Please check out the “What is a Reformed Baptist?” Poll on the right sidebar on this page (the red box with white type). I intend to conduct the poll for one year, and I am interested in how the Reformed Baptist community might answer this question. I have given four options for answers that I think basically sum up the various groups or individuals that I have found to be using the term.
Notice that for the sake of this poll I regard “substantial adherence” to the Baptist Confession of 1689 as adherence to the theology contained in it, but not so strictly that modifications or refinements are not welcomed if deemed Scripturally appropriate. I recognize that there is a fair amount of debate as to what “substantial adherence” should mean, but I hope I have phrased the question in such a way as to clarify what is intended for the purpose of this poll. The word substantial is taken here primarily to mean being largely but not wholly that which is specified, but it is also intended to emphasize agreement concerning essential doctrinal matters while allowing differences on some matters deemed less essential to Scriptural orthodoxy. Thus one may be willing to modify the confession with regard to such things as the proper understanding of the Regulative Principle of Worship, Divine Impassibility, or the proper nature of Sabbath observance. The term modify is used here simply with the meaning make one or more partial changes to. I have included the example of impassibility in the text of the question below since that is a current topic of debate, in which some are arguing that a modification in the statement of the doctrine — not a rejection of it — should be allowed, and some are arguing against it. Here is how the question, along with the four possible answers, appears on the poll widget:
To regard oneself as a Reformed Baptist, one must …
1) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology.
2) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology.
3) adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility).
4) adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689.
I would appreciate the blog’s readers weighing in and letting me know where they stand on this question. As for myself, although Immanuel Baptist Church, where I serve as the primary teaching elder, has adopted an amended form of the Baptist Confession of 1689 and essentially practices the third point of view, I personally think that all that should be required to adopt the label Reformed Baptist is to adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology, the second point of view. For an explanation of why I call myself a Reformed Baptist, see here.
I previously conducted a similar poll that finished back in February of 2008, and you may read the results here. If you read those results, you will also discover why I think that one may adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology and properly call oneself a Reformed Baptist.
15 thoughts on “2016 "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll”
Due to the fact that historically the Scotch (Sandemanian) Baptist J.R. Jones of Ramoth in Wales was the first to use the title in the late 1700's or early 1800's contrary to current popular revisionist teaching, I vote #1. J.R. Jones called his connection “Bedyddwyr Diwygiedig” or “Reformed Baptist” in Welsh. He was a five point Calvinist, premillennialist whose view of the Sabbath was probably closer to the New Covenant position.
Scott, be sure to scroll down to page and find the poll widget at the bottom of the right sidebar, select you answer, and click the “Vote” button so that the poll will record it. Right now I don't see that anyone has selected the first choice, so I think you might have missed recording it. Thanks for participating!
Every time I try to vote I get an “internal server” error. I am only selecting the first one. I consider myself a Reformed Baptist because I am a credobaptist who holds to the five “solas” of the reformation and Calvinistic soteriology. I hold to a New Covenant position and not Covenant or Dispensational Theology.
Sorry to hear about your problem with the poll, Jim. I don't know why that would be happening. Perhaps it is a browser or security setting? Maybe using a different browser or logging in from a different computer would help? I offer these suggestions because it seems to be working fine for me and for others. Thanks for chiming in here in the comments. If the problem doesn't get resolved for you, I will make sure your vote gets counted.
Only #4 is consistently reformed baptist since if you do accept for example a calvinistic soteriology and baptist covenant theology, then that would include an acceptance of the perpetuity of the law of God for believers, not as obeying it to gain salvation, but out of gratitude. I have been a member of both a FIRE church and am currently a member of an ARBCA church, strict subscription is the most consistent and holds the elders and pastor to the highest standard consistently applying sola scriptura and helps to safeguard the church from having theological errors creep in that a “loose subscription” view cannot accomplish. Historically reformed never meant someone who just affirmed the 5 solas and had calvinistic soteriology, so we shouldn't allow the New Calvinist movement to redefine historical terms. Someone who is reformed is confessional.
I also think that a strong confession is a good thing, but one can still be confessional even if he doesn't hold to the 1689 Confession. One could hold to an amended form of the 1689 Confession, for example, or even to a different confession that asserts essentially the same doctrinal positions. I think, for example, of the Reformed who do not hold to the Westminster confession but instead prefer the Three Forms of Unity. Are they less confessional because they adhere to a different confession? In the same way, I think that there are Reformed Baptist who may prefer a different confession to the 1689 Confession but who are nonetheless confessional.
If you are suggesting someone that subscribes to the 1st London Baptist Confession of Faith (1644) or An Orthodox Catechism by Hercules Collins and calls themselves reformed then it wouldn't provide room for someone to modify certain views since the 1st and second London Baptist confessions of faith both affirm the same covenant theology and the same view of the law of God (contra the claims of NCT proponents appealing to the 1st LCF). also the 1st LCF and other reformed confessions affirm Divine simplicity and Divine Impassibility (39 Articles of the Church of England, the French Confession of 1559, The Belgic Confession of 1566, The Irish Articles of 1615, the WCF, the Salvoy Declaration of Faith), so there isn't any way around an affirmation of the classical doctrine of God by appealing to another confession, and while it is debated we shouldn't take it lightly to quickly modify the classical doctrine of God on Impassibility as proposed by Oliphint, Lister, Gonzales, Frame, etc. If we allow for modifying that doctrine which upholds God's immutability then it will open up a can of worms because if God isn't immutable, then our assurance as believers isn't immutable either, nor can we affirm the RPW since God's standards of worship may likewise change. I'm not trying to make assertions about Divine Impassibility that I haven't studied myself since I have read the recent publication of Confessing the Impassible God and I have read Dr. Dolzeal's dissertation on Divine Simplicity and it is important to affirm these biblical doctrines since modifying the doctrine of God will modify many other doctrines. You cannot simply modify a doctrine contained in the 1689 LBC or 1st LBC or other reformed confessions without modifying other doctrines. For example those who would say they subscribe to the 1689 LBC but don't affirm the perpetuity of the 4th commandment due to NCT leanings are also undermining the use of the Means of Grace in Sanctification and the RPW, they aren't just modifying 1 minor doctrine, it affects one's view of the local church, sanctification, worship, etc. The same is true with modifying the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility which would also have implications for Christology, the Doctrine of the Trinity, Assurance of Salvation, the Regulative Principle of Worship, and even the duty of believers to do evangelism. I have responded on my blog about how Oliphint's “covenantal apologetics” undermines a biblical basis for evangelism and apologetics due to his denial of divine impassibility:
I will just say that I respectfully disagree with your assessment, Andrew. I have no desire to debate with you on the matter, however, since I feel virtually certain that it will get us nowhere. Your vote has been counted. Your comments have been posted. Your voice has been heard. May God bless you as you seek to serve Him for His glory. Sola Scriptura. Semper Reformanda.
For others reading these comments, I think it is worth considering that Christian men didn't lose the ability to think Scripturally or to write solid confessions or statements of faith after the 17th century. Nor did the Holy Spirit stop teaching and guiding the Church in the light of Scripture after the 17th century. Just something to think about.
I apologize if my comments have the tone of being argumentative and thank you for letting me post them even though we disagree. May God bless your labors in ministry at Immanuel Baptist Church.
I was not offended that you disagreed, brother, and I appreciate your humble attitude. It is my view that we can legitimately agree to disagree on some of these issues in Reformed circles. Thus I have no problem allowing your point of view to be expressed here. Thanks again for your gracious spirit.
To say that strict subscription has been the standard or even prevalent Reformed practice is incorrect. In fact, with some exceptions (the early Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, Scottish Presbyterians), strict subscription has been a minority view. For those who wish to research this, let me recommend David Hall, ed. The Practice of Confessional Subscription. Lanham: University Press of America, 1995. Or, for a briefer read, see John V. Fesko, “The Legacy of Old School Confession Subscription in the OPC.” Journal for the Evangelical Society 46:4 (2003): 673-98 (which you can access online in PDF format).
Thanks for the recommendations. I'll check them out.
Interesting…I don't come across many Calvinists that are pre-mil. Good to know.
Charles Spurgeon was also a Premillennialist. I am a Premillennialist myself — what is usually called an Historic Premillennialist, although I prefer the term Covenant Premillennialist.