I’m linking a series of posts from a little while back on the conflict erupting between Reformed Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists. Aside from the particulars, it’s interesting to reflect on what these kind of conflicts say about the health of evangelical and orthodox Christianity. I don’t think it’s a good thing. It seems we live in an increasingly polarizing era; where people once seemed to be able to disagree but still cooperate, some of the social cohesion for that is being lost. I doubt it is a good thing.
While people are free to use (or abuse) terms as they wish, I think as a historical and even a general theological observation, the word Reformed can be used in a broader way than some Presbyterians allow. It speaks sometimes of Providence, sometimes of Soteriology, sometimes of Ecclesiology, sometimes of Worldview, and probably has a few more nuances. It may not have had that sense in the era of Dordt (although the continued presence of Arminius in the Reformed churches might give us pause). Like most words it has a semantic domain and probably various common uses. So as a matter of practical and historical interest, I find R. Scott Clark (and others who argue like him) incorrect. The term is not, of course, infinitely malleable. At least that’s my take.
As a parallel note, it’s worth observing that Baptist has plenty of ambiguity. There are Calvinistic (Reformed?) Baptist and Arminian Baptists, liturgical (a few at least) and non-liturgical, all persuasions of eschatology, variety of views on worship and a host of other internal differences. Which points out that Baptist points to a particular pattern of beliefs or orientation, not a complete system of theology. I suspect the assumption that every piece of theology is inextricably linked, and that abandoning one piece (say infant baptism) inevitably and inexorably leads to catastrophe elsewhere is in part where this Reformed rejectionism comes in. Perhaps I’m wrong about how this assumption plays in here, but it’s an assumption I think is poorly founded and implausible.