I confess that I find it mighty hard to recognize a Reformed Baptist in the hornéd, pointy-tailed, sulfur-breathing, cloven-footed creatures of the night described by “Reformed Catholics” as typical representatives of Reformed Baptist theology.
Until fairly recently, most-all of the best theologians have been Presbyterian. The only Baptist theologian of comparable stature was the learned and redoubtable John Gill. But the times they are a-changin’.
I used to own Roger Nicole’s taped series on systematic theology before I gave it away to a former pastor of mine. You can also take the measure of Nicole from such books as Our Sovereign Savior and Standing Forth. As I recall, Nicole has two earned PhDs (one from Harvard), and enjoys a magisterial command of European theology in the original languages.
Others whom I read and appreciate are D. A Carson, Jonathan Rainbow, and Thomas Schreiner. Rainbow is into historical theology, while Schreiner and Carson are first-rate NT scholars.
Then there are the men I’ve privileged to know on personal basis, such as Paul Helm (our greatest living Reformed philosopher), Greg Welty (a seminary prof. in the phil. dept.), Michael Sudduth (who’s held numerous professorships in philosophy), James Anderson (a double PhD in computer science and philosophical theology), and Phil Marshall (a PhD candidate in LXX studies). All of them are better men than I, and all them keep their Mephistophelian genes well-concealed. Tail pinned back. Horns sanded down. Cloven feet discretely shod. Sulfuric breath scented with Listerine.
Then there are epologists like James White and Eric Svendsen. With his public-speaking skills, White could easily “trade up” to be the star preacher of a megachurch—another Rick Warren or Bruce Wilkinson--but he has, instead, given his life to countercult ministry—a ministry guaranteed to make you ten enemies for every friend. Likewise, Svendsen could easily teach at some SBC institution, but he, too, has devoted his exegetical talents to countercult ministry.
More often than not, the critic of a Reformed Baptist seems to feel that he has discharged his intellectual debts once he classifies a Reformed Baptist as an heir of the Radical Reformation. No need for further argument. The label does all the heavy-lifting.
There has always been some hostility in some Presbyterian circles towards their Reformed Baptist kin, and this seems to have rubbed off on the “Reformed Catholics.” Why, if I didn’t know better, I’d almost suspect that “Reformed Catholics” are trying to prove their own Reformed paternity by joining with the Presbyterians in ganging up on the Baptist end of the Calvinist continuum.
But another reason, I surmise, for the intensified animosity, is that the Reformed Baptists are rapidly gaining on the Presbyterians, if not overtaking them. In the past it was easy for a Presbyterian to treat a Reformed Baptist as the kid brother—a nuisance to have around when big brother goes out on a date, but still no threat to Presbyterian primogeniture.
Nowadays, however, Reformed Baptists are giving the firstborn some serious competition. In addition to high-profile preachers like John MacArthur and John Piper, the Reformed Baptist contingent is achieving ever-increasing representation in the SBC. And when you hitch up Reformed theology to the raw horsepower of the SBC, the potential is there to leave the OPC, URC, or PCA coughing and trailing in the dust. Is envy the twin brother of enmity?