Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll Results

Although I had planned to run the poll for an entire year, I have discovered that Blogger's poll feature began to lose votes after it passed 100. It seemed to work fine, in fact, until it got up to 114 votes, after which votes began to disappear and the number began to fluctuate up and down. Since I or my wife checked it every day, we are certain that the last update was accurate (at that time consisting of 109 votes), but cannot be certain of the exact figures after that date.

So, I am closing the poll and listing the results after running it for approximately six months.

Well over half of those responding (62%) did not think strict adherence to the Baptist Confession of 1689 is necessary to being a Reformed Baptist. Here is the breakdown of the poll as the Blogger poll feature listed it on January 17:
20% thought that one only had to be a Baptist who held to Calvinistic soteriology.

34% thought that one must be a Baptist who holds to Calvinism and Covenant Theology.

38% thought that one must be a Baptist who holds to the 1689 Confession.

6% thought that one must hold to the 1689 Confession for the most part, but thought that this should not have to include adherence to the Sabbath requirement.
You may have noticed that the figures actually add up to a total of 98% rather than 100%, but this appears to be due to Blogger's having rounded numbers up or down rather than having given more precise results. So these numbers will have to do. But they reflect pretty well what the trend was for the poll as I watched it over a six month period, with roughly 60% of the votes consistently falling into one of the categories that does not regard strict adherence to the Baptist Confession of 1689 as necessary to regard oneself a Reformed Baptist.

The two most common responses ran roughly neck and neck over the six months of the poll. The predominant response was that a Reformed Baptist is one who holds to the 1689 Confession (38%), with a pretty close second being that a Reformed Baptist must at least hold to Calvinism and Covenant Theology (34%). Together these constitute a significant majority of those who responded (72%).

This result really doesn't surprise me given my own experience in Reformed Baptist circles. I am not surprised that most thought that a Covenantal perspective was necessary, thus ruling out those Calvinist Baptists who are Dispensational. Nor am I surprised that, among those who would define the term Reformed Baptist more narrowly, there was a pretty even split among those who did not see a close adherence to the Baptist Confession of 1689 as necessary. This of course reflects the historical fact that not all of those who have called themselves Reformed over the centuries would necessarily adhere to the English confessions written in the 17th century. For example, there are many Reformed of a Presbyterian stripe that would not adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith (the many Dutch Reformed and those springing more directly from this background come to mind). So it should not be surprising that many Reformed Baptists should similarly regard the 1689 Confession, which so closely reflects the Westminster standard, as being too narrow a definition of the term Reformed as applied to them.

In other words, the poll results for the most part are well within the limits of what one should expect, at least if one has a fair knowledge of Reformed history as well as the modern development of what has become the Reformed Baptist movement. The former indicates more flexibility in the use of the term Reformed than with reference strictly to the Westminster tradition, and the latter indicates more flexibility in the use of the term Reformed Baptist than with reference strictly to the 1689 Confession.

With regard to the modern term Reformed Baptist, Jim Savastio has summarized well the (sometimes frustrating) diversity of its usage. Here are his remarks from a paper entitled What is a Reformed Baptist Church?:
The answer to the question, “What is a Reformed Baptist church?” is difficult for two reasons. In the first place, it is difficult to answer because the terms Reformed and Baptists are often seen to be at odds with one another. Many theologians, both Reformed and Baptist, would say that such a title is a misnomer. Some claim that it is not possible to be both Reformed and baptistic! Though Baptists have been and can be Calvinistic, it is said, they are not and cannot be Reformed. The reason for this charge is simple: Reformed theology is almost always associated with paedo-baptism (infant sprinkling). Many who are Reformed in their theology view this perspective as the sine qua non of the Reformed Faith.

Secondly, the subject is difficult because there exists an ever-widening gulf between churches that call themselves Reformed Baptists. The term has not been copyrighted and, thus, there exists no definitive statement regarding who can lay claim to the title. You will find that no two Reformed Baptist churches walk in lock-step. Some churches call themselves “Reformed Baptists” when all they mean by that is that they hold to the so-called "Five points of Calvinism" and that they immerse believers. Other “Reformed Baptists” hold to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 in its entirety, while yet a third group of “Reformed Baptists” hold to but a few of the articles. And although most Reformed Baptists hold to a Biblical and Puritan view of the Lord’s Day Sabbath, there are some who reject the doctrine as legalistic. In addition, Reformed Baptists churches differ in regard to their understanding of the exact application of the Regulative Principle of worship (the conviction that the Bible alone dictates the worship and life of the church), in regard to who is invited to the Lord’s table, to Bible translations, hymnals, the structure of prayer meetings, ministerial training, the nature of the pastoral office, denominations, and associations, etc., etc. [Note: The copy of the paper linked above is from the site of The Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, where Jim Savastio is a pastor, but there is also a copy at the website of Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church.]
As I see it, there has been a movement under way for some time among many Baptists to get back to their Biblical - i.e. Calvinistic - roots. This seems to have been going on for about thirty years at least. During this time, there have obviously been many for whom the term Reformed Baptist quite naturally suggested itself as a good description of their views. For example, I have a recollection of the way I and a few of my friends at Columbia Bible College began to call ourselves Reformed Baptists about eighteen or twenty years ago, and we actually thought we were coining the term. I have since discovered that there were others using the term even before that time.

The term thus arose with varied connotations among a variety of people and churches, who until recently were relatively unaware of each other's existence. But, especially since the advent of the internet and its increasingly common usage, these men and groups have begun to find one another and to discover both what they share in common and where they differ. As the smoke clears, however, there seems to be a pretty strong majority who would think that a Reformed Baptist must at a minimum hold to a Calvinistic and Covenantal perspective. At least this is what both my experience and the poll results would seem to indicate.

As always, I welcome comments from the blog's readers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Band of Bloggers Fellowship Open for Registration

This week I recently received this email from the Band of Bloggers:

Registration Opens Today

Posted: 17 Feb 2008 10:01 PM CST
2008 Band of Bloggers
“The Gospel Trust”
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 :: (11:30 -1:30)
The Galt House (Louisville, KY)
Tim Challies, Justin Taylor, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Mark Lauterbach

After a long process of working out the details, the 2008 Band of Bloggers fellowship is open for registration! The window of registration will be from February 18-March 31, 2008 (a total of six weeks). So be sure to help us get the word out to all the bloggers attending T4G this year.

A few things to note:

1. $15 for Registration

The Galt House (where the T4G conference was held in 2006) has agreed to host this year’s meeting and will be catering the attendees with a boxed lunch. Those of you who have been around downtown Louisville know how difficult it is to find a place to eat, moreover, a place that is affordable. We are committed to making the cost as affordable as possible, but given that we are working with no budget or any outside financial support, a small registration fee is required. Included in this cost is lunch and other treats TBA. If you plan to attend and cannot afford the $15, please email us at thegospeltrust@gmail.com.

2. Limited Capacity

The current conference room will allow us to seat approximately 150 people. Therefore, it is important that you register early. If perchance, we exceed this capacity in short order, we will pursue the possibility of a larger meeting room. We would like to make this open to as many as possible, so please do not procrastinate in signing up!

3. Location, Directions, and Time

The Galt House is located just one block away from the Kentucky Convention Center and can be accessed indoors (less than a five minute walk). For those traveling from the airport, I have created a Google Map and have pin-pointed the locations for both the Galt House and Convention Center. For those of you concerned that you will miss the first session of T4G, it does not begin until 2:30, and Band of Bloggers is scheduled to end at 1:30 p.m. that afternoon.

The purpose of this event is to provide all attending bloggers of the 2008 Together for the Gospel conference an opportunity to meet, fellowship, and engage in a fruitful, gospel-centered discussion with some of the leading bloggers today. It is our desire that you to be refreshed personally, connected corporately, and fueled Christocentricly. May the Lord use this time to burn in our hearts a love for the gospel and for one another.

Lord willing, I will be in attendance, and perhaps I will meet some of you there.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

John Piper on False Teachers

In his Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul warned the early Christians to watch out for false teachers:

NKJ Romans 16:17-18 "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple."

I recently ran across a video of John Piper explaining Paul's meaning in this passage, in particular verse 18, and I thought the blog's readers might appreciate it as much as I did.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Downloads at PastorThroop.com

Hello to all the blog's readers! I just wanted to let you all know that I have uploaded all of the resources I had previously made available at my old website to the new PastorThroop.com site. I have also added many new resources, including PDF files and e-Sword Topic Notes files. These include many Reformed materials, from systematic theology texts to sermons.

Recent additions include "Christian Apologetics - An Introduction," "The Relevance of Christianity: An Apologetic," and "Blaise Pascal: An Apologist for Our Times," by Rick Wade of Probe Ministries. In addition, I recently added Basic Christian Doctrine from Curt Daniel, pastor at Faith Bible Church in Springfield, Illinois, as a Topic Notes file. So, check out my Downloads page if you are interested.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Global Bible Reader Beta

Logos has introduced their own Bible Reading software program called Global Bible Reader Beta. It looks to be a pretty good little program, but, then, I am for any program that will help people read their Bibles more. Here is some information from the website:
What Is It?

Global Bible Reader helps you stay on track with your daily Bible readings by onnecting you to a community of people all following the same reading schedule. Global Bible Reader presents you with today’s reading, keeps track of your progress, and lets you communicate with everyone else who’s reading with you.

How It Works

Once Global Bible Reader is installed, it displays an icon in the taskbar notification area (near the clock). Double-click that icon to open Global Bible Reader. Browse the available schedules by selecting them from the drop-down list (with a purple book icon) in the upper-left. The calendar icon (in the top-middle of the window) allows you to look at previous and upcoming readings in your chosen schedule.

For those interested, their is actually a Bible Reading tool included in e-Sword as well, with which you can set up a daily Bible Reading Plan for the whole Bible or just for a particular book or part of the Bible. But this doesn't sit in your system tray to remind you. Nor does it help involve you with a wider community of readers. But, on the other hand, since it doesn't sit in you system tray, it also doesn't use any resources until you tell it to.