Steve, I think that somewhere in the back-and-forth castigations a worthwhile question has been dropped. In the quote from Michael, it's hidden in the "this" in reference to "the heart of Josh's argument." I wonder if you'd care to respond to the "this"; namely, the divergent views of the sacraments held by the Reformed and the RBs. It is my understanding that RBs do not have them. In my experience in mixed company, when the various Reformed confessions speak of the sacraments as "means of grace," the RBs in the room clear their throats through clenched teeth. Why do RBs reject the sacraments as means of grace and yet think of themselves as Reformed in the tradition of Calvin, the Westminster divines, et al?
Furthermore, as others have pointed out, covenant theology decisively frames Reformed doctrine and practice. Reducing Reformed doctrine down to tulip is like reducing Eastern Orthodox theosis down to the Eucharist. They're certainly related to one another, but the specific sense of tulip (and the Orthodox eucharist) is given by the overarching theological framework. It sounds really strange to hear or read expositions on tulip as if it can be dehistoricized from its theological context; or put another way, RB theology seems both eclectic and anachronistic. It seems odd to someone confessionally Reformed like me (as well as certain truculent Lutherans) that RBs think of themselves as Reformed since RBs explicitly reject the framing theology and the accompanying sacramentology and ecclesiology that follow from it.
What is the point of doing apologetics as an RB if there's nary a trickle of refutations of Calvinism, presbyterians, Heidelberg confessors, etc? It seems that the very things that make RBs distinctive are the very things that they don't talk about. Why is that? The only blogger I've read that makes the effort to earnestly defend these distinctives is ct. She does a fine job of making it quite clear that the Reformed and Lutherans and ... corrupt biblical doctrine and practice with their theology of the sacraments and the church. Do not RBs share this view, generally speaking?
I don't know if you are RB, Steve, but would you care to explicate what exactly is Reformed about RBs? Further (so as not to leave Josh out), what is reformational about RBs? I think it would make an enlightening discussion to address the substance of Josh's original broadside.
# posted by notsoelder : 12/08/2005 2:08 AM
This is a perfectly reasonable request.
1.For the record, I’m not an RB. I regard the French, Dutch-Reformed, Presbyterian, Welsh Calvinist Methodist, and Anglican confessional traditions as equally valid expressions of the Reformed tradition, and I move between these very freely myself.
(When I refer to the Anglican tradition as Reformed, I have reference to the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Lambeth Articles. In practice, the Anglican tradition has not been consistently Reformed, to put it mildly.)
2.Every theological tradition is, to some extent, a historical accident. As with any historical phenomenon in the history of ideas, the Reformed tradition is rather fluid, with somewhat fuzzy boundaries in time, space, and content. The doctrinal package is, in some measure, eclectic.
3.There are different ways of identifying the Reformed tradition.
a) You might take certain representative credal statements as your point of reference (e.g. the Westminster Confession; Three Forms of Unity). Creeds are consensus documents, so they express mainstream opinion.
b) You might take certain representative theologians as your point of reference (e.g. Bavinck, Calvin, Cunningham, Edwards, Gill, Hodge, Murray, Owen, Turretin, Warfield).
c) You might take the inner logic of certain doctrinal matrices as your point of reference (e.g. TULIP).
d) You might take any or all of these as your proximate point of reference, but test them against Scripture as your ultimate point of reference.
4.As with any faith-community, the question of who’s in and who’s out is a consensus question. You cannot have community without a certain measure of unity. If enough people can’t agree on enough things, they can’t function at a communal level. But there’s no abstract, uniform answer for where to draw the line.
5.There is no one version of covenant theology. Stephen Strehle has documented the diversity of federal formulations in historical Reformed theology. Cf. Calvinism, federalism, and scholasticism: a study of the reformed doctrine of covenant (Peter Lang 1988).
6.In the 20C there have been a number of competing versions of covenant theology put forward by the likes of Beckwith, Hoeksema, Kline, McComiskey, Murray, Robertson, and Rushdoony.
Of these, O. Palmer Robertson’s may be the most mainstream or widely accepted.
The current contention over the Federal Vision is another case in point.
7.Traditionally, Reformed Baptists do affirm covenant theology. Here’s a representative statement from the 1689 edition of the London Baptist Confession of Faith:
I. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.
(Luke 17:10; Job 35:7,8)
II. Moreover, man having brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace, wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.
(Genesis 2:17; Galatians 3:10; Romans 3:20, 21; Romans 8:3; Mark 16:15, 16; John 3:16; Ezekiel 36:26, 27; John 6:44, 45; Psalms 110:3 )
III. This covenant is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament; and it is founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect; and it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality, man being now utterly incapable of acceptance with God upon those terms on which Adam stood in his state of innocency.
(Genesis 3:15; Hebrews 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 11;6, 13; Romans 4:1, 2, &c.; Acts 4:12; John 8:56 )
8.While we’re on the subject, if you want a representative statement of what Reformed Baptists believe, it would be one or another editions of the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1644; 1677; 1689).
9.Just as you have intramural battles going on within Presbyterian circles over covenant theology, the same is occurring within Reformed Baptist circles. See Welty on NCT:
10.RBs are Reformational because they uphold the five Reformation soli.
For that matter, the Anabaptists are Reformational without being Reformed.
11.With regard to the efficacy of the sacraments as a means of grace, or the denial thereof, RBs take the same position as Zwingli and Bullinger. In terms of historical theology, that qualifies both as Reformed and Reformational.
For a representative statement of RB ecclesiology and sacramentology, consult the LBCF, to which I’ve already referred.
12. Historically, adherence to the Westminster Standards included adherence to the Westminster Directory of Worship. This is a Puritan document which prohibits hymns, organs, choirs, crosses, holidays, stained glass, &c.
Is this an essential mark of Reformed identity? The OPC and PCA say no. But there are Calvinists who regard these denominations as apostate because they reject the Westminster Directory of Worship.
Incidentally, this would also commit one to the terms of the Solemn League & Covenant.
Because the Westminster Confession identifies the papacy with the Antichrist, this would logically commit an adherent to the historicist school of prophetic fulfillment.
The OPC and PCA have dropped this article from their edition of the Westminster Confession. Again, there are some Calvinists who regard that deletion as another evidence of their apostate status.