What Does It Mean To Be Reformed?


What does it mean to be Reformed?

That all depends on the context. But in terms of theology, it generally refers to the doctrines of grace (TULIP) or the five solas. However, to be Reformed does not mean only in terms of soteriology. In fact, Calvinistic or Reformed soteriology is not the end.

I rejoice that there is a wonderful resurgence of Reformed theology amongst many young evangelicals. But I am concerned that many of those same evangelicals who call themselves “Reformed” simply stop with affirming the Five-Points of Calvinism and that’s it. I would argue that true Reformed theology does not merely stop short with soteriology but it leads further to ecclesiology, and ultimately, it has doxological implications. In other words, the goal of Reformed theology is not soteriology but doxology. Or to say it another way, soteriology is not the end but a means to an end. That is to say, we are saved, ultimately, to worship our Creator and Redeemer.

For true Calvinists, not only how God saved us matters, but how God is worshiped matters too. In fact, the heart of Reformed theology is “to the praise of God’s glory” (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). It’s amazing how much Calvin wrote regarding “true worship” in his Institutes.

If we would agree that worship is “an expression of gratitude, adoration, and praise after we properly understand who God is and what he has done” (my working definition), then isn’t it safe to conclude that God is not glorified when he is wrongly worshiped?

The real Calvinists would argue that as we grow in our understanding of our Sovereign God, we also need to grow in our worship too (including how we worship). That’s is why those who genuinely hold to Reformed theology would quickly point out that they are “always reforming” (semper reformanda). We need to keep in mind that there is undividable connection between orthodoxy and ortho-praxi (especially, in regards to worship). We must always continue to reform how we do church (because we always have rooms to improve) and how we worship (both substance and style).

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from a book that I read last year (2008):

The greatest single contribution that the Reformed liturgical heritage can make to contemporary American Protestantism is its sense of the majesty and sovereignty of God, its sense of reverence and simple dignity, its conviction that worship must above all serve the praise of God (Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed according to Scripture [Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002], 176)


4 thoughts on “What Does It Mean To Be Reformed?

  1. Thanks for these thoughts Jim. I agree with you. The reformation should not be left in the past as a mere historical specimen, but should continue to refine our current thinking and practices to become more biblical. It is our duty to cling to sola Scriptura so that we excise from our hearts and our churches any vestiges of error that we can find that are out of sync with that Sacred Book.
    Why is it so important? Why does it matter that we not only have right doctrine BUT ALSO right practices (the regulative principle)? I think you hit the nail on the head–because the thrice holy God we serve has the right to demand not only that we worship Him, but that we do so in the way that He prescribes.
    That is why it is difficult to swallow that some call themselves Reformed or Calvinists while they dabble in worldliness and the need to appeal to gimmicks and trends. How can someone preach Calvinist doctrine while practice Arminian philosophy in their ministry?

    • Great point Rich, especially, your last point – i.e., preaching Calvinist doctrine but practicing Arminian philosophy of ministry. Talk about inconsistency.

      On a different note, your point about the Regulative Principle of Worship is something I’ve been reading/studying/thinking for the past few years, and it is something l would love for us (contributors) to discuss/write in near future to sharpen each other.

  2. Pingback: What Does It Mean To Be Reformed? « Reforming Churches

  3. This is so helpful. Perhaps ‘Reformed Theology” borders on being a ‘buzz phrase’ in some circles whereas, in others, it’s entirely unheard and unmentioned. This reminds me that, regardless of denominational emphases, to be truly ‘reformed’ means to be truly re-born which means a holy focus on the hallowing of the Name. Beautiful truths to be reminded of. Thank you, sir.

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