The three part series Matrix of Reformed Baptists seeks to discover the religious, political, and social pressures which formed and developed that which has come to be known as Reformed Baptist Churches. Without knowing something of these shaping influences over the course of seventeen hundred years of Church history, we cannot rightly understand how these churches came to be what they are today.
In Lesson One it will be seen that from the time of Constantine onward the dominant expression of the Christian Church has been that system wherein the State compelled its citizenry to embrace the “Christian” religion. From the 4th century through the 15th century this Constantinian Model of Christianity was Roman Catholicism. After the first few tumultuous and uncertain years of the Protestant Reformation the dust settled and a Constantinian Model of Christianity could be found throughout European countries not only in the Roman Catholic version but also in the Reformed version. But whether Catholic or Reformed it was Constantianism still. It was the Corpus Christianum of old whether supported by a Catholic Emperor or a Protestant and Reformed King.
When in the 16th Century the Pope was removed as head of the Catholic Church of England and Henry VIII declared himself to be head of the Church of England nothing essentially changed. The Church goers in London were just as much compelled in religion under the one as the other. This series of social and political pressures brings us to the turbulent 17th century in England where Baptist Churches were brought into being.
In Lesson Two we trace our way through the middle decades of this 17th century (1630-1690) which will bring us to the forefathers of modern day Reformed Baptists. This lesson looks at the rough hewn and seemingly insignificant details of a handful of Particular Baptists forging out an elementary Baptist ecclesiology in the midst of a nation where powers were vying for political and religious control.
Not one, but two historic Baptist Confessions of Faith were produced in London during these years. The First London Baptist Confession was published in 1644 (revised in 1646) and the Second London Baptist Confession was published in 1689 (though written in 1677).
The differences between the 1644 and 1689 LBC’s are significant and hold lessons for us even today. Was one of these Confessions more Baptist than the other? Did one of these have a more biblical treatment of the Moral Law than the other? These questions are taken up as well as several other significant details.
Lesson Three rounds out the overview of the Matrix from which Reformed Baptists emerged, taking up 20th century progress and development and a look ahead at early 21st century trends.
Not unlike the early decades of 17th century England we find that a mere handful of men and institutions in the early and middle decades of the 20th century were used of God to call Evangelical Churches back to their early Reformational roots.
There arose in the middle of the 20th century a handful of Baptist Churches which embraced wholeheartedly the 1689 Confession and in the final quarter of that century churches began to include “Reformed Baptist” in their name.
Will Reformed Baptists hold fast to those things most surely believed among us? Will they falter after just two generations? Will they succumb to fads and pressures to conform to contemporary models of Church? Hopefully these lessons on the Matrix of Reformed Baptists will inspire the current generation to preserve that which was handed to us at such great cost over three hundred years ago.Pastor Bob Brown Reformed Baptist Church