A number of people experience confusion with the word ‘Reformed’. Some say it encompasses the whole of Protestantism. Others say it refers only to Calvinists, which, by and large, it does.
Below is Michael Horton’s definition. Dr Horton is Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary California, author of numerous books, host at White Horse Inn (WHI) and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Reformation magazine.
For the Reformed Anglicans reading the following: so that we don’t have a repeat of a similar post of mine from last year, if you disagree with the following, please be so kind as to take it up with Dr Horton directly on this White Horse Inn post.
The classic, textbook definition of “Reformed” is those churches that adhere to the Scriptures as they are summarized, taught, and confessed in the Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dort) and the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. In the last few years, the definition has changed in some circles, to encompass all those who affirm the five points of Calvinism–regardless of how one differs with the confessional position on other important points.
While Arminian Baptists hail from the Anabaptist movement, Calvinistic Baptists were mostly Congregationalists who abandoned infant baptism. At no point did Calvinistic Baptists identify themselves as Reformed, any more than Reformed and Presbyterian believers identified themselves as Baptist.
So that’s the history, which ought to be respected even if one wishes to challenge it. To say that one is Reformed, while excluding the children of believers from the covenant of grace (signified and sealed in baptism), is as inaccurate as to say that one is a Baptist, while denying immersion and adult-only baptism.
I think that a better umbrella term for what many today mean by “Reformed” is actually “evangelical” (in the best sense) or perhaps “Reformational.”
That said, should Protestants of any or all denominations practice division or unity and, if the latter, how much?
The point in all of this is not to exclude others, but to defend the integrity (i.e., wholeness) of the Reformed confession. It holds together. You can’t just pick out a few doctrines. That’s true of any other confession and churches have the responsibility to put a check on the democratic-egalitarian tendency to create our own hybrids. We confess the faith together, rather than creating our own combinations from a smorgasbord of options.
At the White Horse Inn, we appeal to C. S. Lewis’s image of “mere Christianity” as the hallway of a great house. In the hallway all who trust in Christ, affirming the ecumenical creeds, mix and mingle and welcome visitors. However, we can only live in actual rooms, where we’re bathed, clothed, fed, and cared for. We believe that evangelicalism is that hallway and the White Horse Inn hosts as well as Modern Reformation writers happily join in this hallway fellowship and common witness. However, our churches–and distinct confessions–are the rooms. We need to get out of our rooms, to breathe fresh air, learn from others, and share in works of mercy and outreach.
Nevertheless, the tendency of evangelicals is to turn the rooms into the hallway as if it were the whole house. Now that some are calling this hallway “Reformed,” there is increasingly no actual place that the Reformed room occupies in the house. Why can’t we let Lutherans be Lutherans, Baptists be Baptists, Pentecostals be Pentecostals, and Reformed folks be Reformed–while meeting up on occasion in the hallway? We’re going to still keep doing that and, whatever room you live in, we hope to see you in the hallway.
I hope that clears up any confusion.