David Koyzis asks why we have Calvinist Baptists, but no Lutheran Baptists. He makes some good points in his piece. There is a certain awkwardness when discussing Calvinists within the Baptist tradition. Baptists are called Baptists because we baptize those who profess belief in Christ, while Calvin believed that it was the church’s responsibility to moisten infants. A Baptist could not really adhere to all Calvin’s teachings.
When we speak of “Calvinist Baptists” we refer to Baptists who affirm Calvin’s soteriology. Why not call them Lutheran Baptists? Both reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, had similar doctrines of soteriology. (I know some people will disagree with that last statement, but those people are wrong.) My friend and colleague, Jerry Walls, has even called Thomas Aquinas a Calvinist. How does “Thomistic Baptists” sound? Why does Calvin get all the credit?
The reasons are mostly historical. One should not underestimate the role of Calvin’s Institutes. Calvin created a handbook for faith and practice that helped transplant reformation into new contexts. While Luther’s writings are more entertaining, they aren’t systematic. If a Protestant has a question, chances are, the Institutes has an answer.
Calvin’s writings affected the English-speaking Christians. The Westminster Divines injected Calvinism into the Anglican church. Various nonconformists and congregationalists began to drift away from the Anglicans. Their theology became a modification of a modified Calvinism. Some of these congregationalists became convinced that paedobaptism was illegitimate. They modified a modification of a modified Calvinism.
We talk about Calvinism and Baptists because a rather distant historical connection exists. The English reformation owed more to Calvin than Luther. Baptists come from the English tradition. (I know some people will want to trot out a continental anabaptist and call him a founder of Baptists, but those influences are minuscule compared to the English congregationalists.)
Even Calvinist Baptists recognize this terminology’s inadequacy. When Calvinist Baptist 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. But many Baptists within the SBC who believe in Calvin’s soteriology avoid all extraneous labeling. They just want to be Baptists. There are more accused Calvinists than self-identified Calvinists.
I was amused when I read Koyzis’s piece because I am a Baptist who has often said that I am more of a Lutheran than a Calvinist. What can I say? I like polemics. Usually, however, I refer to myself as an Augustinian Baptist. Most people are too afraid to ask what that means.