Reformed Theology!

Two words – but two words that can lead to a whole gamut of emotions.

To many, an R Rated sermon – by this I mean R for Reformed – conjures up notions of:

Explicit Calvinist Language
Christocentric Themes
Strong References To Sovereignty

Or it can bring to mind the teachings of TULIP – which for those who aren’t aware – is a common acronym for Calvinist teaching.

For some these are truths to build your lives on – others find them concerning even dangerous.

While many very proudly trumpet their Reformed leanings – or their Reformed biases – if you ask them to define what Reformed means – you will quickly get a large variety of opinions and definitions.

If you doubt that – do what I did this week and ask a few Reformed people or try a quick Google search – and you will get a rather large variety of definitions.

Here are few of the more significant definitions I was given.

Reformed:

• It means holding to the teachings of the Reformation that distinguished the Reformers from the Catholic Church.
• It means holding to the teachings and theology of Martin Luther or more commonly John Calvin.
• It means holding to the Bible as the final authority.
• It means holding to the five solas of the Reformation.
• It means holding to the Westminster Confession of Faith or for Baptists the London 1689 Confession.
• It means confessing the consensus teachings of the first five centuries of the Christian era.
• It means holding to covenant theology and paedo-baptism.
• It means holding to two sacraments – baptism and communion.
• It means holding to the sovereignty of God in all things.
• It means holding to the teachings of TULIP.

And lest we think a TULIP by any other name would smell as sweet – it does not.

For some, Reformed Theology is:

• A scheme of the devil sent to deceive people by teaching that God maliciously sends people to hell and opposes evangelism.

What this means is that Reformed is a term over which there is a lot of debate.

To some degree, Reformed is in the eye of the beholder.

This is one of the reasons why at our church we tend to use the term sparingly – because it means very different things to different people.

However, because I do believe Reformed teaching encapsulates the essence of biblical teaching – with a fair degree of trepidation – fully expecting some push back – here is my imperfect, personal definition of how I understand this term.

A Reformed Christian holds to God as sovereignly determining every event in every time and place for His glory, His Word as our only sufficient guide, His rule as supreme over all creation – such that submission to His loving kingship becomes the foundation of everything they believe and do.

Maybe you like my definition – maybe you don’t – maybe you don’t understand it. Maybe other aspects of Reformed Theology are more what you think the essence of this stream of Christianity is. That is fine.

I will point out that depending on how you define a number of these terms – people who would definitely not consider themselves Reformed could say a hearty Amen to this.

And some who are Reformed would say this definition is severely lacking.

But, the reason I have done this – is that there is at least one aspect of my definition that James would heartily approve of – and so should all of us.

Notice the two little words:

And do.

What struck me – and I hope it struck you – was the fact most definitions of Reformed focused on doctrine.

What should hit us between the eyes is that when James talks about God being sovereign – his emphasis is not so much on doctrine – but on practice.

How the sovereignty of God is meant to radically affect the way we actually live.

We don’t just hear the Word or believe the Word – we are to do the Word.

I think in James’ day – as in ours – many people talk a good Reformed game – far fewer live it.