Who or which traditions qualify as 'Reformed'?

Discussion in 'Church History' started by Ben Zartman, Mar 13, 2018.

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  1. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    In several threads with which I've interacted recently, it has been the position of some that "Reformed" has a narrower definition than the one I ascribe to it, which is: "Anyone subscribing to one the historic reformed confessions." So WCF; LBCF 1 and/or 2; 3FU. I don't know enough about Augsburg, 39 articles, or Savoy to pigeonhole them anywhere.
    Since (like "Covenant of Grace") the term "Reformed" is not found in Scripture, its meaning perhaps changes with the user. And of course, if it can be shown that I cannot lay claim to the title myself, I will gladly give it over and call myself a Confessional Baptist. Although no doubt some one would helpfully chime in to prove I'm not that either.
    So what does the PB think?
    Does "Reformed" mean only continental reformed (3FU)?
    Does it mean only confessional paedobaptists?
    Does it mean only your particular denomination?
    Does it mean only EPs?
    Does it mean only those who agree with everything one reformed theologian said, be it Calvin, Luther, Owen, Ames, Ussher, or ---------------?
    How big in YOUR opinion is the umbrella of "Reformed" to go?
  2. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    In my opinion, it is more than just holding to TULIP or the Solas. It is a term directly related to the historic definition, i.e. Presbyterian polity, paedobaptism, ordination, etc.

    For the sake of clarity, when I was a credo, I considered myself, 'particular', not technically 'Reformed'. The term has morphed in our age. It seems to have taken on the notion that those that hold to TULIP or the solas are 'Reformed'. At best, it could be seen as '(r)eforming, but not (R)eformed.
  3. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Ben, I hazard to speak for others that most here would think that we Reformed Baptists misappropriated the term "reformed." But they tolerate that, for the most part, because we are fundamentally aligned in soteriology and approach to worship.

    And, in recent history, Reformed Baptists were influential in republishing Puritans and kindling confessional thinking.

    But, to be sure, my former pastor in Tacoma once addressed a reformed conference and asked people what "reformed" meant to them. Most of them responded that it meant sovereignty of God, presbyterian government, and paedobaptism.

    Historically, I concede they might be right. Baptists were lumped in with the anabaptists and often were anathematized. The introduction to the 1689 confession has that "would you at least let us in the back door" tone to it. Be that as it may, we did come into the reformation, but it was more through a side door, seeking alignment, rather than barging in uninvited.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
  4. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

  5. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I include Reformed Baptists, but I'm not very particular about how others use terms.

    The use of the word "Reformed" is all over the map. Many, many people today use it to mean a soteriology that acknowledges the doctrines of grace, the Five Points. I prefer to use the word "Calvinist" for that, and to use "Reformed" more narrowly. But some on this board have insisted that's also the wrong way to use "Calvinist," and it too must be applied more narrowly.

    Insisting others use your preferred terminology, or insisting definitions that applied hundreds of years ago must be maintained today and forever, or insisting your clan alone has legitimate rights to a certain term... these things seldom help with clear and cordial communication. Rather, use the writer's context to understand what they mean to say, ask a question to clarify if necessary, and don't get too hung up over terms. They are always changing. That's life.
  6. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    A Calvinist friend didn't take it well when I said that, historically, Reformed meant confessional. He likes to call himself Reformed, but I'd call him soft Calvinist. (I recognize that term also has different definitions. For now I'm satisfied using it to refer mainly to a soteriological system.)

    But "Reformed" did always, until recently, mean more than "soteriologically monergistic". The confusion of the terms seems to have happened around the time of the rise of a kind of popular "Calvinism" in the US in the 1990s/2000s or thereabouts. Mislabelled YRR (young, restless and reformed) it gave the impression that to hold to TULIP was to be Reformed. John Piper et al. could hardly be called Reformed according to the historic definition. In that movement (if it can be called that) there are even charismatics who claim to lie within the Reformed fold.

    Anyone's free to call himself whatever he pleases, but he should be aware that the meanings of words have changed. For clarity, I prefer to use "Reformed" to mean confessional, presbyterian in polity, paedobaptistic, etc. I won't start an argument with a Baptist over the matter. But I do think it's confusing and unhelpful when the term is used so broadly.

    I will add that my introduction to the Reformed confessions came through that popular Calvinism. As has been said, it's not Reformed, but it's sort of reforming. (So Piper et al. are not all bad.:))
  7. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hi, I'm Reformed, but I only baptize on profession of faith.
    Hi, I'm Reformed, and I'm a Presbyterian.
    Hi, I'm a Reformed Presbyterian.
    Hi, I'm Presbyterian Reformed.
    Hi, I'm Contintental Reformed, but not technically Presbyterian.
    Hi, I'm TULIP-only Reformed.

    Personally, I'd like to try to have words mean certain things (though probably not realistic in the long run), and I'd be most happy with consistent 3FU + WCF definition of "Reformed."

    For broadness, sometimes people use the term "Reformational"; see especially the White Horse Inn, where it fits the focus for that show.

    I also like the term "confessional" as especially as distinct from "evangelical" (these days), although the Anabaptists also had a confession.

    Good one!
  8. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    My understanding would be that classic Reformed would be those who accept a recognized Confession, hold with entire Covenant Theology, including water Baptism for Infants.
    So that would be reformed, while reformed would be seen as those who have strayed away from Infant Baptism and other issues within Covenant theology, such as reformed baptists.
    Then we have Calvinists, who may not be either Reformed/reformed, as normally not ascribing to any Confession, but scripture alone, but do uphold TULIP.
  9. SeanPatrickCornell

    SeanPatrickCornell Puritan Board Sophomore

    What a coincidence! I did some field testing with my Reform-O-Meter last week, and here were my results:

    (All results based on a 7.22 x 10^18 person sample size per population group, averaged, with a +/- 2.8% margin of error)

    Reformed Baptists are 102.7% Reformed.
    Congregationalists are 93.2% Reformed.
    Presbyterians are 89.4% Reformed.
    REC/39 Articles Anglicans are 72.4% Reformed.
    AALC Lutherans are 41.7% Reformed.
    Methodists are -1.22% Reformed.
    Eastern Orthodox are -52.8% Reformed.
    Roman Catholics are -107.9% Reformed.

    Since I used calibrated scientific instruments, and I assure you, I am well trained in their use, my data is above reproach.
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  10. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    I know people mock the idea of being accurate, but given that we are detail oriented persons, especially when it comes to biblical and historic data, one might think we call a thing what it is.
  11. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

  12. Braden

    Braden Puritan Board Freshman

    Whilst I believe it more important to be true to Scripture than to seek after labels, I'd like to point out that the common definition of what reformed theology is can infact include Reformed Baptists.
    We're confessional, yo.

    Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk
  13. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable


    What exactly is the common definition that you have in mind?
  14. Braden

    Braden Puritan Board Freshman

    Calvinistic, 5 Solae, Confessional, Covenant theology. Personally, I don't care if I'm recognised as reformed or not. I did, but when I found myself affirming paedobaptism against my convictions because I wanted the label, I was convicted of my idolatry and repented. I'm 1689 federalist.

    Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk
  15. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Be proud of your 'particularization', yo.
  16. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    What idolatry are you speaking about in the above?
  17. Braden

    Braden Puritan Board Freshman

    I wanted the label "reformed" more than I wanted to please God.

    Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk
  18. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    So you are no longer wrestling with paedobaptism?
  19. Braden

    Braden Puritan Board Freshman

    I am still open to it. There are some questions I have regarding my federalism that I have unanswered. But we're I forced to choose, right now, I am a reformed Baptist.

    Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk
  20. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

  21. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    By the way, welcome aboard, Braden. We are looking forward to many fruitful discussions with you in the future.

    Our site contains a wealth of edifying and informative content. For starters, I recommend you start at the following link to get a sense of the basic ground rules:

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    Lastly, if you are so inclined, after you have made 25 posts, you can post something about yourself in the following Members Only thread that may be of interest to others. It is a running commentary on the interests and goings on of our members that is not viewable by non-members, nor searchable by internet search bots:

  22. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    On a side note....words mean something. (This is not Captain Obvious talking). True words are based on God's divine truth, his immutability, and the divine revelation he has imparted to his church. Truth is absolute. Generally, when we say words mean something, that "something" is based on the birth of the word and its historical use and meaning drawn ultimately from some biblical position. (I am speaking in a religious context here). To deny that is to deny everything. It is to become a skeptic and solopsist.

    For example, I believe the word grace...for today...means "not grace". I can believe anything I want can't I? I can sling theological words around in any way I please. So, today, I'm going to define grace as not grace, and I can be equally right in my assessment of it as anyone else, since truth, for me, is likened to Mr. Byends and his comfortable slippers. I wear whatever suits the day. But can I really do this? You see the absurdity of it on a point of great importance (...grace!). Can I do it with Math? Algebra? Historical facts on WWII?

    I'm not allowed to change the meaning of a word from one thing to another because I want to, unless I can prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that grace means not grace. I'm at least bound to understand all the various meanings of the word, and then find out who's camp I fall into, or if some of those words have faulty meaning. Because we all know, or should know, no one can reinvent the theological wheel today. There is no new truth. You can't run to a sanctuary city with the meaning of a new word because your feelings are getting hurt that you might not be in the camp that word exists in. It is far more sanctifying to be honest about were you land on words and meaning based on biblical and historical facts.

    To deny the historicity of the meaning of the word, is to fall into the age-old trap of denying knowledge about historical theology. (That is why there should be far fewer keyboard theologians.)

    We tend to have an aversion to historical theology because its hard, and it deal with words that we might not agree with or even like. (i.e. we have to study it to know it and that's hard). Or, it may be that we are pressed out of an area we hope to be in. (Everyone wants Calvin on their side; but this is an impossibility - even some Arminians try to pull in Calvin and Jonathan Edwards into "their camp").

    Once we come around to thinking that words really do have meaning, and they are not simply what we mean, or what we want them to mean, we move from being an island to ourselves (theologically speaking) and become part of the community of the saints, who have had the truth delivered to them...wait for it....once. (Jude 1:3ff) - i.e. the regula fide. The RULE.

    A rule is called a rule because its a standard. Do people change the meaning of the word "Christian?" Yes, all the time. You'll agree with me on that. The word "Christian" is being hammered today. Why? People change its meaning because they want to for whatever reason. Americans are Christians right? That's what they say! But...wait for it....that doesn't make them right in changing it. Otherwise, if we are OK being ignorant of the use of theological words, and their intended meaning, we are part of the contemporary problem.

    Yet, in all actuality, we are in the camp of Pontius Pilate and we fall in with him and his avid skepticism, "Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?" (John 18:38). As indeed Richard Sibbes' said, "profane spirits cannot hear savoury words, but they turn them off with scorn." The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes Volume 2, 181. Rather, everything should always tend towards “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
  23. Doulos McKenzie

    Doulos McKenzie Puritan Board Freshman

    Calvinistic, Covenantal, and Confessional. I would include Presbyterians, Continental Reformed, Particular Baptists, Confessional Congregationalism, Anglicans, and those weird non-affiliated congregations that hold to a confession.
  24. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    I wasn't aware of that. Weird. His point is valid, however. I guess he was never truly reformed :p
  25. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks all for the replies and links. If, for the sake of clarity, it is easier to refer to Baptists as non-reformed, I'm fine with that. I think RBs probably took that word to distinguish them from the vast cloud of groups calling themselves baptist simply because they practice credobaptism, regardless of whether they're arminian or dispensational or fundamentalist or what-have-you.
    However, I believe "Confessional Baptist" is an adequate description, and if paedobaptism is to be considered a sine qua non of Reformed divinity, I will gladly shed the word.
    Now to figure out how to change my signature...
  26. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Yes; pretty strong rejecting Presbyterian worship; haven't read him on polity. The Anglican church was considered by Presbyterians to be half-reformed (ie not there; I don't think they were talking about percentages). Presbyterians generally don't think or know that now because there seems to be little difference when you look at the worship of many Presbyterians. So to a large degree RBs hold more true to many doctrines of the WCF than do some if not many Presbyterians. I'm just not seeing the urgency of defending the term reformed from RB use, particularly if it is granted the Episcopal church is within the pale and huge sectors of Presbyterians are closer to Episcoplians. In fact, is the PCA really a reformed or presbyterian church if it is in practice anti RPW and anti Sabbatarian? So, why not say confessional baptists or confessional presbyterian? Regardless, I think Presbyterians of the past would just be shaking their heads in bewilderment and sadness to see the shape of things today.
  27. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    This is exactly the point, generally speaking.
  28. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I suspect one will have more success with RBs giving up the term Reformed as some here are just as fine doing, than the PCA would a true claim to Presbyterian.
  29. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Assuredly. That, then, goes to the point. How far can one go to remain Reformed? Can you have an altar call and be Reformed? Can you have interpretive dance in worship and be Reformed? Can you massage the RPW and be Reformed? Or, do you have to delete the RPW to not be Reformed? Etc. (It all goes back to biblical and historical theology to answer those questions.)

    And I think this is a very helpful exercise personally speaking, in terms of sanctification. When I was a Pentecostal, then later a Baptist, I had to come to grips with certain ideas and terms in historical theology that I hoped I believed, but really didn't. That in turn caused me to be more honest with myself about where I actually landed theologically on key biblical issues. That in turn got me to think further, and have to restudy myriads of various idea again, and in my experience, I did that more carefully; especially studying the art of studying rightly. And well, you know the end of the story on all that...
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