Jared Smith, Ten Reasons I Am Not A Reformed Baptist (Complete)

If one subscribes to sovereign grace with Baptist convictions, it is assumed he/she by default is a Reformed Baptist. It is then assumed a Reformed Baptist is another name for the historic group of churches known as the Particular Baptists. Henceforth, the appellations Reformed and Particular are used interchangeably, the legacy of the latter being subsumed by the identity of the former. However, according to Dr. Kenneth Dix, then Chairman for the Strict Baptist Historical Society, the Reformed Baptist movement emerged during the 1950’s, distinguished by teachings which differ from the Particular Baptists.

The Origin Of The Reformed Baptist Movement

Dr. Dix traced the origin of the Reformed Baptist movement to September 1955, with the first publication of the Banner of Truth Magazine. This magazine was started by Sidney Norton, the minister of St John’s Church, Oxford, and his ministerial assistant, Iain Murray. In 1956, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones invited Iain to serve as his assistant at Westminister Chapel, London. He held this post for three years, during which time the Banner of Truth Trust was organized. The purpose of the Trust was to republish out-of-print Reformed and Puritan books. This ministry grew quickly, with book sales reaching forty countries. During the late 1960’s, a Banner of Truth Trust office was opened in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA. Of course, Martyn and Iain were not Baptists, and therefore their interests rested squarely on the “Reformed” tradition of church history.

On July 22, 1957, The Banner of Truth Trust was registered as a non-profit charity, the trust deed stating: “The object of the Charity is to promote in such parts of the world as the Trustees may decide the better knowledge and understanding of the doctrines of the Christian faith as taught by the Protestant Reformers and English Puritans.” It should be noted, aside from the out-of-print books belonging to the Protestant Reformers and the English Puritans were also the hidden treasures of the Particular Baptists. However, the Trust was not interested “to promote the doctrines of the Christian faith as taught by the” Particular Baptists.

In addition to the publication of Protestant Reformed writings and the English Puritans, the Banner of Truth began hosting Minister conferences in the early 1960’s. Youth conferences followed during the 1970’s. These conferences were soon attended by large numbers of Calvinistic Baptists, who were drawn together by the resurgence of sovereign grace literature. The void of Baptist resources was easily filled by the plethora of Protestant books, which eventually led to the strange teachings (from a Baptist perspective) of the Reformed Baptist movement.

Simultaneous with the Banner of Truth publications and conferences was the start of another magazine called Reformation Today. It was founded in 1970 by Erroll Hulse, a friend of Iain Murray and the first manager of the Banner of Truth Trust between 1957 and 1967. Deeply influenced by Protestantism, Erroll adopted a number of views differing from his Particular Baptist counterparts, thus introducing a new branch of Baptist churches. Indeed, Erroll is one of the pioneering pastors of the Reformed Baptist movement.

The far reaching influence of The Banner of Truth Trust and the Reformation Today magazine during the 20th and 21st centuries cannot be denied or underestimated. Alister McGrath, in his biography of J. I. Packer, speaks of the “revival in Puritan spirituality that had been borne aloft on the wings of Banner of Truth’s inexpensive paperbacks.” Curt Daniel, in his History and Theology of Calvinism, describes the Reformation Today magazine as “the unofficial organ of the Reformed Baptists.” Without question, the publications and the conferences of these organizations gave rise to the Reformed Baptist movement, the teachings of which lean heavily on Protestantism, rather than the distinguished doctrines, history and legacy of the Particular Baptists.

My Journey Of Grace With The Lord

I was converted to Christ at the age of eight and became a member of a Strict and Particular Baptist church in London, England. Historically, the chapel belonged to the 19th century high-Calvinist circle of churches. However, by the 1980’s, it had adopted a moderate view of sovereign grace, subscribing to the doctrines of Duty Faith, the Free Offer and Law Sanctification. I was appointed the Pastor of this church at the age of twenty-two. For the first ten years of my ministry, I nurtured views similar to those under which I had been taught and trained for the gospel ministry. However, I never identified as a Reformed Baptist, neither did I refer to the church under my care by that name. Even though we and the Reformed Baptists shared similar views on moderate-Calvinism, it was quite clear, having been brought up in a Strict and Particular Baptist church, that the Reformed Baptists were not in alignment with that circle of churches. First, they held strong Protestant (rather than Baptist) views on the nature and function of the church. For instance, they opened the communion table to a wider group of recipients, replaced the Pastor with a plural eldership and pledged allegiance to local associations and elder fraternals, all of which resembled a Presbyterian style governance. Second, most (though not all) abandoned the Authorized Version of the Scriptures, believing certain modern translations to be the most reliable (or more readable) Bibles. On both issues, that of the church and of the Scriptures, I felt the Reformed Baptists had lost their way, imbibing teachings which undermined the authority of the church and the integrity of the Scriptures. In addition, I was quite concerned with the way the Reformed Baptists were conducting themselves. They were obviously a new group of Baptists, holding views which differed significantly from the Strict and Particular Baptists, yet instead of organizing new churches around their teachings, they sought to “reform” the Strict and Particular Baptist churches. Many of the historic chapels were commandered by the Reformed Baptists. It was not a difficult task ‘reforming’ these churches, for the congregations were relatively small in number. Eventually, the name ‘Particular’ was replaced with ‘Grace’, and thus emerged the Grace Baptist churches of England. Putting these observations and concerns to the side, it wasn’t until the eleventh year of my pastorate that I came to embrace sharper views of sovereign grace, leading to an understanding and conviction in high-Calvinism. It was then that the church I pastored returned to her roots, subscribing once again to the high-Calvinistic views around which she had been organized in the 19th century. It was also at that time the fallacy of the Reformed Baptists came into full view, which only confirmed my earlier observations—they are an entirely separate group from the Strict and Particular Baptists.

Here are ten reasons I am not a Reformed Baptist.

1. The Reformed Baptist Teachings Are A Protestant Interpretation Of Baptist Ecclesiology.

Strict Baptists maintain (1) the church is by nature a local and visible body of baptized believers, (2) the polity is congregational, with the oversight of a bishop, assisted by deacons, (3) and the Lord’s Table is restricted to those in membership with the local assembly. Reformed Baptists, however, (1) emphasize a…

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