Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why I Am Reformed: Overview

Months ago, I promised to do a series of posts on why I belong to the section of Christianity that calls itself Reformed. And then I slipped into the world of fevered children and adult root-canals (there's a post on that coming soon), and this blog became a no-man's land.

I kept meaning to post. As an added nudge, I've been asked to teach a Sunday school class this fall on Reformed theology. Then this week I read another post about an abusive church that called itself Reformed and I decided I shouldn't put this off any more.

So where to begin? As I worked on this post, I realized I was trying to write a one-paragraph description of the reasons for the Protestant Reformation. If you've never tried that, don't. The experience made me nostalgic for those root canals.  I could tell you the Reformed church is the branch of the Reformation that clustered around theologians like John Calvin, Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger and Ulrich Zwingli. Or I could talk about the different historic emphases between Calvin and Luther, or Calvin and the radical Reformers like Menno Simons. But I don't want to write that post, and you don't want to read it.

So I'll go for too simple, rather than too complicated. Reformed theology is an understanding of Christianity that emphasizes the omnipotence of a merciful, holy God. God's power over all things - often called his "sovereignty" - is systematically affirmed in whatever theological issue is under discussion. All goodness is seen as the result of God's action, not human effort. Even the good things we do are ultimately caused by a sovereign God.

In Reformed theology, God is the one who acts. I receive the grace and mercy of God. I don't achieve it or earn it. Even the part of me that acts to receive it, is in fact God moving in me to allow me to receive. Reformed theology is an expression of Christianity organized around the persistent reminder that things ain't up to me.

If I were to sum up why I am Reformed in something short enough to fit on a t-shirt, it would say, "I'm here for the Sabbaths." I mean that figuratively (though literal Sabbaths are pretty great too). The Sabbath is the day of rest. In the Sabbath we acknowledge that our labor, whatever we may tell ourselves, is not necessary to the running of the world. In the Sabbath we submit and receive rest, even when a thousand insistent impulses are screaming out to us that our work is essential. I make my home in a Reformed church (see that little c in church? That's important. I'll write about that another day) to worship the Lord of the Sabbath, who gives my soul rest. I stay here because of the freedom and joy I have found in knowing it doesn't depend on me.

Next post in Why I Am Reformed: Original Sin! Why a phrase that makes you feel doom and puritanical gloom comforts and encourages me.

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