Reformed and Reforming: Who is “Truly Reformed”? Part III

I continue and hopefully conclude my discussion on the meaning of Reformed by providing a response to comments made in the comments box of this website.

Adam Kaloostian says:
November 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm
1- “do you consider Baptists of any type to be your fellow believers and co-laborers in the gospel?”
Anyone who is made alive by the Holy Spirit and has true faith in Jesus Christ is a fellow believer, period.

Agreed.

The requisite extent, depth, and maturity of the knowledge which is a necessary component of true faith, is mysterious, and should not be oversimplified. For this reason, for example, Calvin can say about people in what he calls the decidedly false Roman Catholic churches of his day “In one word, I call [Roman Catholic parishes] churches, inasmuch as the Lord there wondrously preserves some remains of his people, though miserably torn and scattered. . .” (Institutes 4.2.12).

While Calvin might have had a point in his day, given that he was a second-generation reformer, and there were many who had yet to be blessed with the message of the gospel unchained from the traditions of Rome through the Reformation, and while I have often said that there are true believers in the Roman communion but that they are true believers in spite of role, not because of it, I do not know that it would be appropriate to make this conclusion today in light of the developments that have taken place since the time of the Reformation. Given that Rome has only become more hardened in its rejection of biblical truth and replacement of the gospel with that which can never save, I would not refer to Rome’s congregations as true churches of Christ. Once again, I would argue that it is the gospel that defines the Christian faith and the Christian church. No Gospel, no church.

So in like manner, there are truly elect and saved people, including Baptists, in the world, people miserably torn, scattered, and deceived by false teaching and sectarianism and idolatry.

It is truly amazing to me that you would so purposefully presents a parallel between Romanism and Baptists. I do not know if you are specifically say that Baptists are “deceived by false teaching and sectarianism and idolatry,” but if you are, I would be very interested in knowing how you substantiate such an allegation. In any case, do you not see that your attempted parallel is thoroughly disrupted by the simple issue of the gospel itself? How can you dismiss the reality of churches of Christ that are organized according to biblical standards, observe the Lord’s supper and baptism, practice church discipline, preach the whole counsel of God including his sovereign grace and the perfection of the work of Christ, and hold forth the Scriptures as the very Word of God all on the basis of a particular view of a proper subjects of baptism? Are you not majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors?

I am in Christ with any and every saved, elect Baptist, and I am thankful for the Lord’s miraculous grace to me and to them.
There is however a distinction between someone’s objective, saving union with Christ and someone’s outward expression of that faith in doctrine and life. This outward expression, or profession, is what forms the basis of my “consideration” of whether or not I count someone to be my fellow believer, or by extension co-laborer in the gospel. God knows the heart, but I can go only by external profession of doctrine and life.
In this regard, first, I may not make a private judgment, but am called to submit to the public judgment committed to the lawful officers of a local church, who exercise the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and reflect that work by their membership list. One requirement for someone’s profession of faith to be “considered” credible by me, therefore, would be their possession of official standing in a church of Jesus Christ. Church membership is basic to Christian discipleship. I affirm one of Christendom’s most popular slogans– “You cannot have God for your Father unless you take the church to be your mother.” A simple outline of the biblical argument for church membership can be found here:http://www.ontariourc.org/about/membership/.

I have often preached on and defended the importance of church membership as a clear New Testament concept, and as an elder in such a congregation, often comment upon its importance in my preaching and teaching.

Article 28 of the Belgic Confession speaks to this: “We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it, no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, regardless of his status or condition. But all people are obliged to join and unite with it, keeping the unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline, by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and by serving to build up one another, according to the gifts God has given them as members of each other in the same body.. . . And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God’s ordinance.” (One note, when the confession says that there is no salvation apart from the church, I take for granted that this is a logical deduction from the supernatural work which Christ does by His Holy Spirit to save, preserve, and sanctify His people uniquely through the preaching and sacraments of the church, which I describe below. The framers, I think, would have allowed for the idea that in exceptional cases people could be truly elect and saved apart from the church; however, they would not have considered anyone’s profession to be credible until they became part of the church).

Or, one could assume, properly, that the Spirit joins each redeemed person to the church, and they are then commanded to likewise participate in the life of the church in the local assembly (Hebrews 13:17). In any case, there is no disagreement here regarding the necessity of obeying the commandment to be a part of the visible church as an obedient follower of Jesus Christ.

Second, I must discern whether the group to which someone belongs is indeed a church of the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to be confident that the officers of this group are legitimate representatives of Christ, discerning a man’s life and doctrine. Article 29 of the Belgic Confession speaks to this matter: “We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by the Word of God, what is the true church– for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of “the church.”” In the time of the Reformation, in the West, the pastoral problem of every Jesus group calling itself a church was similar to today’s confusion. There were Roman Catholic parishes, there were Anabaptist parishes of various kinds, and there were Protestant parishes (evolving into Lutheran, continental Reformed, Anglican/Episcopalian, and Presbyterian communions), all claiming to be churches.

May I suggest that once again the issue here is that of what is, and what is not, definitional of the Christian faith as a whole? That is, we must have the same God who is the object of our worship and adoration (which makes Rome’s odd statement in section 841 of the CCC so reprehensible, for it affirms common adoration of the one God with Muslims). The Trinity, deity of Christ, deity and personality of the Holy Spirit, all musts. We must have the same historical core to the faith, including the Virgin Birth of Christ, the reality of the Incarnation, His death, burial, and resurrection, all as historical realities. We must have the same revelation from God, the Holy Scriptures. And (and here many disagree with me today), we must have the same gospel, the same message of life. Those who promote the “Mere Christianity” model leave the gospel to the side and focus solely upon Trinitarianism and a bare historical affirmation of the events of Jesus’ life as being sufficient. But I see no basis in the text of the New Testament to ever see Christ’s church apart from His gospel. None.

This means that today I must reject a number of Lutheran, “Reformed,” Presbyterian, and especially Episcopalian, churches as true churches of Christ. Why? When a church no longer proclaims the gospel as its core message, and no longer lives in its light, but instead rejoices in the violation of God’s law and promotes sin as if it is good (as in the promotion of homosexuality, the profanation of the divine institution of marriage, etc.), how can this be called a true church of Christ? And what if it continues, out of tradition, to observe the “proper” ecclesiastical forms, now devoid of substance and gospel life? Do they remain “true” despite the promotion of a false gospel, which is not “another” at all? I say “no.” The truth of the gospel is that which is promised to remain with us through the presence of the Spirit, and without that, there truly is no church. Hence, when the ELCA, PCUSA, UCC, and Episcopalian churches continue, by tradition, to “do” things that you would call “proper” in the sense of continuing to engage, for example, in infant baptism, do you see this as sufficient to overcome the utter lack of gospel fidelity in their midst? On the other hand, is our disagreement on the subjects of baptism on the same level as the union we have in standing against the profanation of the gospel found in the open teachings of these groups?

But by what standard does a church evidence itself to have a legitimate claim to its label? There is obviously a lot of doctrinal and practical disagreement even among true churches. If you were to use my grid, just as an example, I would basically affirm the legitimacy, the “true church” status of Lutheran, continental Reformed, Anglican/Episcopalian, and Presbyterian congregations, assuming they were in practice confessional. Among these groups there are many differences, and even within these groups there are numerous denominational distinctives, many of which are a big deal to those on either side of any given issue. But the Reformed, with all our share of stronger or lesser disagreements with these other three groups, have remained ecumenical toward them (which charity has not always been returned).
So, there has to be a standard. This standard is explained in Belgic Confession Article 28: “The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults.” The context of the confession makes it application clear, as the framers were writing to distance themselves in the eyes of the magistrate from the false churches of Roman Catholicism, and of Anabaptism (Anabaptism being by nature, despite its other varying ideas, the Jesus group that rejects infant baptism).

There was much more to “Anabaptism,” whatever one means by that term, than that. Be that as it may, 1) my church engages in pure preaching of the gospel–far more so than many Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Anglican/Episcopalian churches we could identify; 2) we take seriously the ordinances of Christ’s church as evidenced by our confessional statements thereon, and we likewise argue strongly that the real issue between us is indeed the phrase “as Christ instituted them”!; and 3) we practice church discipline and even seek to honor the discipline of fellow churches, asking if a person seeking to partake of the Supper, for example, is under discipline from another congregation.

The question must then be asked, “Why these marks and not others? Are they arbitrary?” Well, no they are not arbitrary. These are the marks of the true church because (a) pure gospel preaching by those lawfully called and ordained is the voice of Christ (Romans 10:14-15);

Agreed, maybe on a level beyond that which you would embrace, it seems. Unless, of course, you are adding to the content of the gospel that disputed issue of the subjects of baptism.

(b) the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are means of grace, with which external rites the Holy Spirit gives the things signified, and by which the faithful are in-grafted into Christ, preserved in Christ, have their mystical union with Christ intensified (this by the way is the universal understanding of sacramental function in all of Christendom, which not surprisingly, Baptists by and large replace with their memorialist/symbolic/revivalist view);

Few of those who dismiss me and my compatriots out of hand from their fellowship take the time to seriously listen to what I/we actually believe. If I might take a moment to quote our own confession:

Chapter 28: Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
1. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign
institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be
continued in his church to the end of the world.
( Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:26 )
2. These holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are
qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of Christ.
( Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 4:1 )

Chapter 29: Of Baptism
1. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus
Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him,
in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of
remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to
live and walk in newness of life.
( Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2;12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16;
Romans 6:4 )
2. Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and
obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this
ordinance.
( Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36, 37; Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12; Acts 18:8 )

Chapter 30: Of the Lord’s Supper
1. The supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night
wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in his churches, unto the end of
the world, for the perpetual remembrance, and shewing forth the sacrifice
of himself in his death, confirmation of the faith of believers in all the
benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him, their
further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe to him; and to be
a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other.
( 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17,21 )
2. In this ordinance Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real
sacrifice made at all for remission of sin of the quick or dead, but only
a memorial of that one offering up of himself by himself upon the cross,
once for all; and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for
the same. So that the popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is
most abominable, injurious to Christ’s own sacrifice the alone
propitiation for all the sins of the elect.
( Hebrews 9:25, 26, 28; 1 Corinthians 11:24; Matthew 26:26, 27 )
3. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to
pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them
apart from a common to a holy use, and to take and break the bread; to
take the cup, and, they communicating also themselves, to give both to the
communicants.
( 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, etc. )
4. The denial of the cup to the people, worshipping the elements, the
lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and reserving them
for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this
ordinance, and to the institution of Christ.
( Matthew 26:26-28; Matthew 15:9; Exodus 20:4, 5 )
5. The outward elements in this ordinance, duly set apart to the use
ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly,
although in terms used figuratively, they are sometimes called by the
names of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ,
albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread
and wine, as they were before.
( 1 Corinthians 11:27; 1 Corinthians 11:26-28 )
6. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and
wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood, commonly called
transubstantiation, by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is
repugnant not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason,
overthroweth the nature of the ordinance, and hath been, and is, the cause
of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.
( Acts 3:21; Luke 14:6, 39; 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25 )
7. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this
ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not
carnally and corporally, but spiritually receive, and feed upon Christ
crucified, and all the benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ
being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the
faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to
their outward senses.
( 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 )
8. All ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion
with Christ, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and cannot, without
great sin against him, while they remain such, partake of these holy
mysteries, or be admitted thereunto; yea, whosoever shall receive
unworthily, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, eating and
drinking judgment to themselves.
( 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15; 1 Corinthians 11:29; Matthew 7:6 )

Honestly—had you ever read these words before, or considered their meaning? Just a personal question.

and (c) church discipline (encompassing the idea of reception into the church as well as excommunication from it) is the special ministry of Jesus Himself embracing His people and protecting them (Matthew 18:15-19). So if a church does not have the voice of Christ calling His people to faith and making them alive by the gracious power of His voice, or does not have Christ at work by His Holy Spirit through the means that He has appointed for the salvation and sanctification of His people, or does not have Jesus embracing His people and protecting them, then Jesus is not there.

Agreed, completely. And I say it is the gospel that determines all of that.

No Jesus, no church. Or I should say, no Jesus, then false church, sect.
For an individual then, if no membership in one of Jesus’ true covenant communities, then no credible profession of the Christian faith, and so no consideration by me of the person being a fellow believer, and by extension co-laborer in the gospel. Could they be elect and already saved? Yes. But they are not externally considered by me as such.

Then, unless you are ignorant of what Reformed Baptists believe, or, you don’t really see the centrality of the gospel to all that has gone before, you really have no grounds upon which to reject my profession of faith, nor the reality that the message preached from the pulpit of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church rings harmoniously with your own proclamation at a significantly deeper and more meaningful level than that preached in many a Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or even, yes, “Reformed” church today.

I understand the disquieting nature of this position. But it should be no more disquieting to someone convinced of infant baptism, than the reality that Baptists must believe, as MacArthur stated in his sermon, that there are perhaps (in their view obviously) millions of unbaptized Christians. What a sickening charge.

I did not hear the sermon to which you refer, but if I might reiterate something I said earlier: I would not use the ascription “unbaptized,” I would use the more accurate description “sub-biblically baptized,” or “baptized based upon a sub-biblical tradition.”

For this reason the also sickening, spiteful-of-the-Spirit’s work practice of re-baptizing people who were baptized in infancy continues and disquiets.

Tell me, as I would be most interested in knowing (and I realize since I am posting this on my blog [can you imagine my trying to post this in a comment box?] that you can only respond either by e-mail, which I would invite, or by some other means), do you accept Roman Catholic baptisms? If so, do you identify Rome’s gospel as a true gospel? If not, have you not introduced an inherent disconnection between the essence of the gospel and the sign of its reality?

And, if Baptist churches were consistent, as many I suppose are, you would think they have the courage to declare that those who obstinately reject baptism (in their own understanding obviously) would ultimately be declared apart from Christ, given the weight of His command to submit to Christian baptism (but perhaps not, as baptism is for many baptists an empty sign).

It is just here we part company, and of necessity. I have met a few Baptists who would go that far, ignoring the gospel unity we have and saying that someone who disagrees on baptism is “apart from Christ,” but thankfully, the vast majority of my brethren are more mature than that, recognizing the hierarchy of truths and that what binds us is actually more important and definitional than that which separates us. Of course, your comment that “baptism is for many baptists an empty sign” invites counter statements but what would be accomplished by such rhetoric? I invite you to eschew it in light of a common commitment to the gospel.

I also understand that many of those who themselves credibly confess the Christian faith cannot bring themselves to agree with this my answer to your first question. Many of them do not see this answer as the consistent reading and application of the Belgic Confession’s ecclesiology. This is one of the reasons for this podcast. I suspect that a gross underestimating of the role of the Holy Spirit’s work through the sacraments, the revivalist rejection of the concept mystical union with Christ, the relativistic ecumenical spirit of the day, the man-centered desire for popularity and a seat at the evangelical speakers-circuit-table above truth, and a general sappiness–along with in many cases the righteous desires to avoid sinful judgment of others and to influence people they love for the truth– are all contributing factors to this shortsightedness.

Or, all of those above negative failings aside, they, and I, are more gospel centered in that we do not allow a particular sacramentology to destroy the unity we see on essential issues, and recognize that a fellow Reformed believer who loves the sovereignty of God, the freedom of His grace, the Triune nature of the gospel, the solitary perfection of the atonement, the glory of all-accomplishing intercession, the vitality of the body of Christ expressed in the local church, is our brother and our fellow laborer in the gospel, and we stand together against a fallen world in love with its sin and united in its detestation of Christ’s truth.

2- “Do you think it is wrong that someone like Bill Shishko, a Presbyterian pastor, and I can stand side by side in defense of the gospel and yet debate, fully, the issue of baptism?”
Yes, I think it is wrong.

The best I can say in response is, I am sorry for you.

I don’t know Rev. Shishko, but I have read a brief report he wrote in his denominational magazine reflecting on his debate with you. I appreciated the biblical arguments he summarized in the article as well as some of his commendations about how to frame the debate/discussion with Baptists.
Let me clarify. I absolutely support full debate on the issue of baptism (one caveat, however–this does not mean that I think every form of debate over the issue is productive. I understand you are a regular participant in public disputations and therefore you know much more than I do about what guidelines are good for deciding whether or not to participate in, and how to helpfully structure, debates. I’m sure these guidelines and structures significantly countenance full debate on any issue if followed).

I would highly suggest the debate to you for your listening, if for no other reason than to hear how brotherly disagreements can be taken to the Word of God and collegiality maintained in a spirit of love for God and His people. You can obtain the debate here.

What I don’t support (I think this is what you’re asking) is the public hand-in-hand, we-are-on-the-same-Christian team posture of ministers of the Word alongside Baptists.

And as I said above, I am sorry for you.

Out of one side of your mouth, you talk about the gospel, but out of the other side of your mouth, you fight against the gospel, via what you say about baptism and how you administer it, and who knows what other heterodox teaching.

How do I fight against the gospel of God’s sovereign grace by “what you say about baptism” and how I “administer it”? Please explain that. And may I suggest, sir, that before you make vague allegations of “other heterodox teaching” that you at least invest enough time to be accurate in your assertions? It seems highly inappropriate for an elder in Christ’s congregation to write thusly.

I can only quote Ursinus, the author of the Heidelberg Catechism, in this regard: “The Anabaptists, therefore, in denying baptism to the children of the church,

I will thank you to actually deal with the London Baptist Confession of Faith, and recognize that we are not Anabaptists in our ecclesiology, our theology of the ordinances of the church, or in many other areas. When it comes to the state bearing the sword in matters of religion, we definitely draw from the Anabaptists, but it is simply beyond my comprehension as to how many of my Reformed brothers can ignore the facts of our beliefs and the developments that have taken place over the past several centuries when dragging out the old canards about the Anabaptists.

The shortest of the three responses came from “John”:

James,
I am not sure why you have framed the issues as you have, but I throw my question out to you: why would you as a Baptist have any desire to be a “co-laborer” in the gospel with anyone who you believe is seeking to build the false church and engage in “devilish conduct” as Dr. MacArthur puts it.

Because, of course, I do not believe any such thing, and since John MacArthur engages in a common defense of the gospel with men like RC Sproul and J. Ligon Duncan, something tells me you are extending his comments beyond where he himself would.

I desire to be a co-laborer with godly men who believe differently than I do on the issue of the subjects of baptism but who share with me a deep, heart-felt allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Men like David King (OPC), Bill Shishko (OPC), J. Ligon Duncan (PCA), the brothers on my blogging team like the ever enigmatic but precious brother TurretinFan, and so many more. As I have explained above, “it’s a gospel thing.”

The Baptist position, as you know, is that the Reformed church is a false church because it administers baptism to children of believers, is full of unbaptized “Christians,” and does not define the church as existing exclusively of professing, regenerate believers.

Really? Is that THE Baptist position, John? I just have to ask, is there a reason why men of your stance insist upon using the most strident language possible? Is it just to try to make sure there can be no meaningful conversation due to the temperature of the conversation right from the start? Tell me, how could I, as a self-professing Reformed Baptist, hold the position you attribute to me? And where, may I ask, does my confession of faith enunciated the position you have attributed to me?

Given this massive difference in ecclessiology, it does not seem to make any sense at all to extend the title of co-laborer to the Reformed, since the Reformed labor to build a church that is radically different from a Baptist church.

I would heartily recommend to you some study of the subject at hand, my friend. You are sorely mistaken.

All of this reminds us of course that preaching the gospel cannot be conceived of in some sort of revivalistic, Billy Graham Crusade kind of way where a message about Jesus is proclaimed and then those who “commit to Jesus” are asked which flavor of Christianity they would like to be a part of, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, Reformed etc.

If for even a moment you think that is what Reformed Baptists do, well, sir, again, you are sorely misled.

To attempt to build two radically different churches, one which consists of believers in covenant with God and their children and another which consists only of individual believers, would be as wrong as if circumcised Israelites under the Old Covenant administration co-labored with uncircumcised Israelites and sought to assist them in building a church of the uncircumcised that professed faith in Yahweh, yet refused to apply circumcision to their sons and male servants.

Your analogy fails because, of course, we not only believe in baptism, we practice it and defend it. We disagree with you about the subjects of baptism. We believe it is an ordinance commanded by Christ, and, therefore, we look to Christ and His apostles to define it for us. When we do so we find that baptism is a sign and seal of our ingrafting into Christ, not something that looks forward to something hoped for in the future, but something that points back to an established reality. And may I say, sir, that in my experience the folks on my side tend to be far more familiar with the arguments from your side than folks on your side are with ours? I would ask, have you listened to the debate that took place between myself and Rev. Shishko?

So, my friend, I come back to my question to you, why would you describe a Reformed preacher of the gospel as a co-laborer when you cannot possibly in good conscience promote the church he is a part of and seeks to build any more than you could call a Lutheran pastor, preaching the gospel with an aim to build a Lutheran church, a co-laborer.

Actually, I can do that, too, despite how many more differences I have with most Lutherans. Despite that, I know I have not only brothers, but faithful fellow laborers in the gospel who call themselves by that name, too. Once again, it is that gospel thing, and believe it or not, I know Lutherans who really do believe in the sovereignty of God’s grace in salvation.

On another note, it is not my place to comment on Bill Shishko’s positions, he can speak for himself and he serves in a Presbyterian denomination which accepts Baptists into membership.

But not into eldership, and I would fully agree with that stance. I have many times recommended to a believer who was in a situation where there was no Reformed Baptist church to attend that he or she fellowship with, and unite with, as far as possible, an OPC congregation. If there were not sound Reformed Baptist churches on Long Island (where Pastor Shishko’s congregation is located), I would not for a moment hesitate to direct someone there for spiritual nourishment, biblical oversight, and Christian fellowship.

So where does all of this leave us? Well, I know that many of my “Truly Reformed” brothers will never acknowledge me as Reformed, and many, maybe even these brothers, will not even acknowledge me as a co-laborer in the gospel. Some will not even acknowledge me as a Christian, it seems, preferring to withhold such a conclusion based upon what they think I believe (or what they think I refuse to believe). There is a deep tradition in these circles that goes back to the days of the Reformation, a tradition that, sadly, led to the persecution and yes, even murder, of a wide variety of Anabaptists and Baptists (with little concern for noting the wide divergences of belief that could be denominated under those two terms). Some seem to be concerned that if they do not cultivate the same contempt (often based upon ignorance) of “the Anabaptists” that their forefathers did, they might have to re-think some other of their beliefs or actions. Thankfully, the number of those who take this very narrow stance is shrinking, but believe me, they are still present in the Reformed world. I know because of the number of doors that would never be opened to me to pursue apologetics work. I see it regularly.

My argument, however, I believe is overwhelmingly powerful. As I travel the world, literally, I find the basis of my unity with brothers and sisters in very different places and very different cultures to always go back to one thing: the gospel. We worship the same Triune God, we bow before the same inspired Scripture, we look to the same cross, we trust in the same perfect Savior, we glory in the same free and powerful grace. And I will be honest with you: when you put that kind of argument up against the narrowness of that which says, “Oh, sure, we may agree about all that stuff, but hey, you think the nature of the New Covenant, the nature of baptism, and the nature of the church, precludes infant baptism, so you might not even be a Christian!”, there really is no comparison. We live in a day where apostasy is all around us. We all know that Arminianism and man-centered religion is far more popular than what we believe for, if we are consistent, we confess that it is only a work of the Spirit of God that can cause one to truly love God’s freedom in the matter of salvation. So we know we are in the minority right now, not only in the broad stream of “evangelicalism,” but when we look at the deeply seated hatred of God’s truth that marks our modern secular world, we truly should consider the unity we have on what really matters to be a precious gift from God. I do treasure my fellowship with my Reformed brethren, and I will continue to confess that unity, even when some of them refuse to even acknowledge me as a brother. I know the day is coming when they will see more clearly!