Covenant Perspectives Between Particular Baptists and Our Reformed Heritage


This was a short response I made concerning the differences between what Particular (Reformed) Baptists believe and what our Reformed heritage teaches.   I just thought I would repost it here.

From my point of view things depended upon the substantial differences between the Old and New Covenants. As a Reformed Baptist I understood them to be different substantially. It took me years to understand what my Reformed brothers were meaning when they were telling me that the Old and New Covenants were the same in substance concerning the Administration of the Covenant of Grace. I always viewed the Old Covenant as some covenant that was a mixture of both the Covenant of Grace and the Covenant of Works. I saw the Old Covenant as something that was totally different than the New Covenant even by its very nature. That skewed my understanding concerning who was considered a Covenant Member in the Church. When I started to understand that the Mosaic Covenant was not a Covenant of Works in any way shape or form, but that it was purely an administration of the Covenant of Grace, things became much clearer. Covenant membership in the Church had not changed and the Old Covenant was just as much an administration of the Covenant of Grace as much as the New Covenant was. That isn’t necessarily based upon good and necessary consequences. It is based upon good hermeneutics. Thus the sign and seal of the Old and New Covenants are also basically the same in substance and signify the same thing even though they differ in what was performed. Both point to being regenerate and Born Again.    Both are signs and seals of our Union with Christ which proceeds regeneration.

Here is where I start discussing this.

Additional note…
There was a follow up comment to which I replied.

JM stated, “Plenty of Baptists understand the paedobaptist view of the Sinaitic Covenant…we just reject that understanding.”

I want to ask and mention a few things JM. Which view of the paedo baptists concerning the Old Covenant are you referring to? Part of my problem lay in misreading some of them as I was looking through the eyes of John Owen who held to a minority view during the time of the Divines at Westminster and that of Meredith Kline. I also read all I could and saw through the eyes of Fred Malone and other well known authors who departed from the Presbyterian and Majority Reformed understanding. Just to be clear, I am not so sure they truly understood it. I have been quite surprised by the number of gentlemen, even Seminary trained Presbyterian and Reformed men, who didn’t understand this position. I can even name some of our most noted Professors who either don’t or just reject it also. I have even been quite surprised about the whole Union with Christ discussion in the past few years. RMS

In a recent discussion on the PB we discussed a blog that stated this.

In debates concerning the republication of the covenant of works within the Mosaic covenant, anyone who holds to the Westminster Confession or the London Baptist Confession confesses that the same law that was given to Adam was delivered to Moses. At the very least, then, the confessions teach a republication of the covenant of works.

The last sentence is part of the problem. And the blogger is no slouch. The blog is actually pretty good. It just simply is not true concerning the last sentence bolded above. As Ruben noted concerning the quote, “The rest of the post and the nature of the case, show that it should have read “the confessions teach a republication of the law.

It might have been a misstatement on Sam’s part. I make them all the time. But the sympathy to what he noted stands true for many guys. And therein lays the problem. A lot of guys don’t realize what is being said and taught with the distinctions needed. I for one am working on it.

WCF chapter 19.

Natural Theology (Revelation) Bavinck.


Admittedly, article 2 of the Belgic Confession states that God is known by two means—nature and Scripture—and natural theology is upheld in its truth and value by all Reformed theologians.  But in that first period, before rationalism infected Reformed Theology, it was clearly seen that nature and Scripture are not detached and independent entities, any more than natural and revealed theology are.  Calvin incorporated natural theology into the body of Christian dogmatics, saying that Scripture was the spectacles by which believers see God more distinctly also in the works of nature.  Originally natural theology was by no means intended to pave the way, step by laborious step, for revealed theology.  In adopting it, one was not assuming the provisional stance of reason in order next, by reasoning and proof, to mount to the higher level of faith.  But from the very outset the dogmatician took a stand on the ground of faith and, as a Christian and believer, now also looked at nature.  Then, with his Christian eyes, armed by the Holy Scripture, he also discovered in nature the footprints of the God whom he had come to know—in Christ and by Scripture—as Father.  From a subjective point of view, in dogmatics it was not therefore natural reason that first took the floor, after which faith in the Word had its say.  On the contrary, it was always the believing Christian who, in catechism, confession, and in dogmatics, gave voice to his faith.  And in the same way, speaking objectively, nature did not stand on its own as an independent principle alongside of Holy Scripture, each of the supplying a set of truths of their own.  Rather, nature was viewed in the light of Scripture, and Scripture not only contained revealed truth (in the strict sense) but also the truths that a believer can discover in nature.  Thus Alsted did indeed acknowledge the existence of a natural theology in the unregenerate, but a confused and obscure natural theology.  By contrast, for the believer the principles and conclusions of natural theology are replicated clearly and distinctly in Scripture.

So, though one can speak of a knowledge of God derived from nature, dogmatics still has but one external foundation (principium externum), i.e., Holy Scripture, and similarly only one internal foundation (principium internum), i.e., believing reason.  And it is not simply the case that Holy Scripture is only the norm and not he source of dogmatics, but it is specifically the foundation (principium) of theology.  Between earlier theologians and those of today there is a major difference.  Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Prolegomena Vl. I pp. 87,89

There is no such thing as a separate natural theology that could be obtained apart from any revelation solely on the basis of reflective considerations of the universe. The knowledge of God that is gathered up in so-called natural theology is not the product of human reason.

Rather, natural theology presupposes, first of all, that God reveals himself in his handiwork. It is not humans who seek God but God who seeks humans, also by means of his works in nature. That being the case, it further presupposes that it is not humans who, by the natural light of reason, understand and know this revelation of God. Although all pagan religions are positive [concrete], what is needed on the human side is a mind that has been sanctified and eyes that have been opened in order to be able to see God, the true and living God, in his creatures. And even this is not enough. Even Christian believers would not be able to understand God’s revelation in nature and reproduce it accurately had not God himself described in his Word how he revealed himself and what he revealed of himself in the universe as a whole. The natural knowledge of God is incorporated and set forth at length in Scripture itself. Accordingly, Christians follow a completely mistaken method when, in treating natural theology, they, as it were, divest themselves of God’s special revelation in Scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, discuss it apart from any Christian presuppositions, and then move on to special revelation.

Even when Christians do theology, from the very beginning they stand with both feet on the foundation of special revelation. They are Christ-believers not only in the doctrine of Christ but equally in the doctrine of God. Standing on this foundation, they look around themselves, and armed with the spectacles of Holy Scripture, they see in all the world a revelation of the same God they know and confess in Christ as their Father in heaven.

Reformed Dogmatics Vl. 2 pp 74,75

Still missing a point.


The next move we are likely to make is to offer some concession: “Well, of course God doesn’t expect your holiness to be perfect actually. He’s prepared to accept your best efforts.”

Now we have regressed entirely to the medieval doctrine of congruent merit, from which the Reformation delivered us. The problem, of course, is that all the evidence in Scripture tells us that God does expect perfect holiness. No one who has read the book of Leviticus could come away thinking that God is satisfied with less than perfection.

The solution for this problem is to recognize the difference between “if…then” and “do…because.” The medieval and Romanist schemes set up deadly conditionals: obey in order to gain (or keep) favor. The Protestants set up grace-wrought consequences. We Protestants seek to obey, in the grace of Christ, in union with Christ, because we’ve been redeemed and because we’ve been given new life. RSC

Dr. Clark makes some good observations but he seems to be neglecting the full teaching of the Divines and Chapter 16 of the WCF.

Thomas Manton, with an obvious dig at the antinomians, goes so far as to say, “They err certainly, that tell us the gospel is no law; for if there were no law, there would be no governor . . . no duty, no sin, no judgment, no punishment, nor reward.”146 With this principle in mind, he states in his comments on Psalm 119:34,147 in the same way as Shepard does above, that keeping the law with the whole heart may be understood legally or evangelically. Taken legally, the rigor of the law “requires exact conformity, without the least motion to the contrary, either in thought or desire, a full obedience to the law with all the powers of the whole man.”148  Man is unable to fulfill the terms of the law in this manner, which is why Christ’s perfect law keeping on behalf of his people was necessary. However, in an evangelical sense, “according to the moderation of the second covenant,” God, “out of his love and mercy in Christ Jesus, accepts of such a measure of love and obedience as answers to the measure of sanctification received.”149 Likewise, Ezekiel Hopkins comments: “That God accepts of our obedience, if it be sinceré voto et conamine, ‘in earnest desires and endeavours.’ Although we cannot attain that perfect exactness and spotless purity, which the Law requires: yet we are accepted through Christ, according to what we have, and not according to what we have not.”150 By showing that God accepts imperfect, but sincere, obedience from his saints, Manton and Hopkins highlight the graciousness of the covenant of grace. Instead of explaining away Psalm 119:34 as impossible, Manton proves that because of our union with Christ, and all that that means, Christians can actually pray this prayer in hopeful expectation that God, to quote Augustine (354–430) (and Sibbes above), gives what he demands and demands whatever he pleases (Heb. 13:21). In other words, Christians can answer to the legal demands of the law in their justification in and through Christ and also the gospel demands of the law WCF 16 VI.
Mark Jones, Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest?

Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him, not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

Is there any application we can take away from Chapter 16 of the WCF that Clark has missed? Maybe not.  The whole Chapter is most wonderful and it would have been beneficial to include its light on the topic.

Pastor Patrick Ramsey also thinks there is some clarification needed between Horton and Clark as he speaks on the apparent approaches to things they have written concerning this topic.

As I read through Dr. Clark’s Blog it just seemed to be skewed again not taking into account the full teaching of the Westminister Divines. I could be wrong but his emphasis just doesn’t hit the nail on the head squarely as I consider the whole teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Skirting the issue?


Dr. Clark wrote a recent blog on the Heidelblog here.

In Dr. Clark’s understanding the Republication issue shouldn’t be all that confusing. Well his understanding of it is for some of us who see things through the eyes of the Divine’s. Especially when we look at his Covenant Theology Thesis on his Westminster California Website. He seems to view the Mosaic Covenant more along the lines of the Lutherans than through the eyes of the Majority of the Divines during the time that the Westminster Confession of Faith was written. I have yet to see him discuss his differences with Anthony Burgess, Samuel Rutherford, or John Ball on this issue. He may have but I haven’t seen it.

I responded to his blog post but don’t expect an answer. I even expect my response to be deleted as usual.

Here is his understanding of the Mosaic in relationship to the Abrahamic and New Covenant.
Biblical / Exegetical section…
13. The Mosaic covenant was not renewed under Christ, but the Abrahamic covenant was.
16. With regard to the land promise, the Mosaic covenant was, mutandis, for pedagogical reasons (Galatians 3:23-4:7), a republication of the Adamic covenant of works.
17. With regard to justification and salvation, the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace.
18. The Israelites were given the land and kept it by grace (2 Kings 13:23) but were expelled for failure to keep a temporary, typical, pedagogical, covenant of works (Genesis 12:7; Exodus 6:4; Deuteronomy 29:19-29; 2 Kings 17:6-7; Ezekiel 17).
19. The covenant of grace, initiated in history after the fall, was in its antepenultimate state under Adam, Noah, and Abraham, its penultimate state under the New Covenant administration and shall reach its ultimate (eschatological) state in the consummation.
20. The term “Old Covenant” as used in Scripture refers to the Mosaic epoch not every epoch before the incarnation nor to all of the Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures indiscriminately.
21. The New Covenant is new relative to Moses, not Abraham.

The blog post he wrote seems to signify something different than what he seems to be noting in his Covenant Theses. At least it appears to. I also guess we might need to define what New Covenant means in relation to the Old Covenant. Concerning the Covenant of Grace, many take the terminology to mean Renewed as Richard Sibbes states.

There are four periods of time of renewing this covenant: first, from Adam to Abraham;… Secondly, From Abraham to Moses;… The third period of renewing the covenant of grace was from Moses to Christ; and then it was more clear, whenas to the covenant made with Abraham, who was sealed with the sacrament of circumcision, the sacrament of the paschal lamb was added, and all the sacrifices Levitical; and then it was called a testament. That differeth a little from a covenant; for a testament is established by blood, it is established by death. So was that; but it was only with the blood and death of cattle sacrificed as a type.

But now, to Christ’s time to the end of the world, the covenant of grace is most clear of all; and it is now usually called the New Testament, being established by the death of Christ himself; …

Many take the term to mean renewed. Dr. David Murray makes this point in his podcast here.

Also when we speak of Republication one needs to be understanding about what the implications of republication might mean and what the Divines meant.

Either the substance of the Mosaic is the same as the New Covenant as the WCF 7.5,6 states or it isn’t. It seems from past articles and writings that Dr. Clark might mean something different. If I am understanding him correctly the Covenant of Works is Republished in some form as a Covenant within the Mosaic Covenant. The Mosaic Covenant is only an Administration of the Covenant of Grace in relationship to justification according to his Theses which I quote above. The rest of the Mosaic Covenant must pertain to a Covenant of Works (in some sense) in a pedagogical way. So it must be some kind of mixed Covenant. But is that how the Majority of the Divine’s understood it? From what I have gathered that is not the case.

Here is Joel Beeke / Mark Jones on the topic from their book ‘A Puritan Theology’. I would encourage everyone to read Chapters 16-18 of this book to see if Dr. Clark sounds like the Reformed Thought of the Puritans and Divines or if he sounds more like the Minority view which was rejected at the Westminster Assembly. I believe Meredith Kline and Dr. Clark are promoting the Minority view which was rejected.

Here is a small portion which deals with Republication…

Anthony Burgess likewise comments that the law may be understood largely, “as that whole doctrine delivered on Mount Sinai,” or strictly, “as it is an abstracted rule of righteousness, holding forth life upon no terms, but perfect obedience.”75 In the former sense, the law belongs to the covenant of grace; in the latter sense, the law was not of grace, but of works, which helps explains Paul’s polemic against the law in his New Testament writings (e.g., Galatians). These distinctions also help to explain the idea found in many Puritan authors who speak of the Mosaic covenant as republishing the moral law first given to Adam, written on his heart, engraved on tablets of stone as the Decalogue. For the most part, theologians who spoke in this way, whether dichotomists or trichotomists, made a number of careful qualifications in order to show that the moral law was republished not as a covenant but as a rule of righteousness for those in covenant with God. In other words, the moral law was not republished at Sinai to serve as a means of justification before God. For example, John Owen made clear in his work on justification by faith that the old covenant was not a revival of the covenant of works strictly (i.e., “formally”). Rather, the moral law was renewed declaratively (i.e.,“materially”) and not covenantally: “God did never formally and absolutely renew or give again this law as a covenant a second time. Nor was there any need that so he should do, unless it were declaratively only, for so it was renewed at Sinai.”76 The concept of republication of the moral law does not make Sinai co-extensive with Eden in terms of strict covenantal principles. If the moral law is abstracted “most strictly,” to use Roberts’s language, then Sinai certainly was a formal republication of the covenant of works. But, as Ball tried to argue, that certainly was not the intention of the old covenant. In the end, Ball’s position, which had been argued during the Reformation by Heinrich Bullinger, Peter Martyr, and John Calvin, clearly influenced the Westminster divines.

Accordingly, chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession, “Of the Law of God,” begins by asserting that the moral law was first given to Adam, and goes on to say, “This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness, and as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables” (19.2). The Confession further asserts, “The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof” (19.5), and is of great use to believers “as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty…discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature…together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience” (19.6). Chapter 19 concludes that for a believer to do good because the law commands it or to refrain from evil because the law forbids it, “is no evidence of his being under the law, and not under grace. Nor are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it” (19.6–7).

Likewise, the Confession declares that the covenant of grace was administered “in the time of the law…by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances…all fore-signifying Christ to come.” Such outward forms were “for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation” (7.5). Hence it follows that “the justification of believers under the Old Testament was…one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament” (11.6).

p. 270-1

75. Burgess, Vindiciae Legis, 223.
76. Owen, Justification by Faith, in Works, 5:244.
Beeke, Joel R.; Jones, Mark (2012-10-14). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Kindle Locations 10634-10647). . Kindle Edition.

I also believe Samuel Rutherford dealt with this topic in his book the Covenant of Life Opened.

Samuel Rutherford was a very prominent Scottish member of the Westminster Assembly, which sat in the 1640s. He published an extensive treatise on the covenant. It appeared in 1655, as was entitled The covenant of life opened, or, A treatise of the covenant of grace. In the eleventh chapter, Rutherford deals with several abberant views on the Mosaic covenant. First he deals with the Amyraldian view (espoused first by John Cameron, and later by Bolton), which argues that the Mosaic covenant is not a covenant of works or a covenant of grace, but rather a third “subservient” covenant. This view is rejected by the Standards, as well as the Formula Consensus Helvetica. Second, he deals with those who make the Mosaic covenant a covenant of works, completely different from the covenant of grace. This is the view of all Lutherans, as well as a very small minority of Reformed theologians. It is also rejected by the Standards (WCF 19:1-2, LC 101, etc, but we will deal with that issue elsewhere). Finally, he deals with the Arminian view. It is similar to the Amyraldian view, in that it also argues for three covenants entirely distinct in substance.

You can read Chapter 11 of Rutherford here:

Here is Anthony Burgess again….

“We have confuted (proven to be incorrect) the false differences, and now come to lay down the truth, between the law and the Gospel taken in a larger sense.

And, first, you must know that the difference is not essential, or substantial, but accidental: so that the division of the Testament, or Covenant into the Old, and New, is not a division of the Genus (classification) into its opposite Species; but of the subject, according to its several accidental administrations, both on Gods part, and on mans. It is true, the Lutheran Divines, they do expressly oppose the Calvinists herein, maintaining the Covenant given by Moses, to be a Covenant of Works, and so directly contrary to the Covenant of Grace. Indeed, they acknowledge that the Fathers were justified by Christ, and had the same way of salvation with us; only they make that Covenant of Moses to be a superadded thing to the Promise, holding forth a condition of perfect righteousness unto the Jews, that they might be convinced of their own folly in their self-righteousness.” (Vindication of the Morall Law, Lecture 26 p.251)

I don’t believe Dr. Clark believes that the Covenant of Works is offered as a way of salvation as the Lutherans are reported to believe but it is offered as a Covenant in the Mosaic in some sense as Cameron and Bolton might have proposed which is noted to be unconfessional.  This issue is being discussed by the Pacific Northwest Presbytery of the OPC.  In fact I just learned that the Overture passed and will be taken to the OPC General Assembly.   You can read about the Overture and the booklet three Pastors have written on this topic at the following link.  Their conclusion in a sentence was this, ….the Republication Paradigm (ie., the views of Kline and The Law is not of Faithuses traditional language and concepts, but redefines them in the service of its own paradigm. Not only do these new definitions fail to harmonize with those contained in the Westminster Standards, they may lead to other systematic changes in our confessional theology.”

Here is another post concerning Anthony Burgess on this topic. I will post the intro to it and then the link to what he writes.
I have received permission from the author to publish is works on my blog. He writes….

Anthony Burgess

The following is taken from Anthony Burgess’s Vindication of the Law and the Covenants (1647). Burgess was a prominent member of the Westminster Assembly. These lectures were internationally hailed as a solid defense of consensus Calvinism over against the more extreme views of the Calvinistic antinomians of the period, as well as those of the Papists, Socinians, and Arminians.

Burgess argues for the consensus position articulated in the Westminster Standards, that the Mosaic Law is a covenant of grace (cf. WCF 7:5-6; 19:1-2; LC #101). Over against this, he refutes three other aberrant minority views, who maintain that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of works, a mixed covenant, or a subservient covenant. Note especially his insightful exegesis of the Ten Commandments towards the end: even the very form of the commandments presupposes that they are given in the context of a covenant of grace.

Burgess utilizes the precision of the scholastic method by distinguishing between the “whole doctrine delivered on Mount Sinai, with the preface and promises adjoined, and all things that may be reduced to it,” and in a more strict sense, the law “as it is an abstracted rule of righteousness, holding forth life upon no terms, but perfect obedience.” In other words, if we take the substance of the commands out of the Decalogue, and consider it merely in terms of these legal imperatives, abstracting it from its administration under Moses, we have a covenant of works. This can be affirmed in an orthodox sense only because the substance of the Mosaic Law (consider simply as the commandments abstracted from the preface and the promises) is the same as the law of the covenant of works, not because God actually made a covenant of works with Israel (for either earthly or heavenly life and blessedness)

This is very important for understanding the mainstream Reformed view, especially because Burgess reflects the Calvinistic consensus represented at the Westminster Assembly.

I have again updated some of the spelling to be more pleasing to the modern eye. In a few instances I have changed the word order in the interests of readability. I have in no way knowingly changed the sense or substance of Burgess’s arguments.

You can read the portion that Anthony Burgess wrote at the following link.

Now a word from our Covenant Theologian John Ball…..

Under this Covenant, the natural seed of Abraham bore the face of the Church and state, and God had promised abundance of temporals, and of spiritual a scantling; But all under the outward administration of the Covenant, were not in like manner partakers of the blessings promised in Covenant.  For some had their part in temporal blessings only, and the outward ordinances; others were partakers of the spiritual blessings promised.  But whatever good thing any of them enjoyed either temporal or spiritual, it was conferred upon them freely according to the Covenant of Grace, and not for the dignity of their works.  It is true, the promise is conditional, if they obey, they shall reap the good things of the Land: but obedience was not a causal condition, why they should inherit the Land…So that herein there appears no intexture of the Covenant of works with the Covenant of Grace, nor any moderation of the Law to the strength and power of nature for the obtaining of outward blessings.  But rather that God out of his abundant goodness is pleased freely to confer outward blessings promised in the Covenant upon some that did not cleave to him unfainedly, that he might make good his promise unto the spiritual seed, which by word and oath he had confirmed unto the Fathers.

(John Ball, A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace [1645], 142).

It seems from Clark’s writings and his Theses that he does not believe that the Mosaic Covenant is purely an Administration of the Covenant of Grace but that it is only an Administration of the Covenant of Grace in relation to justification. That doesn’t appear to be thought of the Divines as I have conferred with other Drs., Profs., and Reformed Pastors. It appears to me that he believes other things out side of the justification issue in the Mosaic Covenant contains a Covenant of Works (in some sense) pedegogically. Thus he seems to be teaching contrary to what is meant by WCF chapter 7.5,6.

Here are a collection of my blogs discussing this modern Reformed paradigm shift or what I term Modern Reformed Thought.

2013 Reformation Society Conference Sanctification Overcoming Modern Challenges

2013 Reformation Society Conference Sanctification Overcoming Modern Challenges.

Just pushing a reminder concerning the free conference sponsored by The Reformation Society of Indiana and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals at Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis November the 15th and 16th. If you need any additional information contact the Church at (317) 255-7557. Dr. David Murray and Tim Challies will be discussing Sanctification: Overcoming Modern Challenges.


Are Covenantal Baptists Reformed in the Historical Sense of what Reformed Theology is?


Are Covenantal Baptists Reformed in the Historical Understanding of Reformed Theology

I first posted this on the years ago and found it necessary to edit it a bit as time has passed.

Here is a link to Matthew MacMahon’s article ‘What Does It Mean To Be Reformed’ which gives a pretty good historical definition of what it means to be Reformed.

This blog was a response to all of those who were conflicted over Dr. R. Scott Clark’s comments on an old blog post he wrote that no longer exists.

Dr. Clark said, “Calling a Baptist “Reformed” is like calling Presbyterians “Baptist” because they believe in believer’s baptism. The Reformed churches do practice the baptism of unbaptized believers but they also baptize the infants of believers. No self-respecting, confessional Baptist should accept me as “Baptist” and Reformed folk should resist labeling anyone who rejects most of Reformed theology as “Reformed.”

This comment got a lot of attention on his blog back then. Especially since he had a readership that includes many Reformed Baptists. I use to be one of them.

I would agree with this comment by Rev. Matthew Winzer on the, “I think the last time this was discussed the consensus was that “reformed” before “baptist” is one thing, and “reformed” on its own is another. Reformed Baptists are just that — Baptists who have become reformed. But they are still distinct from reformed churches.”

Just to clarify some things here, I believe everyone is getting up in arms over terms they have endeared themselves to. Let me give you all an example. A Pastor friend of mine wrote a blog defining what a Reformed Baptist was. This of course made some Baptists upset because they wanted to be included as Reformed Baptists but they were dispensational (denying Covenant Theology) or had problems with one of the other points that Pastor David Charles included in his definition of what a Reformed Baptist is. These guys generally are New Covenant Theologians or Calvinistic Dispensationalists as John MacArthur. Just as some of the Calvinistic Baptists were offended by Pastor Charles, many Credo Baptists are finding themselves offended at Dr. Clark’s insinuation that Baptists are not Reformed Theologians.

The term Reformed Baptist is a rather new one in church history. It was developed around the time that Ernest Reisinger was starting to work with Banner of Truth Trust by bringing good Puritan and Reformed writings back to the American Churches. He was the first ordained Preaching Layman in a Presbyterian Church. He was undecided about his position concerning baptism when he was ordained to preach. But he became a Credo Covenantal Baptist as time went on. It has been thought by some that Ernie’s close association with Banner of Truth Trust (A Reformed Publishing Company) and his adherence to the Credo-Baptist position somehow made the two terms come together.

Historic Baptist theology was being rediscovered during this time. Dispensationalism had taken over much of the church in the mid 1900’s. And it is not the Historic Theology of the Reformers. It denies Covenant Theology and formed a new basis of hermeneutics and how others looked at portions of scripture. This dispensational hermeneutic interpreted the Bible in portions claiming that some sections were only meant for the Jews and certain periods of time and other sections were for everyone and others just for the gentiles. Example…Matthew chapter 5 is just for the Jews in the Millennium. This was foreign to Covenant Theology and very unbiblical. Ernie helped in a major way to get the Church back on track by being a representative for Banner of Truth Trust and promoting Covenantal thinking back into the American Church. To the dismay of some, even some Presby’s took up with dispensational teaching.

Historically the Puritan Credo Pastors in the 1600’s were not known as Reformed but as Particular Baptists. They did hold to a Covenant Theology much like the Reformers but more closely to a Covenant Theology that was taught by John Owen and Samuel Petto. The New is not the Old renewed. It is New. They held to a unity of the Covenant of Grace through out the scriptures but more discontinuity between the particular covenants that God had instituted through Abraham, Moses, etc. These Baptists also adhered to the same soteriology of the Reformers. But they held to a different understanding of who was a Covenant Member in the Covenant of Grace. They believed that only the Elect were Covenant Members in the Covenant of Grace. The Confessional Reformers held that the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants were administrations of the Covenant of Grace and that it included both the elect and non-elect per their physical covenantal lineage.

There are Baptists today who call themselves Reformed Baptists because they hold to the 5 points of Calvinism but they are not Covenant Theologians. Some have developed a new theology called New Covenant Theology. Most of its adherents deny the Covenant of Works and some deny one Covenant of Grace believing there are two Covenants which are separate Administrations of Grace. Some may tend to be antinomian in some ways.

The term Reformed (as it has been used in Church history) has been prostituted from the Confessional understanding of what it meant to be Reformed. The word Reformed has lost its historical understanding because of those who wish to be called Reformed when in fact they are not according to Christianity’s Reformed Historical Confessional Standards. (ie. The Three Form’s of Unity, The Westminster Standards, etc.)

When Matthew McMahan challenged me on what Reformed meant, when I first joined the, I was slightly offended because he said I wasn’t reformed. I just said he wasn’t reformed enough. I was ignorant about what he meant in its historical theological understanding. I was thinking of Luther, Zwingli, Bullinger, Bucer, Calvin, Bunyan, Owen, and all those during the time of the reformation and thinking that I was following their teachings. But some would say that Luther and Melancthon are not Reformed. I guess it depends on what you are referring to when you say Reformed. I think when a person is defining what Reformed is it matters what a person is referring to in relation to the time period or a system of doctrinal understanding. According to the Presbyterian’s and Reformed Confessional Churches those who are Reformed are those who follow a theology and practice. They are correct. Reformed Theology is based upon an historical and theological understanding.

Reformed Baptists are not Reformed Theologians. They are Particular Baptist Theologians defined by their theology and practice as Reformed Theologians are by their’s.

Be Encouraged,
R. Martin Snyder