A friend, in an email to me, mentioned that so-and-so was a “Reformed Baptist.” I must admit that I don’t know what the term “Reformed Baptist” means. Are “Reformed Baptists” Reformed or are they Baptist? Is the term “Reformed Baptist” not an oxymoron?
The term “Calvinistic Baptist” perhaps helps a little. From this term one can see that the Baptist at least has Calvinistic leanings, kind of like the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, who are Methodists with Calvinistic leanings. Why then don’t we refer to Calvinistic Methodists as “Reformed Methodists”? Maybe some do and I’ve just missed it. Anyway, I found the following helpful hint about areas in which Reformed Baptists so-called believe that Calvin misread Scripture:
“Are Baptists Calvinists? If a Calvinist is a person who follows strictly the teachings of John Calvin, then in three important respects Baptists are not, and have never been, Calvinists. Calvin was a pedobaptist (practicing infant baptism); Baptists are credobaptists (believers' baptism only). Calvin believed in a presbyterian form of church government; Baptists are congregationalists. Calvin believed that the civil magistrate should enforce both tables of the law (moral responsibilities towards God and towards one's neighbor), suppressing heresy and blasphemy by force if necessary. Baptists believe in religious liberty for all persons.” Timothy George http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/thepastinthepresent/historymatters/whatbaptistscanlearnfromcalvin.html
According to the above Calvinists are:
1. Pedobaptist (ie, believe that the Bible teaches Covenant Baptism).
2. Presbyterian (ie, believe that the Bible teaches the Presbyterian form of Church Government.
3. Theonomist (ie, believe that the Civil Magistrate has the duty to administer the Ten Commandments in Civil Law.
To be sure there a Calvinists who don’t like the term “Theonomist” to describe the responsibilities of the Civil Magistrate, but it seems to me like a fair enough description of the how the Bible describes the function of the Civil Magistrate.
From the three points above we can discern that the Baptist has a different view of
a) The nature of the children of believers.
b) The nature of the Church.
c) The nature of the Civil Magistrate.
For the Calvinist the nature of the children of believers, according to Scripture, is “holy” and therefore is “covenantal.” In a word, infants and little children of believers, on account of God’s covenant, are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Thus, according to Scripture, they are candidates for baptism.
For the Calvinist the nature of the Church is universal, many churches make up the one Church. A church is a congregation which is overseen by a plurality of elders (ie, at least one teaching or preaching elder plus two or more ruling elders.
For the Calvinist the nature of the Civil Magistrate is one that is an expert in the interpretation and application (ie, the administration) of God’s Law as summarized in the Ten Commandments.
Since Reformed churches are Presbyterian in Church Government and Presbyterian churches are Reformed in their doctrine, the term "Reformed" in Reformed Baptist is (to me at least) at best simply confusing and at worst meaningless!