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Young, Restless, Reformed: “Hip, Hip, Hurrah!” or “Bah Humbug!”?

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Written by deangonzales

December 28, 2008 at 1:42 am

14 Responses

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  1. Perhaps the title should read, “Young, Restless, and Calvinist”. Indeed, perhaps RB’s who have become more self conscious about their rejection of classical covenant theology should be content to lay aside the title “Reformed”.

    Perhaps we shouldn’t care whether our beliefs are called “Reformed” or not. Sure, the title distinguishes us from dispensationists and unites us to a rich theological heritage; but alone with it comes the unwanted baggage of paedo baptism and strict covenant theology.

    Scott Weber

    December 28, 2008 at 1:38 pm

  2. Hi,

    A couple of qualifications to your summary of my critique of YR&R. I didn’t and don’t require that one be Presbyterian in polity. I recognize that at Dort and Westminster and Savoy there were obviously non-Presbyterians present who were nevertheless Reformed. I did write of “the doctrines of the church and the sacraments” and of “the hermeneutics of covenant theology.” By “church” (344) in that context, I meant to invoke what I had said earlier in the book about the church as the divinely established institution for the administration of the means of grace (Gospel, sacraments, and prayer). Like my colleague Mike Horton, I’m concerned that we not allow the word “Reformed” to be defined minimally, by a single doctrine. As important as the doctrine of predestination is to our theology, being Reformed involves “the whole confession” as Mike says. We confess a great deal more than predestination and yet, as encouraging as the YR&R movement might be, there’s little evidence that the movement has much interest in Reformed theology, piety, and practice beyond the five points of Dort. As I noted in the book, one can find the five points in several medieval theologians, so that, as necessary as they are, even the 5 points aren’t sufficient to define Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

    R. Scott Clark

    December 28, 2008 at 4:39 pm

  3. Dear Scott Weber,

    Your suggestion that those of us who affirm the theology of the 1689 London Baptist Confession (which is arguably the grandchild of the Westminster Confession of Faith) “should be content to lay aside the title ‘Reformed'” has been proposed by others. I suspect, though am not certain, Dr. Clark would agree with your suggestion. But why allow flexibility when using the term “Calvinist”? Did Calvin only teach soteriology? Was that his only concern? If not, shouldn’t we insist that those who wish to brandish the name “Calvinist” agree with all that Calvin taught?

    I think most pastors and theologians are mature enough to understand that the nomenclature need not denote complete agreement with everything the Reformer taught. Instead, it is used to capture the heart of Calvin’s theology, his view of the gospel.

    Must “Reformed” retain a usage that is tied to Paedo-Baptist creeds of the sixteenth and seventeenth century? I remain unconvinced. The fact that the doctrine in my confession of faith (and not just its soteriology!) is for the most part taken verbatim from the Westminster and Savoy provides warrant, in my opinion, for the appellation “Reformed Baptist.” The second of those two terms sufficiently qualifies the first in order to satisfy the canons of truth in labeling.

    But what about men like Piper, Mohler, Mahaney, and Driscoll? To my knowledge, neither they nor their churches publicly subscribe to the 1689 Baptist Confession. But I am not aware that they officially label themselves as “Reformed Baptists.” From my exposure to their writings and sermons, they do express an affinity for Reformed soteriology, as well as other aspects of Reformed teaching. Yet, they’re also honest to admit that there are some areas where they’d differ. So they might refer to themselves as “Reformed” with a number of qualifications. I fail to see the problem.

    On the other hand, I’m probably not willing to die over a label. If theologians like Drs. Horton and Clark wish to reserve the term “Reformed” for Paedo-Baptists alone, I won’t go to the stake over it. Though I cherish the rich heritage (believing it to be the system that best captures and portrays the whole counsel of God), I kind of sympathize with George Whitefield’s sentiments, which he allegedly expressed in the midst of one of a sermon preached in Philadelphia. Lifting his eyes heavenward, Whitefield cried out,

    “Father Abraham, whom do you have in heaven? Any Episcopalians?”
    “Any Presbyterians?”
    “Have you any Independents or Baptists?”
    “Have you any Methodists there?”
    “No! No! No!”
    “Then whom have you there?”
    “We don’t know those names here. All who are here are Christians—believers in Christ—those who have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.”
    “O, if this is the case,” said Whitefield, “then God help me, God help us all, to forget party names and to be Christians in deed and truth!”


    December 28, 2008 at 8:17 pm

  4. Personally, I was edified by YR&R. It is easy to think that the churches in America are all going downhill. And while this might be mostly true, it is encouraging to know that people, especially young people, are becoming interested in reformed doctrine.

    To R. Scott Clark:
    I agree that we should not define “reformed” by a single doctrine. But I do not think that we should define “reformed” so narrowly as to exclude someone like John Piper, who, despite small differences, is reformed in his preaching and writing.


    December 28, 2008 at 9:55 pm

  5. However we define the word reformed is not near as big of an issue to me as that we should rejoice that there is a great work being done among these people and that there are a lot of young people who are stepping up to the plate to hold Scripture high.

    “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers.” When youth step up to the plate in a generation where youth are more often than not wasting their lives, that is a loud testimony to the world of the awesome, life changing, power of Jesus Christ.

    Paul Thoms

    December 29, 2008 at 2:24 am

  6. Dear Dr. Clark,

    Thank you for clarifying your position. Am I correct to conclude from your qualifications that Baptist polity would not necessarily disqualify one from license to identify himself as “Reformed,” but a Credo-Baptist view of the sacrament of Baptism would? If so, I hope I edited my comments sufficiently to reflect more accurately your position.

    It seems to me that this debate is governed to some degree by one’s philosophy of lexicography, i.e., whether it’s primarily a descriptive or prescriptive science. As you’ll gather if you read my response to Scott Weber, I follow a more descriptive approach though I acknowledge the place of prescription at a secondary level.

    I don’t want to oversimplify your position, but it seems you want to take a particular usage of the term “Reformed” (17th century) and prescribe that usage for today. The fact remains, however, the nomenclature “Reformed” has taken on a broader meaning in modern times whether we like it or not. This makes you feel uncomfortable. But in my opinion, you overstate the matter in your book when you write,

    It seems to be widely assumed today that whatever one understands Scripture to teach or imply must ipso facto be Reformed. The reasoning seems to be thus: I am Reformed. I think p, and therefore p must be Reformed (RRC, 18).

    Certainly, this hyperbole, isn’t it? I’ve met scores of professing Christians who don’t follow this line of reasoning and consciously refuse to identify themselves as “Reformed.” Those who do identify themselves as “Reformed” but who don’t agree with classic Paedo-Baptist theology as reflected in the Belgic or Westminster confessions usually append the necessary qualifications.

    For instance, I subscribe to a confession (1689 LBCF) that for the most part parrots the Savoy and Westminster confessions. Nevertheless, the framers of my confession disagreed with their Reformed Presbyterian and Congregational brothers on the question of the proper recipients of baptism. Accordingly, we, their “descendants,” qualify our use of the appellative “Reformed” by adding “Baptist.” I suspect that the leaders Hansen highlights in his book would add a few more qualifications. Is that wrong? Don’t we distinguish between classical Arminianism or classical Dispensationalism and later variations of these systems?

    Personally, I think the biblical truth behind the nomenclature is what really counts. Consequently, if we want to win restless young people to more classical forms of Reformed theology, we’ll need to do more than assert exclusive domain rights over certain theological/ ecclesiastical terminology. Arguing that the 16th & 17th century creeds are always right (major premise); you young and restless folk don’t believe everything in those creeds (minor premise); ergo, you’re wrong and can’t be Reformed (conclusion) isn’t the best hook for the conscience. We’ll need to convince them that our position(s) is founded on Scripture. In the meantime, let’s thank God that some evangelical leaders and those influenced by their ministry at least, by the grace of God, have their soteriology right.


    December 29, 2008 at 4:54 am

  7. Dr. Clark,

    As a postscript, I did want to say that I have derived benefit from reading Recovering the Reformed Confession and found much affinity with the essays you edited in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry. I have enthusiastically recommended it others.

    Bob Gonzales


    December 29, 2008 at 2:50 pm

  8. Couldn’t anyone who identifies with the Christian religious movement found mostly in Western and parts of Eastern Europe (Germany?) primarily during the 16th and 17th centuries, and which sought to reform or come out from under the tyranny and corruption of the RCC altogether, be considered a part of the “Reformed” tradition?

    Obviously, this would exclude the Eastern Orthodox, Coptics, and many various sects and Anabaptists who never saw themselves as affilated with the RCC. But those who did flee the RCC and found the liberty to interpret and apply Scripture for themselves and who eventually codifed their beliefs in one of the many “Confessions of Faith” born from this movement would seem logically be included in, at least a boarder sense, the ‘Reformed’ Faith.

    David McCrory

    David McCrory

    December 29, 2008 at 5:07 pm

  9. […] and Charles Spurgeon are becoming the ‘homeboys’ of a younger generation.” Young, Restless, and Reformed by Bob […]

  10. Thanks again Dr. Gonzales,

    You have proven to me again that their is hope for the future of the RBC. I always enjoy your insights into these things and find myself a kindred spirit in your appreciation for men like Carson, Piper, Mahaney, et al. whose names I can often not say aloud in our church without receiving scowls…forget ever mentioning the name Driscoll 😉

    Praise God for the resurgence of Reformed theology among young people!!


    January 5, 2009 at 8:02 pm

  11. Thanks for the thoughtful review. It seems that we need to be careful not to make ourselves the standard of having arrived. We are all continually on the way toward constant reformation and we can rejoice, that like us many are taking more and more steps toward the faith we love and confess. I am happy for the resurgence in this interest. I am much more aware of my own failings and the failures of the RB movement so that I find myself too occupied removing the log from my own eye to spend too much time worrying about these folks. Most of us are the exception in the stream of orthodoxy and I rejoice in the reformed doctrine that justification is by faith, not confessional orthodoxy.

    Matt Troupe

    January 7, 2009 at 3:49 am

  12. @ Josh: exactly my thoughts!


    January 7, 2009 at 8:38 pm

  13. Loving as I do my Confession of Faith LCF 1689, and rejoicing in the benefits it has brought be over the years in clarifying my understanding of many issues it is still a subordinate standard and in some areas could do with revising.

    The old issues of strict and substantial subscriptionism never go away and so often can cause us to be so narrow in our spirits that it is unhealthy for our souls and our ministries.

    I rejoice as a pastor to have many of these young,restless and reformed types coming to our church. They are hungry, they are teachable and they are showing evidences of grace that thrill my heart. I am determined to encourage them and see them grow in greater maturity not by presenting strict subscriptionism to our Confession but by strict commitment to the word of God and a spirit of submission to our Lord. I want them to think for themselves and wrestle with the word as I have done over the years so that they come to clear and settled convictions, understanding we are committed to sola scriptura and keep our confession in its rightful place, as subordinate.

    I really do not care to worry about whether they are ‘Reformed’ according to the definitions of men, whether they are ‘Calvinists’ according to the definitions of men, or whether they are Reformed Baptists or Calvinistic Baptists according to the defintions of men, they will soon find out for themselves that these arguments will never be settled and are often a waste of time.

    Yes it is good to know about them and understand them but to argue about them and have people demands you submit to their opinion should cause grief and sorrow.

    I know enough Paedo-Baptist brothers who do not even agree about what baptism is under their covenantal system.I also know enough RB’s to know they are so narrow that anything outside their little circle is suspicious.

    May the Lord have mercy on us if we cannot rejoice and encourage the young people of our generation to love the truth and grow in the truth and embody the truth in God-honoring lives…..

    God’s Spirit is at work in far wider circles than we move in…. Hallelujah !!


    Robert Briggs
    Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church,
    Sacramento, CA

    Robert Briggs

    January 14, 2009 at 8:13 pm

  14. I found this book to be personally thrilling, because in many ways it is my story. I came to the doctrines of grace at age nineteen, and within a few years was a self identifying, 1689 subscribing Reformed Baptist. As I have developed my Calvinistic convictions, I have taken a more historical route, and am now a member of a 1689 confessing Church.

    Many of my peers came to the same Calvinistic conclusions as I did, but have steered clear of the traditional Reformed (even with qualifications) Churches. I have found that the usual reason for this has less to do with doctrine and more to do with worship style, evangelistic attitudes, etc.

    I continue to have good relationships with these brothers, and in some ways see things that they are getting right that the more traditionally Reformed Churches are getting wrong. My attitude toward them is similar to my attitude toward my Presbyterian brothers: we aren’t going to be joining the same Churches anytime soon, but wherever God is lifted high, man is brought low, and the historic gospel of Jesus Christ is preached all Christians should offer an unqualified hip hip hooray.

    Reformed Baptist of all people, whose libraries are full of books by men with views on Baptism and Church polity that are at odds with their own, should be willing to show grace over secondary issues.


    January 18, 2009 at 3:38 am

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