PCA and Confessional Subscription

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NaphtaliPress

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Not debated as far as I know. The modern idea of private prayer language was non existent at the time of the Westminster Assembly as far as I know. Most if not all of them would see the other tongues in the NT as other "known languages" where the miracle was the person speaking it did not have to learn it. The other tongues were not nonsense syllables. No time to check facts on this. Sorry. But this was certainly Lightfoot's opinion as I recall. Now, extraordinary providences (so called prophecies of the Reformers and others), that is another subject!
Oh, and who knows what Calvin would have thought of Puritan Sabbatarianism. But keep an eye out for the 2007 issue of The Confessional Presbyterian that gives some clues toward he might have been in much agreement!
Calvin was certainly a Sabbatarian though there is some debate about how strict he was compared to the WCF divines.

Regarding debates in the WCF assembly over the portion that deals with praying in a known tongue, the best person to weigh in for that is NaphtaliPress (Chris Coldwell). I'm going to split this thread off because it is WAY off topic. :)
 

elnwood

Puritan Board Junior
Not debated as far as I know. The modern idea of private prayer language was non existent at the time of the Westminster Assembly as far as I know. Most if not all of them would see the other tongues in the NT as other "known languages" where the miracle was the person speaking it did not have to learn it. The other tongues were not nonsense syllables. No time to check facts on this. Sorry. But this was certainly Lightfoot's opinion as I recall. Now, extraordinary providences (so called prophecies of the Reformers and others), that is another subject!
Oh, and who knows what Calvin would have thought of Puritan Sabbatarianism. But keep an eye out for the 2007 issue of The Confessional Presbyterian that gives some clues toward he might have been in much agreement!

It would be nice to see the notes of the signers of the Savoy Declaration to see why they changed the wording. If it weren't changed to allow private prayer language, I don't know why it would have. Would anyone else like to hazard a guess?

As for Calvin, I think he was clearly NOT Sabbatarian. He addresses it in Chapter VIII of the Institutes, Section 28 through 34. Sec. 31: "But there is no doubt that by the Lord Christ's coming the ceremonial part of this commandment was abolished." Sec. 32: "Although the Sabbath has been abrogated ..." Sec. 33: "Yet Paul teaches that no one ought to pass judgment on Christians over the observance of this day, for it is only 'a shadow of what is to come' [Col. 2:17]. For this reason, he fears that he 'labored in vain' among the Galatians because they still 'observed the days' [Gal. 4:10-11]. And he declares to the Romans that it is superstitious for anyone to distinguish one day from another [Rom. 14:5]. Who but madmen cannot see what observance the apostle means?" I don't want to quote the whole section, but it is worth your perusal.

And if it isn't made clear enough, the footnote in the John McNeill edition says: "It is clear from this passage and from sec. 34 that for Calvin the Christian Sunday is not, as in the Westminster Confession XXI. 8, a simple continuation of the Jewish Sabbath 'changed into the first day of the week,' but a distinctively Christian institution adopted on the abrogation of the former one, as a means of church order and spiritual health."

There is no ambiguity. Calvin was not Sabbatarian.
 

NaphtaliPress

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Well, that is the point of the article to prove in two aspects that Calvin was a proto Sabbatarian in those respects, contrary to prior opinion. The article was vetted through some pretty heavy Calvin scholars. I look forward to the reaction it gets. It has already been established for some decades, since the work of Primus, that Calvin was a practical Sabbatarian in that he believed all work and all recreation should cease on the Lord's day and the day spent in worship. This article advances beyond that to show that in two respects of Puritan Sabbatarianism (contra Primus), Calvin's theology and his practice are reconcilable, and thus he is a nascent Sabbatarian.
As for Calvin, I think he was clearly NOT Sabbatarian. He addresses it in Chapter VIII of the Institutes, Section 28 through 34. Sec. 31: "But there is no doubt that by the Lord Christ's coming the ceremonial part of this commandment was abolished." Sec. 32: "Although the Sabbath has been abrogated ..." Sec. 33: "Yet Paul teaches that no one ought to pass judgment on Christians over the observance of this day, for it is only 'a shadow of what is to come' [Col. 2:17]. For this reason, he fears that he 'labored in vain' among the Galatians because they still 'observed the days' [Gal. 4:10-11]. And he declares to the Romans that it is superstitious for anyone to distinguish one day from another [Rom. 14:5]. Who but madmen cannot see what observance the apostle means?" I don't want to quote the whole section, but it is worth your perusal.

And if it isn't made clear enough, the footnote in the John McNeill edition says: "It is clear from this passage and from sec. 34 that for Calvin the Christian Sunday is not, as in the Westminster Confession XXI. 8, a simple continuation of the Jewish Sabbath 'changed into the first day of the week,' but a distinctively Christian institution adopted on the abrogation of the former one, as a means of church order and spiritual health."

There is no ambiguity. Calvin was not Sabbatarian.
 

NaphtaliPress

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I don't know either; but if you cannot find a single member of the body that made the change that held to such a position in their private works, nor evidence the position existed at the time, it would seem a rather tenous proposition. But that would be what is needed; examine the works of the period from the authors of the Savoy.
It would be nice to see the notes of the signers of the Savoy Declaration to see why they changed the wording. If it weren't changed to allow private prayer language, I don't know why it would have. Would anyone else like to hazard a guess?
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Danny and I don't entirely agree on this. I think perhaps it would be more accurate to say that there aren't many confessionalist PCA congregations, but I'm not ready to say that there are not confessional PCA congregations in SD.

To say that a congregation is not "confessional" is to say that it's not Reformed. That's a serious judgment.

It's probably true that a number of the congregations may not order their services according to the historic understanding of the RPW. If, on that account a congregation is deemed wholly unconfessional, then a fair number of URC's are unconfessional. I don't know of any URC congregations which worship with complete consistency to the RPW as understood historically. So it's a continuum. On one end of the sub-confessional worship continuum there are "conservative" hymn-singing, piano/organ-playing congregations, and on the other end there are ditty-singing, piano/guitar-playing congregations.

Nevertheless, it is true that, of all the NAPARC denominations/federations, the PCA most closely reflects American evangelicalism/revivalism. That makes them an easy and fair target of criticism on that account, but my own federation (URCNA), if not as heavily influenced by revivalism (QIRE), is infected with a considerable amount of fundamentalism or the QIRC relative to science and politics/culture.

I'm not sure it's fair to the San Diego PCA's to do a congregation by congregation analysis of who's "confessional" and who isn't. Mentioning congregations is invidious especially when they are not here to defend themselves. I can think of three congregations in this county that could be fairly described as "confessional" or even "confessionalist."

I think the bigger and more appropriate question is why are we having this discussion? Why have we come to the place where we can distinguish between "confessional" and "non-confessional" congregations? It's because, as I've already suggested here, nearly all of us, conservatives and progressives, are selectively confessional.

Am I happy about Reformed congregations adopting quasi-pentecostal views and practices and fiddling with extra-canonical revelation? Not at all! These, however, are just symptoms of a more profound illness. Why do folk think that they can call themselves Reformed and challenge Reformed theology, piety, and practice at such a profound level? It's because we've too long allowed ourselves to be defined by one doctrine! In fact, we have a theology (which is more than one doctrine), a piety (we don't need to borrow from the Pentecostals, the papists -- or even the Anglicans if the Westminster Directory for Public Worship is to be believed), and a practice (we have a way of living and relating nature and grace that is distinct from other traditions; we are sabbath keeping, two-kingdoms holding, two-service holding people).

rsc

ps. re: whether Baptists are Reformed strictly defined. I wouldn't say that folk are not Reformed for not holding the Three Forms or else I should have to say that nearly all Presbyterians are not Reformed! The line has to be the Westm. Standards or the Three Forms or the Second Helvetic or the Scots Confession (1560) or another of the historic Reformed (paedobapist) confessions.

Knowing men in the PCA across the country, it seems to me that it is a mixed bag or a big tent, which ever metaphor makes the case best.

In San Diego, there is not one confessional PCA that I know of. If there is one, I will stand corrected.

Here is a link to a "network" of PCA's in San Diego, which seems to utilize an Episcopal government and which worships with the Doobie Brothers' songs and invites women to speak as part of the sermon...http://www.sdreader.com/published/2006-02-23/sheep.html
 

elnwood

Puritan Board Junior
Well, that is the point of the article to prove in two aspects that Calvin was a proto Sabbatarian in those respects, contrary to prior opinion. The article was vetted through some pretty heavy Calvin scholars. I look forward to the reaction it gets. It has already been established for some decades, since the work of Primus, that Calvin was a practical Sabbatarian in that he believed all work and all recreation should cease on the Lord's day and the day spent in worship. This article advances beyond that to show that in two respects of Puritan Sabbatarianism (contra Primus), Calvin's theology and his practice are reconcilable, and thus he is a nascent Sabbatarian.

Calvin affirms Lord's Day practice, but that is different from Sabbatarianism, and Calvin clearly makes the distinction that the Lord's Day is not the continuing Sabbath. In practice, it may look the same, but there is a clear exegetical difference between observing Sunday as a Christian Sabbath and observing the Lord's Day as a strictly Christian institution. His practice may have been in accord with the WCF, but his theology was not, and as far as I know, a full-subscription presbytery will not allow a non-Sabbatarian view even if, in practice, it looks like the Sabbatarian view. So I would gather that John Calvin could not be ordained in, say, the OPC and other full-subscription Presbyterian denominations.

The Abstract of Principles of Southern Seminary takes John Calvin's view of affirming a Lord's Day of rest and worship. Al Mohler gave a chapel sermon on the 4th Commandment and explains in more detail.
http://www.sbts.edu/MP3/fall2006/20060921mohler.mp3
 

elnwood

Puritan Board Junior
I'm not sure it's fair to the San Diego PCA's to do a congregation by congregation analysis of who's "confessional" and who isn't. Mentioning congregations is invidious especially when they are not here to defend themselves. I can think of three congregations in this county that could be fairly described as "confessional" or even "confessionalist."

Good call, Dr. Clark! Thank you for that word.

ps. re: whether Baptists are Reformed strictly defined. I wouldn't say that folk are not Reformed for not holding the Three Forms or else I should have to say that nearly all Presbyterians are not Reformed! The line has to be the Westm. Standards or the Three Forms or the Second Helvetic or the Scots Confession (1560) or another of the historic Reformed (paedobapist) confessions.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems like circular reasoning. It appears that you are selecting which confessions are Reformed by their content (i.e. paedobaptist), and then you are defining what is Reformed by these confessions. Or, more simply, Baptists are not Reformed because they don't hold to Reformed (paedobaptist) confessions.

I'm looking for an objective standard for Reformed. I think I was more satisfied with the Three Forms of Unity being the standard, since I think they best reflect Calvin's theology.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Stay tuned for the release of the 2007 Confessional Presbyterian journal.;)

Calvin affirms Lord's Day practice, but that is different from Sabbatarianism, and Calvin clearly makes the distinction that the Lord's Day is not the continuing Sabbath. In practice, it may look the same, but there is a clear exegetical difference between observing Sunday as a Christian Sabbath and observing the Lord's Day as a strictly Christian institution. His practice may have been in accord with the WCF, but his theology was not, and as far as I know, a full-subscription presbytery will not allow a non-Sabbatarian view even if, in practice, it looks like the Sabbatarian view. So I would gather that John Calvin could not be ordained in, say, the OPC and other full-subscription Presbyterian denominations.

The Abstract of Principles of Southern Seminary takes John Calvin's view of affirming a Lord's Day of rest and worship. Al Mohler gave a chapel sermon on the 4th Commandment and explains in more detail.
http://www.sbts.edu/MP3/fall2006/20060921mohler.mp3
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Stay tuned for the release of the 2007 Confessional Presbyterian journal.;)
Ok; I'll go ahead and give the bottom line to whet everyone's appetite for the piece::)
This essay argues that parts of Calvin’s Sabbath theology have been seriously misunderstood and that he was sabbatarian in both practice and theology. While dealing primarily with Calvin’s own writings, this present work also looks at previous studies by Primus, Gaffin, and Matsuda.15 It will reconsider (1) Calvin’s view of the origin of the Sabbath Day ([universal] creation ordinance or not?) and (2) his understanding of the replacement of the seventh day Sabbath by the Lord’s Day (when and by whom?), and conclude that Calvin does indeed meet the above definitional criteria for sabbatarian theology.

"John Calvin, the Nascent Sabbatarian: A Reconsideration of Calvin’s View of Two Key Sabbath-Issues" By Stewart E. Lauer. Forthcoming in The Confessional Presbyterian volume 3 (2007),
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Calvin affirms Lord's Day practice, but that is different from Sabbatarianism, and Calvin clearly makes the distinction that the Lord's Day is not the continuing Sabbath. In practice, it may look the same, but there is a clear exegetical difference between observing Sunday as a Christian Sabbath and observing the Lord's Day as a strictly Christian institution. His practice may have been in accord with the WCF, but his theology was not, and as far as I know, a full-subscription presbytery will not allow a non-Sabbatarian view even if, in practice, it looks like the Sabbatarian view. So I would gather that John Calvin could not be ordained in, say, the OPC and other full-subscription Presbyterian denominations.

Any OPC elders or members should correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe exceptions to the confession are allowed there as well. In general, the OPC and PCA are really not as different as people often seem to make them out to be.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems like circular reasoning. It appears that you are selecting which confessions are Reformed by their content (i.e. paedobaptist), and then you are defining what is Reformed by these confessions. Or, more simply, Baptists are not Reformed because they don't hold to Reformed (paedobaptist) confessions.

I'm looking for an objective standard for Reformed. I think I was more satisfied with the Three Forms of Unity being the standard, since I think they best reflect Calvin's theology.

Well, if Calvin were being taken as the standard (which I would say is itself somewhat arbitrary - for example, what about Knox and the Scots?), then the Three Forms would be arbitrary as well, since Calvin himself wrote a large portion of the French (Gallican) Confession of Faith, as well as his catechism.

I don't think a precise definition of just who is "Reformed" and which exceptions to which confessions disqualify that title from applying to churches or people is an easy question that can be clearly seen and answered in the snap of a finger.

Furthermore, while "Reformed" is a useful shorthand term for giving people an initial idea of which body of historic beliefs one associates himself with, I'm inclined to say it is comparatively (not absolutely) unimportant next to the issue of who is confessional with respect to the standards to which his church subscribes. After all, the Church and her adopted beliefs are ultimately more authoritative and important than the various individual theologians who are part of the Church, as helpful and worthy of consideration as they are (see Wayne Wylie's post here). And I would suggest that the proper way to go about persuading people (including individuals as well as church bodies) that one confession is superior to another is not to try and show which confession is more "Reformed," but to argue on the basis of which confession is most biblical, using historical theology alongside as a valuable and in fact even indispensable pointer, but not the ultimate measuring-stick.

That is because, with regard to people like Arminians, classic Dispensationalists, Pentecostals and the like, they're not even going to care at all which one is more "Reformed"; and with regard to people who are sympathetic to much Reformed doctrine like predestinarians, covenantal thinkers and cessationists, they're still trying to decide whether to embrace all Reformed distinctives or not, and which historic "camp" (Reformers, Puritans, Continental, etc.) was most biblical in their understanding of those various distinctives. Hence, the issue of who is "most Reformed" (as opposed to who is confessional and which confessions are the most biblical) does not seem to be the best way of persuading people to hold to them in either type of case.

One past thread that had some good discussion that shed light on this issue is here. (It was a good thread overall, but don't mind many of the ridiculous points I personally attempted to make. At that time I was largely unaware of just how much there is to learn, and how little of it all I really knew and understood - which is still the case, the main difference being that the more I have learned since then, the more I now continue to see the great mass of it that remains to be learned. On the contrary, around the time of that thread, I often took the form of an internet theologian who simply spoke my thoughts as being near fact even when I had no idea what I was talking about.)
 
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Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Not to just butt in or anything, but I want to say that because of our fallen nature (EVERYONE'S) even the RPCNA and all the other denominations in ALL THE WORLD, even with the confessions, has the possibility of going further liberal and having women speaking from the pulpit, etc. You may say, "NOT POSSIBLE," maybe because you have a perfect polity system. Well, that doesn't matter now does it. Have your perfect polity system, but people will go past that and find a way around it. So please dont be so critical of other denominations, yours is just around the corner (especially if it grows), and maybe we should be praying instead of so criticizing. Now obviously we can be aware of problems in each denomination and see where they can work on things (every denomination has its problems). That is we can discuss this as we are doing, but be careful of our tone and pride that says our denomination is the best and not think that our denomination can come to such horrible things. Im rambling.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Ramblin or not; these are good things to keep in mind. :up:
Not to just butt in or anything, but I want to say that because of our fallen nature (EVERYONE'S) even the RPCNA and all the other denominations in ALL THE WORLD, even with the confessions, has the possibility of going further liberal and having women speaking from the pulpit, etc. You may say, "NOT POSSIBLE," maybe because you have a perfect polity system. Well, that doesn't matter now does it. Have your perfect polity system, but people will go past that and find a way around it. So please dont be so critical of other denominations, yours is just around the corner (especially if it grows), and maybe we should be praying instead of so criticizing. Now obviously we can be aware of problems in each denomination and see where they can work on things (every denomination has its problems). That is we can discuss this as we are doing, but be careful of our tone and pride that says our denomination is the best and not think that our denomination can come to such horrible things. Im rambling.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems like circular reasoning. It appears that you are selecting which confessions are Reformed by their content (i.e. paedobaptist), and then you are defining what is Reformed by these confessions.

No it's not circular since it is a matter of history and fact that it was paedobaptist churches that wrote the Reformed confessions and it is the Reformed confessions that define what is to be Reformed. The Modern baptist movement dates to a time (early 17th century) after the formation of the Reformed confessions. It was a reaction to certain Reformed doctrines. Those who reject Reformed doctrines cannot be allowed define what "Reformed" is. Baptists may be particular or general but they aren't Reformed, properly defined.

Or, more simply, Baptists are not Reformed because they don't hold to Reformed (paedobaptist) confessions.

Exactly. To be Reformed one has to hold what the Reformed churches hold. Paedobaptism is essential to being Reformed. To deny paedobaptism is to deny an essential doctrine of the Reformed faith. Predestination is not the definiton of Reformed. It's a necessary but not a sufficient condition.

I'm looking for an objective standard for Reformed. I think I was more satisfied with the Three Forms of Unity being the standard, since I think they best reflect Calvin's theology.

Yes, but you assume something that is a modern novelty, i.e., that Calvin is the be and end all of "Reformed." Even the early 17th century Reformed did not so regard Calvin. He's a father, perhaps the father, but not the only one and not the defining voice. See Muller's two books The Unaccommodated Calvin and After Calvin.

The divines did not understand themselves to be contradicting the Three Forms.

The Reformed Confessions (of which there are many!) are ecclesiastical statements, not private documents. They are objective. To use one's personal preference for a private person (even Calvin) as the measure of being Reformed is quite a lot more subjective than appealing to public, ecclesiastically sanctioned statements.

rsc
 

elnwood

Puritan Board Junior
No it's not circular since it is a matter of history and fact that it was paedobaptist churches that wrote the Reformed confessions and it is the Reformed confessions that define what is to be Reformed. The Modern baptist movement dates to a time (early 17th century) after the formation of the Reformed confessions. It was a reaction to certain Reformed doctrines. Those who reject Reformed doctrines cannot be allowed define what "Reformed" is. Baptists may be particular or general but they aren't Reformed, properly defined.

Makes sense, although I would submit that if you consider the Westminster Standards a Reformed confession, the modern Baptist movement preceded that confession. The First London Baptist Confession was written prior to the Westminster Confession.

Exactly. To be Reformed one has to hold what the Reformed churches hold. Paedobaptism is essential to being Reformed. To deny paedobaptism is to deny an essential doctrine of the Reformed faith. Predestination is not the definiton of Reformed. It's a necessary but not a sufficient condition.

I think this gets to the crux of the issue. I don't think it's a matter of holding to what Reformed churches held, because you can get extremely nitpicky on this. You have pointed to paedobaptism as an "essential" of their practice, but not, say, exclusive psalter. What about Presbyterian government? Were the Puritans, who were congregational in polity, Reformed?

It's understandable to select a core group of Reformed doctrines to be essential, and use that as your working definition, but I would like further demonstration of why we can objectively say that paedobaptism is an essential, the doctrines of grace are essential, but, say, exclusive Psalter is not. Or is there breathing room for deciding which of the practices of the Reformed churches are essentials and which are not?
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Something that I find interesting is the desire on the part of many Particular Baptists today to be considered Reformed. I've done a good bit of reading over the past few years, and I don't think I've ever seen any of the Historic Baptists trying to lay claim to the title "Reformed". Many of them realized what they had in common with the Presbyterians, Independents, etc. but they also were well aware of their differences. In fact, other than the glaring anomaly of Bunyan (who didn't think someone even had to be baptized at all to join the church), they did not regard paedobaptist churches to be true churches and thus the vast majority of them practiced close communion. The Southern Baptist J.L. Dagg was considered something of a moderate on this question, even allowing paedobaptist ministers into his pulpit. But I don't think that even he considered paedo churches to be true churches, although he recognized there were genuine Christians there. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that even John Quincy Adams, author of "Baptists, the only thorough Reformers" attempted to lay claim to the title Reformed.

It seems that the term "Reformed Baptist" was adopted sometime within the last 40 years or so by Baptists who had become "Five Pointers" in order to differentiate themselves from the basically Arminian Baptists who utilize Finney's methods. Generally, (after the General Baptists slide into obscurity) from the 17th to the 19th century further qualification than simply the term Baptist wasn't necessary.

Another factor is that the two men probably most responsible for the revival of the Doctrines of Grace in the early to mid 20th Century were A.W. Pink and D.M. Lloyd-Jones. Pink was a Baptist and Lloyd-Jones was a Congregationalist from the Calvinistic Methodist tradition. Neither man emphasized ecclesiology, and Lloyd-Jones himself abandoned infant baptism early on in his ministry, while continuing to reject immersion. Add to this the Banner of Truth Trust, which for all the good it has done has generally avoided potentially divisive ecclesiological issues and has had the effect of propagating a generic "Calvinism" that is heavy on soteriology but virtually silent on ecclesiology. Thus we have the present confusion, where Reformed is used merely to refer to someone who accepts the Five Points.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Dear Don,

There's a significant difference in kind between questions of practice and a questions of confession.

We confess a principle of worship. The fact that many of us are either inconsistent with our confession or that, in some cases, we disagree over the application of the principle is not the same thing as fundamentally disagreeing over the nature of the covenant of grace.

Between Baptists and Paedobaptists there is a gulf. Either covenant children are such or they are not. Either God commands that we include covenant children in the visible covenant community and recognize their membership in the visible, external administration of the covenant of grace by initiating them through baptism or we do not.

Most Baptists deny that our infants are covenant children and that, therefore, they have a "right and interest" in the visible administration of the covenant of grace.

Behind this disagreement are disagreements over the nature of the covenant of grace, the nature of the relations between the New and Old Testaments, hermeneutics, and even, to some degree the nature of the church, eschatology (how much of the consummate state should be expected in this life).

Among the Reformed there is a great need for Reformation of our worship according to Scripture as we confess and understand it, but that's a different matter than who should or should not be baptized.

I'm glad that particular, confessional Baptists, join us in confessing important doctrines, but for us both to use the adjective "Reformed," at the same time to mean significantly different things is to bring into doubt the importance of fundamental questions of Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

As to the relations between the Three Forms and the Westm. Standards, just ask the continental Reformed of the 17th century whether they regarded the Westm. Assembly and the Kirk of Scotland Reformed! Of course they did. I think we all know the answer to the question of how they regarded the particular Baptists. Not long ago the Dutch Reformed referred to all the "evangelicals" (i.e., the Baptists) as "Methodists."

rsc

Makes sense, although I would submit that if you consider the Westminster Standards a Reformed confession, the modern Baptist movement preceded that confession. The First London Baptist Confession was written prior to the Westminster Confession.

I think this gets to the crux of the issue. I don't think it's a matter of holding to what Reformed churches held, because you can get extremely nitpicky on this. You have pointed to paedobaptism as an "essential" of their practice, but not, say, exclusive psalter. What about Presbyterian government? Were the Puritans, who were congregational in polity, Reformed?

It's understandable to select a core group of Reformed doctrines to be essential, and use that as your working definition, but I would like further demonstration of why we can objectively say that paedobaptism is an essential, the doctrines of grace are essential, but, say, exclusive Psalter is not. Or is there breathing room for deciding which of the practices of the Reformed churches are essentials and which are not?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Any OPC elders or members should correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe exceptions to the confession are allowed there as well. In general, the OPC and PCA are really not as different as people often seem to make them out to be.

Well, if Calvin were being taken as the standard (which I would say is itself somewhat arbitrary - for example, what about Knox and the Scots?), then the Three Forms would be arbitrary as well, since Calvin himself wrote a large portion of the French (Gallican) Confession of Faith, as well as his catechism.

I don't think a precise definition of just who is "Reformed" and which exceptions to which confessions disqualify that title from applying to churches or people is an easy question that can be clearly seen and answered in the snap of a finger.

Furthermore, while "Reformed" is a useful shorthand term for giving people an initial idea of which body of historic beliefs one associates himself with, I'm inclined to say it is comparatively (not absolutely) unimportant next to the issue of who is confessional with respect to the standards to which his church subscribes. After all, the Church and her adopted beliefs are ultimately more authoritative and important than the various individual theologians who are part of the Church, as helpful and worthy of consideration as they are (see Wayne Wylie's post here). And I would suggest that the proper way to go about persuading people (including individuals as well as church bodies) that one confession is superior to another is not to try and show which confession is more "Reformed," but to argue on the basis of which confession is most biblical, using historical theology alongside as a valuable and in fact even indispensable pointer, but not the ultimate measuring-stick.

That is because, with regard to people like Arminians, classic Dispensationalists, Pentecostals and the like, they're not even going to care at all which one is more "Reformed"; and with regard to people who are sympathetic to much Reformed doctrine like predestinarians, covenantal thinkers and cessationists, they're still trying to decide whether to embrace all Reformed distinctives or not, and which historic "camp" (Reformers, Puritans, Continental, etc.) was most biblical in their understanding of those various distinctives. Hence, the issue of who is "most Reformed" (as opposed to who is confessional and which confessions are the most biblical) does not seem to be the best way of persuading people to hold to them in either type of case.

One past thread that had some good discussion that shed light on this issue is here. (It was a good thread overall, but don't mind many of the ridiculous points I personally attempted to make. At that time I was largely unaware of just how much there is to learn, and how little of it all I really knew and understood - which is still the case, the main difference being that the more I have learned since then, the more I now continue to see the great mass of it that remains to be learned. On the contrary, around the time of that thread, I often took the form of an internet theologian who simply spoke my thoughts as being near fact even when I had no idea what I was talking about.)

Chris,

I don't completely disagree with this idea. I don't think the principle issue of concern here is the dictionary definition of Reformed and whether we should string up people who use the term.

As I see Dr. Clark's concern it is the modern idea that each of us is able to go to the "Calvinist Schmorgesborg" and pick what we like: "I'll have a heaping helping of the five points but Covenant Theology, paedobaptism, and sabbatarianism are yucky. None of that for me." If a doctrine is inconvenient, say the Covenant of Works, I can just jettison it and not only claim that I'm Reformed but Presbyterian and "Truly Reformed".

Within the "Reformed Camp" I think this is particularly dangerous. Your average Church goer isn't necessarily studied enough to call a doctrine an error but may not be willing to follow if a pastor just honestly said "We don't agree with the Reformed faith anymore and we're going our own way...." How much confusion would be prevented in the current FV controversy if the men would just admit: "We're not confessional anymore and we're leaving the denomination." Much acrimony would probably be avoided. As it is, people take sides with the personalities they think represent the "truly Reformed".

Frankly a PCA Church I attended in VA was shockingly ignorant of the Confession. Apart from the fact that the Pastor gave really good Sermons and was orthodox, you found a broad Evangelical and even Arminian sentiment in the Sunday School. I love those people but if someone put forward the idea that some of their practices are not strictly "Reformed" I think they would be shocked.

I'm not offering a full blown analysis here but just a few random thoughts. I think Chris Poe's analysis is brilliant.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I've read a smattering of posts from this thread, and I have a question that I think everyone should ask themselves: were you Reformed when you first were saved? Are you Reformed now?

To your surprise, perhaps, I'd have to answer yes to the first, and no to the second. Yes, I am more Reformed now, but like Chris, I am more reforming than Reformed. But when Christ made me His own, then I was fully Reformed in every way: it depended not at all upon me. Not my views, nor my individual persuasions, not my character, not on anything that was me. It was then that I was fully Reformed. Now I realize how much, out of thankfulness to my Saviour, I need to be sanctified daily. I'm with Chris. I'm sorry, my brother, if I held a grudge, or even seemed to.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Ditto to Dr. Clark.

Good stuff.

I definitely know what the "reforming" baptists are feeling when they are hit with the "You are not Reformed" statement.

When I was a Baptist, three things that really did not sit well with me were simple historic facts I could not get around:

1) I was not in good company, I was in scare company. (i.e. I was not with Augustine, et al., Reformers et al., Puritans et al., Edwards et al., Princeton Theologians, etc. on key doctrinal issues that I did not agree with them on.)

2) My views were relatively new theologically speaking. (i.e. 1689 BCF).

3) If I beleived #1 and #2 then I had to conclude that God allowed the church, for 1689 years after Christ to lay in darkness on the fundamental manner in which Christians and thier families entered the church, and how they viewed the sacraments in general, not to mention the manner of how Redemptive History unfolds covenantally. That imposed some problems on my "Doctrine of God".

I simply avoided those issues as much as I could. ("Me and my Bible" theology was imperative to remain historially consistent).
 

elnwood

Puritan Board Junior
Something that I find interesting is the desire on the part of many Particular Baptists today to be considered Reformed. I've done a good bit of reading over the past few years, and I don't think I've ever seen any of the Historic Baptists trying to lay claim to the title "Reformed". Many of them realized what they had in common with the Presbyterians, Independents, etc. but they also were well aware of their differences. In fact, other than the glaring anomaly of Bunyan (who didn't think someone even had to be baptized at all to join the church), they did not regard paedobaptist churches to be true churches and thus the vast majority of them practiced close communion. The Southern Baptist J.L. Dagg was considered something of a moderate on this question, even allowing paedobaptist ministers into his pulpit. But I don't think that even he considered paedo churches to be true churches, although he recognized there were genuine Christians there. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that even John Quincy Adams, author of "Baptists, the only thorough Reformers" attempted to lay claim to the title Reformed.

It seems that the term "Reformed Baptist" was adopted sometime within the last 40 years or so by Baptists who had become "Five Pointers" in order to differentiate themselves from the basically Arminian Baptists who utilize Finney's methods. Generally, (after the General Baptists slide into obscurity) from the 17th to the 19th century further qualification than simply the term Baptist wasn't necessary.

Another factor is that the two men probably most responsible for the revival of the Doctrines of Grace in the early to mid 20th Century were A.W. Pink and D.M. Lloyd-Jones. Pink was a Baptist and Lloyd-Jones was a Congregationalist from the Calvinistic Methodist tradition. Neither man emphasized ecclesiology, and Lloyd-Jones himself abandoned infant baptism early on in his ministry, while continuing to reject immersion. Add to this the Banner of Truth Trust, which for all the good it has done has generally avoided potentially divisive ecclesiological issues and has had the effect of propagating a generic "Calvinism" that is heavy on soteriology but virtually silent on ecclesiology. Thus we have the present confusion, where Reformed is used merely to refer to someone who accepts the Five Points.

According to Samuel Waldron in Baptist Roots in America, "Reformed Baptist" was used as early as the 19th century, citing some records between 1825 and 1840.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I think this issue becomes unnecessarily ascribed as a "we own the Reformed moniker" issue and deflects from what I believe the principle issue is.

This thread was originally split off from a discussion on the origin and propriety of dedications which led to the issue that there is some theological laxity within the PCA. This has then morphed as well to whether Baptists can call themselves Reformed.

Mixed into that discussion is a warning that we who consider ourselves Reformed not be too smug because we're not saved, after all, because we have the correct theological title but on Christ's sacrifice alone. Well of course I say "Amen" to that but I think it misses the point.

It is a strange irony to me that it is the Reformed who have the privilege of participating in what I believe to be sound Biblical doctrine feel a bit guilty about affirming that what they confess is actually what the Scriptures teach. I certainly recognize that an "Us vs. Them" mentality is always a risk but need we constantly warn against the slippery slope of becoming too proud if we're trying to divide truth from error or detect a potential slide from orthodoxy into liberalism?

I imagine, after all, that there were those who thought it overly punctilious of many in the early part of the 20th Century when "Fundamentalists" in the PCUSA were warning of a denominational slide into liberalism. Not all predictions are borne out precisely but I wonder if some of the Church men were more concerned about the Fundamentalists' "party spirit" about what it meant to be Reformed rather than dealing with the doctrinal slide.

I guess as I read Dr. Clark develop the idea more and look forward to reading his book on the subject it causes me to muse on the importance of affirming the term "Reformed". If the moniker doesn't mean "Biblical Christianity" to those that claim they are faithful to historic Confessions then just jettison the term altogether. If it means anything to us, however, ought we not be jealous to guard it rather than just allow it to be claimed by any?

In a certain sense the term itself may not be particularly important in and of itself but it has historical and current significance for thousands. I call myself Reformed to distinguish myself, gratefully to God, from being Roman Catholic (which I was for my childhood and early adulthood) as well as from doctrinal confusion in Arminian expressions of Protestantism. I don't agree that I was "more Reformed" when I first was presented the doctrines of Grace by the book Faith Alone but it was like a mountaintop experience - a real epiphany of God's Grace. It started a lifelong process of reformation in my doctrine by the grace of God. I believe He is faithful and has sanctified me so that I am more "reformed" now than I was 10 years ago. It is not a "boot straps" theology after all.

But along the way, I've also been nearly led astray by those that I should have been able to trust as a relative novice in the Reformed faith. The nature of being a sheep in need of a shepherd is that Pastors and Elders wield tremendous influence in theological development. There was a time not so many years ago that I might have been led into the direction of the Federal Vision by men who called themselves truly Reformed.

Now had they just come out and said "We're not Reformed anymore..." it might have made that decision more difficult due to my strong commitment to a Reformed Ecclesiology. Perhaps I could have been persuaded by Scriptural arguments but, you see, I had been previously instructed on what it meant to be "Reformed" and such lessons resonate with the Scriptures. Honestly, when I see a man or group departing from the Reformed faith and they announce it out loud, I spend little or no time investigating "should I follow them" but when I see debates and divisions with a Presbyterian denomination with some men I have held in high esteem for many years saying "...we're the really Reformed and what Calvin intended before modern Presbyterians gooned it up..." it is very insidious indeed.

In other words, I want men, when they're departing from Reformed Confessions to ADMIT IT OUT LOUD. Don't use double-speak, don't re-write history with the mass of uninformed believing you really hold the historical ground left deceived. Say it loud and say it clearly: "We're not Reformed anymore and we invite all like-minded people to follow us...."

I guess I've gotten used to the idea that Baptists absconded the moniker "Reformed" for themselves but the discussion does go to the propriety of that use even if nobody in the Baptist camp that would use the term really cares what Confessional folk think of their use of the term. What I will never get used to is those within the Confessionally Reformed "camp" departing from core strands of Reformed thought and then calling themselves the "really Reformed".
 

elnwood

Puritan Board Junior
2) My views were relatively new theologically speaking. (i.e. 1689 BCF).

Those views were not so new. The first London Baptist Confession was written in 1644 (two years before the WCF), and the so-called 1689 London Baptist Confession was written in 1677.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
from Rich
when I see debates and divisions with a Presbyterian denomination with some men I have held in high esteem for many years saying "...we're the really Reformed and what Calvin intended before modern Presbyterians gooned it up..." it is very insidious indeed.

In other words, I want men, when they're departing from Reformed Confessions to ADMIT IT OUT LOUD. Don't use double-speak, don't re-write history with the mass of uninformed believing you really hold the historical ground left deceived. Say it loud and say it clearly: "We're not Reformed anymore and we invite all like-minded people to follow us...."

Perhaps you disagree with the propriety of my statements, but you got the point just fine.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
It does.

I just feel for all those to whom I have written and talked who are struggling with the same doctrines which I have grown up with. For me they're easy, but for them they have to wipe out prejudices that have been ingrained in their heritage. It's not as easy for them, because they have to be that much more certain than I am: they have to deny what they were brought up to believe, whereas I just have to embrace it whether I understand it fully or not. That makes me Reformed then them not? I can't accept that.

But what irritates me is that I have spent my whole life putting myself to the same struggle that these brothers are going through. I don't need these guys who take some secondary issue and make it mandatory to the faith, such a millennial views, etc. Nor do I need those guys who surreptitiously propagate their own "reformed" theologies without going through proper church channels first. These make is very difficult for us who love the doctrines of grace and wish to help those who are struggling with them for good reason.

Things are not well in our churches when we see men standing on pulpits bravely preaching their own 'perspectives' or 'presuppositions' as the norm of the gospel of grace, standing upon their liberty of conscience instead of the unity of the Church. Yes, our churches are Reformed, but we continue to have a very hard time of it as long as we have a loose ecclesiology, or a more stringent one that is based upon things not clearly outlined as necessary in our unifying standards of faith. How can I contend for the faith to me searching brothers if the church I am calling them to does not stand behind that very faith I am contending for, if they are deeply divided on secondary things instead of joyfully working out these differences within their greater unity, if they let their personal persuasions make it into their presentation of Christ's gospel to His people?

Asking what being "Reformed" means within the wrong context is a moot point. I take someone seeking for certainty in the means of grace, wishing to adopt the doctrines of grace, as more Reformed than myself if all I seek is to propagate my own views. May God forbid. I will not seek my own views, but repudiate them. That's what I'm asking my Baptist friends on this Board to do whenever I discuss the issue of baptism with them, and I expect no less from myself. I wish only to embrace God's truth, and not God's revelation as bent by my presuppositions.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
It does.

I just feel for all those to whom I have written and talked who are struggling with the same doctrines which I have grown up with. For me they're easy, but for them they have to wipe out prejudices that have been ingrained in their heritage. It's not as easy for them, because they have to be that much more certain than I am: they have to deny what they were brought up to believe, whereas I just have to embrace it whether I understand it fully or not. That makes me Reformed then them not? I can't accept that.

But what irritates me is that I have spent my whole life putting myself to the same struggle that these brothers are going through. I don't need these guys who take some secondary issue and make it mandatory to the faith, such a millennial views, etc. Nor do I need those guys who surreptitiously propagate their own "reformed" theologies without going through proper church channels first. These make is very difficult for us who love the doctrines of grace and wish to help those who are struggling with them for good reason.

Things are not well in our churches when we see men standing on pulpits bravely preaching their own 'perspectives' or 'presuppositions' as the norm of the gospel of grace, standing upon their liberty of conscience instead of the unity of the Church. Yes, our churches are Reformed, but we continue to have a very hard time of it as long as we have a loose ecclesiology, or a more stringent one that is based upon things not clearly outlined as necessary in our unifying standards of faith. How can I contend for the faith to me searching brothers if the church I am calling them to does not stand behind that very faith I am contending for, if they are deeply divided on secondary things instead of joyfully working out these differences within their greater unity, if they let their personal persuasions make it into their presentation of Christ's gospel to His people?

Asking what being "Reformed" means within the wrong context is a moot point. I take someone seeking for certainty in the means of grace, wishing to adopt the doctrines of grace, as more Reformed than myself if all I seek is to propagate my own views. May God forbid. I will not seek my own views, but repudiate them. That's what I'm asking my Baptist friends on this Board to do whenever I discuss the issue of baptism with them, and I expect no less from myself. I wish only to embrace God's truth, and not God's revelation as bent by my presuppositions.

Roger. I apologize for misunderstanding you and implying something you did not intend in my reply.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
:handshake:

I didn't take any offence. I understand your intention to keep this thread on course, because it is a helpful discussion.
 

WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
Those views were not so new. The first London Baptist Confession was written in 1644 (two years before the WCF), and the so-called 1689 London Baptist Confession was written in 1677.

That is still quite a bit "newer" than, say, the 4th Century (which is what I think both Rev. Clark and McMahon are getting at). If the True Church is the True Church, then the beliefs of the True Church should be able to be traced throughout the history of said Church. The Reformed, for the most part, can do this. Infant baptism is a fact of Church history since the apostles. Justin Martyr and others are very early examples of this. Believer's baptism, as it is called, did not exist (exclusively, apart from paedobaptism) until the 17th century, at least, As far as I know. Like Rev. McMahon said, it is a bold claim to make the Church out to be so "lost" on such a pivotal issue as a sacrament for over 1600 years! :wow:
 

elnwood

Puritan Board Junior
That is still quite a bit "newer" than, say, the 4th Century (which is what I think both Rev. Clark and McMahon are getting at). If the True Church is the True Church, then the beliefs of the True Church should be able to be traced throughout the history of said Church. The Reformed, for the most part, can do this. Infant baptism is a fact of Church history since the apostles. Justin Martyr and others are very early examples of this. Believer's baptism, as it is called, did not exist (exclusively, apart from paedobaptism) until the 17th century, at least, As far as I know. Like Rev. McMahon said, it is a bold claim to make the Church out to be so "lost" on such a pivotal issue as a sacrament for over 1600 years! :wow:

<sigh> I really don't feel like getting into another paedo v. credo argument. But suffice to say, "believer's baptism only" did exist in the early centuries, and a theology of covenantal paedobaptism, one that did not espouse some form of baptismal regeneration (Augustine, even Luther thought baptism imparted saving faith) was never articulated until Zwingli, whose view was in contrast to Luther's view of baptism. Zwingli, of course, was a contemporary of the Anabaptists, and also attacked their view of baptism.

If you want to talk about this more, post a reply in the Baptism forum. It's off-topic. (Not that we weren't already off-topic ...)
 

tewilder

Puritan Board Freshman
Also, regarding the Federal Vision, right now more than ever there are some very good signs regarding the way with which it will be dealt. The study committee is promising, and in many ways even more importantly, the recent documents from the Standing Judicial Commission on Steve Wilkins' case with Louisiana Presbytery point in a similar direction. As Fred explained much better in the thread on that issue, that suggests good things not only about the doctrinal direction of the PCA, but about her ecclesiology as well, in that the GA is still willing to truly exercise its authority even when that means critically and directly confronting significant decisions of lower courts. Even from the times of the formation of the ecumenical creeds, false teachings in the church have never been dealt with in a heartbeat, but have always required the analysis and deliberation of councils, synods and assemblies through due process over a period of time; and that is exactly what is going on surrounding the Federal Vision in the PCA at this time.

I wouldn't take too much comfort from this.

Even now, after all these years, there are presbyteries that are doing nothing about it.

But more than that, I suspect this is just the first round. The next thing to come along will be more subtle, and it will be rooted in the seminaries, so that none of the people who love institutionalism and bigness will attack it.
 
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