“Reformed Baptist”: Anachronistic Oxymoron or Useful Signpost?

  • Matthew C. Bingham
Part of the Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World book series (CTAW)


A growing number of Christian churches around the world describe themselves as “Reformed Baptist.” But while those adopting the moniker believe it to accurately describe their distinct theological heritage, some within the wider Presbyterian and Reformed community strongly disagree. Some Reformed historians and theologians have argued that the term “Reformed Baptist” is an anachronistic oxymoron, an inaccurate label that both distorts our understanding of what it means to be “Reformed” and obscures the real identity of those it purports to describe. This chapter critically engages with these claims from both historical and theological perspectives. While conceding that the term “Reformed Baptist” would not have been easily intelligible to early modern actors, the chapter argues that this historical reality does not imply any logical inconsistency on the part of those adopting the label today. Thus, the term “Reformed Baptist” remains a useful signpost for the twenty-first-century church.


Baptist Presbyterian Reformed Puritanism Early modern Britain Historical theology 


  1. Allen, R. Michael. 2010. Reformed Theology. London: T&T Clark.Google Scholar
  2. Baillie, Robert. 1647. Anabaptism, The True Fountain of Independency, Antinomy, Brownisme, Familisme. London: Wing B452A.Google Scholar
  3. B[arbon], P[raisegod]. 1642. A Discourse Tending to Prove the Baptisme in or Under the Defection of Antichrist, to Be the Ordinance of Jesus Christ. London.Google Scholar
  4. Barcellos, Richard C. 2013. The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More than a Memory. Fearn, Ross-shire: Mentor.Google Scholar
  5. ———., ed. 2014. Recovering a Covenantal Heritage: Essays in Baptist Covenant Theology. Palmdale: Reformed Baptist Academic Press.Google Scholar
  6. Barth, Karl. 1948. The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism. Trans. Ernest A. Payne. Eugene: Wipf and Stock.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 2009. Church Dogmatics. Ed. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance. Trans. G.W. Bromiley. London: T&T Clark.Google Scholar
  8. Bingham, Matthew C. 2016. The Covenantal Theology of John Spilsbery. Journal for the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies: 65–96.Google Scholar
  9. ———. 2017. English Baptists and the Struggle for Theological Authority, 1642–1646. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 68 (3): 546–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blackwood, Christopher. 1644. The Storming of Antichrist. London: Wing B3103.Google Scholar
  11. Bowen vs. Eastern Carolina Presbytery, Case 90–8, Minutes of the Nineteenth General Assembly. 1991, published online at carolina.pdf. Accessed 8 June 2016.
  12. Brachlow, Stephen. 1988. The Communion of the Saints: Radical Puritan and Separatist Ecclesiology, 1570–1625. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Calamy, Edmund. 1642. Englands Looking-Glasse. London: Wing C237.Google Scholar
  14. Clark, R. Scott. 2008. Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing.Google Scholar
  15. ———. Is John Piper Reformed? Or Holding the Coalition Together (Updated). The Heidelblog. Accessed 8 June 2016.
  16. Cohn, Norman. 2004. The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages. London: Pimlico.Google Scholar
  17. A Confession of Faith. 1688. London: Wing C5795.Google Scholar
  18. The Confession of Faith, of Those Churches Which Are Commonly (Though Falsly) Called Anabaptists. 1644. London: Wing C5789.Google Scholar
  19. A Confession of Faith Put Forth by the Elders and Brethren of Many Congregations of Christians (Baptized Upon Profession of Their Faith) in London and the Country. 1677. London: Wing C5794.Google Scholar
  20. Cooper, James F. 1999. Tenacious of Their Liberties: The Congregationalists in Colonial Massachusetts. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Coxe, Nehemiah. 1681. A Discourse of the Covenants that God Made with Men Before the Law. London: Wing C6717.Google Scholar
  22. Coxe, Nehemiah, and John Owen. 2005. Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ. Ed. Ronald D. Miller, James M. Renihan, and Francisco Orozco. Palmdale: Reformed Baptist Academic Press.Google Scholar
  23. Denault, Pascal. 2013. The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism. Trans. Mac Wigfield and Elizabeth Wigfield. Birmingham: Solid Ground Christian Books.Google Scholar
  24. DeYoung, Kevin. Is John Piper Really Reformed? The Gospel Coalition, Accessed 8 June 2016.
  25. Dixon, C. Scott. 2010. Protestants: A History from Wittenberg to Pennsylvania, 1517–1740. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dunlop, Robert, ed. 1913. Ireland under the Commonwealth: Being a Selection of Documents Relating to the Government of Ireland from 1651 to 1659. Vol. ii. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Featley, Daniel. 1646. The Dippers Dipt. London: Wing F587.Google Scholar
  28. Ferry, Brenton C. 2009. Works in the Mosaic Covenant: A Reformed Taxonomy. In The Law Is Not of Faith: Essays on Works and Grace in the Mosaic Covenant, ed. Bryan D. Estelle, J.V. Fesko, and David VanDrunen. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing.Google Scholar
  29. Frame, John, A Fresh Look at the Regulative Principle: A Broader View. Accessed online at Accessed 8 June 2016.
  30. Gribben, Crawford. 2007. God’s Irishmen: Theological Debates in Cromwellian Ireland. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Ha, Polly. 2011. English Presbyterianism, 1590–1640. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Halcomb, J.A. 2010. A Social History of Congregational Religious Practice During the Puritan Revolution. PhD, University of Cambridge.Google Scholar
  33. Hansen, Collin. 2008. Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists. Wheaton: Crossway Books.Google Scholar
  34. Haude, Sigrun. 2000. In the Shadow of “Savage Wolves”: Anabaptist Münster and the German Reformation During the 1530s. Boston: Humanities Press.Google Scholar
  35. Hayden, Roger, ed. 1974. The Records of a Church of Christ in Bristol, 1647–1687. Gateshead: The Bristol Record Society.Google Scholar
  36. Haykin, Michael A.G., and Mark Jones, eds. 2011. Drawn into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-Century British Puritanism. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.Google Scholar
  37. Journal of the House of Commons 3: 1643–1644. London, 1802. Published online at Accessed 19 May 2016.
  38. Kidd, Thomas S., and Barry Hankins. 2015. Baptists in America: A History. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Kiffen, William. 1645. A Briefe Remonstrance. London: Wing K423.Google Scholar
  40. Klötzer, Ralf. 2007. The Melchiorites and Münster. In A Companion to Anabaptism and Spiritualism, 1521–1700, ed. John Roth and James Stayer, 217–256. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  41. Knutton, Immanuel. 1645. Seven Questions About the Controversie Between the Church of England and the Separatists and Anabaptists, Briefly Discussed. London: Wing K744.Google Scholar
  42. Lake, Peter. 2001. The Boxmaker’s Revenge: “Orthodoxy”, “Heterodoxy” and the Politics of the Parish in Early Stuart London. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Marshall, Stephen. 1644. A Sermon of the Baptizing of Infants. London: Wing M774.Google Scholar
  44. Milton, Anthony. 1995. Catholic and Reformed: The Roman and Protestant Churches in English Protestant Thought, 1600–1640. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Morgan, Edmund S. 1963. Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Nuttall, Geoffrey F. 1957. Visible Saints : The Congregational Way, 1640–1660. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  47. Oliver, Robert W. 1989. Baptist Confession Making 1644 and 1689. Presented to the Strict Baptist Historical Society, March 17. Accessed online at Accessed 14 May 2018.
  48. Patient, Thomas. 1654. The Doctrine of Baptism and the Distinction of the Covenants. London: Wing P718.Google Scholar
  49. Powell, Hunter. 2015. The Crisis of British Protestantism: Church Power in the Puritan Revolution 1638–44. Manchester: Manchester University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Renihan, Michael Thomas. 2001. Antipaedobaptism in the Thought of John Tombes. Auburn: B & R Press.Google Scholar
  51. Renihan, James M. 2009. Edification and Beauty: The Practical Ecclesiology of the English Particular Baptists, 1675–1705. Eugene: Wipf and Stock.Google Scholar
  52. ———., ed. 2016. Faith and Life for Baptists: The Documents of the London Particular Baptist General Assemblies, 1689–1694. Palmdale: Reformed Baptist Academic Press.Google Scholar
  53. Renihan, Samuel D. 2018. From Shadow to Substance: The Federal Theology of the English Particular Baptists (1642–1704). Oxford: Regent’s Park College.Google Scholar
  54. Report of the Committee to Study Republication, Eighty-third General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 2016. Accessed online at Accessed 15 Sept 2016.
  55. Rutherford, Samuel. 1644. The Due Right of Presbyteries. London: Wing R2378.Google Scholar
  56. A Solemn League and Covenant, for Reformation and Defence of Religion. 1643. London: Wing S4444.Google Scholar
  57. Spilsbery, John. 1643. A Treatise Concerning the Lawfull Subject of Baptism. London: Wing S4976.Google Scholar
  58. Tombes, John. 1645. An Examen of the Sermon of Mr. Stephen Marshal. London: Wing T1825.Google Scholar
  59. ———. 1652. Antipaedobaptism, or No Plain nor Obscure Scripture-Proof of Infants Baptism or Church-Membership. London: Wing T1798.Google Scholar
  60. Tyacke, Nicholas. 1990. Anti-Calvinists: The Rise of English Arminianism, c. 1590–1640. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Vos, Geerhardus. 2012. The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology. In Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, the Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, ed. R.B. Gaffin. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed.Google Scholar
  62. Winship, Michael P. 2012. Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wright, David F. 2007. Infant Baptism in Historical Perspective: Collected Studies. Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew C. Bingham
    • 1
  1. 1.Systematic Theology and Church HistoryOak Hill CollegeLondonUK

Personalised recommendations