What is Reformed Theology? | Calvinism and More

Updated: May 2

Calvinistic


TULIP, or the doctrines of grace, describe a Biblical model of salvation - that men and women are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. Man is Totally wicked apart from God from the time they are born due to the first man, Adam. God in His goodness and by His pleasure, unconditionally elects man unto salvation before the foundation of the Earth, not according to any merit of those He saves, but purely according to His own will. God's unconditional election is limited to only those whom He elects and those Jesus died for on the cross. Outside of Christ there is no salvation.



When God unconditionally elects a totally depraved person, they are changed in heart and mind by the power of the Holy Spirit and having a new heart, cannot resist the grace that has been showered upon them. God, in His goodness, gives assurance to those who believe, and by His mediation and intervention, causes the believer to persist until the end of their life in the faith. The believer thus is secure in their salvation, being equipped for every good work, to God's glory and their enjoyment in Him. (See Canons of Dort).


Confessional


Christians have set their beliefs in stone from the beginning of time, by God's command to Moses first in Genesis, continuing on throughout history. We find early forms of confessions and creeds in the New Testament with Paul, the Apostolic Church Fathers with the Regula Fide, and of course the Creeds of the early church. Later on, as a product of the Reformation, the church set in stone a Body of Divinity in the confessions and catechisms.


The confessions that were produced and have been used by the church for hundreds of years include the Westminster Standards, the Belgic Confession, the Savoy Declaration, the London Baptist Confession of Faith, and many other similar documents. These confessions and creeds are not above Scripture in authority. In fact, they are the strongest tools the church has to this day to defend and protect a pillar of the Reformation, Sola Scriptura - Scripture alone. The confessions provide a comprehensive exegesis of what Scripture says, with Scripture proofs, so that the believer can be fully equipped to handle any question or challenge to their faith. Confessionalism is a rich and time tested practice of Reformed believers all over the world.


Covenantal


God has always operated through covenants with His people. In the garden He gave Adam and Eve a covenant of works, one whose sole requirement was to abstain from the fruit of one tree. Having broken this covenant, Adam and Eve establish a pattern of covenant breaking by God's people, and God, through His covenants, proves Himself a faithful covenant keeper. After Adam and Eve violated the covenant of works, God, by His good pleasure, instead of killing Adam and Eve, applied to them a curse that would effect all of their children. In this transaction, God makes another covenant, a covenant of grace. The covenant of Grace is the only covenant by which man is saved.


In Genesis, God, through the covenant of Grace, continues His pattern of relating to man by means of covenant, promising that by the seed of Eve, a saviour will be born that would crush the head of the serpent. This saviour is Jesus Christ, from eternity to eternity. Proceeding forth from that point on, we see scripture tell a covenantal story of God promising salvation to His people by means of washing them clean. He gives this promise in various forms to Moses, Abraham, Noah, David, and finally, Jesus, the faithful covenant keeper. Covenant Theology is simply the product of viewing the Bible as a story of redemption. A story that points to Christ in every page.


Church


The Church, being composed of both those who are partakers in the covenant of Grace (internal) and those who are associated by family (external) to those who are partakers in the covenant of Grace, respond in obedience to God by meeting on the Lord's Day, the Christian Sabbath, which was instituted in creation on the last day of the week and made new on the first day of the week in Christ. On the Lord's Day, Reformed Christians put aside all matters of recreation and work to honour the rest that they have in Christ, who has done the work for them.


Reformed Christians celebrate the Lord's Day by faithfully observing the regulative principle of worship, which is restricts the practice of the church during service to what is prescribed for worship in the Bible. The regulative principle of worship requires faithful preaching from the text of Scripture by qualified elders, the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in accordance to the Scriptures, such that the congregation may be heard singing over the volume of the worship leader, the participation of the sacraments (Communion and Baptism), administered by qualified elders, the reading of Scripture, and praying congregationally, led by qualified elders. Activities on the Lord's Day are centred around fellowship, which means that before and after the church service, additional instruction is given by means of Sunday School and evening services.


Catechism


Catechism is a daily practice in the home of a Reformed believer. Reformed Theology extends past the corporate worship service on Sunday and into the homes of the church. Catechism includes daily reading of Scripture and confessions, the memorisation of catechisms, prayer, and singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Historically, a man would not be able to take communion if he was not leading his family in this daily endeavour. Wilhelmus A Brakel, a Dutch Reformed pastor, would not administer communion at his church until he had personally visited each home in his congregation to ensure this was being practiced in his church. This is practiced by single men and women by training themselves in such practice, either under the leadership of their father, or under the leadership of elders at their church.


Summary


The Reformed faith is not simply Calvinism. It is a way of life that begins on the Lord's Day. The Five C's of Reformed Theology define the belief and practice of the Reformed Believer. This is is why every library in this spreadsheet comes equipped with a confession & catechism and a book on Covenant Theology (The Westminster Standards provide a meaningful Covenant structure).

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