Monday, April 7, 2008

What is a Reformed Baptist?

What is a Reformed Baptist? Why am I one?

I fall into that small, unique group of American Protestants who are Reformed Baptists (I'm Southern Baptist, too). I refer to this occasionally on this blog, but haven't addressed the issue directly - until now.

If you asked various Reformed Baptists what makes them distinctive, you might get several different answers.

I believe there are six primary characteristics of Reformed Baptists. These are positions I hold, and I think the vast majority of Reformed Baptists do also. No one of the six characteristics is unique; rather it is the combination of the six that makes Reformed Baptists what they are. Additionally, Reformed Baptists believe much more than what follows. These six are mentioned, as I just said, in order to show what makes Reformed Baptists unique.

1. Reformed Baptists believe in the authority, infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency of scripture. The bible is how we primarily know God. His word guides our belief and practice.

2. Reformed Baptists hold to the "5 Solas of the Reformation." In English, these are faith alone, scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, and the glory of God alone.

3. Reformed Baptists think that believer's baptism is what the bible describes and commands. This is a huge issue that I am not going to tackle here. I'll just mention (again) that in the bible we always see people submitting by faith to the Lordship of Jesus Christ prior to the ordinance of water baptism.

4. Reformed Baptists hold to the Doctrines of Grace. These are commonly referred to as either "T.U.L.I.P." or "the Five Points of Calvinism." The primary issue in the Doctrines of Grace is the sovereignty of God. Reformed Baptists believe that the bible teaches that God is completely sovereign and completely within His rights to do whatever He desires with His creation.

5. Reformed Baptists believe that the local church should be independent of any authority other than Christ. The church should have an elder/pastor-led, congregationally ruled polity. In other words, it is the local church that makes its own decisions, which ought to be guided by the Holy Spirit. The congregation has authority over who its human leaders are. Those leaders (pastor/elders) guide the church by godly-example.

6. Reformed Baptists believe in a strong separation of church and state. The government should provide religious liberty to all its citizens. The church, then, will be free to believe and practice as it sees fit. The church should not become unduly involved in politics. However, Christians should try to influence society through the political process to live according to the laws of God.

The confession of faith that most Reformed Baptists hold to is the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689. If you are wanting to know more about what Reformed Baptists believe, I encourage you to go to the 1689 Confession.

There are also a few important things that Reformed Baptists do not believe:

1. Reformed Baptists do not agree with all Reformation-era teachings. Just because we use the word "Reformed," this does not mean we agree with everything Martin Luther or John Calvin taught.

2. Reformed Baptists do not agree with the practice of infant baptism (it's not in the bible).

3. Reformed Baptists do not believe that there is any authority above the local church other than Jesus Christ, who is its head.

4. Reformed Baptists do not believe in a mixing of church and state.

I hope this helps explain and/or clear up what it means to be a Reformed Baptist. You'll see that Reformed Baptists have much in common with many other Baptists. The primary difference lies in the Doctrines of Grace. Most Baptists reject the "ULI" of "TULIP."

You also see some commonalities with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The two main differences between Reformed Baptists and the PCA are baptism and church polity.

To look at a great Reformed Baptist Church near Savannah, click here. To look at the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America, click here.

So, why am I a Reformed Baptist? I am one because I believe Reformed Baptist doctrine is closer to biblical teaching than any other I have seen.

Why am I a Southern Baptist? That's an easy one. The answer is simple: international missions (I'll discuss this in an upcoming post).

I guess I'd refer to myself as a Reformed Southern Baptist.


GrayDawn said...

Good ... now that you have explained that tell me what a "primitive Baptist" is?

Eric said...


Thanks for the question. I'm no expert on Primitive Baptists, so I'm hesitant to give an answer.

I know that Reformed Baptists are interested in evangelism and missions. I'm not sure how Primitive Baptists feel about this.

Richard Boyce said...

Hey Eric, sorry to not be keeping up with your blog. You know how well "seminary" and "free-time" mix.

Just wanted to say I appreciate the post, and that I have no qualms with holding the title "Reformed Southern Baptist" myself.

Eric said...


I well remember those seminary days where there is little to no free time at all. I can't really say that I miss that part of seminary life.

"Reformed Southern Baptist" does seem to be the most appropriate title for guys like us to use. I have no plans to leave the SBC, but I'm always going to be Reformed.

I sincerely hope that the Reformed and un-Reformed (for lack of a better term) folks within the SBC can learn to work together. I'm sick of all the fighting within the convention.

Bethany W. said...

It is always encouraging to hear that there are other Reformed Southern Baptists out there! It can be awfully lonely sometimes! Your explanation is very clear, yet brief. Well done.

Eric said...


It's good to hear from you. I hope all is well in the mid-west. Thanks for the kind words about this post.

I agree with you that it is lonely to be a Reformed Southern Baptist. Reformed SBC churches are certainly few and far between. I'm just thrilled that the tide seems to be moving in the right direction right now.

Tom said...

I too, am a Reformed Southern Baptist but I am new at it. I just began my study of reformed theology in the summer of 2006 and it took me until the end of 2007 to embrace the Doctrines of Grace. I struggled a great deal coming to my new understanding of theology. Partly because I knew it may not be received well within my church and the SBC in general.

There seem to be only a few of us so we better stick least until God brings some more of us around.

Eric said...


I had a similar journey to Reformed Theology. Toward the beginning of my second year at seminary, a new friend of mine challenged me to read scripture for what it simply said. Once I did that (as much as is possible), I could see God's sovereignty all over everything. I had a few very uncomfortable months while I dealt with these issues. Finally, I realized that if I was going to be faithful to scripture, I would have to bow to God's total sovereignty. From that point on, it was a quick move to Reformed Theology.

I agree that there are not many of us within the SBC. I'm hopeful that the numbers are growing, and that there seems to be an increasing amount of discussion about the doctrines of grace. I also hope this doesn't lead to another all-out fight within the SBC. Our convention fights way too much. Our convention should be known more for missions than for battles.

Aussie John said...


Interestingly, I believe (and don't believe)as you do, but I'm neither Baptist nor Reformed.

I hesitate to write this because of, the conotations which can be construed, which I'm sure you are well aware of: I prefer to be identified as a Biblical Christian. I'm neither proud of, nor ashamed of that, so I hope my comment doesn't sound arrogant, prideful or rude.

I can honestly say that, during my mid-twenties, I came to believe what I do (and you do from reading the Bible.

In fact I didn't know my theology was "Reformed" until four theology students, whom I had spoken with, asked me whom I had read to convince me of such. It was after that event that I started to read Reformed thought.

I have been castigated because I am supposed to be "Reformed" as well as for being "one of those Baptists".

These "knick names", to use Spurgeon's term don't bother me, but sometimes smack of what Paul warned about in 1 Cor. 1:10FF.

Anonymous said...


"Reformed SBC churches are certainly few and far between. I'm just thrilled that the tide seems to be moving in the right direction right now."

Careful now . . . you have an Arminian Southern Baptist in your midst.

You would love Southeastern. There are more and more Calvinists croping up each semester. And there are so many who don't what they are!

I'm known here as "the Arminian," as if I'm the only one I'm sorry, but I highly doubt I'm the only one.

It's just that "non-Calvinists" are too cowardly (ooops!) to admit that they're Arminian, though I do not believe one can lose his or her's salvation. I fear that many of the non-Calvinists fear accepting the Arminian label, thinking that they must believe that a person can lose salvation.

I'm hoping to correct that.

Good post. And I don't think, as I have stated in the past, that "Reformed Baptist" is an oxymoron: especially when one reads Baptist history.

In Christ,


Brian said...

Thanks for the explanation, it helps. I wasn't aware of Reformed folk who don't support infant baptism.

What about end times, are amill, premill or other?

As I understand it, to be Reformed (historically) is to be amill (though I suppose not always).

Eric said...


I always like to hear your wisdom from being involved for a number of years in church life.

I can see why you prefer the term "Biblical Christian." In reality, that is what we all should be. The difficulty I run into is that many Christians claim to be biblical, but also reject God's sovereignty. I certainly don't think this is an issue to separate over, but it is a significant difference.

I will say that your point about I Cor. 1:10FF is well-taken. Thank you.


Eric said...


Thanks for commenting. I always enjoy your input.

When I first arrived at Southeastern in 2002, there were very few Calvinists. This is probably because Dr. Patterson is certainly not Reformed. I guess things are changing at SEBTS.

I find it funny that almost all Baptists hold to perseverance of the saints, even though many would not be able to tell you why they believe it.

As for "losing your salvation," I grew up in the Wesleyan church, but was never taught that I could somehow just lose my salvation. I was taught that after conversion a person could reject his salvation.

Thanks for pointing out that history shows the existence of Reformed Baptists. Many folks within the SBC are absolutely clueless about church history.

What is your denominational affiliation?


Eric said...


Thanks for your question. As for ends times, I think most Reformed folks go with an a-mill position. I personally take an historic pre-millenialist view (like Charles Spurgeon). However, I'm not dogmatic about this at all.


GUNNY said...

That really is a nice explanation of what a Reformed Baptist is.

Our church is a "Reformed & Southern Baptist" congregation and we explain that in the following fashion:

We are a Reformed and Southern Baptist Church.

* What does Reformed mean?

First of all, it doesn't mean that we've "arrived". We're not perfect, as individuals or as a church, but we pursue such through reliance on the Holy Spirit. In fact, part of being a Reformed church entails a recognition that it is always in process. Or, as it was put centuries ago, ecclesia reformata semper reformanda est ("The Reformed church is always reforming").

Being "Reformed" means an adherence to and advancement of the theological principles of the Protestant Reformation. This is most clearly seen in our doctrinal statement and in our subscription to the "5 Solas" of the Reformation as expressed in The Cambridge Declaration. It declares that our authority is Scripture Alone by which we hold to salvation by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone. Thus, we proclaim To God Alone Be the Glory! Our theological framework might also be referred to as Calvinistic or Augustinian.

* What does Southern Baptist mean?

It means that, although we are an autonomous body, we voluntarily associate ourselves with other Baptists for the purposes of cooperation in missions and other ministries. At the national level we are aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention. At the state level we are uniquely aligned with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Eric said...


Thanks for your comment. I like the way your church explains the combination of Reformed and Southern Baptist; it is clear and concise.

I hope that an increasing number of Reformed SBC churches emerge in the upcoming years. I imagine that many of them will have to be church plants.

How friendly are they toward Reformed thought at Southwestern Seminary? When Dr. Patterson was at Southeastern, it was very clear where he stood.

Joe Blackmon said...

You mention two main differences with the PCA. I'm curious, don't they also ordain women and homosexuals? That'd be two more differences.

Eric said...


Thanks for the question.

When I referred to PCA church polity, I should have also mentioned specifically the ordination of women. Thanks for pointing that out.

As for ordaining homosexuals, I'm not sure. The PCA is a pretty solid denomination, so I'd be shocked if they ordained homosexuals. However, the PC-USA is much more liberal in its reading of scriptures. They may ordain homosexuals.

Thanks, Eric

Anonymous said...

BTW, I don't think the PCA ordains women to the pulipt as pastors. I was once in the PCA and, unless things have changed since 1999, they didn't ordain women to the pastorate.

Now the PCUSA is quite another story. They'd probably ordain Lucifer's grandma if she was sincere enough. Well, that was a bit much, wasn't it? But, you get the drift.


Eric said...


Thanks for the help about the PCA.