Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Caution to My Reformed Brothers

I'm writing this post specifically to those Christians who are Reformed regarding salvation. I'm writing as a Reformed Christian to other Reformed Christians.

Here's my simple caution: we need to be careful. Specifically, we need to be careful that we don't confuse reading lots of books with living lives that please God.

These two things are quite obviously not mutually exclusive. However, we make a huge mistake if we confuse the two. And if you read many of the Reformed blogs and websites, you might think that the most important part of the Christian life is which Puritan from the 1600's you are currently reading.

The interesting thing about all this is that the prominent leaders of the Reformed movement (such as John Piper, John MacArthur, and R.C. Sproul) don't seem to be confused about this. They write many books and I'm sure read a lot, but when you hear them speak their focus is always who Jesus is, what He has done, and what we should do in response.

The problem lies more with those who have become Reformed within the last ten years or so. I'm in this group, so this caution applies to me as well. We all know that many good books have been written over the past 500 years or so. We may be thrilled to be almost finished reading Calvin's Institutes. We may think Jonathan Edwards was the most brilliant man ever. We may even dare to try to read some of John Owen.

What is our primary emphasis? Christianity is not an intellectual enterprise where the person with the most knowledge is the most holy.

What does Jesus care about? It's interesting in reading through the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus cares most about our attitudes and resulting actions. He says little about head knowledge.

Let's just be careful. Reading books is great as long as it's a means to an end. That end should be our sanctification that leads to God's glorification. If we become prideful about what we read, then the action of reading leads to the exact opposite of what the authors intended.


Misplaced Honor said...

Excellent exhortation brother. When I think of all the time I spend reading I wonder how much of that time could be used more effectively for the advancement of the kingdom by building relationships.

Eric said...


This is a difficult one. We certainly can gain a lot from reading. I suppose a healthy balance is in order.

Aussie John said...


You said:
"Christianity is not an intellectual enterprise where the person with the most knowledge is the most holy."

(Loud applause)

You also said:
"Christianity is not an intellectual enterprise where the person with the most knowledge is the most holy."

(Loud applause)

An important adjunct to your words is the fact that, being well read, and brimming with theological knowledge doesn't mean that wisdom is present.

One of the humblest, wisest Christians I ever knew, whose relationship with Christ shone for all to see, was an elderly, poor farmer, who, though ill educated, laboriously and diligently, read his Bible.

As a preacher, and counselor he surpassed any person I know of, today, or have known, in wisdom and personal and practical holiness.

I'm sure I would have been better equipped to lead churches, in my early days, had I spent much time with him, rather than in intellectual pursuits.

Arthur Sido said...

Yeah but what did Calvin say about this subject?

Eric said...


You make an excellent point about knowledge and wisdom being different things. I fear that my own knowledge far supersedes my wisdom.

We Reformed need to watch out that we don't get sidetracked by what isn't really important.

Eric said...


Hmmmm.... I don't know since I haven't made much of a dent in the Institutes.

Steve Scott said...

You could also add "listening to a lot of sermons" to this warning. I remember my early days in Reformedom where the most spiritual people had the largest sermon tape collections.

Note to younger readers: cassette tapes were what mankind used before there were podcasts and .mp3's, which is why many sermons are still either 45 or 60 minutes long. ;)

Eric said...


Yo are right about the sermons. I suppose it goes right along with having so many hero-preachers. I have no idea why listening to a speech equates with godliness.

Unknown said...

I can even get prideful about studying the Bible. Obviously, Bible Study is a good thing, but worthless if it doesn't lead us to worship the Lord and transform us by renewing our minds.

Eric said...


Thanks for the comment and the reminder. You are so right. May we do all things for the glory of our majestic and amazing Lord Jesus!

Pride is such a dangerous thing. In our flesh we puff ourselves up so easily. Christ is the only one we should exalt.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Many years ago, I was seeking the Lord, and praying about the state of the church I was in. Then suddenly the Lord gave me vision.
In the vision I saw loads of people gathered around holding cups of coffee talking in little groups, like the typical end of service time.

However as they talked, with a coffee cup in their right hand, they kept half tuning around and with the left hand tapping the top of a filing cabinet which each person had behind them.

Each person had a chain connecting one leg to the cabinet so they couldn't get away.

As I watched it, I also understood what the Lord was telling me. The personal status of each person was based on how many bible studies they had attended. This was each man's filing cabinet. The way they kept tapping the cabinet in an approving sort of way showed they were proud of their knowledge, and kept referring to what they had learned.

They were chained by the leg to their bible studies, but on the other hand they had no desire to get away from an intellectual, "tree of knowledge," christianity.

Finally, their attitude towards the particular teacher and their own bible study collection was plain and simple idolatry. Their abundant knowledge actually blocked them from any real relationship of experiential faith with the Lord