Calvinism v. Reformed

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by TrustGzus, Jun 5, 2017.

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  1. TrustGzus

    TrustGzus Puritan Board Freshman

    So before I became an adherent of TULIP, I used the words Calvinism and Reformed synonymously. At my LBC 1689 church, the pastor uses those words differently. He says Reformed also means adhering to Covenant theology.

    As I peruse books I have, it doesn't seem completely clear. MacArthur considers himself Reformed. But he's a premillennial dispensationalist. Other resources I have seem to use the terms synonymously.

    Anything that's clearly defining on this or is it simply seeing how every pastor or author uses the terms?
  2. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    There is a historical sense in which the word is/was used and a few current uses. A minimalist definition would probably be Doctrines of Grace+covenenantal+ confessional. A lot to unpack in that formula. Anything less, in my opinion, is poor identification. A guy like MacArthur jettisons the two latter, so cannot be rightly called Reformed. There is a recent thread about RB's using the term that, I think, helps clarify the issue from one of the few modern uses I mentioned above....
  3. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    Greg alluded to the formula Sproul uses in his book, What is Reformed Theology?, though I don't know if Sproul invented it. Nevertheless, this definition is often used by Reformed folks, and can include Reformed Baptists and Congregationalists alongside Presbyterian and Continental Reformed folks. It's also more or less who is allowed unqualified membership here on the PuritanBoard.

    However, the terms Calvinist and Reformed mean different things to different people. For many, Reformed is simply a denominational branch like Presbyterian, so it would include everyone in denominations as diverse as the RCA and the NRC. For others, Reformed is anyone operating in the Reformed tradition broadly, which basically means roots in the Reformation, but not Lutheran or Anabaptist. This could include Reformed-leaning Anglicans... or you will sometimes see statistics lumping Disciples of Christ, Methodists, and other such groups in as Reformed alongside Dutch Reformed, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists.

    Calvinist is also likewise vague and depends on who is using it. Some use it for anyone holding to the five points, some like Norman Geisler and Mark Driscoll use the term for themselves in some form while rejecting some points. Calvinist can refer to distinguishing other elements of theology besides soteriology, such as doctrine of the sacraments or worship.

    However, around here, people tend to use Reformed for confessional people and Calvinist for people holding to the five points.
  4. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    It continues to astound me that, as low as the bar is set for the adjective "Reformed" today, Calvinism is set even lower as if John Calvin would countenance Baptists, Methodists, and Charismatics in his church.

    If you are looking for a broadly accepted, clear-cut definition of what exactly the words cover today, you won't find one. My :2cents: is that Reformed should refer to one who adheres to the confessional consensus of the Reformed churches and Calvinist should be done away with altogether since Calvin was merely one pastor/theologian among many in the Reformed church but if it is to be used at all it should be used for someone who agrees with him on a whole lot more than predestination. Calvin acknowledge to the Papists that "All our controversies concerning doctrine relate either to the legitimate worship of God or to the ground of salvation." How can one be a "Calvinist" if they effectively side against him on one of the two chief concerns of his polemical work?
  5. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    The differentiation of these two terms is really quite simple once you deal with their historical context. There is no doubt that the terminology of the Reformed Tradition traces its historical roots to the time of Calvin (1509-1564). The term “Reformed” is itself not ambiguous. Even the third and fourth generation reformers (and Puritans) used the term considering men like Calvin and Zwingli as prime examples of the Reformed Tradition of that time. Francis Turretin uses this term quite extensively in his work on the “Calling of the First Reformers,” in volume 3 of his Institutes. The term was easily acquainted with Protestantism during the 16th century as its foundation and root for definition.

    The term Calvinism was first used by Lutheran theologian Joachim Westphal (1510-1574) to refer to what Reformed writers regarded as the biblical view of Christ’s real presence at the Lord’s Supper, and of the meaning of baptism. These two points were the first “Calvinistic” definition of what constituted a “Calvinist” stemming directly from the sacramental concepts in the Institutes. Yes, these views were found in John Calvin’s Institutes, and later used by those agreeing with Calvin. Covenant Theology permeates the Institutes, as it does Puritan Theology after Calvin. It is only a part of Reformed Theology as a whole.

    Not long after, the term Calvinist was used as a synonym for what was deemed “Reformed Theology,” i.e. the Institutes of the Christian Religion. It denotes the entire theological system of Calvin himself as we find it in the four books of his Institutes of the Christian Religion. So, if you want to understand where the term “Reformed” and “Calvinist” came from, you have to go back to Westphal and the Lutherans in their battle with the Reformed church over the sacraments. Then you have to accept that the Institutes are the mainline view of what constitutes Reformed Theology and Calvinism (that cancels out entire sectors of "theologians" today referred to as "Reformed"). Later, the Puritans would not change or redefine the Institutes, but more fully refine them in their works, treatises and sermons.

    Today, forget about it. Reformed means whatever that group wants it to mean, with whatever "kind" of covenant theology, or parts of it, one would hold. Calvinist means even less than that today, applying the term to people by saying "He's a two point Calvinist," Or, he's a one point Calvinst," or a four point Calvinist." Westphal would laugh at that.
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  6. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    Excellent, Dr. McMahon
  7. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    Think that the basic understanding would be that Reformed refers to those who hold to 5 points of Grace/Confessions/and hold to entire Covenant theology, while Calvinists would basically hold with the TULIP alone..

    Many more of us Baptists would align with being a Calvinist then being Reformed...
  8. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    Are you rejecting the Reformed faith?
  9. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    No, I was just stating that many more Baptists would identify themselves with being a calvinist then reformed, as they would not use Confessions nor hold to Covenant theology proper....
  10. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    It is difficult to say what 'Baptists' confess in the US seeing as they represent 12% of all Christians in the country. My guess is that only a small minority have heard the words 'Calvinist' or 'Reformed'.
  11. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    Many would see themselves as being Calvinists, but not Reformed, due to no Confession and adult baptism factors...
  12. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Senior

    The problem where I live is local Calvary Chapel churches, and the influence Dave Hunt had on them. Hunt was viciously anti Calvinist ("What love is this") in a legitimate way in that he confused true doctrine with hyper Calvinism and thinks people like us turn mankind into robotic puppets and God into something horrible. Which we do not! But if that was Calvinism, Hunt would be correct perhaps ( didn't read his book).

    However, we know a local Baptist Calvinist pastor ( WTS grad) who does not use a confession or keep a Reformed stricter sabbath, but he told us he cannot use the word Calvinist because of the visitors he gets who were in Calvary Chapel churches. They would hear the word and walk out.

    I myself have become much more aware of what the word Calvinist falsely implies to Christians, and have become more cautious about the term. I say Reformed, or the great doctrines of God being sovereign, or something like that with certain people. With fellow Calvinists I do say Calvinist.

    All this to say that Dr M is correct that the words today do not necessarily mean what they originally did, and you need to be careful using Calvinist around evangelicals influenced by anti hyper Calvinism that confuses the truth.
  13. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    What is interesting is that among SBC Baptists seems to be a real push towards at least recovering Calvinism, as in the 5 points of Grace....
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