Friday, January 14, 2011
Thinking Outside the Reformed Box
About seven years ago I began to embrace the biblical truth of God’s sovereignty over salvation. Prior to that, I had always believed that man has free will and therefore ultimately makes the decision about whether or not to surrender to Jesus Christ. After searching the scriptures for several months in 2003-2004, I came to see and love God’s sovereign choice in salvation.
I still love the doctrines of election and predestination. I also continue to embrace the Doctrines of Grace and the 5 Solas of the Reformation.
Something else has happened to me, however, during the last few years. I’ve realized that in this country amongst the Reformed there are certain topics that dominate conversations. There are also certain topics that are basically ignored. This is not healthy or balanced (and it's especially dangerous and prevalent among seminary students).
If you hang out with folks who sort of wear being Reformed on their sleeves, you will probably end up talking a lot about God being sovereign, about man being completely corrupt, about passages like Ephesians 1 and Romans 8, about what grace truly means, about the Reformation in general, about Calvin, about the Puritans, about Edwards, about Spurgeon, about Pink, about Piper, about MacArthur, about Sproul, etc.
Some of the above things are great. Some are O.K. However, if we emphasize these so much that we end up becoming a sort of one-trick-pony, then we start getting unbiblical.
Reformed folks in general don’t tend to talk quite so much about passages like John 3:16 and Romans 10, about man having a real choice, about the early church fathers, and about men like John Wesley.
I realize that I’m making some generalizations in this post, and for that I apologize. I’m simply trying to say that we often fall into boxes of different sorts that we struggle to see out of. I’ve been in a sort of Reformed box for a while, but I’m glad I can now see outside it.
Let me give another example of Reformed foci. If you attend a conference such as Ligonier (I’ve attended twice), you will hear a great deal about right doctrine. This is defined as what you believe about God, man, sin, salvation, etc. Doctrine is not defined as how we should make a difference in the world today through our service of others. This frequently leads to folks who have minds like a systematic theology but who at the same time hardly make any influence for God’s kingdom in this world.
In this same vein, the Reformed read lots of books. It tends to be that the older and thicker the book, the better. Reformed people also like various confessions of faith. There is also a tendency to elevate pastors and theologians to almost rock star status. Just go to a conference where Piper, MacArthur, or Sproul is speaking and listen to some of the attendees fall all over themselves just to get a seat near the front.
We must all be careful whenever we embrace a specific way of thought or label within Christianity. When we do this, we can begin to adopt some ways of thinking and acting that fall short of biblical standards. We can focus on some important things to the exclusion of others. For example, right now I need to not get caught up in a “House Church Box” that might cause me to automatically reject all the practices of traditional churches.
Let’s all try to take a look at our lives to see if we have fallen into any boxes that have led us to be imbalanced or even unbiblical. Once we do this, let’s peer out of the top to look at a wider world.