Experiencing the Truth
- Saturday, August 16, 2008
In the often recurring battle for the Bible, Reformation-minded Christians have always been on the front lines. Even those who are not particularly sympathetic to Reformed theology would have to admit that the Protestant church owes a debt of gratitude to Calvinists and the Reformed thinkers for their ready and consistent defense of the Bible’s inspiration and authority. From the Reformation’s call to put a Bible in the hands of the people, to B. B. Warfield’s Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, the history of Reformed theology has been one of defending the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures.
Consequently, for the Reformed Christian the Bible serves as the foundation of truth and submission to the Scriptures; as the Word of God, it guides all of life, particularly preaching and worship. In Reformed thought God is sovereign; he is in control of and the
Lord over all creation. Nothing in all of creation moves or breathes or acts outside of his providential hand. Why? Not because some theologians got together in a dark, smoke-filled room and decided to think of ways to express God so he would seem to be all-powerful and all-knowing even though he’s not. It is because the Bible says it’s true:
[The Lord’s] dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan. 4:34–35).
The second reason why Reformed theology is the answer is like the first.
An Experiential Faith
Christianity is an experiential faith. That is to say that the God the Bible proclaims is a God who can not only be known, but can and should be experienced. Reformed theology, when rightly understood and proclaimed, is the most truly experiential form of Christianity.
This might sound strange and even laughable to opponents of Reformed Christianity, because one of the most common and frequently expressed charges against Reformed theology is that it is an emotionless, life-killing, and passionless expression of Christianity. This characterization has led to the commonly used expression “the frozen chosen.”
Admittedly, the reason why this characterization is so prevalent is because at times those who have advocated Reformed theology have been men and women who have emphasized its theological rigor and intellectualism, but not its life and passion.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the late Reformed theologian and pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, once said that the Calvinist always lives with the threat of being too theoretical. This was due, according to Lloyd-Jones, to the fact that the more intelligent a man or woman was, the more likely he or she was to be a Calvinist, because Calvinism demands thought and study. You’ve got to read books and consider doctrine. And so there is always the danger, according to Lloyd-Jones, of becoming an intellectualist.10
Unfortunately, honesty compels us to admit that this charge too often has proven true. Too often Reformed theology produces adherents who are dry and cold in their affections. Too often it has been preached from pulpits that were dry and cold. In fact, one of the reasons why Presbyterians and the Reformed do not have a long and fruitful history among African-Americans is because of this dry intellectualism. According to the testimony of Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church:
The Methodist were the first people that brought glad tidings to colored people . . . for all the other denominations preached so high flown that we were not able to comprehend their doctrine.11
Recently on Books
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Listen to Your Favorite Pastors
Add Crosswalk.com content to your siteBrowse available content