptism according to their notion about the Abrahamic covenant, and (2) practice the presbyterian form of church government.

I am of the opinion that the term "Reformed" gained popular usage among some modern-day Baptists who were influenced in the latter 1900s by the Pedobaptists identified with the Banner of Truth publication company based in Great Britain. To really and truly be Reformed, according to that version of Christianity, it seems that a church not only must hold to the Hybrid form of Calvinism, must also hold to infant baptism and presybyterian church government to please the "TR" folk.

And wherever this has been attempted to be at least partially implemented by Baptists, it has ordinarily caused internal strife and even open division. Ernest Reisinger of the Founders tried to make a "reformed" church out of a Southern Baptist church in Florida, and the ultimate result was its demise.

I have also observed that when a church adopts the term "Reformed," it becomes necessary to explain "What is meant by 'Reformed?'" One church of my acquaintence at one time used the term in its church name, but decided to drop it because of having to do so much explaining.

Why would a Baptist church, which is professedly committed to a "regenerated church membership" standard, blemish itself by using the term "Reformed" which implies certain elements of the Pedobaptists which the Baptists do not believe and practice?

Baptists should leave the word "Reformed" where it came from -- the Pedobaptists.

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