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.