Posted by: stpowen | November 29, 2009

Reformed Baptist?

Almost everyone else seems to be talking about this subject, so I may as well have  a go.

The question is, can Baptists be Reformed?  The question was first asked by Dr Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary  Since then, just about everyone has had a go.  There is an exceedingly long thread on the Puritan Board.  and a post from the RBS Seminary  If one follows the links from these links, there are literally hours to be wasted reading the various opinions on this subject. 

The term Reformed Baptist is of very recent vintage.  I can find no earlier reference to it than Ernest Reisinger in the 1940s.  However, it is a term that I use of myself because it seems to me that it is a helpful shorthand to express my understanding of Scripture.  The term Baptist means no more than that I don’t approve of baptizing babies.  So far, so good; I don’t.  But there’s more to me theologically than that.  How then to modify Baptist?  One could try Evangelical, but that word has become so vague and meaningless that even Steve Chalke can use it of himself.  What about Calvinistic?  That’s better, but Calvinists can be Dispensational in their theology, so it doesn’t really help all that much.  How about Particular ?  That was the term that the original 17th Century Reformed Baptists (Spilsbury, Knollys, Kiffin etc.) used to ditinguish themselves from the General or Arminian Baptists, but the word has dropped out of usage these days and is liable to be misunderstood.  Its meaning is basicaly the same as Calvinistic.

When I call myself a Reformed Baptist, I find that most Christians understand what I mean, even if they disagree with me:  that I am a Confessional, Conservative*, Calvinistic, Covenantal, Credo-baptistic Christian.  Therefore I shall continue to use the term, and if Dr Scott Clark or anyone else disapproves, well, unless they can show me where the paedobaptists have patented the expression, in the nicest possible way…………..tough bananas!

*N.B. By ‘conservative,’ I mean, having respect to the Regulative Principle of Worship.



  1. Very nice Steve! Thank you.

  2. One brother has quite rightly pointed out that my definition of ‘Reformed Baptist’ did not mention Church Government.

    So my five ‘c’s have turned into six. R.B.s are Confessional, Conservative, Congregational, Covenantal, Calvinistic and Credo-baptistic.

  3. Would you, please, define covenantal as you use the term?

  4. Nicely done. I find the recent dust up of Baptists calling themselves ‘Reformed’ rather humorous. Thank you for your insight.

  5. well said!

  6. Steve,
    I thought Spurgeon had also used the term “Reformed Baptist”… am I wrong in that? What did Spurgeon identify his denomination as?

  7. Hello Jade,
    I may be wrong, but I’m not aware that Spurgeon ever used the term ‘Reformed Baptist.’ I think he spoke of ‘Particular baptists.’ However, anyone who knows better is very welcome to correct me.

  8. Quite so!

    I am a follower of Christ and a Trinitarian by commitment and a Calvinistic Baptist by conviction.

  9. What do you mean by ‘congregational’?

  10. Lance Johnson wrote:-
    Would you, please, define covenantal as you use the term?

    Hi Lance,
    To find my understanding of ‘covenantal,’ you need to browse through my blog posts on the subject (one on the Mosaic covenant coming shortly!). I view the covenants as the way of seeing God’s hand throughout the Scriptures. I included them in my definition of ‘Reformed Baptist’ partly to distinuish us from our dispensational brethren and partly because it is part of the definition used by Reformed Presbyterians.

    There has to be something to distinguish ‘Reformed’ Christians from ‘evangelical’ or ‘Bible-believing’ or ‘Calvinistic’ Christians and I believe it is the RPW, the Confessions and the Covenants that especially constitute the Reformed distinctive.

    However, you have the same right to call yourself ‘Reformed’ as I do. “When I say a word,” said Humpty-Dumpty, “It means exactly what I want it to mean” (Alice in Wonderland).

  11. Jonathan Hunt asked, “What do you mean by ‘congregational’?”

    Hello Jonathan,
    I mean, not Presbyterian or Episcopalian. Each congregation is independent To define it any more closely than that needs a whole new post.

    I would probably have used the word ‘Independent’ if it had begun with C.

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