What's in a Name?
What's in a name? A lot actually. A simple reference to the name of something will bring to mind the thing itself, or at least a persons experience and understanding of that thing. For example, say the word 'dog' and, in my mind, my Chocolate Lab and my Beagle immediately pop to mind; as well as feelings of happiness, love and excitement. But if you owned, say, a German Shepherd, or a Chihuahua, it would be those dogs that came to mind, not a Lab or a Beagle and probably the same types of feelings. However, if you hated dogs, or feared them, the name 'dog' would bring about a whole host of negative thoughts and feelings in addition to whatever image may be conjured.
Now what if you have never seen a dog before? What if your only experience of a dog was to have it described to you as if it were a dragon - fierce beasts that prey on children and breathe fire. What if you were convinced that dogs were actually dragons? Then what would happen if I told you that I owned two 'dogs'? Further imagine that I invited you over for an evening. What would be going on inside your head then? A whole range of images and emotions will well up inside you, led, I'm sure, by fear and confusion. Chances are you wouldn't accept the invitation and we would miss out on the pleasure of each other's company.
The point is, names are aids to help us understand the things with which we interact. The names of things are thus loaded with meaning and we need to make sure that the meaning attached to that name is correct, or else we will get ourselves in trouble. Dogs are not dragons, and to think of either one as the other is wrong and it locks us up in a world that doesn't touch reality. It will effect our beliefs, our actions and our emotions and this in turn changes the way in which we interact with people. So what's in a name is more important to understand than we might think.
When I say the words "Reformed theology" I usually get a wide gambit of responses - love, hatred and shrugs are the most typical. I have been a Reformed theologian for most of my adult life and I find that most people who have indifferent or negative responses don't really know what Reformed theology is. They usually have a stereotypical or straw man definition of it, and it is usually woefully incomplete as well. Chances are they have heard that it is 'bad', or they might have heard some details about it that are not really true. I have also notice, that in our area there are few who are actually familiar with what Reformed theology really believes but many who fear it. This is understandable, you always fear what you don't understand.
I hope to correct this problem in the following series of blogs. Please note, I'm not trying to convince anybody of anything in these blogs. I'm not trying to proselytize here. Only the Bible, rightly interpreted can and should do that. (Which is why I am a Reformed guy!) I seek only to explain the rich historical tradition of Reformed theology so that, when it is discussed, we will all know what is meant by that name.
Here are the topics we will be discussing. Reformed theology is:
Committed to Biblical theology before Systematic theology
Committed to a gospel-centered hermeneutic
Committed to a covenantal understanding of revelation, salvation and God's people
Committed to the absolute sovereignty of God and to meticulous providence
Committed to monergistic soteriology - typically referred to as 'Calvinism' but this is more misnomer than reality
Committed to the Sola's of the Reformation - Scripture, Faith, Grace, Bible
Committed to Sola Deo Gloria most of all - Glory to God Alone
These are the particulars we will explore over the next number of months. But for a full sense of what Reformed theology really is, you need to come listen to the sermons on Galatians at CRC as well (in person or online). The sermons and the blogs will dovetail nicely and will present a complete picture of what Reformed theology truly is.
Soli Deo Gloria