Friday, January 13, 2017

2016 "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll Results

Twelve months ago I began a poll on the blog. I asked those who identified themselves as Reformed Baptists to respond to the question, "What is a Reformed Baptist?" I ran the poll for one year, and I supplied four options for answers that I think basically sum up the various groups or individuals that I have found to be using the term. Here were the four possible answers:
To regard oneself as a Reformed Baptist, one must ...

1) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology.

2) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology.

3) adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility).

4) adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689.
More than three hundred people responded to the poll over the past year (306 to be exact), and here are the final results:
13% say that one must adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

25% say that one must adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

42% say that one must adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility) in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

20% say that one must adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689 in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.
As I explained when I first posted the poll, I have regarded "substantial adherence" to the Baptist Confession of 1689 as adherence to the theology contained in it, but not such strict adherence that modifications or refinements are not welcomed if deemed Scripturally appropriate. I recognize that there is a fair amount of debate as to what "substantial adherence" should mean, but I hoped I had phrased the question in such a way as to clarify what was intended for the purpose of this poll. The word substantial was taken primarily to mean being largely but not wholly that which is specified, but it was also intended to emphasize agreement concerning essential doctrinal matters while allowing differences on some matters deemed less essential to Scriptural orthodoxy. For example, I explained that one might be willing to modify the confession with regard to such things as the proper understanding of the Regulative Principle of Worship, Divine Impassibility, or the proper nature of Sabbath observance. The term modify was used simply with the meaning make one or more partial changes to. I included the example of Divine Impassibility, in particular, since that is a current topic of debate in which some are arguing that a modification in the statement of the doctrine -- not a rejection of it -- should be allowed, and some are arguing against it. At any rate, with these points in mind, I would like to make several observations regarding the results of the poll.

First, the poll revealed that a strong majority (87%) of self-identified Reformed Baptists think that simply holding to Calvinistic soteriology, together with the Baptist distinctives that are presupposed in the respondents, is an insufficient basis for properly regarding oneself to be a Reformed Baptist. In fact, only 13% thought that this was sufficient. So, there is a strong consensus that a Calvinistic Baptist who holds, say, to Dispensational Theology, should not properly be regarded as a Reformed Baptist, a fact that should not come as a surprise.

Second, the poll revealed that a majority of self-identified Reformed Baptists think that one must hold to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (whether strictly or substantially) in order to properly be regarded as such. However, this majority was only a 62% majority, which means that well over a third of self-identified Reformed Baptists (38%) do not think that one must hold to the Baptist Confession of 1689 at all in order to properly be regarded as such. This, too, is not surprising. As I pointed out in response to a previous poll conducted back in 2008, this state of affairs 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 (such as the many Dutch Reformed and those springing more directly from this background). 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 in this regard are well within the limits of what one should expect, at least if one has a fair knowledge of the history of Reformed theology, together with a basic knowledge 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.

Third, the poll revealed that, among those who regard holding to the Baptist Confession of 1689 as essential to properly identifying oneself as a Reformed Baptist, a majority think that only substantial subscription should be required. In fact, more that twice as many held this view rather than the view that would require strict subscription. There were 42% of the respondents who would say that one must adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 over against only 20% who would say that one must adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689 in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist. These strict subscriptionists, then, apparently make up a rather small minority among self-identified Reformed Baptists. It is also noteworthy that, given that the example used to differentiate between substantial and strict subscriptionists was a willingness to modify the Confession with respect to the doctrine of Divine Impassibility, those who hold the strict view concerning this doctrine are also in the minority. To be sure, this poll is not at all scientific, and we do not settle doctrinal issues by taking a poll anyway, but it is nevertheless remarkable that a majority think that a modification in the statement of the doctrine -- not a rejection of it -- should be allowed. As with the other results of the poll, so also this result is not surprising, since there have been differences among Reformed theologians concerning this doctrine for some time. However, I don't doubt that this result will come as a surprise to some, since those who hold the strict subscriptionist view have been so vocal of late and have perhaps left the impression that they are actually in the majority.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Sam Waldron's Interview with Dr. Curt Daniel on Hyper-Calvinism

Sam Waldron recently posted a four part blog series containing an interview with Curt Daniel concerning the issue of Hyper-Calvinism. Here are the links to each post:
Interview with Dr. Curt Daniel (part 1 of 4)

Interview with Dr. Curt Daniel (part 2 of 4)

Interview with Dr. Curt Daniel (part 3 of 4)

Interview with Dr. Curt Daniel (part 4 of 4)
As the interviews reveal, Curt wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of Edinburgh on “Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill” back in 1983. Curt has expert knowledge of the issue, as well as of the history and theology of Calvinism in general. In fact, I also highly recommend checking out Curt's teaching series on The History and Theology of Calvinism.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Why Bother With Church?" An Interview With Jeff Johnson



I also highly recommend Jeff's book The Church: Why Bother? In fact, it is a good book to give to friends or other people in your church.

See also: The Church: Why Bother? by Jeff Johnson and episodes of the Confessing Baptist podcasts here and here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"What Child Is This? The Virgin Birth" by Bob Gonzales

Back in 2011 I posted some Teaching Notes on the Importance of the Virgin Birth, and I hope our readers found the post helpful. Today, as we look forward to celebrating the birth of our Savior this week, I would like to recommend a similar post by Bob Gonzales entitled What Child Is This? The Virgin Birth. Here is the introduction to the article:
In light of the approach of Christmas—a time when Christians celebrate the incarnation of Christ—I’d like to highlight the reality and importance of the virgin birth, or more properly, the virgin conception of Jesus Christ. Until recently, the virgin birth has been acknowledged as an important doctrine of the Christian faith. The early church fathers, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene and Chalcedon Creeds, the Lutheran Augsburg Confession, the Reformed Belgic Confession, the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, and the Westminster Confession of Faith all bear witness to the church’s faith in the virgin birth.
However, in recent years some Bible scholars have questioned the veracity and challenged the importance of this doctrine. Some within the church no longer believe it to be true.
In response to this growing problem, Bob goes on to demonstrate the importance of this doctrine from three Scriptural witness: Isaiah (7:14), Matthew (1:18-25), and Luke (1:26-27, 34-35; 3:23). After a brief exegesis of these passages, Bob then offers four reasons why the doctrine of the virgin birth is so important:
1. The virgin birth of Christ fosters faith in the incarnation of His divine nature and the moral purity of His human nature.
2. The virgin birth of Jesus Christ reminds us that God must initiate man’s salvation.
3. The virgin birth of Jesus Christ calls for our commitment to the supernaturalism of Christianity.
4. The virgin birth of Jesus Christ tests the strength of our commitment to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.
I highly recommend reading the article as you prepare to celebrate the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ this week. It will help you remember why the doctrine is so crucial, and it will help you prepare to share this important truth with friends and loved ones who need to ehar it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Feelings and Faith


I now have a book to recommend in almost every counseling situation—Feelings and Faith by Brian S. Borgman. Emotions cannot be dismissed, avoided, or minimized when exhorting and counseling others. Emotions and feelings must be addressed when dealing with marriage problems, addictions, and every other sinful behavior. We cannot obey God without managing our emotions. In fact, emotion control is a vital part of godliness. Borgman has done well in rightly assessing the proper place of emotions in both theology and in our personal behavior. Our values and emotions cannot be separated, and thus to biblically realign our emotions we must realign our values in accordance to God’s glory. Thus, Borgman explains why we are accountable for our emotions and why we must submit every feeling to the Lordship of Christ. If you are depressed, anxious, fearful, and/or resentful, or seeking to counsel people with these emotional problems, then you would be greatly aided by this book.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

2016 "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll December Update

Eleven months ago we began a poll on the blog. If you identify yourself as a Reformed Baptist and you haven't already taken part in the poll, please check out the "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll on the right sidebar on this page (the red box with white type). The intention is to run the poll for one year with an interest in how the Reformed Baptist community might answer this question. I have given four options for answers that I think basically sum up the various groups or individuals that I have found to be using the term. Here are the four possible answers:
To regard oneself as a Reformed Baptist, one must ...

1) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology.

2) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology.

3) adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility).

4) adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689.
For those interested, here are the results thus far:
13% say that one must adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

24% say that one must adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

42% say that one must adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility) in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

21% say that one must adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689 in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.
Again, if you haven't yet taken part in the poll, please do so. You may read more about the poll here in order to understand better why it is phrased as it is.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Excellent ESV Resources for e-Sword

I have always been grateful to the folks at Crossway for making the English Standard Version freely available for e-Sword. While other modern versions are available for e-Sword at a modest price, the ESV is completely free, including introductory notes for each book, cross-references, and maps.


The picture above shows the basic ESV module without notes.


The picture above shows the ESV+ module with basic book introductions and cross-references.


 The picture above shows the ESV+ module with a book introduction showing.


The picture above shows the ESV+ module with a textual note showing.


The picture above shows the ESV+ module with a cross-reference showing.


The picture above shows the e-Sword graphics viewer containing the ESV maps.

If you haven't checked out e-Sword yet, I highly recommend it as the best free Bible study program available. There is also a large community of advanced users constantly developing free resources for e-Sword.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"A Model for Giving Thanks" by John MacArthur



This teaching on 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 is appropriate as we continue to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday this weekend. As always, John MacArthur does an excellent job teaching the word of God.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Ten Years of the Reformed Baptist Blog

As I recall, I first started a Blogger account back in 2002 or 2003, at which time I reserved the name Reformed Baptist Blog, knowing that I would want to start writing such a blog at some point. I didn't start posting on the blog, however, until November of 2006.

The reasons I had for starting to write the blog include my conviction that I might have more to offer the body of Christ in my role as a pastor, as well as my realization that some issues that I was facing in ministry were not always being addressed sufficiently by others. For example, I had been encountering a form of the House-Church Movement that I had not seen anyone else addressing, even though one of its primary leaders claimed to hold to the Baptist Confession of 1689, as did many of its adherents.

Anyway, such were the beginnings of the Reformed Baptist Blog, which has sought to maintain a pastoral focus, with a balance of teaching the Church as well as warning the Church to beware of both potential and actual errors. The blog has also sought to inform our brothers in the body of Christ -- especially within the Reformed Baptist community -- about matters of interest to them. And, of course, it is hoped that unbelieving visitors will be able to discover a clear presentation of the Gospel so that they may come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

In July of 2009, Richard Belcher joined the blog and contributed a series of posts entitled CHARLES G. FINNEY: Heretic or Man of God? He also contributed another series of articles concerning the history of Baptist ecclesiology, but this was later taken down when he converted the series into a book. Dr. Belcher was unable to contribute after that, given his focus on writing the Journey books and his advancing age. His contribution is missed, and our prayers are with him in his twilight years of service for Christ.

However, Dr. Belcher did make one other important contribution to the blog when he introduced me to Jeff Johnson. He had been a reader of Jeff's outstanding book The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism, and he wanted me to read it and to write about it on the blog. He felt that, since my recommendations of his Journey books had been so helpful to him, perhaps I could help in promoting Jeff's book as well. He had also been a mentor of mine and felt that Jeff and I were kindred spirits and that we should get to know one another. Well, not only did I like Jeff's book and give it a positive endorsement (in 2010) but I also liked Jeff immediately and asked him to join the blog the following year.

The most recent member of the blog team is Bob Gonzales, who joined us in March of this year. Regular readers of this blog may recall that Bob is one of my favorite theologians, and I am happy to say that he has already contributed a couple of terrific posts. We look forward to his further contributions, and we are grateful for his participation, especially given his busy schedule as the dean of the Reformed Baptist Seminary.

As I pointed out earlier, the focus of this blog has been pastoral from the beginning. We have thus never sought to be controversial simply for the sake of controversy. Too many blogs have adopted the alternative approach in an apparent attempt to get more readers, but we have waded into the waters of controversy only when we felt it necessary and truly helpful to the body of Christ.

It has been a great first ten years. We thank the blog's readers for their consistent support, and, Lord willing, we hope to serve you well in the coming years. May our blog always seek to bring glory to God through Christ Jesus our Lord!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

2016 "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll November Update

Ten months ago we began a poll on the blog. If you identify yourself as a Reformed Baptist and you haven't already taken part in the poll, please check out the "What is a Reformed Baptist?" Poll on the right sidebar on this page (the red box with white type). The intention is to run the poll for one year with an interest in how the Reformed Baptist community might answer this question. I have given four options for answers that I think basically sum up the various groups or individuals that I have found to be using the term. Here are the four possible answers:
To regard oneself as a Reformed Baptist, one must ...

1) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology.

2) adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology.

3) adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility).

4) adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689.
For those interested, here are the results thus far:
14% say that one must adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

24% say that one must adhere at a minimum to a Calvinistic soteriology and to Covenant Theology in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

42% say that one must adhere substantially to the Baptist Confession of 1689 (e.g. modify regarding Impassibility) in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.

20% say that one must adhere strictly to the Baptist Confession of 1689 in order to be regarded a Reformed Baptist.
Again, if you haven't yet taken part in the poll, please do so. You may read more about the poll here in order to understand better why it is phrased as it is.