Friday, April 25, 2008

Together for the Gospel

(But apparently only to a certain point...)

I posted a brief question on the Heidelblog:

So does someone who does not hold to every point of doctrine in the Reformed confessions be considered “Reformed”. More to the point, can a credobaptist not be truly Reformed?

The question led to a full response from R. Scott Clark titled: Who or What Defines “Reformed?” (Updated)

The posting itself was pretty gracious. The comments that followed, not so much. Scott did say this which I found amusing:

Thus, the short answer to Arthur’s question is that yes, one must hold to every point of doctrine in the Reformed confessions in order to be Reformed. One might have Reformed sympathies or predestinarian sympathies or covenantal sympathies and the like and not be Reformed. I don’t know what Baptists who sympathize with us on certain points should call themselves. I wouldn’t presume to tell them.

So in the same paragraph he says he wouldn't presume to tell us what we should call ourselves, and yet says that we cannot, or at least should not, refer to ourselves as Reformed. Many of the following commenter's exhibited a incredibly graceless lack of charity and maturity in the responses, including the virtual outright labelling of Baptists as heretics. See comments from ZRIM and from dvopilgrim. What is glaringly lacking in any of these comments is any sort of Biblical defense of their position. These two commenter's use the blog equivalent of mudslinging to avoid a substantive discussion.

In other words, to be considered "truly Reformed" we can Reform the church this far (i.e justification and soteriology), but no further. The same sort of attitudes that prevailed in Romanism (Shut up Luther, these questions are settled!) show up in those who insist that we dare not question infant Baptism because to do so negates our Reformed credentials. To that I say: "Hooey!"

It is NOT blindly holding to the Reformed confessions without question that makes one Reformed, whether one holds to the Three Forms of Unity or the 2nd London Confession. I mean let's get past "My confession is more Reformed than yours". Being Reformed ought to be about getting back to the basics of the Reformation, and the Reformation was not about infant baptism (although it probably should have been since they left that doctrine un-reformed). Being Reformed is about the Gospel. That is what he Reformation was really about, was it not? The recovery of the Gospel of justification by faith alone and the authority of Scripture alone? The Five Solas of the Reformation are just that. Sola infante baptizo and Sola presbyterio ecclesio are not the sixth and seventh Solas, unless I missed the memo.

So what are we allowed to call ourselves? I guess we could call ourselves Calvinistic Baptists. But Calvin baptized infants (he also burned heretics at the stake but that is another story!) Or we could go old school and call ourselves Particular Baptists. Hey, tell you what, I am going to call myself a Reformed Baptist and I don't much care if some paedobaptists think that my holding to the Biblical doctrine of believer's baptism sets me outside of the Reformed circle of trust. With all of the assaults on the Gospel from all quarters, we should spend a little less time labelling each other as un-Reformed.


R. Scott Clark said...

Hi Arthur,

here's my reply to your latest comment on the HB.

I'm sorry that some of the fellows have played a little rough - this post has brought out strong feelings.

Hi Arthur,

Well, I'm sure I agree with Mark Dever (who is a friend and an excellent scholar) on the gospel. I do think that sacraments and ecclesiology are more important than they often seem in broader evangelicalism. I sometimes wonder whether TG4 and Ref21 are efforts to preserve the old predestinarian-evangelical coalition that once dominated evangelicalism. I've written about that more than a few times on the HB.

Three ways...

Bog Standard 1

Bog Standard 2

I agree that Baptists are not heretics. I wouldn't use that adjective but I think that denying that the administration of the covenant promise to covenant children is a serious problem and even a sin. It's serious enough that, in my view, I don't see how Baptist congregations have all the marks of a pure church (BC 29). One of those marks is the "pure administration" of the sacraments. Denial of infant baptism is not a pure administration of the sacraments.

Of course they don't (or shouldn't) regard me as baptized, so I accept turn about as fair play. I don't take it personally. I have the highest regard for Ken Jones and Mark Dever and Jim Renihan. These are great men but I regard them as seriously confused on the sacraments and they probably think of me the same way (if they think of me!).

As to Bible v Confessions, well, that's not a very Baptist answer! Historically Baptists have been as confessional as the Reformed. The "just the Bible Ma'am" approach of biblicism is not a very healthy way to relate to Scripture has no roots in Sola scriptura. As Mike Horton has noted, the "bible only" approach is scriptura solo not Sola scriptura. I hope you'll keep thinking about this issue.

Arthur Sido said...

It isn't a matter of playing rough, it is a matter of acting in a way unworthy of those who claim the name of Christ. It is a sign of a weak position to resport, as some have, to pejorative name calling rather than substantive discussion. Converesely, I appreciate your firm yet gracious response, I replied back on your blog in what I hope is an equally gracious and God honoring way.

Timothy M said...

Hey Arthur,

After reading all the discussions on the various blogs it saddens me to see your continual skewing of the Reformation as just soteriological and your inaccurate and arrogant claims about what Reformed theology consists. I apologize if my posts started any of this fall-out but am not ashamed of being what I believe to be biblical and what the Reformers defined as their theological stances.

One major problem that seems to be the clincher is your understanding of semper reformanda. This phrase does not mean we ever keep searching for new doctrines and beliefs. There is a set dogma that has already been established since the Apostles. It is arrogant and ignorant to think the paedobaptism began with the RCC. Documentation finds explicit evidence since the mid 100s. Semper Reformanda calls us back continually to Scripture within the context of the historical beliefs of Christianity. These beliefs do not change nor should they. They should ever be renewed by the Gospel of Christ, His objective and "outer" work.

You do not have to approve of this comment if you do not want but I do not see reason to continue supporting one another's blogs. The lack of concern for historicity and exactness is frightening and dangerous.

I appreciate the great discussions we have had in the past. Thanks

Arthur Sido said...


I refrained for some time before responding to this, to avoid a tit for tat response that would echo the tone that these posts and comments have taken. It would have been easy to fly off the handle in an effort to match your comments and “prove you wrong”, and that wouldn’t have been profitable or honoring of Christ.

What I find so odd is how thin-skinned padeobaptists are. They think nothing of posting links to smarmy articles like Richard Muller’s “How many points” and feel free to cavalierly declare Baptists to not be truly Reformed, but dare raise the suggestion that somehow padeobaptism is wrong and point out the very real issues in the Scriptures regarding the lack of commandment to baptize infants, and somehow it becomes an un-Christlike personal attack and the moral outrage meter goes off the charts.

My fear is that in your very natural reaction to the errors of Arminianism and dispensationalism you found in some Baptist circles that you have dismissed all of Baptist theology out of hand. If Presbyterians are right on soteriology (in most cases) then they must be right on ecclesiology, right? Not necessarily so. Be cautious that in your zeal for Reformed theology that you don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Semper reformanda as I understand it is not, as you suggest I believe, seeking out new doctrines but rather returning to Scripture to constantly test our doctrines. It is ironic that you point to “explicit” examples in the mid-100’s of infant baptism to support paedobaptism. Ironic because that is exactly my point, you cannot go to the New Testament to support infant baptism so you turn to the Old Testament over and above the New and extra-biblical church traditions. You are a smart guy, I hope you can set aside the confessions and just read the Bible. If you do so without preconceived notions, you will find that padeobaptism has no Scriptural warrant whatsoever, regardless of what some of the Reformed confessions state. Where the Scriptures and the confessions differ, I always will come down on the side of the Bible.

Best of luck to you as you finish school, please know your comments always have been and remain welcome here.