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A Reformed Church (or “Of Berets and Theology”)

What kind of church is Bluff Park Community Church?

In answer to this question, I have often referred to our church using the following four adjectives: “Christian“, “Evangelical“, “Reformed” and “Missional“. In this series of posts, we seek to explain what we mean when we use these terms. Feel free to go back and peruse the ground we’ve already covered so far.

Intro:            What Kind of Church?

Part 1:           A Christian Church

Part 2 :         An Evangelical Church

Martin Luther

– Martin Luther – 

Next, we are a Reformed Church

To say that we are “Reformed” simply means that we trace our faith heritage through a particular stream in church history which occurred primarily during the 1500‘s and 1600‘s called The Reformation.  (Either that, or we are church of guys who wear funny little beret-style hats like Luther and Calvin above. Let’s all be thankful that apparently some aspects of the Reformed movement did not stick around!)

In a (somewhat gross) over-simplification, we can say that there was really only one church from the Scriptural book of Acts through around 1055. In 1055, there was a division, or “schism” between the church in the East (Orthodox) and the church in the West (Roman). Following this Western, Roman (Catholic) stream, it continues on until 1517 when a Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther listed out a series of points that he and others felt needed to be addressed within the broader Roman church.

While not initially Luther’s intention, his 95 Theses became a fuse that lit the powder keg of a continent wide movement to re-form and call the overall church back to Scriptural purity. Through men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox and many others, this movement began to spread throughout Europe and eventually came to America by way of the English Puritans.  (Okay, for you history purists, I did say it was a gross over-simplification.)

Generally speaking, there are five theological distinctives which describe churches from the Reformed tradition.

  • Man’s Depravity – Humanity, since Genesis 3 can be correctly identified as being “totally sinful”. This means, not that all mankind is as completely evil as he can be at all times, but rather that we are so totally broken that we are beyond hope of self repair. The only solution is not a mild course correction, but to be “made new” completely by the action and initiation of Another.
  • God’s sovereignty over salvation – This means simply, that God does not necessitate any action or condition on our part in order to grant salvation. Rather, our “election” as redeemed children of God rests fully and completely on an outpouring of His sovereign mercy and grace.
  • Particular Redemption – Salvation (redemption) is not administered to an arbitrary or general people, but to a particular people of God’s own choosing. It is intended for a particular audience from among the totality of humanity. This view is held in contrast to “universalism”, which states that salvation is for “all” in general rather that “any” in particular.
  • Irresistible Grace – This means simply that God’s grace is so powerful and attractive that it overcomes our inherited and natural aversion to His good and gracious gift.
  • Perseverance of the Saints – Louis Berkhof in his book Systematic Theology defines this perseverance as follows.  “Perseverance may be defined as that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart is continued and brought to competition. It is because God never forsakes His work that believers continue to stand to the very end.”   In other words, by way of divine comfort in assuring the longevity and perseverance of our relationship with our heavenly Father, those whom Christ has called to be His own will persevere with Him until the end.

Next week, we will take a look at our final descriptor, A Missional Church.

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