Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Disowning the Reformed

Note: This is not an attack on any person, especially not my friends and mentors and colleagues. It's a response to a whole system that has twisted a beautiful thing.

When I went to college, I was pretty sure I had a good idea of what "reformed" meant-- it meant you understood predestination to mean God's complete initiative and role in salvation with absolutely no participation by human beings. It meant, despite their denials, that they believed in a God who loved robots. And my "debates" (which was the natural dialect for homeschooled bloggers back in the day) did nothing to cure me of that idea.

Now, I went to a Reformed Presbyterian college. I don't mean that as opposed to unreformed Presbyterians (whatever that might mean), but the true reformed, the Old Guard, the Covenanters, who worshipped and preached and believed and confessed like the early generations of Presbyterians. But the ones I met...weren't very robot-like. They seemed to have a genuine love, even passion for God. They talked about grace-- about not having to deserve God's actions on our behalf. It all sounded very beautiful.

It was beautiful and as I fell in love with Paul's letter to the Ephesians, I felt the Holy Spirit was starting to open my eyes to new things. Understand-- I had no theology courses that year, no one expounded any kind of reformed doctrines from the Bible for me-- I was just learning and growing in a way that seemed to agree with reformed theology. I say seemed to because they were never quite happy with how I spoke about God's sovereignty and I was never quite happy with how they did. Halfway through my freshmen year though, I confessed to a friend with a sudden epiphany,"I think I'm reformed now." He was as shocked as I was.

In the six years since then, I've spent a lot of time with those who lay claim to the Reformed title (with no competitors . For most of those six years, I would have said I considered myself one of them, whatever we might disagree on in terms of baptism or church government or spiritual gifts or any number of other things. I left my family's Assembly of God to attend a reformed church. I listened to reformed pastors' conferences and read book after book. I got Grudem's Systematic Theology.

And over the last three years I've grown increasingly uncomfortable for how Reformed apparently means lots of things I'm not a fan of...
Reformed: A system of theology which professes the the sovereignty and lordship of Jesus Christ over all things, thus justifying

  1. Pastoral autonomy-- pastors are exempt from accountability to civil and moral authorities.
  2. Patriarchal systems-- men are the only authorities in any sphere of human society, except those things which belong to women and children. Women and girls should remain at home, with their children, or if unmarried, assist with their siblings.
  3. Exclusive monopoly on orthodoxy--  the Reformed have a monopoly on the truest expression of Christian faith and any other tradition undermines the most pure Gospel which has been preserved by the Reformed church.
I could go on. But the fact of the matter is...I'm done with it. I'm tired of defending the label. I love the Reformation. I love the heritage and the beauty of free and radical grace that I was introduced to because of my Reformed friends. I don't plan on letting those go by any stretch of imagination. But it's because of that free grace that I can't any longer own the Reformed. Because of the grace of God, I won't be associated with these things. Because of the grace of God, I'm free of the slavery to the baggage and chains of the Reformed.