From time to time Baptist (and other) friends ask me, “What does ‘Reformed’ mean, anyway?” They have come across a Baptist or Bible church that now styles itself “Reformed” or have heard someone describe a leader as having “gone Reformed,” and they’re finidng the term a bit confusing. The question doesn’t come to me from seminary graduates or church history majors. So here I offer an answer for the layman—especially the layman who grew up in some variant of independent Baptist.
What it is not
It may be helpful to begin with what “Reformed” is not. It is not one thing. Nowadays, even well informed people mean different things by the term. Still, because the last several decades have witnessed a revival of theological seriousness in parts of American Christianity, and because that revival has had much Reformed influence running through it, many have taken to using the term to mean nothing more than “theologically serious.” Some even seem to be claiming the label just because it’s trendy.
There is a more or less correct definition of “Reformed,” to be sure. But if your goal is to know what people mean, you’ll have to accept the reality that there is no single, clear intent.