Monday, March 13, 2006

Calvinist or Reformed

As the community of Reformed African-Americans continues to grow, many in the traditional, long-standing Reformed community have been making remarks concerning the legitimacy of the Reformed confessions of these Christians. The remarks are not meant to be malicious (so I don't think), nor are they offered with any vindictive tones. However, they are meant to bring into question just how reformed are these so-called reformed Christians. Because most of these African-American Christians come from a Baptist background and not a Presbyterian (which is another topic in itself), and because most of them have found access to Reformed beliefs by way of the Doctrines of Grace, the primary remark comes in this or a similar vein: "Well, they are Calvinistic, but not necessarily Reformed." While there is some truth in this statement, it tends to foster an unhealthy division between brothers of like mind, rather than doing what the commenter probably intends to do, and that is to challenge these "calvinist" to become "reformed." Admittedly, I borrow loosely the words of Paul and say that I thank God that I am more reformed than most and wish that all my brothers and sisters were as I am. Nonetheless, I ask those who are "so reformed" to be patient with those who are "reforming." Obviously, being Reformed is more than being Calvinistic, but surely it is nothing less. Therefore, that brothers and sisters would embrace the Doctrines of Grace when they have for the vast majority of the Christian experience been inundated with the Doctrines of Disgrace (Arminianism), should cause us to rejoice. We should realize that these brothers and sisters have been set free from the Dungeon of the Giant Despair and have been set on the road to the King's Gate, having been given a gracious vision of the Celestrial City. Unfortunately, many us forget from whence we come, and just how unreformed, and uninformed we were when we set out from the City of Destruction.


curtlove said...

I just had a discussion with Burns on the same issue. My question is this what are some books that I can pick up and read that would put into Words just what it means to be reformed. I all ready have the bible.
(I also have read "ON Being Black and Reformed)

Joshua Parker said...

Amen, and well said. This totally hit home and convicted me.

ajcarter said...

Well C-Love, you have already chosen the better part in reading On Being Black and Reformed :-). Nevertheless, one of the best treatments of the subject of recent note is Back to Basics by Doug Wilson and David Hagopian. I am not a big Doug Wilson fan, but he and Hagopian struck gold with this work.

jazztheo said...

hello my friend,

I grew up baptist and then spent 8 years in a Presbyterian church in my early 20's. I did a stint as a staunch 5 pointer but find myself reformed more in spirit than in the letter now days.

Mostly because of praxis rather than docrinal reasons. The Reformation helped us make great strides theologically but not missiologically.

Do you have any misgivings about reformed theology or does it solve all of your questions? Are you reformed because of the correctives that it adds to the African-American Christian tradition or are there other reasons?

keep up the good work,

ajcarter said...

Does it solve all my questions? Of course not. But then again, because of my depravity and sinfulness, I don't always know what the right questions are. We think too much of ourselves and not think enough of the sinfulness of our sin. Is God driven to answer all of my questions? Well, unless I am better than Job, I must answer no. Nonetheless, I have studied wide in the area of theology and have found no more veritable expression of biblical faith than that which is found in the Reformed Tradition. In coming to embrace Reformed truth, I was not searching for a corrective for the African-American church. I'm not that smart. I was simply searching the Scriptures and Church History for the truth, the faith once delivered to the saints. Reformed teachings consistently matched what the Bible was saying. As far as the Reformed faith helping us theologically but not missiologically, well, that is a cute anecdotal statement but not a good analytical one. There is not biblical theology without it incorporating missiology. The Reformation was all about the mission of the church. From John Calvin to John Owen to John Murray to John Piper, reformed theologians and preachers have consistently articulated missiology within their theology. For starters, The Church by Edmund Clowney is an excellent place to begin reading.

My prayer is that by God's grace you would develop a "reformed" mind to go along with your "reformed" spirit. Just kidding :-). Be encouraged my brother. Good to hear from you.

jazztheo said...

I'm in absolute agreement with you that there is no Biblical theology without missiology.

I've read your book and appreciate the chance to get into your mind a bit more.


LouLove said...

Maybe you should investigate the possibility of joining a truly reformed Church and by way of the preaching you will become more familiar with reformed teaching. And possibly the pastor will give you access to his massive library of reformed resources. I heard that there might be a Church in your area that holds to reformed teaching.

curtlove said...

Great idea, do you have any suggestions. I heard about one but that church is all family members, plus they dont even have a choir.

curtlove said...

I wanted clarify my question. I was looking fo books that would run the reformed faith along side others so that one could see how the faiths line, up. I have a book called Intergrative Theology by Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest anything similar to this.

Eric M Washington said...

There is some discussion on the difference I have read. For instance, many Reformed and Presbyterians fail to consider "Reformed Baptists" within the Reformed camp becasue they deny infant baptism and a more thorough covenant theology. This is a tough pill to swallow. I'm still a baptist (note the lowercase "b"), but I have some heavy leanings toward infant baptism. I haven't taken the plunge yet (a backwards pun). I believe that one aspect of being Reformed that is crucial is worship. I believe Calvin's practical significance came in the realm of worship. The focus on the preaching of the word of God, congregational singing (psalms and a few biblical canticles) without instruments, reduction of "holy days" to two (even though Calvin saw no biblical warrant for any holy day besides the Lord's Day), and monthly Lord's Supper. Theology and worship are inseparable. I suggest reading Hart and Meuther's With Reverence and Awe as a fine "primer" on the basics of Reformed worship. For a quick read, I suggest reading the chapters on Religious Worship in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the London (or Philadelphia) Baptist Confession.