Truth In Labeling: “Reformed Baptist,” or, A Rational Apology and Historical Mandate For Strict Confessionalism -- By: Michael T. Renihan

Journal: Reformed Baptist Theological Review
Volume: RBTR 02:2 (Jul 2005)
Article: Truth In Labeling: “Reformed Baptist,” or, A Rational Apology and Historical Mandate For Strict Confessionalism
Author: Michael T. Renihan

Truth In Labeling:
“Reformed Baptist,” or, A Rational Apology and
Historical Mandate For Strict Confessionalism1

Michael T. Renihan

Michael T. Renihan, Ph.D., is pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, Worcester, MA, and Executive Director of Mission: Ireland, a literature distribution ministry whose purpose is to influence Evangelical pastors with Reformed books.

Theological erudition is not the basis of Church membership. Room for growth in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ is always present in those to whom pastors minister. On the other hand, precise theological understanding is absolutely necessary for those who lead God’s people. This article is directed at those who lead. I trust it also has much relevance for the churches they serve and the people who follow them.

As I ponder the emerging differences and historical tensions among those who call themselves Reformed Baptists, I believe there are key issues that must be faced, i.e., matters of import with significant consequences.

The Reformed Baptist Continuum

The first and greatest problem has to do with the moniker, “Reformed Baptist.” It has become too broad a term. At least in its common usage this is true. There is a continuum of folk who denominate themselves in this way. It is not always clear what those using the term mean. Therefore, confusion reigns.

The question of one’s Reformed Baptist identity usually starts with the “doctrines of grace.” The continuum on one side contains anyone with the basics of a Calvinistic soteriology who is antipaedobaptistic. These folk often view themselves as Reformed, with a lower case “r.” In this group are also hybrids like Calvinistic Dispensationalists and academics who hold to what I call, borrowing an adjective from C.S. Lewis, “Mere” Reformed Theology.

Moving to the right on the continuum we find those who have been reading good Reformed literature for years. By virtue of this influence, areas other than soteriology have been reformed to varying degrees. Yet, inconsistencies remain in their overall system of theological thought. This is really a problem of methodology in hermeneutics and theology. For instance, some are stuck in the mud of American Rugged Individualism, and therefore mired in all sorts of individualistic thinking. The private means of grace, especially when discipleship is in view, are preferred over the corporate. From my limited observations over the last decade, I have concluded that this is a watershed issue. The preferred perspective among many seems to be a personalized or therapeutic model of m...

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