Seems we’ve always been drawing distinctions among ourselves. A while back I posted a compilation of material on the “truly reformed” debates, as that issue first arose on the campus of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS and then took on a life of its own. At root, we have to admit that it is human nature to label and to describe. We’ve always been doing this sort of thing. Some times its merely descriptive and perhaps helpful. Other times there is a hurtful intent and in some cases such terms are at least meant to be humorous.
Once the “TR” tag was in play, somebody decided to come up with tags for folks elsewhere on the theological spectrum. Thus we have “BR,” which was supposed to stand for ” barely reformed,” or more charitably, the ” broadly reformed.” Recently on the H-AMREL discussion group, someone asked about an expression they had come across, making reference to ” horse protestants and house protestants”. What? What are “horse protestants?”
Horse Protestants and House Protestants
Of the Continental Army, Adams wrote, “There were among them, Roman Catholicks, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anabaptists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists, Universalists, Arians, Priestleyans, Socinians, Independents, Congregationalists, Horse Protestants and House Protestants, Deists and Atheists.”
Thankfully one sharp person located this explanation :
“Horse Protestant: As good a Protestant as Oliver Cromwell’s horse. This expression arises in a comparison made by Cromwell respecting some person who had less discernment than his horse in the moot points of the Protestant controversy.”
[Source: Brewer, E. Cobham, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1894).]
To which we must ask, “Why the long face?”