Who is Reformed? Is John Piper Reformed?

Who is Reformed? Is John Piper Reformed? November 7, 2013

Kevin De Young has a piece over at TGC on Is John Piper Really Reformed?

I think De Young’s argument is basically correct and he gives helpful nuance to the diversity of Calvinistic and Reformed churches in North America

But there are two issues here:

First, the definition of “Reformed” is slippery. For some it basically means “Not Catholic.” For others it means Calvin and only Calvin. Then again, some see being Reformed as tied to covenant theology. For others it means holding to one of the Reformed confessions (Belgic, Westminster, Augsburg, 39 Articles, etc.). Though I had an interesting chat with my colleague Rhys Bezzant the other day who suggested that the essence of Reformed thought is seeing one continuous plan to salvation across the testaments.

Second, “Reformed” is taken as a prestige label and some feel that its currency is lowered if “others” (like Baptists) are allowed to use the label to describe themselves. I think Michael Horton had some objections on these lines that Baptists by definition simply could not be counted among the Reformed and should refrain from calling themselves so. Though the World Reformed Fellowship includes Baptists, Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, Anglicans, and Lutherans in its mix as far as I remember. In other words, the debate might really be about, “I’m more Reformed than thou!”

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Roland Lowther

    I found Richard A. Muller’s chapter, “Was Calvin a Calvinist?” in Calvin and the Reformed Tradition helpful in this regard. His conclusion: Calvin was not a Calvinist ( in the post-Reformation orthodox sense). Given that fact, he probably wasn’t Reformed either.

  • Gary Ware

    The weird part for me is that individuals don’t judge who’s reformed or who’s not.
    Churches do that. If Piper’s network defines itself as reformed and accepts him as okay, well and good. If Piper wants to be recognised as reformed in another reformed church he commits to their standards, or not. Then denominations work out the degree to which they recognise each other’s communions.
    You’re right. Even within denominations there’s too much amateur defining of who’s more orthodox than who. Doing it across denominations is more unhelpful.

  • rocdomz

    Lol @ I’m more reformed than you are!

  • beth

    Tragically, I agree with your diagnosis.
    and unfortunately, ‘more reformed than thou!’ is no joke.

    I’ve heard that explicitly and seriously claimed in public within walls now familiar to you, MB.

    “I wonder whether your reformed practical theology is reformed enough?”

    – Official respondent to a keynote paper on Practical Theology in Youth Ministry (June 2012).

    I’m not saying I thought the debate was of any quality, or deserves really much attention. But it happened, in an academic conference, and both major paper and respondent were graduates of a significant reformed theological college north of the border.
    Surely incumbent on those of us who teach theological frameworks is also to teach the ethics of theological endeavour. What are the theological rules of engagement I wonder?

    I like your definition of ‘evangelical’ as ‘gospel shaped’. (Sorry to be almost insultingly brief in that summary of your dear tome). I don’t think the gospel has a branding logo, but if it did I’m sure it would more likely be an icon of disgrace, suffering and powerlessness than a badge of prestige.

  • Alastair J Roberts

    The suggested definitions of Reformed all strike me as overly theological and rather detached from the concreteness of ecclesiastical and liturgical traditions. Confessions were not typically drawn up by isolated individuals for other individuals to affirm, but as defining documents for existing ecclesiastical bodies, bodies that had shared histories, had a measure of ecclesiastical unity and mutual recognition, consistencies in the area of liturgical and sacramental practice, and distinguished themselves from other ecclesiastical groupings in such things as their mode of polity.

    My uneasiness with classing Baptists as Reformed lies in this precise area. When we make this move, we ‘ideologize’ the Reformed faith, abstracting it from the concreteness of a shared history, ecclesiastical bodies, modes of polity, liturgical and sacramental practices, and the like and reduce to a set of soteriological beliefs. This can blind us to the huge disagreements that Baptists have had with Reformed in those crucial matters that define actual existing churches—infant baptism, church government, ecclesiology, sacramental theology, the relationship between the church and the magistrate, etc.—and the fact that Reformed identity and unity has never been reducible to areas of theological unity that can chiefly be explored only in the realm of the parachurch. This is actually quite a big deal.

  • Kenton Slaughter

    Would this be as big an issue if the “Reformed” label weren’t considered to be a dividing line between orthodoxy and heresy?