Jared Smith On Various Issues

Beware Of “Christian” Propaganda

I wish to share a simple response to an article I read this afternoon. Under the title, “Benjamin Keach”, the Wikipedia entry begins:

“Benjamin Keach (29 February 1640 – 18 July 1704) was an English Reformed Baptist preacher and author whose name was given to Keach’s Catechism.”

Under the heading, “View History”, the Wikipedia log records that on the 6th April 2023, Editor Wobblygriswold “Tweaked wording from Particular to Reformed, per the title of the relevant Wikipedia page, but defined the term Particular as well in the article.”

So, the name Particular is replaced with that of Reformed, based on the definitions given under the Wikipedia page entitled, “Reformed Baptists”. Here is the entry:

“Reformed Baptists (sometimes known as Particular Baptists or Calvinistic Baptists) are Baptists that hold to a Calvinist soteriology (salvation).”

This is incorrect. The Reformed Baptists and the Particular Baptists are two separate groups, though both may be classified under the general heading of Calvinistic Baptists.

“The first Calvinistic Baptist church was formed in the 1630s.”

The first Calvinistic Baptist church on record was formed in the 1630’s.

“The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith was written along Calvinistic Baptist lines.”

This confession of Faith was not designed by the Baptist preachers of the 17th century to serve as an associational statement around which the churches could unite. Rather, it was designed to show their agreement to the government on matters of orthodoxy, that they might be spared further persecution. Each Baptist church adopted her own statement of faith, including the Horsleydown congregation overseen by Benjamin Keach, one of the signers of the 1689 Confession. However, the Reformed Baptists have elevated this confession to a sacred status, making it the standard upon which their churches associate, and the rule by which the scriptures are interpreted.

“The name “Reformed Baptist” dates from the latter part of the 20th Century to denote Baptists who have adopted elements of Reformed theology, but retained Baptist ecclesiology.”

I am pleased to find the article acknowledging the recent origin of the Reformed Baptist movement. Indeed, it began in the 1950’s. Some of the pioneers were Presbyterians who adopted Baptistic ecclesiology; others were Baptists who adopted Calvinistic soteriology. Together they formulated a Presbyterian-Baptist ideology, resulting in the newfangled teachings of the Reformed Baptist movement. They did not emerge from the Particular Baptists. How could they? There was nothing to “reform” among the Particular Baptists. They already subscribed to sovereign grace (high views of sovereign grace) and maintained strong views on Baptist ecclesiology. How is it then that the Reformed Baptists suddenly represent the historic Particular Baptists?

Well, the article continues with the heading, “Variations”, with five distinguished groups: (1) Strict Baptists, (2) Primitive Baptists, (3) Regular Baptists, (4) United Baptists, (5) Sovereign Grace Baptists. Of course, the article should include the Reformed Baptists and the Particular Baptists with these groups, for they too may be classified as separated entities under the general heading of Calvinistic Baptists. Having said that, I wish to say something about the article’s summary of the Strict Baptists, since this is the group to which I belong.

“Strict Baptists—See also: List of Strict Baptist churches and Grace Baptist”

The Grace Baptist churches of England represent the teachings of the Reformed Baptists. Although many of their churches meet in historic Strict Baptist chapels, yet they do not represent the history, teachings or legacy of the original churches. The Grace Baptists of England are Reformed Baptists, not Strict or Particular Baptists.

“Groups calling themselves Strict Baptists are often differentiated from those calling themselves “Reformed Baptists”, sharing the same Calvinist doctrine, but differing on ecclesiastical polity; “Strict Baptists” generally prefer a congregationalist polity.”

I am pleased the article acknowledges the difference between the Strict and the Reformed Baptists. I am also pleased it recognizes a distinct difference between the ecclesiology of the Strict and the Reformed Baptists. Strict Baptists maintain a strong Baptist polity, whereas Reformed Baptists have adopted a Presbyterianized polity. The way these churches function in their respective groups is quite different.

The article is incorrect to assert the Strict and the Reformed Baptists share the same Calvinistic doctrine. The Strict Baptists are High-Calvinists, subscribing to the teachings of John Gill, whereas the Reformed Baptists are Moderate-Calvinists, subscribing to the teachings of Andrew Fuller. The differences in soteriology are as wide as that of ecclesiology, confirming the two groups are distinct.

“The group of Strict Baptists called Strict and Particular Baptists are Baptists who believe in a Calvinist interpretation of Christian salvation. The Particular Baptists arose in England in the 17th century and took their name from the doctrine of particular redemption, while the term “strict” refers to the practice of closed communion.”

Yes, the Strict and Particular Baptists emerged during the 17th and 18th centuries. Although a Calvinistic church subscribing to a close(d) communion table may call itself a Strict and Particular Baptist congregation, yet it should be noted, the actual group of churches in England which go by this name represent the historic congregations of the 17th to 21st century Particular Baptists. Never have they been part of the Reformed Baptist movement, nor have the Reformed Baptists ever aligned themselves with the teachings of the Strict and Particular Baptists. However, they have sought to usurp the legacy of the historic churches, in an effort to give historic legitimacy to their group and doctrinal authority to their novel teachings.

The article continues with the heading, “Regions”, highlighting six locations: (1) United Kingdom, (2) United States, (3) Africa, (4) Europe, (5) Brazil; (6) Canada. Since my focus is on the group of English churches known as Particular Baptists, I will share my thoughts only on the article’s statements regarding the first of these regions.

“Reformed Baptist churches in the UK go back to the 1630s.”

This is incorrect. The first recorded Particular Baptist churches in the UK go back to the 1630’s, whereas the Reformed Baptist churches emerged in the 1960’s.

“Notable early pastors include the author John Bunyan (1628–88), Benjamin Keach (1640–1704), the theologian John Gill (1697–1771), John Brine (1703–64), Andrew Fuller, and the missionary William Carey (1761–1834). Charles Spurgeon (1834–92), pastor to the New Park Street Chapel (later the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London, has been called ‘by far the most famous and influential preacher the Baptists had.’”

These men were Particular Baptist pastors. It is ludicrous to apply a modern label, especially since that label represents an entirely different set of teachings, to men of past centuries. Plus, to lump these men together as representatives of a unified Particular Baptist group is to grossly oversimplify the history and the teachings. There were heated controversies raging between the Particular Baptists of the 18th and 19th centuries. Perhaps the most divisive issue was that of “the modern question”—whether it be the duty of all to whom the Gospel is preached to repent and believe in Christ? The High-Calvinists answered with a resounding, “No!” John Gill and John Brine belonged to this group. The Moderate-Calvinists answered with an emphatic, “Yes!” Andrew Fuller, William Carey and Charles Spurgeon belonged to this group. The two groups gradually drifted apart, with pastors in each camp writing books and preaching sermons against those on the opposing side. The Strict and Particular Baptist churches which remain today are High-Calvinists. When the Reformed Baptists emerged in the 1960’s, it is no surprise they imbibed the teachings of Moderate-Calvinism, since their origin may be traced to the influences of the Protestant Reformers and the Puritans. It is also not surprising the Reformed Baptists find affinity with the teachings of the Moderate-Calvinist Particular Baptists, which is another reason they are so quick to identify as such. However, make no mistake, their ecclesiology is quite different from that of all their Particular Baptist counterparts, and therefore it is either misguided or disingenuous to assume a name which belongs to another.

“The Metropolitan Tabernacle itself has been particularly influential in the Reformed Baptist movement in the UK. Benjamin Keach, John Gill, John Rippon (1751–1836), Charles Spurgeon, and Peter Masters (mentioned below) have all pastored this same congregation. Their characteristic traits may be the founder (Keach, signer of the 1689), theologian (Gill), hymnist (Rippon), preacher (Spurgeon), and restorer (Masters).”

Once again, the article replaces Particular with Reformed, as if they are one and the same. Keach, Gill, Rippon and Spurgeon were Particular Baptist pastors of a Particular Baptist church. Masters is a Reformed Baptist pastor who has transformed the congregation into a Reformed Baptist church. Similar to many other Strict Baptist chapels, the historic legacy of the Metropolitan Tabernacle has been clothed with the ideology of the Reformed Baptist movement. However, meeting in a historic Particular Baptist chapel does not by default make the pastor or the congregation Particular Baptists.

“The 1950s saw a renewed interest in Reformed theology among Baptists in the UK. Peter Masters, pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, created the London Reformed Baptist Seminary in 1975.”

This closing statement is a fitting way to end this thread of comments. Yes, the 1950’s. The Reformed Baptist movement emerged in the 1950’s. They were not Particular Baptists. Peter Masters, pastor of a historic Particular Baptist chapel, created the London Reformed Baptist Seminary in 1975.

The young or uninformed believer should be challenged to research these matters personally, investigating source material, rather than blindly depending on the interpretation (misrepresentation) of acclaimed “experts”.