One of my earliest posts addressed the tagline “Reformed ramblings” that I’ve used above, but since that has now become buried under a mass of other things, I’m re-posting here for your convenience. Consider this a primer to my other posts, if you will.
What makes a rambling Reformed?
The tagline above says, “some Reformed ramblings on Scripture, life, theology, and culture”. Well and good, you might say, but what makes a rambling Reformed?
This is a bit of a buzzword, I admit. I suppose there may be some people who visit this blog precisely because it using this designation, and there may be some people who stay away for exactly the same reason. I wasn’t trying to slyly entice or expel anyone by using it, but did think it important to include, nonetheless.
Since I did include it, I might as well explain it–and I’ll do that on two fronts. For those who are familiar with the term, this will allow you to see what I mean by it. For those who aren’t sure what it means, consider this a crash-course in some things that I’ll try to flesh out in much greater detail as this blog matures.
What it means to be Reformed is a big and deep and beautiful and nuanced topic, so for the theological hair-splitters out there, this overview will seem simplistic at best and trite at worst. I hope it isn’t that. Consider this a billboard approach to things, done with broad brush strokes and simple colors. As I post more on various topics, I’ll aim to do the detailed work that all portraits need.
But enough preface. What constitutes a Reformed perspective on the above topics?
1. Scripture. A Reformed approach to the exegesis and exposition of Scripture will be characterized by a belief that the 66 canonical books of Scripture are the inspired and infallible Word of God (we can unpack the ideas of inspiration and infallibility later). It is, in the classic phrase, “our only rule in faith and practice”. Scripture is unified in its witness and purpose, which is to exalt Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah and unfold God’s redemptive history through the two administrations of the covenant of grace. It views Scripture as “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), and “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A Reformed approach to Scripture places us under its authority, not above it, and proclaims both Law and Gospel (more on that later). It is rigorous in its study, humble it its handling, and bold in its proclamation, always letting the Word form and transform us rather than seeking to impose an agenda or interpretation on it.
So, when I share some thought on Scripture, you’ll find these general themes–and others–on display.
2. Life: A Reformed approach to life views life itself as a gift from God, acknowledges that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17), and seeks to bring glory to God through how we live as his children. It strives for holiness, simplicity, and faithful stewardship (much more on this later). It sees every aspect and area of life as part of our relationship with God–there are no parts of life that are outside of his jurisdiction, and no parts of life that are untouched by his call to be disciples of Jesus Christ. This is a very broad topic, and a very short description, but don’t be thrown by that. In a nutshell, a Reformed take on life maintains that God is present in, and lays claim to, every part of our life–which is an unrivaled joy when rightly understood.
3. Theology: Here is where lines get drawn and ammunition quickly gathered. It would be foolish to say that there is a monolithic, “standard” interpretation of what Reformed theology is–yet there are certain basics that characterize this. On the historical level, it reflects the theological paradigms that came out of the Protestant Reformation, most particularly the writings of John Calvin, but it is not correct, as some people do, to assume a one-to-one correlation with ‘Calvinism’ and ‘Reformed’. You can think of it as the whole “every square is a rectangle but not every rectangle is a square” thing, if that helps.
To be a Calvinist is to be Reformed, though there are some who would call themselves Reformed who might balk at the Calvinist label and vice versa (again, much more on this later). This may be the deepest topic yet, but here are some broad outlines upon which Reformed theology stands:
- The sovereignty of God, sinfulness of man, and supremacy of Christ
- The Reformation solas (Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, glory to God alone)
- A covenantal approach to Scripture and theology
- A confessional identity (e.g. Westminster, Heidelberg, Belgic, Dort, etc)
The Reformed junkies out there (you know who you are) will be squirming right now because I haven’t said anything about TULIP, union with Christ, election, or any of the other debated “organizing principles” of Reformed theology. Calm down, it’s ok. I see those as included in, with, and under (that’s a joke for my Lutheran friends) the previous broad headings. And don’t worry, I’ll spend a lot more time on them in great detail in later posts.
Bottom line on the theology part: there is a lot to it, people hotly debate it, I find it fascinating, and I hope you spend some time swimming in these waters with me.
4. Culture: Admittedly, this may seem an odd inclusion and probably won’t find as much emphasis in what I have to say as the other areas, but it is important, and there is, in my opinion, a Reformed way to look at culture. It recognizes and confesses that while God did create all things and pronounce them good, that sin’s entrance into this world has so marred and defaced that goodness that what we see is, at best, a broken and fractured reflection of God’s kingdom and, at worst, a warped and rebellious expression of the values of a fleeting and disappearing age (1 John 2:15-17).
While some traditions advocate a complete withdrawal from culture, others advocate a militant campaign against culture. Most Reformed approaches (I say “most” quite intentionally) recognize in culture evidence of God’s common grace and even whispers of his truth and goodness, though also recognize the need to have that same culture informed, re-formed, and transformed by the Gospel and the heralding of Christ’s rule and reign.
So, when you see posts about culture, you can proceed under these premises.
Now, if this generated more questions than it answered, let me know. If you made it the whole way through this, good for you. Perhaps you have a better idea of what I mean by “Reformed ramblings”. If it piqued your interest, stop back later for more and share this page with your friends.
That’s it for now.