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Presbyterian Beliefs and me - Our Reformed Faith
What does it mean to be Reformed?
John Calvin was born in Noyon, France, in 1509. Educated in the humanities, he earned his academic stripes summa cum laude at age 24. Inspired by the teachings of reformers like Martin Luther, Calvin took up serious study of the Bible. He also wrote a fabulous summary of biblical teaching entitled "The Institutes of the Christian Religion".
The Reformers were guided by the conviction that the church of their day had drifted away from the essential, original teachings of Christianity, so Five Latin phrases emerged during the Reformation to summarize the Reformers' theological convictions about the essentials of Christianity. The Five Solas (sola means "alone") are:
The Reformed Church believes that the Holy Spirit has led, and enlightened the Church throughout its history. We believe that there have been mistakes made by those of the Church (no man is infallible), but the true indivisible Church perseveres. We take seriously the commands to “Love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbour as ourselves.” And we believe that the totality of man is to live for the glory of God in every possible way (Ecc. 12:13; 1 Cor. 10:31).
Our Reformed theology has also been nicknamed “Covenant Theology”. This simply refers to our understanding of how the entire history of redemption is worked out. The classical statement of covenant theology can be found in the Westminster Confession of Faith (particularly chapters 7, 8, 19). Looking back into the OT when God enacted a covenant with his people (Exodus 6:2 – 5), at Sinai, He identified Himself as the God who had liberated Israel from slavery in the mighty act of the exodus from Egypt under the framework of three over-arching theological covenants:
1. Covenant of Redemption
2. Covenant of Works
3. Covenant of Grace
Calvinism is a system of theology, not a denomination. And it was one stream of theology to come out of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. The Five Points were not chosen by the Calvinists as a summary of their teaching. They emerged as a response to the Arminians who chose these five points to oppose. It is more important to give a positive biblical position on the five points than to know the exact form of the original controversy. These five points are still at the heart of biblical theology. They are not unimportant. Where we stand on these things deeply affects our view of God, man, salvation, the atonement, regeneration, assurance, worship, and missions. Somewhere along the way the five points came to be summarized under the acronym TULIP.
We need to stay true to the teaching of Scripture. However, we should always, always be looking for opportunities to join with other Christians and work with them even if our differences will not allow us, yet, to routinely worship with them. We need to keep reaching out to each other as we continue to reach for our Bibles. We may not always agree on doctrine or on how to worship. But there is plenty we can agree on that God wants us to do in this impoverished, sin-wrecked world. So let’s join efforts and do what needs doing together. Let’s make our own unique contribution to God’s mission, using the particular gifts God’s Spirit has given us. For centuries, Christians have spent too much time and energy on matters that divide instead of uniting with other Christians. We should heed Jesus’ prayer that the church would be one (John 17:27)
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