Tuesday, 24 September 2013

What does it mean to be reformed?

Jesus said "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" John 4:24.

At a recent Yorkshire Reformed Minister's Fraternal, Mostyn Robert's delivered an excellent paper on "What does it mean to be reformed?". He outlined some major themes which mark out whether a church is rightly, historically and biblically reformed, or not. He made many valuable points and one such point was to ask whether the use of the term "reformed" was losing its meaning as did the word evangelical a few decades ago. What did he mean by this? Well he explained that many people and groups are quite happy to use the term reformed, but when you begin to examine what they mean by that, it turns out that they have never really understood biblical and reformed theology.

Let me give you an example. The doctrine of the sovereignty of God, that God is in control of all things, including our salvation, is probably the starting point for most people when they are awakened to a fresh doctrinal pilgrimage. However, the truth that God is sovereign takes time to work through all of our thinking. The sovereignty of God must be worked out in our understanding of the church, in the sphere of public worship, and in all matters of faith and doctrine.

However, many groups today eagerly promote themselves under the label "reformed" and yet pursue flawed ideas for worship, the church and evangelism. Sometimes you look on and you have to ask yourself some serious questions to make sure that you remain biblically orientated. It is common for people to mentally ascend to a reformed confession and then for them to pursue Arminian methods in worship, faith and practice. If a church is committed to a reformed confession then this should be a living document, not one that simply gathers dust on the shelf. Here are three testers to ask people, in order to find out if they are reformed according to a historic definition.

1. What is your understanding of worship? What is the high point of worship?
2. What is your understanding of church government and how should churches should be led?
3. What is your understanding of a church's doctrine and how is that played out in the life of the church?

There are many teasing questions that we could further explore. For example, can a church claim to be reformed while having women doing "lay Bible readings" during a church service? Can a church rightly be adopting reformed theology and having a "rock n'roll style of music to help get the crowd going and to attract people to themselves? The whole question of music needs to be revisited because there has been a worldly invasion of music into the church which oftentimes is an Arminian attempt to draw people, a kind of new Finney-like method. I may have lost you there, when I wrote a "Finney-like" method but I am referring to the revivalist Charles Finney.

There will be more to say on this blog regarding these topics in the coming time, so watch this space, and be assured that my goal as a presbyterian minister, is to pastorally help people. To help people navigate away also from unbiblical doctrines of men as well. The spiritual needs of our nation are urgent and let us look to our sovereign God in prayer concerning all things.

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