Theology Gals | Episode 4 | What Does it Mean to be Reformed?

 

A common question that’s asked in the Theology Gals facebook group is, “What is Reformed?”  When someone asks this question, it is answered with a variety of descriptions. One reason why this happens is that the understanding of what it means has evolved in recent years, and now has a far broader definition than it once did.

Historically, the adjective Reformed has had a specific definition. R Scott Clark explains, “I have argued that there is a stable, historic, definition of the adjective: God’s Word as confessed (theology, piety, and practice) by the Reformed churches. As a matter of history, there was no doubt as to what was meant by the qualifier Reformed from the mid-16th century until about the mid-20th century.” I would agree with Dr. Clark that there is a historic definition and I am in agreement with how he has defined it. There have been various confessions since the time of the reformation which have been considered Reformed; today the most commonly used are the Westminster Standards and The Three Forms of Unity.

I haven’t forgotten about the Reformed Baptists. With some research you’ll find that Reformed Baptist is a fairly new label, and it too has evolved in recent years and is now used more broadly. Before Reformed Baptist was used, confessional calvinistic Baptists used to be known as Particular Baptists. Even when the term was initially more widely used, it had a similar definition to Reformed, but specifically referring to those who held to certain Baptist confessions. In recent years, many began to use it as synonymous with calvinistic Baptist, including the nonconfessional ones.

In this episode of Theology Gals, my co-host Ashley explains that even she wore the label Reformed before she really knew what it meant. Now she holds to the Reformed confessions, but she claimed the label before she really understood what those were. Because it’s now so broadly used, it’s caused confusion. In this video from Pastor Zach of Westside Reformed Church, he explains the confusion this has caused.  He uses a couple of examples to make the point, for instance, can a person who believes in baptism call himself a Baptist even though he believes in baptizing the babies of believers? Can’t one just use Baptist the way they want to use it? I’m sure a Baptist would say, “That’s not how it has historically been understood.”  If I started calling myself a Baptist, that would cause confusion. Pastor Zach continues to explain that it would also cause confusion if someone like me, a Presbyterian, started calling myself a Lutheran just because I believe in justification by faith alone. I’m sure my Lutheran brothers would take issue with that, as I don’t hold to their confessions and even disagree with them on several points.

Some people have argued, “Why can’t we just label ourselves Christians? Why do we need all these other labels?” Labels can be helpful. With various theological camps, Reformed distinguishes us from other theological systems. If I move somewhere and am looking for a new church, I’m going to want to attend one with like-minded believers who hold to the same confessions, and the same ecclesiology. I’m going to want to look for a Reformed or Presbyterian Church. And if a church describes itself as Reformed, I will have some expectations of what being a Reformed church means.

I’ve put together several resources to go along with our podcast on what it means to be Reformed. We discuss the historical understanding, but also how it’s used more broadly by many today, and why that’s happened.

R Scott Clark on the Necessity Of An Objective Definition Of Reformed. Here he describes some of the history of the adjective.

A Wonderful Illustration Of The Necessity Of An Objective Definition Of Reformed by R Scott Clark

In this short video which is part one on a series on the history of the United Reformed Church, Pastor Zach from Westside Reformed Church discusses what it means to be Reformed, and explains why defining the label is necessary.

Our History: What does it mean to be reformed?  by Pastor Zach, Westside Reformed Church

On this episode of the Regular Reformed Guys, the hosts discuss Reformed unity and also what it means to be Reformed.

What does reformed unity mean? by Regular Reformed Guys podcast

On Ask a Millennial Christian podcast, they have a pretty good list of what it means to be Reformed.

Are you reformed?  by Ask a Millennial Christian podcast

On Doctrine and Devotion the hosts discuss whether Baptists can be Reformed. Since they’re Baptists, you can guess the answer. I appreciate these guys and they have some great podcast episodes.

Can a Baptist be reformed? by Doctrine and Devotion podcast

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Theology Gals | Episode 3 | Catechism and Confession

On this episode of Theology Gals Coleen and Ashley discuss confessionalism, the purpose and benefits of Confessions and Catechisms.
Episode Resources:
A creed is a brief statement of faith used to list important truths, to clarify doctrinal points and to distinguish truth from error. Creeds are usually worded to be easily memorized. The word creed comes from the Latin word credo, meaning, “I believe.” The Bible contains a number of creed-like passages. For example, Jews used the Shema, based on Deuteronomy 6:4-9, as a creed. Paul wrote simple creed-like statements in 1 Corinthians 8:6; 12:3 and 15:3-4. 1 Timothy 3:16 also appears as a creed, a concise statement of belief

https://www.gci.org/history/creeds

“God’s Word as confessed (theology, piety, and practice) by the Reformed churches.” R. Scott Clark

Regarding the reformed confessions:

“These are the ecclesiastical summaries of the Christian faith in the Reformed tradition. In these documents, the churches expressed their official interpretation of God’s Word on those things they considered most essential. This is how the churches intend for you to learn theology (doctrine), piety (prayer, worship), and practice (the Christian life). Start with the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Belgic Confession (1561), and the Canons of Dort (1619). See also the Westminster Confession (1648), the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1648), and the Westminster Larger Catechism (1648).”

https://heidelblog.net/2016/11/resources-for-those-discovering-the-reformed-confession/ (This link offers resources on discovering the reformed confessions.)

“The Latin slogan sola scriptura means “by Scripture alone,” not “Scripture alone” (solo scriptura)5 For example, both Lutheran and Reformed churches regard the ecumenical creeds, along with their own confessions and catechisms, as authoritative and binding summaries of Scripture, to which they are all subordinate” – Michael Horton, The Christian Faith

“As Reformed Christians, we profess to believe that the confessions (for me, the Three Forms of Unity equally with the Westminster Standards) are a faithful summary and interpretation of the main tenets of the Word of God. The confessions are our roadmaps for the sometimes rugged biblical terrain. If so, we should never shelve the confessions as an obstacle to unity or evangelism or whatever we want to do without those pesky old documents getting in our way–all of these things are both ‘doctrinal’ and ‘practical’ issues.

“Maybe one good way to avoid noncofessionalism among the contemporary Reformed is to cultivate an appreciation for the theology of the confessions as they relate the historic Reformed understanding of Scripture to what we actually- individually- believe. For one thing, the confessions are consensus documents agreed upon by the Church, yes, but they are my confession of faith, too. They don’t contain everything I believe to be contained in the Christian faith, and of course they’re not perfect (they aren’t Scripture itself), but they hit all of the most important things dead on, and in a powerful and engaging way, and they call upon us to do the same…which is one of their most important functions.Another function, as John Webster suggests above, is that when we personally and as a community affirm the confessions, we testify clearly to the redeeming work in history which God has accomplished in Christ and applies to us by the Holy Spirit. By confessing we claim that this basic biblical content, summarized faithfully but not perfectly by this Spirit-led community on our pilgrim journey, answers the questions, “What must I believe to be saved? What is my proper response to so great a salvation?” It is our communal (covenantal) ‘answering back’ after God calls us to himself in Christ by the same Word that we confess in summary in the confessions. It is also our clear and united testimony before a watching world, and within a Church badly in need of biblical and theolog…

Theology Gals Episode 2 | Calvinism

On this episode Coleen and Ashley discuss Calvinism, what it is, why we believe it, it's history and some wrong ideas about it.

 

 
Episode Resources:
Five Points of Calvinism TULIP

Total depravity: Our bondage to sin in Adam is complete in its extensiveness, though not in its intensity. In other words, we’re not as bad as we can possibly be, but original sin has thoroughly corrupted every aspect of our existence — including the will.

Unconditional election: Out of his lavish grace, the Father chose out of the fallen race a people from every race to be redeemed through his Son and united to his Son by his Spirit. This determination was made in eternity, apart from anything foreseen in the believer.  

Limited Atonement or Particular redemption, definite atonement: Christ’s death is sufficient for the whole world, but secured the redemption of the elect.

Irresistible Grace or Effectual grace: The Holy Spirit unites sinners to Christ through the gospel and faith is the effect, not the cause, of the new birth.

Perseverance of the saints: All of those chosen, redeemed, and regenerated will be given the gift of persevering faith, so that not one will be lost.

*Definitions taken from For Calvinism by Michael Horton

TULIP and Reformed Theology R.C. Sproul http://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reformed-theology-introduction/

The Origins of Calvinism by Joel Beeke https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/origins.html

The Canons of Dort https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/canonsdort.html

What we believe about the five points of Calvinism by John Piper http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism

TULIP and Reformed Theology: An Introduction by RC Sproul http://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reformed-theology-introduction/

Limited Atonement by R Scott Clark http://rscottclark.org/2006/08/limited-atonement/

Regeneration Precedes Faith by RC Sproul https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/sproul01.html
For further reading, suggested books on Calvinism:
Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton

For Calvinism by Michael Horton

Calvinism: A History DG Hart

The Potter's Freedom James White

Five Points John Piper

The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel James Montgomery Boice, Philip Graham Ryken

Episode Music from Castle Pines

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Theology Gals | Episode 1 | Women and Theology

Introducing Theology Gals.
Meet Coleen and Ashley. On this episode the ladies discuss why theology is important for women too.
Check out Coleen’s article, Theology is for Women Too
Episode Resources:
“Whether you realize it or not, you are a theologian. You come to a book like this with a working theology, an existing understanding of God. Whether you are an agnostic or a fundamentalist — or something in between — you have a working theology that shapes and informs the way you think and live. However, I suspect that you are reading this book because you’re interested in examining your theology more closely. You are open to having it challenged and strengthened. You know that theology — the study of God — is more than an intellectual hobby. It’s a matter of life and death, something that affects the way you think, the decisions you make each day, the way you relate to God and other people, and the way you see yourself and the world around you.”
― Michael S. Horton, Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples

“Many Christians assume that we can just experience God in a personal relationship apart from doctrine, but that’s impossible. You cannot experience God without knowing who he is, what he has done, and who you are in relation to him. Even our most basic Christian experiences and commitments are theological. “I just love Jesus,” some say. But who is Jesus? And why do you love him?”
― Michael S. Horton, Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples

Reasons to study theology:

1 To know God, the object of our worship, the one we are to love

2 For discernment and protecting ourselves from false doctrine

3 For obedience

4 For comfort and wisdom in trials

5 To defend our faith

Acts 17:11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Philippians 1:9-10 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;

Hebrews 5:14 “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

Discernment Sites

These sites have articles about various women teachers:

Berean Research

Michelle Lesley

Wise in His Eyes

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