In the previous article, a hint was given about the purpose for this blog. “We–Michael and I– wish by this blog to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” The writer further indicated that, “After a year or two of abhorring Reformed Theology, [he is] now fully persuaded Calvinism/Reformed theology is biblical Christianity.”
The question I wish to answer today is, “What does it mean to be Reformed?”
This is a question I have received on countless occasions when an opportunity has been presented to me to articulate my religious persuasions. One would think that given the umpteen number of time I have been asked this question, I should by now have a pithy answer I give to all such inquirers but curiously that is not the case. Sometimes, I wish that when someone asks me my religious affiliation, I could simply say “Christian” and that when they ask me my religious beliefs, I could simply say “the Bible.” Unfortunately, such simple answers are no longer sufficient because all sorts of people today claim to be Christians, and even Bible-believers, who are actually far from the kingdom of Christ. Liberals, cultists, and New Age syncretists all abound in the name in Christianity. Therefore, it has become necessary for some descriptive adjective that distinguishes one from broad Christendom.
Basically, when we speak of the Reformed faith, we are referring to the true Christian religion as it was recovered during the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Reformed faith holds to all the apostolic doctrines set forth in the Bible and given creedal formulation by the great ecumenical councils of the ancient church on such cardinal articles of the Christian faith such as the Trinity, the atonement, justification by faith, the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, his miracles and the inspiration of Holy Scripture.
It is important to recognize that these doctrines have been variously misinterpreted by the several branches of the visible church. Which interpretations belong to the Reformed faith and which do not? The answer to that question can only be gained through careful study of the various Reformed creeds, confessions and catechisms. Aside the ecumenical creeds, the Reformed subscribe to what is popularly referred to as The Three Forms of Unity, comprising The Heidelberg Catechism, The Belgic Confession and The Canons of Dordt. In recent times, these confessions together with the Westminster Confessions are fondly named The Six Forms of Unity, whose purpose is to serve as a convenient summary of the church’s beliefs of the teachings of Scripture. Hence, it is no secret what the Reformed system teaches regarding any doctrine of the Scripture and makes for easy perusal to ascertain the veracity of our doctrines.
Another major distinctive of the Reformed faith is the utmost seriousness given to the Bible emphasizing its sufficiency for all aspects of the Christian faith and life, its inerrancy and thus necessity in coming to “that knowledge of God, and his will, which is necessary unto salvation”(WCF1.1). The Reformed system is also heavily God-centered with strong emphasis on his sovereignty and unfailing providence, all of which culminates in his glory, which is man’s chief end!
A lot more could be said about the distinctives of the Reformed faith but in conclusion, it can be said in summary that, it is the Christian religion in its most consistent expression. This is not to claim that others, who do not hold to the Reformed confessions, are not Christians. It is simply to insist that there is only one true religion and that the most consistent expression of it is the Reformed faith. “In other words we believe that Christianity comes to its fullest and purest expression in Reformed faith” as Loraine Boettner so concisely asserted!