Help me understand Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian Doctrines

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Spurgeonite

Puritan Board Freshman
I'll start with what I believe: Doctrines of grace, 5 solas, I would say I love "reformed theology", so far I'm a Calvinist. I believe baptism is for confessing believers. For the most part full immersion but there are exceptions. I probably line up closest with, you guessed it, Spurgeon. I've read the 1689 confession and I'm pretty sure I agree with all of it, although I read it quite fast and I would prefer to read it again and think about each point.

Now is this enough to be considered "Reformed Baptist? What differentiates a Reformed Baptist from a Calvinist?

My only understanding of how Presbyterians differ is covenant theology and paedobaptism, I disagree with both, problem is I hardly understand covenant theology. My main basis has been that I don't see paedobaptism in scripture. I want to study all these things for myself and come to my own conclusion. Could anyone help me with some very basic resources on these?

Not only do I not understand covenant theology, I don't understand the alternative view that Reformed Baptists hold, could someone help me with this?

Other than the two things mentioned, how else do Baptists and Presbyterians differ? anything else that is distinctly "Reformed Baptist"?
(Edit: I understand that they differ on church government, my understanding is limited).

I understand this is a lot of questions but I have a strong desire to learn and come to truth in all these areas, and I want to know what I believe, so I greatly appreciate any input or advice you would be willing to give on any of these topics that would lead me to a better understanding.

God Bless.
 
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Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Not only do I not understand covenant theology, I don't understand the alternative view that Reformed Baptists hold, could someone help me with this?
Read chapter 7 of the 1689 Baptist Confession. It clearly teaches a Baptist covenant theology. Do you have Sam Waldron's Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession? He helpfully expounds this.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I understand this is a lot of questions but I have a strong desire to learn and come to truth in all these areas, and I want to know what I believe, so I greatly appreciate any input or advice you would be willing to give on any of these topics that would lead me to a better understanding.
You should just take your time, and learn and develop in a patient manner. Theology can be great fun, like learning something when you were a kid that was new and fascinating. You seem like someone with fresh insight gazing upon the wonders of God's Word.

You should learn to appreciate as much as possible about that theology in which you have begun. You should spend time learning the Confession of your hero, http://www.romans45.org/creeds/bcof.htm

Typically, today's "Calvinist" is someone (of almost any theological or church stripe) who claims to hold "the 5-points" (of Dort). Calvin himself would be (in today's church milieu) a Presbyterian or Reformed churchman, and a covenant theologian.

A ReformedBaptist (or ParticularBaptist as the earlier name) identifies with a certain strain of English Baptist-heritage. He is not a generic evangelical; he is not a Charismatic; he is not simply a traditional Baptist. He is confessional, meaning that he sincerely adopts the specific tenets of the faith, conformable to all those in the last 330yrs who have agreed that in the LBCF one has the most essential Christian truth distilled from Scripture. And there is a peculiarly Baptist covenantalism that marks this tradition, to one degree or another offering alternative to the more classic covenant theology (of which Calvin is a precursor).

As for what makes a Presbyterian, the LBCF takes its shape and form from the Westminster Confession, the document that forms the basis of Presbyterian conviction. So, due to the self-conscious connection the Baptist Confession made with the WCF, there is obvious formal overlap in the verbal manner with which these two traditions speak. But as Stephen's recommendation hints, the distinct and different covenant-approaches of the two traditions are deeper than the words. So, it would likely be quite useful to you to get hold of Waldron's exposition, as a guide through the theology of the LBCF from someone who is committed to that theology and knows the history of that tradition.

Instead of trying to understand what Presbyterians believe up front, you should learn what your own people (confessing Baptists) believe; and over time and with patience listening and comparing, you will absorb an awareness of our differences. It's much better than trying to complete your first year of college, and finish your propadeudic studies (which are supposed to come first) all at once. You barely know the lingo, how will you tell what one side or the other is trying to say? Sometimes, differences are misunderstood even by people with a lot more time invested.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
To better understand Reformed Baptists, you might read a little booklet: "Going Beyond the Five Points," edited by Robert Ventura. It's a collection of essays from RB pastors (Waldron, Blackburn, etc) that briefly states RB distinctives. It speaks of things other than the Five Points that are also part of being a Reformed Baptist. Also, in a few months there should be an updated exposition of the 1689 to supplement Dr. Waldron's now dated book, which never really went into great depth. Hoping the new one will delve deeper.
 

TheInquirer

Puritan Board Freshman
Excellent advice given. For myself, moving from generic evangelical Calvinist to Reformed Baptist involved spending a lot of time with the 1689 Confession. I read and re-read it, noted areas where I had questions, and then sought to find answers to those questions with further supplemental reading. For instance, I was weak on God's decrees and providence, areas which hadn't been taught well to me in churches, so I read through systematic theologies on those topics to shore up my lack of understanding.

For basic concepts in covenant theology, the confessions, followed by entries in good systematic theologies, or books dedicated to the topic, would be helpful.

Later on, if you really want to dive into the differences between Baptists and Presbyterians, there are some great threads on this board which highlight differences. It is a big rabbit hole to jump down that will require quite a bit of deep study - it is not an easy topic even for the most advanced of theologians. As Contra Mundum mentioned, I recommend only getting into that after you have a good grounding in what you believe as a Reformed Baptist. Very easy to get lost and confused.
 

BottleOfTears

Puritan Board Freshman
Not only do I not understand covenant theology, I don't understand the alternative view that Reformed Baptists hold, could someone help me with this?
There are many different ways at looking at the covenants and the flow of scripture. Dispensationalism is one, Covenant Theology is another. There are lots of other views.

What is important, and one of the things that often distinguishes a 1689 LBC Baptist from other Baptists who may happens to be "Calvinists", is that Reformed Baptists take a view of the covenants that is, essentially, a modification (they would say improvement!) of what Presbyterians/Reformed believe on the subject.

So they would often see more continuitity between the Old and New Testaments than most other Baptists might, but not as much as us Presbyterians would.

This close link between the two, with the shadow of baptism raising the argumentative stakes as it were, can lead to discussions becoming quite technical with lots of misunderstanding between the two sides. Don't let that put you off though, it is really just a sign of how much agreement we have that we have to dig down so deep to find the differences.

Ligon Duncan has a good lecture series on Covenant Theology from a Presbyterian perspective, but as mentioned above, it might be more useful for you to understand the Reformed Baptist view first, seeing as that is your tradition.
 

Spurgeonite

Puritan Board Freshman
Read chapter 7 of the 1689 Baptist Confession. It clearly teaches a Baptist covenant theology. Do you have Sam Waldron's Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession? He helpfully expounds this.
Thanks, I'll check this out!


To better understand Reformed Baptists, you might read a little booklet: "Going Beyond the Five Points," edited by Robert Ventura. It's a collection of essays from RB pastors (Waldron, Blackburn, etc) that briefly states RB distinctives. It speaks of things other than the Five Points that are also part of being a Reformed Baptist. Also, in a few months there should be an updated exposition of the 1689 to supplement Dr. Waldron's now dated book, which never really went into great depth. Hoping the new one will delve deeper.
I'll also get this and start reading, thank you!


You should just take your time, and learn and develop in a patient manner. Theology can be great fun, like learning something when you were a kid that was new and fascinating. You seem like someone with fresh insight gazing upon the wonders of God's Word.
I really appreciate your effort in writing me this helpful response!


Excellent advice given. For myself, moving from generic evangelical Calvinist to Reformed Baptist involved spending a lot of time with the 1689 Confession. I read and re-read it, noted areas where I had questions, and then sought to find answers to those questions with further supplemental reading. For instance, I was weak on God's decrees and providence, areas which hadn't been taught well to me in churches, so I read through systematic theologies on those topics to shore up my lack of understanding.

For basic concepts in covenant theology, the confessions, followed by entries in good systematic theologies, or books dedicated to the topic, would be helpful.

Later on, if you really want to dive into the differences between Baptists and Presbyterians, there are some great threads on this board which highlight differences. It is a big rabbit hole to jump down that will require quite a bit of deep study - it is not an easy topic even for the most advanced of theologians. As Contra Mundum mentioned, I recommend only getting into that after you have a good grounding in what you believe as a Reformed Baptist. Very easy to get lost and confused.

Thanks for the advice, I am going to start doing this. Half of me just wants to know now but I'm sure it will be a long process of study, although I would like a brief overview of doctrines so that I may have a basic idea.

I've started going through the creeds and confessions and marking up things I disagree with at first glance, or I am unsure of. Today I will read the last few questions of the Westminster Shorter Catechism and have agreed with everything except the sabbath and paedobaptism.


What is important, and one of the things that often distinguishes a 1689 LBC Baptist from other Baptists who may happens to be "Calvinists", is that Reformed Baptists take a view of the covenants that is, essentially, a modification (they would say improvement!) of what Presbyterians/Reformed believe on the subject.

So they would often see more continuitity between the Old and New Testaments than most other Baptists might, but not as much as us Presbyterians would.
This is something I'm very interested in, it feels like the stuff about covenant theology I've read/heard I end up sitting somewhere in the middle (with my limited understanding) I'm getting a basic idea of the difference between covenantalism and new covenant theology but could anyone recommend any resources on the Reformed Baptist view?


Thanks guys for your replies, they're very helpful and give me some direction to move forward in my study!
 
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Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
You asked for a RB view of covenants: I forget the name of the title, but Greg Nichols has an older book on covenant theology that you might find helpful. If you want to dig deeper into technical matters than I can go, look up the systematic theology series he's currently putting out book by book: "Doctrine of God" "Doctrine of Man" "Doctrine of the Church...." more are slated to follow. They are based on his lectures to students while he was at Trinity Ministerial Academy.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
This is something I'm very interested in, it feels like the stuff about covenant theology I've read/heard I end up sitting somewhere in the middle (with my limited understanding) I'm getting a basic idea of the difference between covenantalism and new covenant theology but could anyone recommend any resources on the Reformed Baptist view?
The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology by Pascal Denault
 

thecredoengineer

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi, everyone ! I joined Puritan Board yesterday :banana:I am also trying to grapple the unique differences between Reformed Baptists Vs Prebys, other than the tastier food served in Baptist churches of course - Reformed or otherwise :rofl:(Believe me, it's the same in India as well!!)

Jokes apart, I came across this podcast, which I found to be helpful...Still trying to wrap my head around all the discussions!!


 

Chad Hutson

Puritan Board Freshman
I'll start with what I believe: Doctrines of grace, 5 solas, I would say I love "reformed theology", so far I'm a Calvinist. I believe baptism is for confessing believers. For the most part full immersion but there are exceptions. I probably line up closest with, you guessed it, Spurgeon. I've read the 1689 confession and I'm pretty sure I agree with all of it, although I read it quite fast and I would prefer to read it again and think about each point.

Now is this enough to be considered "Reformed Baptist? What differentiates a Reformed Baptist from a Calvinist?

My only understanding of how Presbyterians differ is covenant theology and paedobaptism, I disagree with both, problem is I hardly understand covenant theology. My main basis has been that I don't see paedobaptism in scripture. I want to study all these things for myself and come to my own conclusion. Could anyone help me with some very basic resources on these?

Not only do I not understand covenant theology, I don't understand the alternative view that Reformed Baptists hold, could someone help me with this?

Other than the two things mentioned, how else do Baptists and Presbyterians differ? anything else that is distinctly "Reformed Baptist"?
(Edit: I understand that they differ on church government, my understanding is limited).

I understand this is a lot of questions but I have a strong desire to learn and come to truth in all these areas, and I want to know what I believe, so I greatly appreciate any input or advice you would be willing to give on any of these topics that would lead me to a better understanding.

God Bless.
Brother I welcome you to the fold. I also came out of a non-Reformed Baptist background (Baptist without Reformed). At first it can seem daunting, but by God's grace and the Spirit's help you can and will get a firm grasp on it. Read and study all that you can. Avoid arguments and spats, remain humble as you learn, and stay disciplined.
 

Jacques

Puritan Board Freshman
It’s interesting that most here are simply saying learn more about RB theology, when you are asking for help to understand what they share and how they differ :shrug:

Perhaps a good read and comparison of the various reformed confessions could help. I definitely encourage any Christian to have exposure to all Orthodox positions :)

Baptism is the result of how one sees the covenants shared in scripture throughout history. Focus on the covenants, rather than water! :)


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
 
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