Home > apologetics, doctrines, hermeneutics > Why I Am Not Reformed: Message from Pastor-Teacher Ted Bigelow

Why I Am Not Reformed: Message from Pastor-Teacher Ted Bigelow


From a friend’s link, I recently listened to an interesting message, an hour long look at Reformed Theology: not just the Calvinist Soteriology, the Doctrines of Grace, but the extras of church tradition, a climate in which theological ideas, such as redeeming the culture, become more important than actual scripture.

Pastor-Teacher Ted Bigelow looks at four specific areas:

1.  Infant Baptism, a theologically derived teaching (not applicable in the case of Reformed Baptists)
2. A credal faith, in which creeds are authoritative, on the same level as scripture.
3. Hermeneutics: Reformed theology allows double meanings.  Bigelow speaks for many of us, that a passage of scripture has only one meaning, though multiple applications of that meaning.
4. The term Reformed is Misleading: they stopped Reforming a long time ago.

Among the highlights:

Regarding Creeds:  Over 30 major creeds were developed during the Reformation, of which three are still used today: The Heidelberg Catechism, the 39 Articles (Anglicanism), and the Westminster Confession.  A few variations include the two London Baptist Confessions.  The creeds were written specifically to address the specific doctrinal errors of that time, leading to emphasis of particular doctrines while neglecting other scriptural teaching.  Following these creeds leads to dead orthodoxy, using dated documents instead of scripture.  On this point, I’ve not seen such emphasis on the creeds in all Reformed churches, but do recall a local Reformed Baptist church several years ago studying the 1689 London Baptist Confession through their Sunday or Wednesday evening sessions.  Rather than studying the Bible, they were going point by point through that particular creed.

Hermeneutics:  Pre-Reformation, the Church included four meanings for every text (Literal, Allegorical, Moral, and Heavenly).  The Reformers jettisoned the last two of these (moral and heavenly), but kept the allegorical meaning.  Bigelow provides several examples of each of these four types of meaning, with further examples of Protestant allegorical treatment, such as the Song of Solomon and the ESV (Reformed influence) translation of Matthew 19:28 with “new world” when the Greek word is quite clearly the term regeneration, not “new world.”

Finally, some good points, well expressed:

The Reformation was not about the church, but about the Bible. It was about the Word of God reforming everything and never stopping — instead of it getting fixed at a place in history and that becoming the high point, because of our natural affection for men like John Calvin and Martin Luther and many others who have led us into understanding scripture at a deep level.   …

They (Reformed Churches) are actually Catholic churches that have been reformed into Protestant churches.  The proof of being a scriptural church is not one’s theological forefathers, but — surprise — scripture. Not what creed you hold to, but the Bible that you hold to.

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  1. January 5, 2013 at 9:02 am

    I am a Reformed Baptist, so I believe the first point is true. Yet the last three points are not true. Points two through four are erroneous. Number two states that Reformed Churches hold creeds as authoritative as scripture. This is a fallacy and I would ask this Pastor-Teacher to prove it because I know of no Reformed Church that does this. Number three is fallacious because Reformed Theology does not hold double meanings for certain passages of scripture. There is only one meaning for each passage of scripture, yet many applications may be made from it. Finally number four is fallacious because the Reformation is not over. There has been no great ecumenical move whereby all of Christianity has reunited.

  2. Steven Hayes
    January 5, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Thanks for the post Lynda. I intend to listen to the sermon you link when I can, as it’s a topic that’s close to my own heart. Like you (I think), I’m a mildly Calvinistic Dispensationalist, which means my soteriology is (again, mildly) Calvinistic; but that’s absolutely nothing akin to being Reformed.

    Despite the protests of our Reformed Baptist brother above, I think all four points are spot on. I readily admit that no Reformed Church would claim to put any creed on the same level as Scripture, but practically they all in fact do. They, and especially their children, are more likely to be studying a Reformed catechism than the Bible; it’s an issue of talk vs. walk. As for the point about hermeneutics, again talk vs. walk. Reformed Theology is Covenant Theology, which reinterprets and allegorizes all the Biblical covenants under its theological Covenant of Grace, which becomes their hermeneutical filter for understanding everything in the Bible (and which demands allegorization of large portions of it; e.g., Israel doesn’t really mean Israel, it means the Church; the Promised Land doesn’t really mean Canaan, it means Heaven; etc.). Finally, I see no evidence of the Reformed Churches are continuing to reform. For instance, they’ve gone absolutely nowhere in the area of eschatology, still stuck in Augustine’s Amillennialism/Postmillennialism (hard to pin him down exactly) of a thousand years ago (which in and of itself is another whole area requiring massive allegorization of Scripture). These are all good reasons why I’m not Reformed either.

  3. January 5, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Thanks, Steven. Yes, and as the speaker points out regarding the creeds, they wouldn’t outright say that their creed is on the same level of scripture, but it shows in their actions, how they treat the creeds, spending time studying those in addition to scripture. The whole treatment of the early church fathers is similar, such as one reformed baptist pastor I know who has as much as said that Augustine is on the level of inspired scripture, an attitude of reverence and unquestioning agreement with everything Augustine said (including of course his development of amillennialism).

  4. January 5, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I will say that overall, this is the most slanted and sloppy post I’ve read that you have posted and shows the desperate need you have to be less than well informed regarding Reformed theology. Frankly, I’m stupified at this.

    • January 5, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      Rick, this is my summary of a full hour long message, which goes into more detail than this summary. How about listening to the full message itself, in which the pastor-teacher does express thankfulness and appreciation for what the Reformers did and the great contributions they did make?

      Also, the topic here is primarily Reformed churches and, as Steven commented above, the walk versus the talk regarding the attitude of creeds and hermeneutics. I am aware of these errors in at least some Reformed Churches, having attended one reformed baptist church for over 15 years now, plus a neighboring reformed baptist church’s evening meetings for a few of those years. I cited an example of a church studying one particular creed, and a reformed pastor who thinks Augustine is not to be questioned.

      Obviously we disagree regarding hermeneutics, but I am not alone in this view; many others, including this speaker, also recognize only the literal grammatical historical hermeneutic, that every text has one meaning though many applications. So to say that this post “shows the desperate need you have to be less than well informed regarding Reformed theology” is really quite uncalled for.

      • January 6, 2013 at 8:30 am

        … I listened to the sermon and he is so far off on so many levels that all I can say is that he is truly confused. I personally do not hold to infant baptism, but I do understand why the Reformers hold to that, unlike Dr. Ted. What Ted fails to consider is “why were children circumcised in the OT?” Because circumcision is the sign of a covenant relationship with God. If he can’t get that he’s not going to get any other issues about infant baptism, so there’s no point in even talking any further about his uninformed perspective. Regarding the WCF, wouldn’t a better posture in this sermon be to show *how* the WCF is incorrect in their creeds instead of building a straw man argument that somehow the Reformers use them to keep the Church spiritually safe?

        And that creeds lead to a dead orthodoxy? Isn’t all of Scripture a “date-stamped” document? …

        Aside from this, you have neglected to answer the three errors already brought forth by reformedont about the sermon.

      • January 7, 2013 at 9:14 am

        Rick:

        [Yes, your comment was edited, same as the last. Name-calling and references to personal character are inappropriate, off-topic, and not at all edifying. That's the "house rules," so please abide by them. It is a well recognized principle that a blog owner is not obligated to allow through every comment in full or partial form uncensored regardless of content. That is not a personal affront against a particular commenter, but a part of standard blog comment etiquette.]

        As to the part about infant baptism: it ought to be understood, and is understood by most people, that any given single message on a topic (and same for blog posts and articles) is not going to be 100% comprehensive, discussing every single thing about a single issue. Of course “Dr. Ted” as a TMS graduate understands the full issue of covenant theology and why Covenant Theologians reason as they do. As he said, the issue of infant baptism has been dealt with countless times by many people through the years. The scope of this particular message did not include the full history of the WCF and why/how covenant theology reasons from the idea of circumcision in the OT to their idea of baptism in the New Testament, an idea which has already been refuted elsewhere. Dr. Bigelow’s audience already understands these issues, so no need to bring all of that up in one hour long message giving a general overview. Further, God Himself in His Word did not try to give us everything there is to say about every particular doctrine in any one particular passage. See also this Pyromaniac post regarding this idea, including this: “We noted that when Jesus said disciples would be known by their love, His omission of other marks was not in itself meaningful. It just meant He set out to make that point, not to exclude everything else He’d already said (and would say) on matters of faith and truth and obedience. Most of you don’t need me to point this out.”

        Both Steven and I have addressed the “errors” mentioned by the first commenter.

        As to your comment, “Isn’t all of Scripture a “date-stamped” document?” If that is what you actually believe, no wonder you are confused, that you are unable to understand the difference between the inspired, inerrant Word of God, and uninspired documents written by man, even by the best of men other than the inspired writers of the Old and New Testaments of God’s word.

  5. Pauline Yates
    January 7, 2013 at 6:06 am

    I listened to this well presented and Biblical sermon. I too are confused as to how reformed people can allegorise scripture. Having come out of a cult I see such similarities in their ( reformed) interpretation of scripture. Amazing though how they just can’t see it or admit to doing it. Also the paedobaptism is so not biblical even R C Sproul said on one of his messages that it is not in Scripture ? Just a hangover from Roman Catholicism I am sure. Thankyou for you post on this Linda.

    • January 7, 2013 at 9:19 am

      Thanks, Pauline. That’s a good point about the similarity to cults — like what Dan Phillips has described in his testimony, how he was delivered from a cult that allegorized/spiritualized all of scripture, and his description of the “secret decoder ring” needed to understand the Reformed allegorical interpretation of scripture. And yes, the infant baptism is a holdover from Roman Catholicism: the Reformers wanted to keep infant baptism for its secular purpose of census registration, as the infant baptism was a public record for census purposes, so they came up with a theological justification to keep a Protestant infant baptism.

      • Pauline Yates
        January 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm

        The thought of the similarities in their Bible interpretation ( Reformed ) methods should be enough to make one sit up and take notice wouldn’t you think. Interestingly we were also taught replacement theology, that is that the church has replaced Israel, we are now spiritual Israel . The pride and arrogance that accompanied this was something to repent of. Once leaving that false church and upon further study of Scripture and eschatology , the veil was off and taking Scripture in its literal interpretation it was easy to see that the promises made by The Lord God to Israel were still standing. Where can I find Dan Phillips testimony Linda.

      • January 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm

        Hi Pauline,

        Dan Phillips’ testimony, his background with the Religious Science cult, is here: http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2007/02/february-11-most-pivotal-day-in-my.html (Part 1).
        He also wrote a part 2 and part 3, which he includes links to at the end of the first part.

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