Monday, 24 November 2008

Recovering the Reformed Confession Part 1

It seems that every man and his Genevan dog call themselves Reformed these days. What exactly does it mean to be "Reformed"?

Does it mean you believe in predestination? "No" contend those who claim that even
Arminius was Reformed!

Does it mean you believe the 5 points? "Non" screams the Amyraldian, "4 points are more than enough pour moi".

What about the Holy Spirit? Do we experience him only through the means of grace? "No" bark our charismatic friends, "you can be Reformed and believe every Wimber doctrine".

Ever since Colin Hansen's book
"Young, Restless and Reformed" documenting a journalist's experiences involved in the stateside "Reformed Resurgence" it seems that being "Reformed" has come to define a variety of groups and personalities loosely united by a predestinarian soteriology (doctrine of salvation). So, for instance, in the same breath, Hansen can describe Charismatic C.J Mahaney and Baptist Al Mohler as being "Reformed". It seems that the term "Reformed" is up for grabs.

This, according to R. Scott Clark, is an insufficient state of affairs. Clark argues in "
Recovering the Reformed Confession" that the word "Reformed" does have an "objective referent" (p3). He contends that "the word denotes a confession, a theology, piety and practice that are well known and well defined and summarized in ecclesiastically sanctioned and binding documents." (p3)

The documents Clark refers to are "the sixteenth and seventeenth-century Reformed confessions, which we might call the six forms of unity (i.e. Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort, Westminster Confession of Faith, Westminster Larger Catechism and Westminster Shorter Catechism.)" (p3) It is not enough to be predestinarian according to Clark (and he does have a point - Thomas Aquinas believed in predestination!)

To cut a long chapter short, Clark believes that many who identify themselves with the label "Reformed" are nothing of the sort. Many in the confessional Reformed churches of NAPARC (and by extension the Reformed Resurgence crowd) have gone on two illegitimate quests. The first is the quest for illegitemate religious certainty (QIRC) and the second is the quest for illegitemate religious experience (QIRE).

Controversial stuff. Clark is taking a flame thrower to the cold potato question of "What/who is Reformed". Sacred cows will be gored. Old, loved Reformed forefathers will not be so much punched on the nose as forearm smashed. Over the next week or more, I'll be blogging my way through the book as a wee introduction to the new blog.

PS: My language about Scott forearm smashing loved Reformed forefathers was a tad provocative and unfair to the spirit of the book. I should have said "Cherished forefathers have their Reformed credentials examined and are politely taken to the woodshed."


Anonymous said...

"politely taken to the woodshed"

Isn't that right next to the outhouse?

Nick Mackison said...

I reckon so ruberad!