I am an ordained minister of Word and sacrament and I stand within the Reformed tradition. Currently, I am the pastor of a small Reformed church in the midst of a big city where the predominate traditions are Lutheran and Roman Catholic. No one has heard anything about the Reformed. I have been learning more accessible ways to describe our tradition to fellow pilgrims with whom I work and live. On the space of this blog, I have already used the term Reformed more than I have in the past several weeks — which is somewhat liberating. Even here, however, as I talk about Reformed, I feel like I am committing the grave sin of academia by discussing a term without having a clear understanding of what the term means. What does it mean to be Reformed? How does one characterize the Reformed brand of Christianity?
Does one define Reformed by denomination (Reformed Church in America, Christian Reformed Church in North America)? By theologian (Calvin, Barth, Kuyper, Bavinck)? By Polity (government by elders)?
I certainly have my ideas about what it means to be Reformed, but admittedly, I am hardly the standard by which to measure all things Reformed.
I was raised within the Reformed tradition, and therefore never had to choose it outright on my own, but in many ways it was chosen for me (what a Reformed outlook). I was raised in a Dutch enclave in Western Michigan where the Reformed folk were the majority amongst Christians. In my little unincorporated hamlet without even so much as a traffic light, we had one Christian Reformed church and two Reformed churches. We also had a small Baptist church, although I knew nothing about it and didn’t know anyone who went there.
Every Sunday — morning and evening — my family worshiped at our church, which I was taught was the right church: Christian Reformed. I was never the child who paid a great deal of attention during the service, but every Sunday evening we were guaranteed to read the portion of the Heidelberg Catechism found in the appropriate “Lord’s Day”. At the time, I had no idea what was going on. I did not know what the Heidelberg Catechism was, and I had no idea why we would responsively read these questions and answers (the answers were right in the book, why did the pastor have to ask us?). The more bored I would become during the sermon, I found myself thumbing through that back of the hymnal. I came across things called “The Belgic Confession” and “The Canons of Dort” and “The Order for Excommunication”.
These were the earliest moment of my upbring as a Christian in the Reformed family.
The denomination of my birth was heavily influenced by Abraham Kuyper, a 19th century Dutch theologian. In addition to the Heidelberg Catechism, our church regularly read out of the denomination’s contemporary testimony, “Our World Belongs to God.” While I didn’t absorb as much as I could have (and perhaps should have), the title of this testimony was catchy, and it was memorable for me as a young person and formational for me as I grew.
Even though I have changed denominations, and am now in a denomination where Kuyper is not the central theologian, within me is still this emphasis that everything is sacred, that there is nothing that is truly profane. This provides the freedom to seek to live faithfully in the world as it is, not just as it ought to be. A world where the common distinctions of place (God is here, God is not there; this is holy, that is profane) don’t exist. A world where there is no bifurcation between spiritual and physical. It’s all spiritually physical (or physically spiritual).
When I was invited into an idea of a generally Reformed blog collective, I was eager by what was being discussed. A place not only to discuss Calvin and Barth, Kuyper and Moltmann, infralapsarian and supralapsarian, but also a place where one could reflect on faith and life as we live it day in and day out: family, culture, arts, and work. The ability to not only discuss overtly theological things, but also things which seem mundane, yet speak volumes of the presence and movement of God.
There are plenty of Reformed blogs out there, there are plenty of faith and live blogs out there, but I think we’ll be a bit different. We’re That Reformed Blog.