Confessional Christianity & Baptists

Lack of interest in confessional Christianity is nothing new. Among the most fascinating figures of the 18th century is Robert Robinson (1735-1790), at one time clear in his confessional identity as a Calvinistic Baptist and the author of the well-known hymn “Come, Thou Fount of every blessing.” Yet, by the end of his life, it was said of him: “[Robinson] hath his own opinions of the nature of God, and Christ, and man, and the decrees, and so on: but he doth not think that the opinion of Athanasius, or Arius, or Sabellius, or Socinus, or Augustine, or Pelagius, or Whitby, or Gill, on the subjects in dispute between them, ought to be considered of such importance as to divide Christians, by being made the standards to judge of the truth of any man’s Christianity.” [Seventeen Discourses of Several Texts of Scripture; Addressed to Christian Assemblies in villages near Cambridge. To which are added, Six Morning Exercises (New ed.; Harlow: Benjamin Flower, 1805), p. iv-v].

This is sad, to say the least. As an excellent corrective to a replication of this state of affairs in our day is the announcement that Reformed Baptist Academic Press is soon to publish Jim Renihan’s True Confessions. Baptist Documents in the Reformed Family.

It was with a deep sense of “finally” that I heard of this new work by Dr. Renihan, who heads up The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in California. We have long needed this detailed and tabular comparison of the foundational documents of our Calvinistic Baptist heritage—the First London Confession of Faith (1644), the Second London Confession of Faith (1677/1689), The Baptist Catechism (sometimes called Keach’s Catechism) and Hercules Collins’ The Orthodox Catechism (1680)—and their sources. This work will remind lovers of that heritage that those who drew up these documents saw themselves as part of a Calvinist International, “a broader Reformed community” as Renihan puts it. As such, this book will be vital in helping us, who are the heirs of the men who wrote these texts, know not only what we must affirm in this day of doctrinal confusion but also know whence we have come and who belongs to our extended family, as it were, within the great body of Christian believers.

May it further these ends and the study of confessional theology among us Baptists, and so avoid the sad latitudinarianism of Robert Robinson in his final days.