It is becoming more common when people want to refer to their understanding of the Doctrines of Grace they describe the Augustinian view as “Reformed”. However, this is not necessarily always accurate. What the person is usually intending to say is that they are a Calvinist and not Reformed. That is because being Reformed is altogether something else. To be Reformed is a whole system and not something to be reduced or simplified to one idea. Contrary to some who have expressed thoughts on this topic, Reformed Theology can’t be reduced to the five Solas plus Calvinism. If this was the only criteria to hold the “Reformed” card then it would be quite the eye opener to see how wide the theological spectrum would be of gentlemen seated at the table. Here’s a brief list to show how diverse the spectrum would truly be:
To Be Reformed is To Be a Calvinist But To Be a Calvinist is Not To Be Reformed?
1. On one hand you would have John MacArthur who is a dispensationalist, thinks of the Lord’s Supper as a memorial and holds to credo-baptism.
2. John Piper would be Reformed, however, while he is also a credo-baptist like John MacArthur he believes the gift of speaking in tongues exists while MacArthur does not
3. Mark Driscoll would be Reformed because he’s a Calvinist yet he is also a credo-baptist
4. Yet RC Sproul one of the forefront defenders of Calvinism would be Reformed and he’s a paedo-baptist who holds to the Westminster Standards.
5. and others to include CJ Mahaney, David Jeremiah, Tim Keller, Mike Horton, Greg Koukl and Al Mohler.
If we simply labelled this whole crowd as being Reformed it is obvious that in this “pot of soup” there is truly a little bit of everything. But is the word “Reformed” really a responsible use of the word? I argue it is not. Perhaps the only thing this group does have in common is that they are all at least agreed that they are evangelicals and then secondly, that they are Calvinist. Mike Horton made a suggestion worth noting on this issue, he suggests the labeling this group may be more appropriately called Evangelical Calvinist. This would more accurate than simply referring to all Calvinist as being Reformed.
Scholar and Theologian R. Scott Clark has written a book entitled Recovering the Reformed Confession Our Theology, Piety, and Practice. This book has been real helpful in understanding what is meant by being Reformed. It isn’t just those who are Calvinist but as he demonstrates it encompasses a whole system that has narrowly been defined for us already.
“Is the word “Reformed” merely a convention, a way of speaking, or does it have an objective referent? I contend that the word denotes a confession, a theology, piety, and practice that are well known and well defined and summarized in ecclesiastically sanctioned and binding documents.” (page 3)
He is very intentional to point out that the Reformed faith is a whole system and not just the five solas, the five solas plus Calvinism or those who hold to everything in the system but reject paedo-baptism (thus Reformed Baptist would be seen as an oxymoron).
He elaborates the point more when he writes
“By “confession” I mean narrowly the sixteenth and seventeenth century Reformed confessions, which we might call the six forms of unity (i.e. Belgic Confession [BC], HC, Canons of Dort [CD], Westminster Confession of Faith [WCF], Westminster Larger Catechism [WLC], and Westminster Shorter Catechism [WSC]). So the first sense of the word is “ecclesiastical dogma.” Second, and more broadly, however, I mean the understanding of those confessions as articulated by the classical sixteenth and seventeenth century Reformed theologians and by those who continued that tradition, the outlines of which are evident to anyone who reads Calvin, Ursinus, Wollebius, Owen, Turretin, Witsius, Hodge, Bavinck, and Berkhof. Third by “confession” I mean the theology piety, and practice agreed upon by our churches, held in common by them, which bind us together, by which we have covenanted to live and worship together. So that , as used in this work, “confession” is a rich, multilayered term that has both fixed and developing aspects (ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda)” (page 3)
So while all Reformed people are Calvinists. Not all Calvinists are Reformed. Some Calvinist are very familiar with the distinction and will quickly correct someone who calls them Reformed. Greg Koukl for example was called Reformed on his radio show and he gently corrected the caller by saying that he was a Calvinist but he wasn’t Reformed because he didn’t agree with all the things that Reformed Theology embraces such as paedo-baptism.
Admittedly, with all the fights in Christendom this isn’t a sword to die. I would, however, encourage or brothers and sisters in the faith to use the word correctly as we would in charity correct any other technicality. Some of those in the faith will get very defensive. In this case they should read RRC and maybe it will help. Buy here.