Recently I read a blog on 10 reasons Reasonable Christian (now a Reformed Anglican) is not a Pentecostal Christian (see his link in Resources—interesting post). It got me thinking about ten reasons I am a Reformed Calvinist. Well I will attempt ten observations in the ten years since I have been in a Reformed church and thinking new throughts. My observations and conclusions are tentative. I have a long way to travel in my faith. In ten years there may be another post here.
Becoming a Calvinist and joining a Reformed church isn’t like winning a theological debate or reciting and explaining the Five Sola’s, TULIP and the Westminster Confession (WC). It is orthodoxy and it is orthopraxy. I think that Mike Horton says it best when he says that Calvinism is just biblical Christianity.
Now the most important information is not that I became Reformed, or a Calvinist, but that I became a believer at the age of seven. Since that time I have had a joyous assurance of Christ as my Savior.
Years ago I was conceptually introduced to Calvinism with a sermon by Rev. Dwight Small, my pastor at the time. Much later in 2000 when I married my current husband and joined his church, I learned a lot more about Calvinism and the WC. In fact while we were courting he had me read up on the WC and I e-mailed him my responses to my study, all the while wondering if I was his project or he was in fact courting me. My relatives would smile while I read a quota of pages every day to get through this induction into more informed Reformed thinking.
Since that time I found out that Calvin was not a perfect man (just as no Pope is), but that Calvin’s Institute and the WC fairly well represents what God wants us to know in the Bible. The Puritans, whom Reformed folks are constantly pointing to, were especially concerned that they follow God’s Word as accurately as possible, not to obtain salvation, but to please God who had chosen them. They were ever so grateful to God.
Before 2000 I had barely affirmed the doctrines of grace and giving God the glory. I was a devoted, careful Christian for the most part, but not free from worry about how things would work out. I would worry instead of trusting God (and at times I still worry going into our senior years). Much of my former and new thinking is in my book Getting Off the Niceness Treadmill. I had wanted God to lead me, but often lacked confidence that He would. I was a widow, however, and God was answering my prayer for a godly, attentive husband. Then comes the shock of changing denominations with my marriage.
I can’t say I have ten reasons, but ten adjustments/observations.
1. First bombshell. Always a fan of Dr. Billy Graham, I have learned he is an Arminian. Never thought he was one before. Never thought about the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism before. I still am his fan, even a Facebook fan of the Billy Graham Association. I believe the Lord has used that man in a mighty way. Was Calvin always right? James Dobson sounds Arminian when he heralds the late Reformed pastor D. James Kennedy for being responsible "for six million souls being saved through Evangelism Explosion". Hmm. I just say God elected people to be Christians before the foundation of the world and it doesn’t matter if it was Billy Graham or D. James Kennedy or however they came into His fold.
2. Second bombshell. We women don’t study Scripture together. There has to be an Elder present to study Scripture. We women do meet together each month to study Puritan women, however, and do pray for each other. Now this is such a radical departure from my previous church. I was an elder in a small church because there just weren’t enough men up to the job. This fact of my being an elder embarrassed my husband, fiancé at the time. Now I think it is so wonderful there are biblically literate men in my church who answer my questions. And I do have those questions. I do study Scripture everyday on my own.
3. Third bombshell—The Puritans. Are the heralded Puritans legalists? Really I have been forced to take a new look at them. They wanted to apply Scripture to all areas of life. I like this. Counseling doesn’t have to be Rogerian. It can be Nouthetic—healing by applying God’s Word.
4. I care about theology now. Rather than a dull document, I now find the Westminster Confession the benchmark for so much theology. We study a section each Sunday before the sermons and I do take notes on the WC.
5. Church history is so very important. I have always affirmed the importance of Scripture, but church history is now coming alive. Without history, why, one could create a new kind of Christianity as some are now wont to do—make it more appealing to the post-moderns.
6. I am much more understanding of the moral law of the Old Testament as it centers on the Ten Commandments whose principles have a whole lot to say about the New Testament and all of what God wants for us. The WC specifies more information on that Moral Law. Thank God those ceremonial laws and case laws don’t apply since Christ has come. Christ fulfilled the law, but subjects such as graven image, respect, lust, murder, envy, slander are still part of the moral law that Christ fulfilled.
7. The Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) is a highly regarded practice in Reformed circles. It is almost the default on worship practices. No new technology (except recording of sermons) or entertainment. I am finding that different persons and churches interpret the RPW differently. For example, a PCA church might have a band in the worship service with words projected. Another Reformed church might sing psalms only. Reformed folks try to worship God as He has prescribed. Worship and the Sabbath are elevated. Worship is the highlight of the week—it is for God, not my Christian entertainment.
8. At times theology seems to be elevated over orthopraxy. There are so many theological issues in the Reformed churches that need attention and I do appreciate the men who guard the flock. Sometimes we have to speak up if we need shepherding that isn't theological. Sometimes we need to be there for others with their ordinary needs that aren't theological. Caring for others used to be the only concern I had in my previous church experience. We need the balance of both.
9. I came from a congregational form of government and have adjusted to a Presbyter/Elder form of government. No more church politics for me! Relief!
10. I used to have too many things to do on a Sunday and throughout the week "for Christ" in my former denomination. Now whom was I trying to impress?! It is for God's glory.
I am free to bring God the glory as I ask for His guidance and obey His Word that I study every day. I am growing in faith, responding to the grace I have been given, but not becoming a Calvinist as one might become a member of the Rotary Club. Others may call me a Calvinist or a Reformed believer by my associations, but I hope that they see Christ in me, and that I am a growing believer in Christ.