What’s in a name? (pt. 2)

Honest, I did not know this would end up a two part post…

After reading DeYoung’s article I’ve been thinking a lot about it and even discussed it on a forum. To begin I want to it clear: No one is suggesting Piper is not a Christian or that we should dismiss him as a heretic. The term ‘Reformed’ is not synonymous with Christian, believer, regenerate, etc. That would be a woeful misreading of entire subject let alone my thoughts on the use of the word ‘Reformed’ but that seems to be the immediate knee jerk reaction.

My question is really simple, should we ignore the historic meaning of the word ‘Reformed’ and reduce it to include every Calvinist, broadening the definition beyond its historic use?

If we really believe what we claim to believe it should be important to transmit or pass on the faith with precision, as accurately and as faithfully as possible. This is why we confess our faith in creeds and catechisms. As I struggle to understand the insistence of some to broaden the name ‘Reformed’ I recognized the tendency to reduce the faith (see footnote 1), just as the Gospel is often reduced, to make it more acceptable. Referring to Dr. John Piper, Dr. John MacArthur, etc. as ‘Reformed,’ and I think we all agree, is a reduction in meaning. What I’ve been asking myself, ‘why the need to redefine terms in the first place?‘ Why is the Christian church interested in a reductionist view of the Gospel and our history in the first place? A quote from Rev. Matthew Winzer of the Australian Free Church, Victoria AU sums it up nicely:

Might I suggest that the problem is not reductionism in the first instance, but individualism. Once the individual becomes the point of reference for terms then the terms are reduced to their lowest common denominator.

The term “Reformed” relates to a “Church” which came out from the corrupt Church of Rome and was constituted a distinct and unified confessing body of people in opposition to the Roman communion. It is a term of ecclesiastical and confessional identification. – Rev. Matthew Winzer of the Australian Free Church, Victoria, Australia

That’s it! As Carl Trueman suggests in “The Creedal Imperative” that the church has been influenced by society unsuspectingly. This point was recently demonstrated to me in conversation with two dear brothers who insist on ignoring all forms of creeds and confessions, believing they could arrive at the true meaning of the text with diligent (rational) study. According to this view outside authority is acknowledge but ultimately rejected for their personal authority. I’m not suggesting the church is to Lord over us but it is ‘the he pillar and ground of the truth.’ (1 Timothy 3.15) (Footnote 2) Theology must be done in the church by the church. We cannot profess biblical, historic Christianity without the church!

Now back to the original point and I will leave it at that:

If we really believe what we claim to believe it should be important to transmit or pass on the faith with precision, as accurately and as faithfully as possible. I don’t believe Baptists are Reformed in the true sense of the meaning. We may have a lot in common but we are not Reformed.

Yours in the Lord,


1 Christianity is about the glory of God in Jesus Christ and not just ‘gettin’ folks saved.’ We have been reducing the confessed faith to a minimal set of propositions that anyone with a sense of guilt will acknowledge. Yes, the unregenerate will feel a worldly sorrow over sin.

2 Particular Baptists of the 17th century recognized this biblical teaching and confessed it in the London Baptist Confession, 1689.

One comment

  1. irishanglican ~ Fr. Robert · November 9, 2013

    It should be noted that Karl Barth is often referred to as a Reformed theologian. Noting his “neign”/no on Natural Theology, Nature & Grace, etc.

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