What’s in a name?

What does it mean to be Reformed?

I tend to shy away from using Reformed before Baptist, knowing the historical roots of the meaning of the word Reformed, preferring Confessional (or more historically actuate) Particular Baptist. In an effort to be “terribly reductionistic,” I believe Reformed theology includes Calvinistic soteriology, covenant theology and the Regulative Principle of Worship. I believe these three elements can be found in all paedobaptist confessions, the First and the Second London Baptist Confessions. If you confess those three elements, perhaps you are Reformed but I have a hard time calling Dr. Piper, even with this terribly reductionistic view, Reformed.

Others have weighted in on the matter over the last few years. I posted a few quotes with their source so you can read the rest of the article the quote was taken from.

Dr. R. Scott Clark points out;

A good number of people who could not be reasonably defined as Reformed have affirmed those points long before the Reformation. There was a vigorous predestinarian theology at different points in the middle ages. Gottschalk of Orbais in the 9th century taught the substance of the five points but we would not allow him into a Reformed pulpit. Thomas Aquinas taught predestination and arguably limited atonement in the 13th century. There were several late medieval proponents of a high Augustinian soteriology from whom the Reformation learned but who would not be Reformed. So it is with Piper. Intersection is not identity. A necessary condition is not a sufficient condition. A race car must have an engine. That’s a necessary condition but an engine is not a sufficient condition because not every engine is a racing engine. There are other components (e.g., suspension, frame, the cockpit) to a race car that distinguish it from other cars.

I agree with that…sorta…I think.

Likewise, anyone who has a deep appreciation for the Reformed confessions and has studied the development of Reformed theology will be understandably jealous to help people see that there is much more to being Reformed than a predestinarian soteriology. As one who subscribes to a historic Reformed denomination and has written a book on the Heidelberg Catechism, I am enthusiastic about all that the Reformed tradition has to offer, from ecclesiology, to worship, to our understanding of the law, to our understanding of the sacraments, to a dozen other things. I sympathize with those who are quick to point out that a college freshman who believes in a big God is not exactly plumbing the depths of what it means to be Reformed.

But on the other hand, it doesn’t bother me when John Piper is called Reformed. Kevin DeYoung

Dr. Trueman adds;

‘Reformed’ in current popular parlance is somewhat like ‘confessional.’ I keep meeting ‘confessional evangelicals’ who do not actually adhere, other than at a notional level, to any of the great historic ecclesiastical confessions. They seem to be using the adjective as a substitute for ‘conservative’ or ‘orthodox’, which is fine — as long as (once again) it does not then lead to blurring the significant difference between being orthodox in belief and being confessional in practice. Carl Trueman

Justice ;

Reformed people view the church in two ways. They see it as the entire body of the elect. This body, of course, is invisible. They also see it as a local assembly or the aggregate of all local assemblies in a nation or on a continent. As such, the church is visible. So the Reformers believed in a universal, invisible church, and in a more local, visible church.



  1. irishanglican ~ Fr. Robert · November 8, 2013

    Indeed Reformed Theology does not fully gather around just one so-called denomination per se, but myself I would see Infant Baptism as classically central here. That does not mean Baptists cannot be Reformed, but in the Reformational sense Infant Baptism was foremost covenantal, and too catholic. Now Baptists can claim the covenant, but can they claim to being Catholic? And do they see it as part of being both the Church and the Body of Christ? Friendly, but theological questions!

    • jm · November 9, 2013

      Fr. Robert, if you define catholicity by infant baptism, sure. What if you define catholicity by the Apostles Creed? Baptists are catholic in that sense which matters most; the person and work of Jesus Christ.

      • irishanglican ~ Fr. Robert · November 9, 2013

        I was not thinking of just Infant Baptism, but also the Apostles Creed myself, i.e. “the forgiveness of sins”, which of course is inclusive here. And Catholic of course again is “catholicity”. Btw, I have noted that some English (British) Baptist’s are sort of reclaiming the Apostolic Witness towards a kind of “Baptist Catholicity”. 🙂

      • jm · November 9, 2013

        Indeed. Confessional Protestantism, including the Baptist wing, would hold in high authority the church and therefore be considered ‘universal.’ The modern American styled (free will) Baptist is a child of the Enlightenment.

      • irishanglican ~ Fr. Robert · November 9, 2013

        Indeed I have noted that American Baptists are mostly Arminian, and even many of the Baptists that believe in some kind of Eternal Security (Once Saved Always Saved) really deny the Moral Law of God in the life of the Christian. Cheap Grace is the salvation message of so many, but the true Christian life is never cheap, or really easy!

  2. John T. Jeffery · November 9, 2013

    I agree. I dislike the notion of “hijacking” labels. The common redefining involved in modern application of the label “Reformed” certainly seems indictable as reductionist. I often ask folks if their usage would be endorsed by the likes of Warfield, Kuyper, etc. Confusion is the result. To many the historical usage of the “Reformed” label is not just confessional, but the creedal standards involved are covenantal, paedobaptist, and presbyterian. To those who stand in this historic confessional train even the idea of “Reformed Baptist” is a misnomer at best, and an oxymoron at worst. That is why some of us prefer to identify ourselves with the redundant “Sovereign Grace Baptist” or “Particular Baptist”, etc. That being said, if the “Ecclesia Reformata” were truly “semper reformanda” then we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation!

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