Experiencing the Truth
- Saturday, August 16, 2008
Why Reformed Theology?
Why is it necessary that Reformed theology be posited as the answer to much of what plagues the church, particularly the predominantly African-American expression of the church? Two reasons come to mind.
A Biblically-Grounded Faith
Christianity in America, and particularly the predominantly African-American expression of Christianity, has sought to be a biblical faith, and Reformed theology has presented the most biblically consistent expression of Christianity and Christian thought known to the world.
I know, some will find that statement a bit exaggerated and may want to charge it to unfettered enthusiasm. Yet I don’t state it out of sheer enthusiasm (though I am enthusiastic). Rather I say it with the settled conviction that it is a matter of substantiated fact. You see, no other expression of Protestant Christianity has been as careful to make sure its understanding and expression of theology has been consistently biblical than has the Reformed tradition.
No one would argue that rigorous theological study and proclamation has been a distinctive of Reformed Christianity. And thus the Reformed tradition has served the church best in this regard. The Reformed tradition has produced the great confessions and catechisms of the Faith. From Luther’s Catechisms to the Heidelberg Catechism; from the Canons of Dordt to the Belgic Confession; from the Westminster Confession and Catechisms to the thirty-nine Articles to the 1689 Baptist Confession and Philadelphia Confession; even to the more contemporary documents of the Cambridge Declaration and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the recent affirmations and denials of the Together for the Gospel Statement—Reformed theology has led the way in making sure that the theology articulated by the church is biblical theology. It has sought to guard the parameters of said theology with biblical confessions and to pass along to the next generation those theological commitments through the catechisms. Each of these confessions and catechisms is filled with references to Scripture and seeks to articulate the faith with the Bible—and the Bible alone—serving as the authority and foundation.
The great theological works in the history of the Protestant church and the men who produced them further demonstrate the influence of the Reformed tradition. Make a short list of the most influential and substantial theological works in the history of the church and you will find it dominated by Reformed preachers and theologians. Consider the works of Martin Luther (Bondage of the Will) and John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion). It could be said of Calvin’s seminal work that all theology subsequent to Calvin has in one way or another been a response to or a furthering of Calvin. How about John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Watson, and John Bunyan? Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is arguably the most recognizable and read piece of literature in the world next to the Bible. Read Bunyan’s masterful work and you will see nothing but the richest, most experiential and pastoral Reformed theology you’ll find anywhere. the list would also include preachers like Charles Spurgeon and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and theologians like B. B. Warfield, Louis Berkhof, J. I. Packer, and R. C. Sproul. The list could go on and on; the impact that the writings of Reformed preachers and theologians have made upon the world is incalculable.
No one could honestly argue against this. What other Protestant tradition can set forth confessions and statements of faith even remotely comparable to those of the Reformed tradition? And why is this the case? Why has the Reformed tradition been so rigorous in its theological commitments? It begins with the Reformed commitment to the inspiration and authority of Scripture.
Reformed theology has led the way since the time of the Reformation in defending and promoting the veracity of the Scriptures. It is committed to the Reformation’s slogan, sola Scriptura (or “Scripture alone”), which means that the Bible alone is the final and only infallible authority for faith, life, and conduct in the church and the Christian life.
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