Difference between Baptists and Reformed Baptists

Discussion in 'Ecclesiology' started by Herald, Jul 18, 2009.

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  1. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    The Old Baptist Forum thread got me thinking about the difference between the majority of Baptist churches and Reformed/Particular Baptist churches. I've noticed that even Calvinistic (but not Reformed) Baptist churches maintain much of the same fundamentalist flavor of their synergistic brethren. These churches often look down on scholarship and confessional orthodoxy. There is little to bind them together regarding faith and practice except from a myriad of Baptist traditions rooted in 19th-early 20th century revivalism. Post-modern/egalitarianism is rampant in these churches.

    The smaller confessional group of Baptist churches, the Reformed and Particular Baptists, are of a different ilk. Faith and practice are held together by a common confession; the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession (although some recognize the earlier 1644 Confession). While each church has it's own personality and distinctives, confessional Baptist churches have less "swing" in their doctrine. They strive to observe the RPW and the Lord's Day. On the occasions I have visited non-confessional Baptist churches I have seen the difference.

    Interested in some thoughts and observations.
  2. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritanboard Softy

    Here's an observation of mine:

    It seems that the Refomed Baptist churches I've visited in the past were much more strict in their subscription to and application of their confessional standards than virtually all the PCA churches I've visited.

    Another observation:

    I've never been to, or even heard of, a self-consciously Reformed Baptist church that was trying to be "cool." On the other hand, I can think of numerous PCA churches that seem to want to emanate "cool and sophisticated cultural relevance."
  3. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Last month we had to leave a non confessional (ABC) congregation because it was actually becoming a point of friction in our household. The lack of proper Church discipline was causing us to question "why are we still here?" There was little formative and no corrective discipline. In the long run, that puts us in harms way because I'm not perfect, my wife was my only accountability and nobody else was checking our blind spots.

    The doctrine was not solid. It was a hybrid of Reformed, Arminian and Dispensational depending on the topic. This can lead to some real confusion if someone wants to get serious and study systematic theology.

    As far as leadership, it had too much estrogen for us. We made mention of this and were told (not an actual quote, but the drift was...) that the men don't want to, so we will.

    The music during worship was a mix of hymns & choruses. The problem I have with the majority of the new choruses is that they are self/man centered, not praise to the LORD. In the 2 confessional congregations we are considering staying at, the music is God directed or doctrinally solid testimonial Hymns.
  4. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    You've nailed it.

    While there is much to appreciate and admire in what God is doing among Baptists and fundamentalist communions generally, they cannot be reformed without a minimum:

    doctrines of grace ("five points") + covenant theology + confession of faith

    Many of the these communions are 3-5 points on the first part, dispensational, and have no binding confession of faith.

    In reformed theology, the unity of the church must be grounded in doctrinal agreement. This is unifying in terms of confession, growth in direction, and church discipline.

    It is a reformed distinctive, and reflects a higher view of the church than broad evangelicalism. It reflects the biblical view that God has, in fact, given some real authority to the church- not to control men's souls, but real power, "the keys to the kingdom," nonetheless.
  5. Reformed Thomist

    Reformed Thomist Puritan Board Sophomore

    There is a Calvinistic Baptist church in my neighborhood that would be so, so convenient for me to become a part of. (I have entertained the notion on several occasions.) The church is a mere five minute walk from my doorstep and they proudly affirm the Doctrines of Grace, have done since before I was born. Unfortunately, the church is also proudly fundamentalist and separationist to an almost semi-cultish degree, embraces 'Solo Scriptura', and is Dispensational in a rather over-the-top way. I could take the good with the bad; no church is perfect, and hey, they are five-pointers (a rarity in these parts, especially among Baptists). But the bad is pretty bad.

    Generally speaking, it is just sad to me to see a church that could be -- should be -- such a positive influence (preaching Sovereign Grace as they do) in the local evangelical community (99% Arminian) shut themselves off by way of a bizarre culture that is probably abhorrent to any Christian who has not been raised in it.
  6. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritanboard Softy

    Whew! I was getting vertigo!
  7. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    It seems like I pick on dispensationalism, but to me that's what causes many "Calvinistic" churches that are not reformed to suffer in some way. Most (maybe not all) dispensationalists take it so seriously that it seeps in to every other doctrine. It gets to the point that part of the bible is written to Jews and part of it to the Church. That drives me batty.
  8. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    Prior to being a member in this my first and only RB church I was a member in a 5 point Calvinist (SBC) church. Without going into detail I will attempt to say more by saying less. The congregation seemed to me to be Calvinistic on paper but their Calvinism did not touch their lives.

    In general Reformed Baptist Churches seek to be Reformed in heart, home, and as a Church.
  9. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Excellent point
  10. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Ben, I'm ignorant of the practices of most PCA churches. I do know that the broad evangelical movement has infiltrated all churches, including confessional Presbyterianism. It's a shame.
  11. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Adam, dispensationalism is certainly a problem, but modern revivalism is worse. I've seen preachers continue an altar call until someone comes forward, whether it be for salvation or re-dedication. I haven't seen that - even once - in RB churches.
  12. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    That way you can post some numbers and show how anointed you are :rolleyes:
  13. Ivan

    Ivan Pastor

    I fell off my balcony!
  14. buggy

    buggy Puritan Board Freshman

    Even among "Reformed Baptists" there are some differences...
    - You have evangelical, confessional RBs, which I assume to be the majority of the Baptist PBers, here.
    - Then you have the fundamentalist-leaning RBs - especially those tied with Ian Paisley's FPC. Such churches are KJVO and somewhat prohibitionist and fundamentalist-leaning.
    - Let's also not forget about the new Calvinists. Although they are not technically RBs because they are non-confessing, they do adhere to the Doctrines of Grace.
  15. Grimmson

    Grimmson Puritan Board Sophomore

    I want us to make sure we have certain categories lined up. First I think we need to be careful when making distinctions between Baptists and reformed Baptist. Baptist indicated our view of baptism within the church and also has certain church government characteristics. It sort of like asking what the difference between Presbyterians and those in the PCA when we ask the question what are the differences between Baptists and Reformed Baptists?

    I think we also need to draw a line between Calvinistic Baptists and Reformed Baptists. Reformed goes farther in reformed thought like the RPW compared to Calvinsitic Baptist. Also Calvinistic Baptists have the tendency closer to dispensatism. Also another major difference is the fact that reformed Baptists do hold to a common confession of faith (1689 SLBC), unlike a Calvinistic Baptist or non SBC Baptist Churches. I say that because SBC churches are confessional technically.

    I have noticed that Calvinistic Baptists tend to lean also more on a fundamental end on certain issues compared to Reformed Baptist has a whole, such as with drinking. But with this point it is probably a hit or a miss. So I cannot say to much on the issue of fundamentalism compared to the other material I have posted.

    I think it is a mistake to call Reformed Baptists “former Baptists - now Presbyterian - recovering from being Baptist”. They are still Baptist confessionally, and hold to the faith of the particular Baptists of the past; unless you want to call them Presbyterians, which I doubt you would.

    So let try to keep are systematics straight in this conversation dealing with Baptists as a whole, so that there is no misrepresentation of them. Including the differnces between those baptist that are calvinistic and those that are reformed.
  16. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    David raises a good point here. Today's Reformed Baptists, holding to the 1689 LBCF are more like the men who hammered out a distinct ecclesiology in 17th century England. Men such as Benjamin Keach and Hanserd Knollys. These men, who were Particular Baptists, were very conversant with and largely sympathetic with the Westminster Confession and the men that produced it.

    Even Abraham Booth and Andrew Fuller in the 18th century continued to stand for this Reformed and Baptistic ecclesiology.

    What happened in the 19th century was that certain men in the Baptist Union, men such as Robert Hall Jr., began to back away from Calvinistic Soteriology and with it Reformed principles in other areas.

    By the time of John Dagg in the U.S. and Spurgeon in Briton there was little remaining of the Particular Baptist distinctive. General Baptists took the ascendancy.
  17. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member


    Josh was joking in his thread when he said Reformed Baptists were now Presbyterians. Reformed Baptists have much in common with their Reformed Presbyterian brethren. But for all our similarities there are still stark differences. There are ecclesiastical and doctrinal divides that are both real and substantial. Even within Presbyterianism there is a growing liberal component (see Ben's comments in post #2).

    Reformed Baptists also share commonalities with other Baptist churches; namely in the area of polity (congregational), and doctrine (nature of the New Covenant and baptism). But we have sharp differences in other areas ranging from soteriology to covenantalism. To be sure there are individuals who hold to Reformed Baptist tenets who attend SBC, Calvinistic, or independent churches; but those churches are not "Reformed."
  18. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Which is why the Reformed Baptist movement in the United States is a rather recent development. Particular Baptists never left the European continent, although their number precariously dwindled. If I have my facts correct the first Reformed Baptist church was founded in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
  19. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    Just a word of clarification. When I say that by the time of Dagg and Spurgeon there was little left of Particular Baptist distinctive I mean to emphasize in respect to ecclesiology. These men had not budged from Calvinistic Soteriology.

    A matter for prayer is that in our own day, with respect to RPW and biblical church rule, there does seem to be some amount of wavering. And this just forty years after the rise of Reformed Baptists. :pray2:
  20. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I have to agree with this statement, though I've noticed broad differences in the PCA even in my own presbytery. There are also broad difference (at least what I've observed) in the reformed Baptist churches. While I've never seen a church labeled reformed Baptist ever try to be cool and sophisticated, I have seen a broad spectrum of beliefs and standards within the RB churches. Some strictly adhere to the 1689 Confession while others don't seem to notice that it exists. On my way to becoming a presbyterian, I regularly attended a reformed Baptist church that was neither confessional nor reformed. The only doctrine I heard preached that sounded anything close to reformed was the doctrine of election.
  21. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    Amen. I see that way too often in my current church (not reformed or Calvinist).
  22. JonathanHunt

    JonathanHunt Puritan Board Senior

    This is all very interesting. Although the church I am currently ministering to was planted by a Presbyterian, he left it deliberately open on church government, baptism, and so forth. So the inheritance is a church that is solidly calvinistic by confession and baptist by common consent - but not reformed.

    And to this reformed baptist, it can be an uneasy tightrope walk sometimes!
  23. TaylorOtwell

    TaylorOtwell Puritan Board Junior

    I realize that the Reformed Baptist churches are bound together by a common confession, but I would like to see more effort to bind together in more visible ways for outreach and fellowship together. I'm not sure what the best ways to accomplish this would be, perhaps others can contribute some application.
  24. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor


    Thanks for thoroughly depressing me on the Lord's Day! :p

    The relative paucity of the RB generally, and the tendency of some so advertising to carry with their profession cultural baggage that seems too alien to me, leaves me despairing of ever finding a true fit for my next church.

    It is tough enough to be an "ex pastor" in a church (trying NOT to second guess the pastor's judgments). Particularly when my last congregation was a bit larger than the one we are in now (525 vs. 400-425 avg.). But, when the church is broadly evangelical with both dispensational and strongly Arminian tendencies . . . yikes! I have not been pre-trib in nearly 40 years. Yet, my pastor often works his notions of the rapture as an aside into his sermons.

    My guess is that my next church will be Presbyterian (regardless of where I end up on the baptism issue after reading that "impossible to answer" book recommended yesterday in another thread :lol:).

    I think that you have nailed the issue with your reference to confessional subscription. In this day of Piper, it is relatively easy to find a pastor who gives lip service to the doctrines of grace. But, unless there is a recovery of the confessional aspect, it will never be a complete reformation (IMO).
  25. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Taylor, Josh gave you the only real answer to your question. The problems come with personality clashes and there just isn't any recourse without some form of hierarchical or representative court of higher appeal.
  26. Grimmson

    Grimmson Puritan Board Sophomore

    I said this early that we need to be careful not to confuse Reformed Baptist churches with Calvinistic Baptist churches. A major difference is that reformed Baptist holds to a historical confession of faith, such as the Second London Baptist Confession. If they do not hold to that or the First, then I may give some leeway to even perhaps the Philadelphia confession of faith; if they are not confessional they are not reformed. In fact I can not name you a single reformed Baptist Church off the top of my head that does not hold to the Second London Baptist Confession. So as far as am aware if they claim to be a RB church then they will know of the existence of the 1689. And even they can fall into category errors, especially if they new to Calvinistic and Reformed teaching.

    There currently is an effort now to of reformed Baptist churches to “bind together”. We see that with the following associations:
    Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA)
    Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of Quebec
    Fellowship of Reformed Baptist Churches in New Zealand
    International Fellowship of Reformed Baptists

    And perhaps many more.

    The purpose of such associations as can be observed with the Abingdon Association included communion with other churches, stronger base for giving to the poor and needy, training and providing pastors, discussion of scriptural issues, help each other in outreach/evangelism/church plant, and to pray for one another. So we do see historically particular Baptist churches be more visible in fellowship and out reach. RB want to follow this legacy, which is why the ARBCA has been formed to keep such a model in play. Personally I think associations like this are better then just becoming Presbyterians.

    Perhaps the reason why you do not see this is you do not know the efforts right now that are in play.

    There are some inward reforms in RB such as a plurality of Elders to protect the local church as well, which most Baptist churches as a whole do not hold to.

    Associations can construct this representative court. In fact according to the 1781 Philadelphia Association minutes Robert Morris was accused of and excommunicated on “gross immoralities and departure from the faith held by” such a court. The appeal was from the church itself and the association made the final decision as a group of representative churches.

    I realized that Josh was joking at the two posts of this thread/string, but there are people who will look at that as really being the answer. Who see Reformed Baptist as really being Presbyterians. It was an issue I had to deal with many times by those a part of the SBC.

    Also another thing I want to say is that there are SBC churches that are reformed, because they hold to the 1689 Baptist Confession of faith and the Baptist faith and Message, who have plurality of eldership rule. Just because your in a SBC church doesn’t mean that your not part ARBCA as well, for there are some within the Founders movement that are.

    I hope these answers some questions/issues in your mind.
  27. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Taylor, this one one such endeavor: ARBCA
  28. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Dennis, sorry to be such a downer on the Lord's Day. I certainly don't want to provide the impression that Reformed Baptists have the room to be smug, as though we are a higher brand of Baptist. I only meant to compare the differences between Reformed Baptists vs. other Baptists. If we boast it should be only in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:29).
  29. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The problem is they all have "Reformed Baptist Church" on their sign out front. How can you tell the difference unless you walk in the door and talk to them?
  30. Reformed Thomist

    Reformed Thomist Puritan Board Sophomore

    Well, a lot of them aren't obviously Reformed Baptists (or Reformed, or Baptist) by their names. There are many great 1689'er RB churches that go by names like 'Hope Assembly of Bible Christians' and 'Grace City Church'.
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