Monday, June 3, 2013

Can Baptists be Calvinists?

Baptists who claim to be Calvinists get hit from several directions. Not only are there Baptists who see Calvinist theology as a menace, but other Calvinists attack them for being insufficiently loyal to everything in Calvin's Institutes. An interesting series of posts at First Things began with David Koyzis asking why there are "Calvinist Baptists, But No ‘Lutheran’ Baptists?" A response from Collin Garbarino—who defines himself as an "Augustinian Baptist"—"Why We Don’t Have Lutheran Baptists" includes:
Even Calvinist Baptists recognize this terminology’s inadequacy. When Calvinist Baptists are talking among themselves, they are much more likely to refer to themselves as “Reformed Baptists.” This preferred terminology tends to confuse anyone who is not a Reformed Baptist. ....
Today Greg Forster—a Presbyterian who worships with a Baptist congregation—offers "Seeing Calvinism from the Inside" addressing the original question:
Our Lutheran brothers say that asking the big questions leads only to paradoxes, of which the lowly human mind cannot say much that is meaningful. Meanwhile, our Anglican brothers may have clear personal opinions about the answers to these questions, but when setting direction for the church at large they drape a graceful veil of ambiguity over them for the sake of unity. The confessional Calvinist finds this insufficient—not because he has a high opinion of human reason, but because he believes God has told us clearly and consistently what we are to believe regarding these questions, and the pastor must preach the whole counsel of God. Rising in response, the confessional Arminian agrees that God has told us what to believe, disagreeing only on what God has said. It seems to me that Baptist and Free Church communities generally require this level of clarity in their theology; a large-scale commitment to paradoxes and ambiguity in theology is only sustainable in the context of a broader coherence of tradition and culture that magisterial churches presuppose but Baptist churches do not. ....