Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Jer 6:16
In this passage, God was calling His people back to obedience to the word of God from which they had departed. They had changed, but they had changed in the wrong way. They had reformed their beliefs and behavior, but they had reformed them in the wrong direction.
They needed to repent of their change, and return to their former ways and beliefs, here called “the old paths” and “the good way.” The sad record of the passage is that they would not repent of their change, and go back to the “old paths.” They simply continued to “reform” in the wrong direction.
The point is, we can reform in the wrong direction, as well as in the right direction. “Always reforming” can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the direction in which the reformation is headed. To reform away from the old paths of the good way is folly.
Such is what the Old Covenant community was doing, and unfortunately, this is what the New Covenant community sometimes does as well.
In our day, it is considered to be sharply spiritual and humble to use the label “Reforming Baptist” instead of “Reformed Baptist.” “Always reforming” is considered to be the sign of a church making progress in the things of God. To claim the label “Reformed Baptist” is by many considered to be smug and arrogant, as though we have arrived and have nothing left to reform. To be a “Reforming Baptist” is to make the claim that we have much to learn and far to go in changing what Reformed Baptist churches have been.
And while no one would say that Reformed Baptist churches were perfect and had no improvements to make, I fear that many of the so-called “improvements” that are being made today in the name of “always reforming” are movements in precisely the wrong directions. They are movements away from where we should be, not progress towards where we ought to go.
Not that we had a long way to go. The vast bulk of reformation was done and done well by our forefathers. There is precious little left to do. Those eager to do a great deal, run the very real danger of subverting the heritage we received from the past, rather than improving it. We should be far more concerned about preserving and passing on intact the great reformed heritage we have received, than we should be about “improving” it. The “improvements” I have seen in our day are usually anything but.
Unfortunately, the mantra of “always reforming” is often an excuse for moving away from reformed theology and practice, instead of towards it. It is often the justification used for abandoning the historic faith and practice of Christianity, instead of strengthening it.
Change in the name of “always reforming” is often justified as contextualization “to better reach our generation” as though this generation is somehow different in their depravity than previous generations, and needs a different message and worship, one that is unique to them. Instead, it is often change in worship and teaching to conform to what the people want, so we can fill the pews. And when the pews fill, we pat ourselves on the back for our relevance and biblical sharpness at reaching the people for Christ. It is easy to deceive ourselves.
Compromise with the culture under the guise of “always reforming” is merely change to avoid the shame and reproach that Biblical Christianity inevitably brings, when it is practiced in all of its fullness at every point.
It is change for the sake of acceptance with people, not change for the sake of greater obedience to God. “Always reforming” then becomes just a cover for compromise and an escape from the hardness of being a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Change is only God-honoring when it is a move towards greater Biblical obedience and understanding, such as the move from the Westminster and Savoy confessions to the London Baptist Confession of Faith was. Change is not God honoring when it is a move away from greater Biblical obedience and understanding in order to compromise with the worldly culture and practices of our modern day.
The cry of “always reforming” is far better applied to our personal lives than it is to the church. We as individual sinners need to be always growing in grace and holiness, always reforming our lives to greater conformity to Christ. There is much that needs to be done there. The church is reformed already, but we as sinners have lots of reformation yet to do in our lives in the area of sanctification.
We are glad for our church to be known as Reformed Baptist. It is not Reforming Baptist. We are glad for the old paths, where in is the good way. As for myself, as a sinner, I am a reforming Baptist – all day long, every day.Max Doner, pastor Sovereign Grace Bible Church Lebanon, Oregon .