Dear Brethren,

     From time to time, we read postings to the HBS which state dogmatically that Baptists are, or ought to be, neither Reformed or Protestant. Such subscribers see so much error in these two branches of the institutionalised establishments that they beg loudly to differ and proclaim a ‘better way’. Not all Baptists, however, agree and we have that school represented by members of the American Founders’ Journal and the British Reformation Today who affirm strongly that Baptists are, or ought to be, both Reformed and Protestant. Again, as in most matters of faith and practice, Baptists are divided amongst themselves which led to Kenneth Good’s most interesting book, ‘Are Baptists Reformed?’

     Now, my personal view, – and I mention it merely because I have been requested to do so several times on the symposium and never really answered the question directly due to uncertainty, – is that they are not. Those Baptists who profess to be Reformed and Protestant usually strike me as been sawn-down Presbyterians, or, as Good puts it, ‘Deep Water Presbyterians’. Those who profess not to be Reformed, usually display their beliefs in an adherence to institutionalised and sacramental thinking which show the truth of their conviction.

     Baptists of both kinds obviously disagree with our Reformers, and especially the English Reformers who were more radical in their true Reforms than most Continentals. They disagree on three major counts under the categories Church, Faith and Practice.

     The English Reformers such as Foxe, Cranmer, Hooper, Jewel, Philpot, Whitaker etc. looked upon the Church as been from all times as she was founded in eternity. They look upon the fact that Christ came in the fullness of time as proof of this in the term’s meaning of ‘filling all time’. All that happened on Calvary is thus, in reality, timeless as it is God working out His eternal purpose for His elect who were placed in Christ in eternity. Thus, those Baptists who deny that God’s elect church is portrayed throughout the Old Testament, cannot possibly be Reformed. Thus, any doctrine of the church they might have, cannot possibly be called ‘Biblical’ in the pan-Biblical sense of the word.

     This lack of Reformation principles has dire consequences in working out doctrine. Thus we are faced with views of election, salvation and justification which are seen as turning upon the mind of man in time rather than the mind of God in eternity. We are also faced with a neglect of the Old Testament in working out our faith and practice.

     Many members of the HBS show that they are not Reformed by emphasising the institutional nature of the church, meaning in fact, not the chosen Church of Christ but local organisations of professing Baptists. As Norskov Olsen sums up so well in his book John Foxe and the Elizabethan Church, “Foxe thus defines the church with the Reformers and the Anglican Fathers ‘in relation to grace and faith, not to institutional continuity.’ Such as Hooper, Whitaker and Hooker thus looked upon the Church as the community of the elect who have faith in Christ, this community being composed of sanctified individuals.

     What must be of special interest to Baptists, whether allegedly Reformed or allegedly not, is the fact that, unlike the true Reformers, they major on the sacramental nature of baptism, uniting a myriad of denominations with often totally different doctrines around the banner ‘Baptist’ and use this epithet to describe their ‘churches’ rather than that of ‘Christian’. Most of their writings and debates are centred on justifying this attitude, thus proving that though Christ might be divided amongst them as to faith and practice, they are united by ‘the rite’.

     This ‘rite’ however, as Hanko has ably pointed out, is built on the Arian and popish novelties promoted in the Dark Ages when baptism had, contradictory-wise, to be by immersion as it cleansed from all sin and was performed by sanctified adults only who believed that one could not sin after baptism, if they did, the baptism was proclaimed void. This, of course, led to the evil practice of re-baptism when either the church or the individual felt that the first baptism was not done properly.

     Justification for this step is taken from the limited Bible that the Baptists use. Often Baptists tell us rightly that the Word of God is a beautiful garden and the doctrines of grace are the flowers in it which God’s saints pluck with joy. In the case of Baptist baptism, however, this analogy limps. A flower is a unity in complexity and completeness itself. The doctrine of baptism, however, practised by many modern Baptists is not a picking of blooms but a plucking off of various petals, leaving the garden ravished. Instead of looking at the whole counsel of God in the whole Bible, certain petal-texts are plucked from their flowers and presented as the beauties of the walled-garden which term they use for their local, visible, professing church. A church built on plucked-off doctrinal petals.

     It is this plundering of God’s garden that the Baptists enclose behind their walls, which they now call ‘walled cities’ rather than ‘walled gardens’ as they have left the gardens that they have ravished outside and they have only left the dried up, brittle remnants in their blossomless institution which adorn the inside of their fossilised communities, until the brittle fossil breaks and a new Baptist denomination is formed on even lesser fragments of the dried up petals than its ‘mother church.’

Dear Brethren,

     There is no unity in Christ around denominational banners and badges and I welcome the new move in the HBS by Baptists after my heart who wish to revive the Christ-centredness of their denomination rather than paint whitened sepulchres. This is true reformation. I align most heartily with these men in converting the dried bones of the Baptist churches to living, spiritual bodies, realising that our unity in Christ is the only true church unity we need, whatever the denominational weeds we wear and feel suit us. May I close with the words of that Baptist of Baptists, Charles Haddon Spurgeon when expounding John 17:20-21.

     “There is the question. It is not, are we members of a Christian Church? ” I know how you get at it,” you say. “A certain number of churches are evangelical and orthodox; they make up orthodox Protestantism. Now, I am a Baptist. Very well, I am a Baptist, and the Baptist Churches are orthodox, therefore I am a Christian. I am an Episcopalian, and Episcopacy is one branch of Protestantism. Very well, I am a Protestant, I am a Christian.” But that is your carnal way of talking. You may be very grievously mistaken, if that is your argument. But can you go another way to work and say, ” I have received eternal life for I have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I am given of the Father unto him?” Why then, you come at it directly. Being one with Christ, you are one with His people; but when you are looking for this unity, look not for an outward but for an inward thing. Do not look for a matter that is to be written on sheets of paper, on rolls and books, but look for a bond written on hearts and consciences and souls. Look for a spiritual union and you will find it. If you look for the other thing you will not find it, and if you did find it, it would be a great and awful thing, from which you might pray God to deliver His Church.”

Yours in Grace