Sent: Sunday, July 03, 2005 1:51 PM

We 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 religious sects.

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 movement."

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."

Unfortunately, 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 and ordinances."

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 "Reformed."

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 287).

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. Ross

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