What is Reformed Theology?
Reformed theology seems to be creeping into many churches and denominations. I’ve always associated “old earth”/nonliteral 6 days of creation, limited atonement, amillennialism, infant baptism and replacement theology to be tenets of reformed doctrine. But since these positions are not widely accepted by some of the so-called reformed churches, I’m not clear now on what is meant when someone says they are reformed. So, what is reformed theology?
Churches, specifically evangelical and fundamental, have shifted to be purpose-driven and seeker sensitive while engaging more social issues. They’ve moved away from exposition and teaching history. Essentially, we’re illiterate about our history. We don’t know American history, much less Biblical history. The Reformed churches have all kinds of iterations like Baptist churches do. Typically, you’ll see a covenant emphasis. People are drawn to a teacher, author, or social media figure that they admire and respect. They follow him or her and just so happen to hold reformed beliefs.
The History of Calvinism and The Early Church
We talk about the five points of Calvinism, but we have to go back and understand where this started in reformed theology. These were all Catholic priests. Until the sixteenth century, there was one church. There were divisions geographically, so they would have different iterations and nuances, but there was a universal holy Catholic church. Martin Luther began with communion. He did not believe in transubstantiation. This is the belief that the body and blood were the body and blood of Jesus. The reformers came along and said, ‘No, it’s consubstantiation. The spirit of Jesus is with the elements.’
This began one of the many controversial subjects that took off. When you think about the efficacy of the cross, why would it have to be the literal body and blood of Jesus? We’re not re-crucifying Jesus every single Sunday. The Catholics believed the priest’s hands could consecrate the host and turn the wine into blood. The point of the Eucharist is the conveyance of God’s grace. We have God’s grace positionally. Otherwise, we’d take the Lord’s Supper twenty times a day. When the reformed scholars started fighting about these things, there was a domino effect. The Germans and Latin Rome will be the two loudest voices in these debates.
Further Issues Separating The Church
A more egregious thing was indulgences. The Catholic church believed that if your relative was “in purgatory burning off the sins they didn’t confess in this lifetime” and you gave money, the soul in purgatory would stop its descent. Luther reacted against this as well. Luther becomes sort of this match that struck, and you might argue John Calvin poured gas on the fire that Luther started.
The Origin of Confessions and Catechisms
The other thing to keep in mind is the confessions or catechisms. It started with what was called Scott’s Confession, the Belgian Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism. The idea was to teach children. You’d ask a question, and they would memorize the answer. There are 129 questions and answers in this whole thing. The first question, interestingly, is, ‘What is your only comfort in life and death?’
Fast forward we have the 39 articles of the Church of England. That is now what we call a common book of prayer. Then we have the Synod of Dort. This happened in 1647, one hundred years after Calvin. This is important because the so-called TULIP has nothing to do with John Calvin. The people that wrote the acrostic TULIP did not write it based on Calvin’s teaching; they wrote it because of the Senate Dort and Jacobus Arminius (the father of Arminianism). It’s not that everyone is aligned to the same fundamental beliefs. Rather it was a statement asserting what ScriptureScripture says about the issue.
The Flaws of The Evangelical Reformed Church
The appeal is liturgy. The evangelical church is loosely organized. It’s not clear what it’s teaching most of the time. They’re very concerned with their identity, presence, and position in the marketplace. The so-called bible/fundamental/evangelical/fellowship-branded churches today are not teaching ScriptureScripture, and they’re certainly not teaching the history of how they got where they are. They’ve moved away from the term evangelical. They’re going to talk about CRT and BLM. They’re responding to the protests and social justice rather than teaching a Biblical archaeological history and exposition of the ScriptureScripture and how we got there.
One of the worst things is replacement theology. If the church replaces Israel, then we’ve got to cut out a lot of the Bible. You lose Deuteronomy 30, Romans 9/10/11, and all other prophetic references to the state of Israel. The church has replaced Israel. God chose those people as part of His program.
Find more episodes of Ask Dr. E here.
Call or text us your question at 615-281-9694 or email at email@example.com.