I appreciate Dr. Trueman’s courage and clarity as he dares to say what so many of us have concluded already. The term “evangelicalism” has come to include so many diverse beliefs and practices that it has ceased to define.
While I appreciate his generous disposition to “Anabaptists” I actually differ with him for his willingness that paedobaptist churches receive convinced baptists into their membership and conversely that baptist churches receive convinced paedobaptist into their membership. Muddying the waters on what baptism is, what it signifies, and what it means ecclesiastically is but to take steps down a road that “evangelicals” began fifty years ago.
There are good and necessary reasons why baptists join baptist churches. Our fathers in the faith in 17th century England thought this through very carefully and got it right. Drawing necessary lines on baptism is no hindrance in mutual love, respect, and wherever possible, joint labors.
I am a member of a PCA church, but have been considering a Reformed Baptist church lately. However, Reformed Baptist churches are not always available. Should you then find a Reformed church or a Baptist church? I do agree that membership and office bearing are different, and do not believe in full subscription to the 1689 for members. I would instead require belief in the true gospel, as defined by the ecumenical creeds.
As far as Dr. Trueman’s main premise is concerned, I’m not sure how much I agree. “Evangelical,” I believe, is not as broad or as vague as he seems to think. It refers to belief in a by-grace-alone salvation, and certainly includes beliefs such as the penal substitutionary atonement. If someone did not believe in penal substitutionary atonement, for example, that person is obviously not evangelical. The Reformed are evangelicals, and I think we need to accept this designation.
It would probably depend on which Baptist or which Reformed church you are considering…there is a great variety. The PCA church I used to belong to was broadly “evangelical” in that there was really no regard for the WCF in the church’s practice. In my own experience, I think if push came to shove, I would rather attend a serious, confessional, Reformed church over the standard Baptist churches I have been acquainted with. But that is just my own experience.
As far as the term “evangelical” is concerned, I wonder if the meaning of the word hasn’t just drifted so far that it can’t be reclaimed. Kind of like “awesome.”
I think it’s rather disingenuous to assume that baptists are anabaptists. These are two very different classes (I don’t even think we can call anabaptists evangelicals). Especially coming from the dean of Westminster, who happens to be professor of Historical Theology and church history. Of all people he should be able to distinguished the particular baptists from the anabaptists. Honestly, would one really call Benjamin Keach or Nehemiah Coxe Anabaptists? Would one really call the 1689 LBCF, an Anabaptist confession of faith?!
Calling us anabaptist would be like me calling paedo-baptists, Roman Catholics. Let’s be historically fair here Dr. Trueman. 17th Century Particular Baptists have made it very clear that we don’t align with Anabaptists.
Concerning what marks evangelicals — I agree that Substitutionary Atonement is a very important qualification. And I’d hate to say it, but Richard Baxter did not believe in Substitutionary Atonement as written in his Aphorismes of Justication. The doctrine of Justification defines that narrow road that leads to life. You get that wrong and you might not be on that road …
Amen to that, Jade.
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