For some years, I have complained about Baptist squatters in the Reformed house. These are those Baptists who insist on re-defining the adjective Reformed. As it turns out, however, this habit of squatting is not new at all. Indeed, one of the earliest examples occurred in 1680.
I use the metaphor of squatters because this is how those are described who take over someone else’s house (or attempt the same) when the homeowner is away and call it their own. When the homeowners are present, it is called a home invasion.
To the degree the Reformed did not inhabit their own confessional house—they were away at war for the first half of the twentieth century—they left it vacant and squatters moved in. As we have tried to move back in, however, we have found the house crowded with competing accounts of what it means to be Reformed.
Where are these squatters, you say? Well, take a look at the number of Baptist publications and institutions who appropriate the adjective Reformed. There are Reformed Baptist schools, Reformed Baptist books, websites, etc. They are not hard to find. I was reminded this week of this problem when I received an email from one of my favourite booksellers notifying me of an edition of the Heidelberg Catechism: The Heidelberg Catechism: Credo Baptism Edition.
As a student of the catechism, I have seen many editions, including a modern Hebrew edition, but this one is rather different from the others. The editions to which I refer are all translations of the original Heidelberg Catechism as it was published by the Reformed Church of the German Palatinate in 1563. The edition that came to my attention, however, is a 2021 reprint of a 1680 Particular Baptist revision of the Heidelberg Catechism by Hercules Collins (1647–1702).
Two things stand out about this reprint. First, and most obviously, the subtitle: A Credo Baptism Edition. I think the more correct adjective would be Credo Baptist, but even that adjective is a mongrel. It is a cute adjective which rhymes with the common American pronunciation of paedobaptist, meaning “baby baptizer”. Credo is the Latin verb (first person singular, present active indicative) “I believe”. Thus, it is a modern, shorthand way of signifying “one who confesses believer’s baptism only”.
To state the obvious: A Baptist version of the Heidelberg Catechism is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. It makes no more sense and has no more relation to reality than would a Second London Confession (1689): A Paedobaptist Version. That document already existed. It is known as the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF; 1647), and the differences between the WCF and 1689, as it is known among Baptists, are rather more profound than is often realized. I myself only gradually came to see how profound those differences are, and I will endeavour to explain those differences in forthcoming essays.