Pastor, Why? #8: Why Aren't We "Reformed"?

Reformed Theology is gaining in popularity among evangelicals, especially in the young adult demographic. Reformed churches are typically identified by the names “Presbyterian, Sovereign Grace, Congregational, United Church of Christ” or “Reformed”. Reformed Baptists began to appear in the 1960's. Other groups, including the Charismatics, are also being strongly influenced by Reformed teaching. Why do we choose not to be part of the Reformed church movement.

We are not Reformed because we are not “Calvinists.”

A distinctive of Reformed churches and theologians is that they hold to the five points of Calvinism. One can be a “Five Point Calvinist” and not be Reformed, but one cannot be Reformed without being a Calvinist. (See “Pastor, Why” article #7 on Calvinism.

We are not Reformed because we do not baptize infants and we baptize by immersion. The Westminster Confession is the primary statement of the Reformed faith. Article 28.3 states, “Baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.” According to Article 28.4, “Infants… are to be baptized.” One of the most consistent historical distinctives of Baptists is that we baptize only by immersion and only those who have made a conscious profession of faith in Christ. We have never baptized infants (paedobaptism), therefore “Reformed Baptist” is a contradiction of terms. One cannot be a “Reformed Baptist” any more than he can be a Lutheran Baptist. In fact, John Calvin, Martin Luther and many other Reformers were responsible for the genocide of those who practiced baptism by immersion after salvation (i.e. Anabaptists).

We are not “Reformed” because Baptists have never been part of Catholicism. The sixteenth century Reform movement originated among Catholics as an effort to protest its heresy and vices (also called the “Protestant” movement) and to “reform” Catholicism to make it more Biblical. That period was aptly called “The Reformation.” Baptist roots however are not in the Catholic Church, but in the line of Bible-practicing separatist churches who were never a part of the Catholic Church or the attempts to reform it. (See article #4, “Why Are We Baptists?”) John Calvin was an early Reformation leader who was trained for the Catholic priesthood. In his own later words, he still believed the Roman Catholic Church was the true “Church of God” and condemned the Anabaptists for their refusal to join it and to help purify it [Calvin’s Commentary on Psalm 15].

“Reformed Baptist” is a doctrinal and historical contra-diction of terms.

Calvin was banished from the Catholic Church for strongly asserting the “lost” doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. This doctrine was never really lost. It was always taught among the Bible-practicing, separatist churches. Baptists were never Catholic reformers but separatists who refused to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers.” The term “Reformed Baptist” is not only a doctrinal contradiction but also a historical misnomer.

We are not Reformed because we accept Bible prophesy literally, rather than symbolically. Reformed theologians are generally “literalists” until they come to the prophetic passages and promises of God to Israel. They do not apply the same rules of Bible interpretation to the prophetic books of Zechariah or Revelation as they do to the Epistles and gospels. Reformed churches base their interpretations of prophetic passages on a system called Covenant Theology, which teaches that God has removed His promises of a land and future kingdom from Israel and given them to the gentile church, which is the new Israel. Historically this belief has helped fuel anti-Semitism and was a rationale behind the refusal of many churches to speak out against the Holocaust. By changing the promises and future prophesies of God to symbolism, Covenant Theology denies the promises of a future for national Israel, an imminent “rapture” of believers, a coming seven-year tribulation, or a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on Earth (“Millennium”). Reformers generally believe that the world will get better and better with the help of the church, eventually turning Earth into a glorious Christian state to which Christ will return. Various positions of this belief are called Replacement, Dominion and Kingdom Theology.

  • We believe that the maxim, “If the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense”, applies to ALL of Scripture, including prophesy and the promises to the nation of Israel.
  • We believe that all of God’s promises to Israel will be literally fulfilled. God promised Abraham’s physical descendants a specific land area that has never been totally owned by Israel (Gen. 12:1-3; 15). He promised the literal seed of David an eternal throne (2 Sam. 7:12-12-17; Ps. 89:3-4), and He prophesied the dispersion and return of Israel to her own land (Deut. 30; Ezek. 37:11-12, 21; Jeremiah 31:35-36). Less than ten percent returned after the Babylonian Exile. These promises are still future, and will be fulfilled.
  • We believe the Bible still distinguishes between Israel and the church. The church is not a “New Israel”. (Deut. 4:31)
  • We believe that God is no more able to cast aside the Jews as His “chosen” people, than He could any born-again child of God. Paul made this abundantly clear in Romans 11.