SGBC Modesto

Are Baptists Reformed?

February 24, 2024 by

William Heinrich

In the last decade the term reformed has become equated with Biblical or Scriptural.  There has become an almost canonical sound to the word for many.  It is common in reformed churches to hear the following “Reformed faith,” “Reformed worship,” “Reformed person,” Reformed church,” “Reformed publishers,” “Reformed awakening,” “Reformed persuasion,” “Reformed doctrine,” Reformed leaders,” etc. 

Some of the characteristics of this trend are to repudiate all dispensations and premillenalism.  The government is almost always elder rule. 

            Baptists who were strong Calvinist but never used the word “reformed” are C.H. Spurgeon, John Gill, Keach Bunyan, Booth and many more.  One writer says “Spurgeon would find himself somewhat out of place in the typical reformed conference.”  He knows well the Westminster confession and published the “Baptist” copy of it erasing the “reformed” vocabulary.  He was desirous of a Biblical statement, not a reformed one.  Spurgeon did regularly use the term Calvinist for he held unashamedly to the 5 points of Calvinism.  The term “Reformed” meant more than Calvinism, so Spurgeon and other Baptists did not wish to be identified with it.  For example, there is a general tolerance in reformed circles for post-mill and a-mill positions of future things, but that grace does not extend to premillenalism. 

            It should be remembered that the use of the word reformed might create an unnecessary barrier to Catholics.  Should a Catholic know his history he will remember the reformation came about in strong opposition to the Pope and corruption in the R.C. church.  There is a “reformed tradition”, that will never be erased when the term is used.  Reformed = Reformation and relates to reorganization or reformation.  That is of course consistent with the efforts of Luther to reform the Roman Catholic Church.  However, is the reformation over or is it correct to use the word for a totally different meaning? 

            It might seem the best is to just call your church “Baptist”.  There may have been a day when that title alone would have conveyed adequate understanding of the churches conviction, but it is not true today.  Under the name Baptist march Calvinists and Arminians, conservative and liberal, fundamentalists and modernists, even Unitarians.  In England it became necessary to distinguish the Calvinistic Baptists with the modifier particular and the Arminian Baptist with the word general.  The modifiers were originated to spell out theological differences unless it was geographical like Northern and Southern.  What would the modifier “reformed” put with Baptists say about theology?  Would it not cause one to believe they were a mix between Lutheran and Baptist?  Likely, the word Baptist would be enough to convey Baptism by immersion, but it would not say anything else with a certain tone.  Where as “reformed” would ring reformation of the Roman Catholic Church.  Luther and Calvin would also fill your mind as well as sovereign grace in the doctrine of salvation, a-mill or-post mill in Eschatology and elder rule in government.

             Therefore Baptists are not historically reformed.  They are also not reformed when considered in the light of today’s canonical sounds of the word “reformed faith,” “reformed worship,” “reformed church,” etc.  Baptist best fit in the mold of the particular Baptist as exemplified by Spurgeon.