Friday, December 09, 2005

Truth in Labelling

[The following blog post is by Jus Divinum.]

"notsoelder" continues his contributions in the debate over what it means to be "Reformed". He's directed most of his ire at RBs and their doctrines. I have no dog in this fight. I'm a Three Forms of Unity guy. But on behalf of my RB brethren and their "Reformed" status, I'll continue to comment on notsoelder's remarks.

Although this might strike some as arrogant, it seems to me that the right view on this matter is pretty much self-evident. There is a reason why Reformed Baptists call themselves "Reformed Baptists," whereas Presbyterians don't. What RBs mean by the label they affix to themselves, I would have thought, is: "We're Reformed, except for our views on baptism". It seems pretty silly, then, to argue: "You're not Reformed because of your views on baptism, like rejecting that it's a seal, and rejecting its application to infants." Well, duh. RBs never claimed to be Reformed in that respect. That's why they call themselves Reformed Baptists, remember? They're qualifying the Reformed tradition in this particular respect.

Of course, I suppose there will be those who say, "If you don't hold to the seal status and infant application of baptism, then you can't be Reformed at all!" To these I say, "Phooey". Since Reformed doctrine is constituted by many, many doctrines, then being "Reformed" comes in degrees. The RBs, to their credit, have nailed their colors to the mast for all to see, and openly confessed that they disagree with the Reformed tradition on some matters of baptism. They don't claim to hold to the Reformed tradition in every respect. But I think they have a better case for their status, then that of some of their detractors against their status, who seem to think: if you don't agree with the Reformed tradition on everything, then you can't be Reformed at all. This is, in effect, a denial of the substance of the Reformed tradition, reducing it to a few shibboleths, which is sad. It overlooks the fact that the 1689 LBCF agrees with at least 95% of the WCF, verbatim.

I'm not sure if notsoelder actually falls into this category, but it's looking more and more like that to me.

Notsoelder has replied to my earlier comment over here.

He says:

I was asking what was distinctive about RBs and why they don't expend more apologetical effort against calvinists.


No, you said a lot more than that. In particular, you said that RBs reduce Reformed doctrine down to tulip, and that they deny that the sacraments are means of grace. On these points, I refuted you several times over. Anyone who holds to the 1689 LBCF holds to covenant theology, and to the Lord's supper as a means of grace. In addition, if you look up the FAQ I pointed you to, it argues that "Reformed Baptists fully affirm a Reformed view of the sacraments as a means of grace."

In response to the above, you've said... exactly nothing. In your original post, you said: "Furthermore, as others have pointed out, covenant theology decisively frames Reformed doctrine and practice." That's right. Which is why it's laughing-out-loud insane that you think RBs reject covenant theology. As I said before, 95% of the 1689 LBCF is verbatim from the WCF.

You continue:

I was asking what was distinctive about RBs and why they don't expend more apologetical effort against calvinists.


Since RBs are Calvinists, why would they do apologetics against Calvinists?

Of course, I'm using the term 'Calvinist' fairly broadly. If you define it narrowly, such that one must hold to infant baptism in order to be a Calvinist, then... surprise! RBs have tons of polemics against infant baptism. Did you actually read the FAQ I pointed you to, and look at the resources listed there? We might agree that their polemics are all bogus at this point. Nevertheless, it is there, and you are simply clueless to make public pronouncements about RBs without knowing otherwise. This is a basic fact about RBs in the 20th century. Obviously, if they're going to subscribe to a confession that advocates covenant theology, but rejects infant baptism, they're going to develop polemics in support of their distinctives. And they have. Ever heard of John Tombes, John Gill, J. L. Dagg, Walter Chantry, or Fred Malone? RBs have. That's why they've been busy republishing their polemics against infant baptism as long as they've been around.

I hope that the above constitutes an answer to your question as to why RBs don't do apologetics against Calvinists. They do and they don't, depending on how broadly you define 'Calvinist'.

When it comes to baptism, however, I would find it interesting to hear an RB argument against the calvinist view.


Gosh, nosoelder, did I or did I not point you to a list of resources on this precise topic?!

You cite Calvin:

"baptism is...a true and effectual sealing of the promise, a pledge of sacred union with Christ, it is justly said to be the entrance and reception into the Church. And as the instruments of the Holy Spirit are not dead, God truly performs and effects by baptism what He figures."


Yes, and Keach's catechism, written to clarify the theology of the 1689 LBCF, says:

Q. 95. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?

A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are His ordinances, especially the Word, Baptism, the Lord's Supper and Prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation. (Rom. 10:17; James 1:18; 1 Cor. 3:5; Acts 14:1; 2:41,42)

Q. 98. How do Baptism and the Lord's Supper become effectual means of salvation?

A. Baptism and the Lord's Supper become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them or in him that administers them, but only by the blessing of Christ and the working of His Spirit in them that by faith receive them. (1 Peter 3:21; 1 Cor. 3:6,7; 1 Cor. 12:13)

Q. 99. Wherein do Baptism and the Lord's Supper differ from the other ordinances of God?

A. Baptism and the Lord's Supper differ from the other ordinances of God in that they were specially instituted by Christ to represent and apply to believers the benefits of the new covenant by visible and outward signs. (Matt. 28:19; Acts 22:16; Matt. 26:26-28; Rom. 6:4)


What more do you want? As Reeves puts it, "Baptism is a means of grace in Reformed Baptist theology".

You say:

The key word in this quote and in the WCF is "seal." According to the Reformed, the sacraments are not only signs, they are seals.


Sure. RBs reject this view. But the view being rejected is not a Reformed distinctive. Roman Catholics also believe that baptism is a seal. So RBs are not rejecting any Reformed distinctive.

Interestingly enough, in that last comment of mine I said:

RBs hold to every Reformed distinctive. If someone can name a Reformed distinctive to which RBs do not hold, I'd like to see it.


And interestingly enough, on this point you've said exactly... nothing.

You say:

So I agree with you about this: baptizing infants is not the sole provenance of the Reformed. The Reformed have their own theological take on it, but the outward form is not distinctive. But that wasn't the point. The point was that the Reformed view of baptism is decidedly distinct from the RB view.


Why don't you take a moment and reflect on the above citation. Do you see the circularity yet in the charge that RBs are not "Reformed"?

Of course, if "RB" is being defined such that they are not Reformed due to their view of baptism, then -- surprise! -- you're going to get to that conclusion. But you won't have anything resembling a cogent argument.

All you are saying is: the "Reformed" baptize infants, but RBs don't; therefore they're not Reformed. Well, duh, if you have to baptize infants to be Reformed, then RBs aren't Reformed. But if the argument was that easy, this discussion would have been over long ago.

Of course, you're talking to someone who thinks it's perfectly OK to engage in evangelical co-belligerence with Roman Catholics in various political and social causes (though not the Great Commission or local church ministry). So my ecumenicity in welcoming RBs into the Reformed fold might not be to your liking. Sorry, it's who I am, and I think I have good arguments for my view.

You ask:

Was your point that it is the RBs that have the proper Reformed understanding of baptism, church government, etc?


No, my point was that RBs views on baptism and church government don't disqualify them from being Reformed. There are no Reformed distinctives that they deny. If you can think of one, please let me know. Notice that my argument, unlike yours, isn't circular. So far all of the 'Reformed distinctives' you've brought up have been nothing of the sort, since non-Reformed professing Christians hold to them as well.

Why should RBs be denied the label of "Reformed," simply because they refuse to accept some particular doctrines that are typical of the non-Reformed? Like I said, it's insane ;-)

You say:

(3) Therefore, the Reformed are in theological error regarding x, y and z.


Please point out the place in my commentary where I deny the doctrines of baptism being a seal, sacraments as means of grace, etc. I'm making room for regarding RBs as Reformed, even if they reject some doctrines I accept. One doesn't have to be a RB to make the case that it's more plausible to grant them this label, then to deny it.

You say:

I had never read or heard an attempt to defend the RB view and practice of the sacraments in contradistinction to the Reformed.


Then it's interesting, isn't it, that you felt yourself warranted to make the public pronouncements about RBs that you made, when as a matter of fact you hadn't bothered to make yourself conversant with their steady stream of material on this topic.

You say:

Steve, the quotation from Ch 7 of the LBCF really highlights the difference between the RB understanding of the covenant and the Reformed (cf. WCF 7.5 and 7.6).


LOL. Let me know when you can make a case that RBs deny any doctrine found in WCF 7.5 and 7.6. Also, looks to me like you're overlooking 1689 LBCF 8.6:

Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein He was revealed, and signified to be the seed which should bruise the serpent's head; and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, being the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.


RBs believe that "the virtue, efficacy, and benefit" of Christ's redemption was "communicated to the elect... in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein He was revealed." Yup, you heard it here first: RBs believe that OT sacrifices and circumcision communicated the benefits of Christ's death to the elect. Gee, sounds like their doctrine of OT sacramental efficacy is the same as their doctrine of NT sacramental efficacy :-) News to you? ;-)

I don't want to knock you too hard over this stuff, notsoelder. After all, you don't live in Grand Rapids. If you did, you might know a bit more about RBs :-)

You say:

Given the Reformed view of actual applied grace through the means of the sacraments (WCF 27), how can we and the RBs be talking about the same sola?


You're not reading very well, are you? In my last posted comment, I said:

Re: the Lord's Supper, RBs hold that Christ instituted it, in part, for the "confirmation of the faith of believers in all the benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him." Yep, according to them it's a means of grace, in some significant sense, and not a mere memorial.


Of course, if you want to micromanage the whole affair -- "They didn't use the word 'seal'!" -- then I give you your shibboleths and bid you adieu. In the meantime, I'll just remind you yet again that holding to "actual applied grace through the means of the sacraments" is not a Reformed distinctive! So how can RBs be non-Reformed for denying it?

You say:

So jus may be satisfied that the Lord's Supper is a means of grace in some vague and undefined "significant sense," but if I were an RB and wanted to claim that I had an authentic reformational understanding of sola gratia, I'd want quite a bit more substance to my theology of the sacraments than that.


Yes! There goes that circular argument again ;-) "Authentic reformational understanding of sola gratia". Uh-huh, whatever you say!

You ask:

Is the preference for the name "Particular Baptist" an admission of that or are there intra-baptist reasons for that?


As I understand it -- and you must forgive me that this is not my area of speciality -- PBs took that designation to distinguish themselves from the Arminian "General Baptists" of their day, even as PBs take the designation of "Reformed Baptist" to include themselves among the Reformed of the present day. But who knows? Maybe the Particular Baptists weren't particular enough for the hyper-Calvinists, in which case they weren't "really" Particular Baptists. What do you think? ;-)

notsoelder continues his commentary here:

Jus divinum, you can scoff all you like; I have direct experience that "calvinistic" baptists believed nothing about calvinism per se; the only, and I do mean only area of agreement was on the subject of regeneration: monergism.


Then... surprise! Those guys weren't Reformed Baptists. Talk to any elder of a church which subscribes to the 1689 LBCF. They'll be happy to inform you as to the differences between Reformed Baptists and Sovereign Grace Baptists. (The latter are also often called "Calvinistic Baptists".)

This isn't "scoffing". It's informed commentary :-)

You wrote:

I was raised a tulipy baptist and am familiar with a lot of the tulipy baptist stars (Spurgeon, duh). Reformed covenant theology was as foreign to that system as prayers for the dead.


What a relief, then, that the 1689 LBCF teaches Reformed covenant theology :-)

You wrote:

I think it is inaccurate to describe polemical RBs as the "Truly Reformed" (that's a term I first heard in the context of the PCA, where it makes some sense), or, for that matter for RBs to describe themselves as Reformed. It would be more accurate to describe polemical RBs as the "Truly Baptist." The theological debates internal to, say, the SBC make perfect sense in this respect.


I'm sorry, but this is one of the most ignorant comments I've read from you. Despite the fact that RBs derive 95% of their doctrines verbatim from the WCF, it is more accurate to describe them as "Truly Baptist" rather than "Truly Reformed". Sure ;-)

You wrote:

It still seems obvious to me that RBs (shall we opt for MBs: Monergistic Baptists?), with regeneration excepted, share next to no doctrinal agreement with other monergists, including the puritans from which they are descended.


Oops, my bad. This is the most ignorant comment I've read from you :-) Holy cow, there's a lot more in the 1689 LBCF than the doctrine of regeneration! Have you even read the document?

11 comments:

  1. I think you have it about right. I would suggest, to be charitable, that if notsoelder comes from a Baptist background as I do, "Calvinist Baptists" or "Reformed Baptists" would appear at first glance to be no different than what you call "Sovreign Grace Baptists" (A term I was not familiar with) or "Four Point Calvinst" Baptists. True Reformed Baptists, as you have, I think, properly defined the term, are a relatively new breed to a lot of us, and around here at least, a relatively rare breed. There are probably 50 Baptist congregations in my county, including SBC, CBF, Missionary, Freewill, and various independent fundamentalist types, but only one congregation that I know of has adopted the London Confession.

    And to be fair, I do not believe that all of those who blog as Reformed Baptists hold exclusively to the London Confession. All of these various distinctions are relatively new to me, and I apprecialeakmspute your informative posts and comments.

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  2. Filioquism and original sin are Catholic distinctives. So does that make us all really Catholic in some sense? "Reformed Baptist Catholic?" Is James White as much an apologist for the Catholic tradition as he is for the Reformed tradition, since he can be considered Catholic with qualifiers?

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  3. My favorite argument is, "well, duh." I wish I had the audacity to use it more often.

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  4. Jus Divinum, thanks for the link to 'FAQ on the Reformed Baptist View of Baptism'. I don't think that I'm the only one in here that could learn something from reading some of those essays on the subject.

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  5. Jus, I suppose this is what I get for leaving ginormous comments :0

    One at a time, boys. (Pardon me, Jus, if you're a woman; presumptions at work.) We're covering lots of territory and the discussion is broadening to the point where I'm finding it difficult to follow the thread of the original point. Let me limit my response to you on just that, if I am able.

    I don't think I'm quite as stupid as you're reading me, but I could be wrong. And stupid. Just as a point of information: your propensity to lace your remarks with the frequent acerbic jab ("Well, duh") and cutting hyperbole ("most ignorant remark...") makes it difficult to know exactly what I'm supposed to take as serious offerings for plugging the holes in my head. Since I don't know you, I suppose the most prudent thing to do is not take any of them seriously. So slice away, jolly Jus, but don't be surprised if other conversation partners find your mode of discourse quite irritating and unhelpful. I, mon chéri, think you are trying to be helpful to me in your own peculiar way, so I am trying to return the favor by being quite honest with you. A little more patience with those you suspect of loitering in the imbecilic region of the intelligence spectrum might endear you to us fools you don't suffer gladly.

    Now that we have the personal business aside, let me respond to a couple of the remarks you made in this post.

    First, may I restate your main point as a formula? 100% Reformed - "infant" baptism = 95% Reformed. The mathematical proof that RBs are Reformed. I get it. 95% of Something Really Big and Important is still Something Big and Important. Right? Wrong. Searching for an analogy...accessing...ah, are you familiar with Michael Behe's "irreducible complexity" hypothesis? I'm going to assume you are to save time. The problem with subtracting "infant" baptism from systematic Reformed theology is that that component of the system interacts with other crucial components. "Infant" baptism may look disposable, like the flourish on a scripted letter, but appearances can be deceiving. I think it is more accurate to conceive of covenant baptism as a crucial element in the irreducibly complex system of Reformed theology. If you remove it, you've got to reinterpret the meaning of the covenant (which my glance at the LBCF confirms). And if you reinterpret the meaning of the covenant, then you've got to reinterpret the way in which membership in the covenant is effected. You see where this is going. Yes, a lot of the language carries over from WCF to LBCF. But the omissions and changes are not accidental or necessarily inconsequential. Having lived with both theologies, I can only aver from my experience (more than my study of the two systems) that "traditional" calvinistic reformed theology may look similiar to RB theology (in a nominal way, I mean), but danged if the explication and application of reformed theology isn't a totally different beast than what the RBs are up to. For example, Kuyperian neocalvinism makes systematic sense within the Reformed tradition and can converse meaningfully with the other -isms within the Reformed tent. But broaching neocalvinism with my RB friends and acquaintances results in glassy stares and head-shaking, shoulder-shrugging incomprehension. The reason for that, I think, is that Reformed theology entails a very different conception of sovereignty, which when applied practically, leads to a comportment and activity of "cultural engagement and renewal." I wonder whether such a form of discipleship is even commensurable with RB theology. Jus, I'm sure you're standing by with a bibliography of notable RB neocalvinists to set me straight ;-) Alphabetical, please.

    Second, you are setting me straight about the different flavors of baptists. As I said in a comment under Steve's post "Faith alone in Christ alone," I've never met baptists who subscribe to the 17th century confession. The tulipy baptists that raised me and that I've encountered since were severely allergic to any form of confessionalism. I'm not trying to make my experience normative, I'm just saying that I'll have to grant your description of the baptist landscape. Be that as it may, I'm not trying to disqualify anyone who wants to take the name "Reformed." I'm not getting all bent out of shape by baptists who think of themselves as Reformed in just the ways you described. Cool beans. But getting back to one of the original motives for entering this discussion, the accusation (which I reframed as a question) is: why do RBs have a blogging community with a disproportionate number emphasizing polemics against all things (both Christian and non) perceived outside the calvinistic fold? If memory serves, Josh S (et al) found this ironic since the RBs' claim to be calvinists or Reformed in the historic sense was controversial, if not dubitable. From my own Reformed perspective, I see Josh's point (as ignorant as I may be about RB distinctives). I (inadvisably, no doubt) zeroed in on the sacraments (not just baptism) as just such a distinctive. Given your replies, I wonder now whether we would have been served if I had begun from the bigger, systematic picture. Hopefully, this discussion will continue to be productive.

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I did read the Welty article that argued against the Reformed notion of "infant" baptism, and found it unpersuasive. His thesis was inventive, but counterarguments popped to mind rather quickly. I'm sure a real theologian could rebut it, but that ain't my bag.

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  6. Jus, I suppose this is what I get for leaving ginormous comments :0

    One at a time, boys. (Pardon me, Jus, if you’re a woman; presumptions at work.) We’re covering lots of territory and the discussion is broadening to the point where I’m finding it difficult to follow the thread of the original point. Let me limit my response to you on just that, if I am able.

    I don’t think I’m quite as stupid as you’re reading me, but I could be wrong. And stupid. Just as a point of information: your propensity to lace your remarks with the frequent acerbic jab (“Well, duh”) and cutting hyperbole (“most ignorant remark...”) makes it difficult to know exactly what I’m supposed to take as serious offerings for plugging the holes in my head. Since I don’t know you, I suppose the most prudent thing to do is not take any of them seriously. So slice away, jolly Jus, but don’t be surprised if other conversation partners find your mode of discourse quite irritating and unhelpful. I, mon chéri, think you are trying to be helpful to me in your own peculiar way, so I am trying to return the favor by being quite honest with you. A little more patience with those you suspect of loitering in the imbecilic region of the intelligence spectrum might endear you to us fools you don’t suffer gladly.

    Now that we have the personal business aside, let me respond to a couple of the remarks you made in this post.

    First, may I restate your main point as a formula? 100% Reformed - “infant” baptism = 95% Reformed. The mathematical proof that RBs are Reformed. I get it. 95% of Something Really Big and Important is still Something Big and Important. Right? Wrong. Searching for an analogy...accessing...ah, are you familiar with Michael Behe’s “irreducible complexity” hypothesis? I’m going to assume you are to save time. The problem with subtracting “infant” baptism from systematic Reformed theology is that that component of the system interacts with other crucial components. “Infant” baptism may look disposable, like the flourish on a scripted letter, but appearances can be deceiving. I think it is more accurate to conceive of covenant baptism as a crucial element in the irreducibly complex system of Reformed theology. If you remove it, you’ve got to reinterpret the meaning of the covenant (which my glance at the LBCF confirms). And if you reinterpret the meaning of the covenant, then you’ve got to reinterpret the way in which membership in the covenant is effected. You see where this is going. Yes, a lot of the language carries over from WCF to LBCF. But the omissions and changes are not accidental or necessarily inconsequential. Having lived with both theologies, I can only aver from my experience (more than my study of the two systems) that “traditional” calvinistic reformed theology may look similiar to RB theology (in a nominal way, I mean), but danged if the explication and application of reformed theology isn’t a totally different beast than what the RBs are up to. For example, Kuyperian neocalvinism makes systematic sense within the Reformed tradition and can converse meaningfully with the other -isms within the Reformed tent. But broaching neocalvinism with my RB friends and acquaintances results in glassy stares and head-shaking, shoulder-shrugging incomprehension. The reason for that, I think, is that Reformed theology entails a very different conception of sovereignty, which when applied practically, leads to a comportment and activity of “cultural engagement and renewal.” I wonder whether such a form of discipleship is even commensurable with RB theology. Jus, I’m sure you’re standing by with a bibliography of notable RB neocalvinists to set me straight ;-) Alphabetical, please.

    Second, you are setting me straight about the different flavors of baptists. As I said in a comment under Steve’s post “Faith alone in Christ alone,” I’ve never met baptists who subscribe to the 17th century confession. The tulipy baptists that raised me and that I’ve encountered since were severely allergic to any form of confessionalism. I’m not trying to make my experience normative, I’m just saying that I’ll have to grant your description of the baptist landscape. Be that as it may, I’m not trying to disqualify anyone who wants to take the name “Reformed.” I’m not getting all bent out of shape by baptists who think of themselves as Reformed in just the ways you described. Cool beans. But getting back to one of the original motives for entering this discussion, the accusation (which I reframed as a question) is: why do RBs have a blogging community with a disproportionate number emphasizing polemics against all things (both Christian and non) perceived outside the calvinistic fold? If memory serves, Josh S (et al) found this ironic since the RBs’ claim to be calvinists or Reformed in the historic sense was controversial, if not dubitable. From my own Reformed perspective, I see Josh’s point (as ignorant as I may be about RB distinctives). I (inadvisably, no doubt) zeroed in on the sacraments (not just baptism) as just such a distinctive. Given your replies, I wonder now whether we would have been served if I had begun from the bigger, systematic picture. Hopefully, this discussion will continue to be productive.

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I did read the Welty article that argued against the Reformed notion of “infant” baptism, and found it unpersuasive. His thesis was inventive, but counterarguments popped to mind rather quickly. I’m sure a real theologian could rebut it, but that ain’t my bag.

    [Apologies if this is a double post.]

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  7. Josh, just let it be. Your whole argument is pointless and mean and you should have had the wisdom to quash it before you made it.

    You don't like the fact that RB's call themselves RB's? What are you going to do? Sue 'em?

    Are Old Catholics not Catholic because the deny the primacy of the pope? I'm sure many RC people would make the claim that Old Catholics aren't real Catholics. Meanwhile the Old Catholics see themselves as Catholic--and in the best sense of Catholic. You can try and argue them out of it, but in my opinion, you're just being a jerk if you do.

    The whole tone of your initial post on this indicated to me that you had no constructive intent in any case.

    Let's say you can prove your point. Then what? Wow, a whole bunch of people are thinking of themselves as Reformed, but they aren't. Tsk. Bad bunch of people!

    I'm currently seeking membership in an independent Reformed church that has the Westminster Confession as its teaching standard. What's that you say? There's no such thing as an independent Reformed church? Where's my synod, etc.? Well, my church traces back to Congregationalism through its mother church, which broke of from Congregationalism when Congregationalism in the United States fell into disarray and nearly imploded. But maybe Congregationalism was never Reformed enough, either. Poor Jonathan Edwards--he thought he was Reformed. What a sucker.

    Your whole line of argument was unworthy and ungenerous to begin with. If you're not going to back down, move on to something more worthy of your intellect.

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  8. Filioquism and original sin are Catholic distinctives. So does that make us all really Catholic in some sense? "Reformed Baptist Catholic?" Is James White as much an apologist for the Catholic tradition as he is for the Reformed tradition, since he can be considered Catholic with qualifiers?

    If by "Catholic" you mean "Western Christian," then yes. If by "Catholic" you mean "Roman Catholic," then no.

    I do also recall something about "one holy, catholic, and apostolic church."

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  9. nosoelder,

    First, you might want to google "Assocation of Reformed Baptist Churches in America" or "ARBCA". Not quite a synod, but close :-)

    Second, I've reread our entire exchange just to make sure, but... for the second time in a row, you've offered (i) irrelevant anecdotes and (ii) sweeping systematic theological claims in search of an argument. Re: (i), what's annoying is that you continue to equivocate on the meaning of RB, even after I've specifically defined it for you. Re: (ii), it's difficult to take seriously half-baked analogies that swing free of any specific evidential support. If you really do believe that the WCF and the 1689 LBCF, properly interpreted, only have *5%* of their doctrines in common, there's not much more I can do, or am willing to do, to change your mind. Your argument is outrageous: affirming infant baptism and the seal status of baptism as a means of grace, while certainly commendable, was *not* at the heart of the Reformation or subsequent Reformed doctrine. How could these things be the distinctive of Reformed thought, when they were carried over from the medieval church? All that to say: for the second time in a row now you seem completely oblivious to my remarks on what it takes to be a 'Reformed distinctive,' even though those remarks are directly relevant to the comments you make now.

    So, this isn't worth my time. Maybe someone else can take things up where I've left off, because as of right now, I've left. Sorry.

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  10. Jus, thanks for the ARBCA suggestion. As I suspected, there are no such congregations in Florida (born & raised), North Carolina (my genealogical origin), only one in metro Atlanta, but over an 1.5 hrs away from where I lived for a number of years. So it is no wonder that I never encountered these confessional baptists. I stand newly enlightened on that subject (I never doubted you on it).

    (i) "Irrelevant anecdotes?" I thought I was quite clear that I wasn't trying to argue from my experience. I was merely informing you of it. Descriptive claim, not normative. I'm not equivocating on the term RB; I expressed what I understood it to mean. As I said, I'm happy to stand corrected. Cut me a little slack: I've been enlightened for all of 24 hrs and I still haven't absorbed all of the written references much less actually met or conversed with a "real" RB as you define them.

    The labels are what are irrelevant. Call them "reformed," "calvinist," "puritan," or "bust a cap" baptists, whatever you think best. Correct terminology should help us avoid confusion in the future, but we're still no clearer as to how distinctive RBs are from other Reformed theologies. You say the distinction boils down to the mode of baptism, hence the attention given to it in the name RBs take for themselves. I really do grasp that. But I still disagree with you.

    I have suggested that there are many more distinctives, and important ones, than just mode of baptism. I did NOT say that there was only 5% in common. Perhaps your impatience with my dullness caused you to completely misinterpret what I wrote.

    What I am dismissing is the value of this mathematical explanation for determining the question at hand. I attempted to state why I found it lacking with the irreducible complexity analogy. "Half-baked?" Shoot, I thought it was a fine illustration. I guess I didn't succeed in getting it out of my head. Oh, well. Let me state my position as explicitly as I can: Reformed theology had been around as a systematic account of reality for about 100 years before the RBs appropriated it and reinterpreted it. As you are well aware, the cogency of systematics rests on its basic structural principles and the coherence of its explicitation. I compare this to a physical system. I chose Behe's molecular biology. Shall we try another?

    Consider an automobile. Now you can take the floor mats or the rear bumper or the radio antenna away and you've still got basically the same car without much operational difference. But you can't take away the alternator. If I understand you, you liken the rejection of covenant baptism to something like the floor mats. Change the color, no biggie. But I liken covenant baptism to the alternator. Take it out and you've got to redesign the whole engine. You've still got a car (the universal church), but it has totally different specs and performance. It doesn't function at all like traditional Reformed theology. My point in bringing up neocalvinism was to offer evidence in support of this analogy. Call them both "Reformed" if you like, but the way in which neocalvinist and RB theologies work out into normative and aesthetic life are radically different. Different cultural values, different institutions, different educational philosophies, different apologetical styles ;-), different understanding of vocations; in short, very different answers to the question "How shall we then live?" Why do two "Reformed" theologies result in very different worldviews? I think I've offered a reason why.

    (ii) About my "outrageous" argument you wrote, "affirming infant baptism and the seal status of baptism as a means of grace, while certainly commendable, was *not* at the heart of the Reformation or subsequent Reformed doctrine."

    Jus, I never said it was, or at least I never meant to. My argument, such as it is, is that reinterpreting the sacraments requires sweeping reinterpretation of one's whole, systematic theology. The very documents you and Steve have pointed me to attest to that quite plainly, in my opinion. It is irrelevant that the LBCF lifts paragraph upon paragraph almost verbatim from the WCF. Call it 95% overlap. What makes all the systematic difference is that 5%. If you change 5% of a genome, you get a very different critter.

    I realize that any evaluative claim can be controversial. These are knotty issues and I, for one, do not find them easy to breeze through in the dialectical manner you seem comfortable with. Have I been twice oblivious to your position on what it takes to be a Reformed distinctive? I don't think so. What I seem to have missed is a satisfactory explanation as to why I observe significant difference between "traditional" Reformed faith and practice and RB faith and practice (as exemplifed by my personal knowledge of RBs, by the 1689 LBCF or by the primary sources of your choice). You observe very little difference, certainly nothing worthy of lengthy comment threads. I've given you an account of why I think there's a significant difference between "traditional" Reformed belief and RB belief. Submitting an inventory of those differences won't help. It's a difference of fundamental, systematic orientation. That difference of fundamental orientation did not arise from the "top" down (like disposing of one of the five soli), but from the "bottom" up, by removing the alternator from the car (covenant baptism).

    One concrete counterexample to my analysis of contrasts between "traditionally" Reformed and RBs is the . With the exception of paedobaptism, I think the CPs and the RBs share very much in common, particularly dogmatics, biblical theology and religious practice.

    I'm happy, as always, to be taught where my judgment has gone off the rails. Perhaps someone else will step in for you, Jus, to set me straight.

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