"REFORMED" or "CALVINIST"? WHICH DO WE PREFER
DESIGNATION OF OUR CATEGORY OF THEOLOGY? [07/03--2005]
are not of the number of folks who eschew all "labels" in regard to churches and
theology. We believe "labeling" is inevitable, whether we approve of them or
not. While some labeling may be inappropriate and misapplied, nevertheless there
a legitimate lexical purpose served by labels. But we agree that there is a lot
of confusion in this area.
In far distant past, we assume there
was a time when if one said he was a "Baptist," people in general knew what was
meant. In those days, a "Methodist" was a Methodist, a "Catholic" was a
Catholic, a "Presbyterian" was a Presbyterian, and so on with other churches and
But in due course of time, serious schisms and
divisions developed within the denominations and ever afterwards the divisive
parties have often had to be identified by more specific and appropriate labels.
Even the "Church of Christ," which campaigned as an undenominational "unity"
movement to restore the New Testament Church to its pristine character, has
become so sectarianized over so many "issues" that they have their own terms to
specify their various divisions in that so-called "restoration
The "Fundamentalist" movement here in Texas among the Baptists
of the 20th century has suffered similar splintering, and today there are
perhaps four or five different "Fundamentalist" groups of Baptists that derive
from the original movement identified with the late Dr. J. Frank Norris. And
given a little more time, there may even be more!
We sometimes have been
asked, "Are you Reformed," and also, "Are you Calvinist."
these labels have met with the same fate as what was said about the labels in
the first paragraph. Every group which uses a label has its own standards
for what is worthy of the label.
But generally, we can say, "Yes, we are
'Reformed' if by that you mean the basic, fundamental elements which were
inherent in the 15th-16th century Reformation, and we are 'Calvinist' if you
mean the basic, fundamental theoretical elements inherent in 16th-17th century
Confessional theology of the post-Reformation churches -- with the exception, of
course, of differences we Baptists have with the Pedobaptists on church polity
As a Baptist, I don't think I have ever referred to
myself as "Reformed," for that term in this age seems to imply that (1) you are
"Presbyterian," and that (2) you agree with the post-17th century,
post-Westminster Confession, Reformed theologians on "regeneration." Since I am
not Presbyterian on church polity and the ordinances, and since I do not
theoretically agree with post-17th century Reformed theologians -- such as the
Hodges, Shedd, and Berkhof on regeneration -- I do not refer to myself as
Some of my recent posts have expressed my differences with
the "Reformed" teaching concerning infant baptism, and I have many posts
expressing my differences with the post-17th century theories of certain
reputable Reformed theologians on the "regeneration" of both infants and adults.
I would grant that I am "Reformed" and "Calvinist" to the extent that
the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith is "Reformed" and "Calvinist."
I would not, however, appreciate being regarded either as "Reformed" and
"Calvinist" if one has in the mind the modern brand of interpretation
which, according to Pedobaptist R. C. Sproul and Baptist James White, alleges
that "a cardinal point of Reformed theology is the maxim: 'Regeneration precedes
faith.'" (Chosen of God by Sproul, page 72; Potter's Freedom by White, page
As expounded by our modern "Reformed" brethren, this theory smacks
of 19th century "Hardshellism" espoused by the breakaway "Primitive
Baptist Church," and in my judgment is not consistent with 17th century
views on regeneration. (For those who have not read my treatment of this
subject, you may request via email my article, "REGENERATION IN RELATION TO
FAITH IN CALVINIST THEOLOGY -- What is the Confessional View?") -- Bob L.
granted to copy and use this article.
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