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I need some help understanding Reformed and non-Reformed Christianity

Discussion in 'For New Christians' started by Dok Bantis, May 8, 2021.

  1. Dok Bantis

    Dok Bantis This Earth Is Not My Home

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    Greetings, everyone.

    I have rededicated myself to Christ and find myself encountering some points of confusion.

    I have found some good teachers via YouTube and books who seem to be good and faithful Bible-believing Christians. It was only after spending time with some of their videos that I realized that almost all of the teachers I follow are Reformed Christians.

    This caused me to ask myself what it meant to be "Reformed" and whether being Reformed is different from being Evangelical or just what I tend to call a "Bible-believing" Christian (which is what I seek to be, regardless of label).

    I am a little confused regarding whether, or to what degree, being "Reformed" is different from what I tend to think of as Evangelical Christianity. I do not think that I am a Calvinist, but Reformed Christians make a lot of sense to me. But then I saw that there seems to be some bad feelings between Reformed Christians and non-Reformed Christians? I might be wrong on this point, though.

    Could some of the good folks here help me to understand how Reformed Christian doctrine differs from "non-Reformed" Protestant Christianity?

    Thank you all in advance.
     
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  2. Albion

    Albion Facilitator

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    Hello. This might be a topic better put to the people at the Reformed forum here on CF. Look up Faith Groups under "Forums" for Semper Reformanda.
     
  3. HTacianas

    HTacianas Well-Known Member

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    "Reformed" relates (in a number of ways depending on who you ask) to the Reformation. Nowadays it is an all but meaningless term, having been watered down by any number of different denominations among protestants. The Anglican and Lutheran churches are "reformed" in what might be the original use of the term, but most any protestant denomination can claimed to also be reformed, just as any protestant denomination can claim to be "evangelical".
     
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  4. Freth

    Freth Seventh-day Adventist

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    The Reformation came out of Martin Luther's letter written on October 31, 1517 to his bishop, Albrecht von Brandenburg. The letter was titled, "Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" (aka the 95 theses) and was a protest to the Roman Catholic Church on many issues. One key protest was on indulgences.

    "An indulgence is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment for sins after the sinner confesses and receives absolution. Under Catholic teaching, every sin must be purified either here on earth or after death in a state called purgatory." —umkc.edu

    This led to Protestantism (protesting) and a "reformation" movement (reformed Christianity), out of which came churches that would be separate from the Roman Catholic Church, because of said disagreements/protests.

    "Reformed Christians affirm the doctrines of Protestantism, emphasizing that salvation is the freely given gift of God, offered by God's grace, and received by sinners through faith. Faith is focused on belief and trust in Jesus Christ as the savior who has taken upon himself human sin. Through Christ's death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, sinners are adopted into the family of God and are saved. Salvation comes by God's grace, through faith, and not by human efforts or actions. The Reformed affirm the Bible (Holy Scripture) as the Word of God and as the medium through which the knowledge of God and God's actions through Jesus Christ are known." —Encyclopedia.com
    I'm no expert on the specifics, which is why I quoted a couple sources. Hope this helps.
     
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  5. Old Lady

    Old Lady ...yet not I, but the grace of God that is with me Supporter

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    Reformed almost always refers to Calvinists, but there are Five-point Calvinists and some Calvinists who are not Five-Point.
    Read this:
    T.U.L.I.P. or, The Five Points of Calvinism

    and this:
    Calvinism vs. Arminianism - which view is correct? | GotQuestions.org

    I believe that God brought about my conversion to Christ. Neither of my parents was raised as a Christian. My mother had 6 children, and I was the only one who became a Christian. My father was the parent of three of us. He remarried a non-practicing Roman Catholic who claimed that the Bible was boring. My father embraced atheism and convinced my brother that faith in God was not true or logical. So then, surprise, his only daughter by his second wife became a Christian!
     
  6. zoidar

    zoidar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Normally we call those Protestants that hold to the 5-points (TULIP) of Calvinism Reformed. I think some Reformed churches hold 4 or less of the points, but that's probably an exception to the rule.

    T - Total depravity
    U - Unconditional election
    L - Limited atonement
    I - Irresistible grace
    P - Perseverance of the saint

    You can easily google up what each point means.

    Other churches that stemmed from the reformation may hold some or none of these points. It differs among churches and denominations. Example, I think Lutherans traditionally hold the T and maybe the U, but not the other points, even they don't name them the same way.

    It's hard to give a good comparison, because it differs so much between churches. What I find sticks out among the Reformed churches is their view that Jesus only died for the elect. Most Protestants believe Jesus died for everyone.

    God bless!
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2021
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  7. Dok Bantis

    Dok Bantis This Earth Is Not My Home

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    Thanks very much to everyone who replied. I purposely did not post in the Reformed subforum because I wanted a broader understanding of the Reformed/Non-Reformed conversation than simply an explanation of Reformed theology. I may, however, proceed there after what I've read here.

    I'm still a little confused because I find so much that I like amongst Reformed theologians, but I do no think that I could be Calvinist. I suppose that is what I will bring into the Reformed subforum.

    Thanks again to you al!
     
  8. zoidar

    zoidar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    What is it makes you think you couldn't be a Calvinist?
     
  9. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Reformed theology is not just about TULIP. As one of the two traditions (with Lutheranism) that goes directly back to the Reformers, it has a solid theological base. It's not surprising that you'd find many of the better teachers to be Reformed. In my opinion the key to Calvin's theology is not predestination, but rather our union with Christ, and what its basis is. Predestination is the most controversial, so it's talked about the most by outsiders, but in fact Reformed Christians emphasize faith in Christ, and also the importance of living a disciplined life based on faith.

    As noted above, there's a range of interpretations of Reformed theology. I'm part of the liberal wing. But those who make a point of identifying themselves as Reformed are probably more likely to be conservative. While there are varying understandings of predestination, conservatives are normally committed to the confessions, commonly the Westminster Confession. Those do assert 5-point Calvinism.
     
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  10. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    I think if you follow the logic of the situation, it's hard to avoid accepting predestination in some form. As long as you think God is in charge, salvation is part of his plan. I think the only way to avoid it is to say that God isn't fully omniscient and omnipotent. The most common alternative implies that God can't know the future. Note that predestination does *not* imply that God intentionally damns people.

    (I will say that I have some sympathies with open theism. But CF rules don't permit discussion of that here.)
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2021
  11. Dok Bantis

    Dok Bantis This Earth Is Not My Home

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    Some folks already think that this thread doesn't belong in this subforum; I'm afraid that if I answered your question that I really would be straying into territory more appropriate for the Reformed subforum.
     
  12. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    For a philosophically-sound, carefully-biblical, and generally superior alternative to Reformed theology, check out:

    www.soteriology101.com
    www.reasonablefaith.org (search "Molinism")
     
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  13. zoidar

    zoidar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Ok, best luck! God bless!
     
  14. EpicScore

    EpicScore Member

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    Just adding that the TULIP doctrine, while often identified with Calvinists, wasn't actually written by John Calvin. If I recall correctly, that creed was developed after Calvin's death specifically to counter Armenianism that was on the rise, so defining the Reformed faith primarily by TULIP is rather restricting, if not outright misleading.

    Based on what I read from his commentary of the Bible, Calvin's primary focus seems to assert the sovereignty of God, and the human heart's predisposition towards idolatry, rebellion and hard-hardedness. None of the so-called "five-points of Calvinism" are explicitly taught from the writings that I read, but it would seem that T, I and P is the most strongly alluded in his teachings: i.e. that people are naturally inclined towards evil, but when God works in their hearts to bring them to salvation, no ungodly force--whether temptation or persecution--can undo what God had done in their lives.

    I work under a Reformed institution, and TULIP rarely gets brought up in the teachings here. I think, rather than the TULIP, a more definitive summary of the Reformed faith would be the five Solas: sola gratia ("grace alone"), sola fide ("faith alone"), sola scriptura ("scripture alone"), solus Christus ("Christ alone") and soli Deo gloria ("to the Glory of God alone").

    In my understanding, the key difference between Christianity and other religions comes down to the question, "how are we saved?" and that is answered by the five Solas: Christ is our only saviour (John 14:6), and we are able to come to him and receive him "by grace through faith" (Ephesians 2:8). Everything we need to know about Christ and salvation comes from the Bible, and since we as people has nothing to contribute to our own salvation, God receives all the glory.
     
  15. zoidar

    zoidar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I edited this a few times. Sorry about that!

    I just want to say the 5 solas are also held by Lutherans (I know they are not Evangelicals), but the solas are not specific only for Reformed.

    It doesn't matter very much what Calvin would have thought about the TULIP, but what Reformers teach about it today. I've never been in Reformed circles, so I don't have any real experience.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2021
  16. EpicScore

    EpicScore Member

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    What I meant by misleading is that the particular phrases used in that acrostic can be (mis)interpreted in numerous ways, and that people reading those labels could easily get a wrong idea of what the points actually constitute, and thus the wrong idea of what its adherents actually believe.

    Historically speaking, the Reformed movement emerged to oppose the corruption brought by the Catholic church, who had placed tradition and rituals above the scripture, esteemed the Pope as the Head of the Church, and brought in works and sacraments as a necessary confition for salvation in addition to faith; thus, in its purest form, the Reformed movement is defined by the teachings of faith alone, scripture alone and Christ alone.

    How this influence the Preachers/Teachers, I think, is the increased emphasis on exegetical exposition (rather than personal experiences/testimonies) and a dedication to understand the message of the scripture as it is intended to be understood by its original readers, and not simply ripping verses out of context to fit the preacher's own ideas. Further divisions in the denomination (Calvinisim and others) is simply referring to the traditional framework through which the adherents interpret the verses of the scripture. Most Reformed Christians hold that John Calvin's framework is the most in line with the Biblical teaching, but some doctrines are more essential than others, and I don't really see the "five-points of Calvinism" as a part of those "essentials".

    As for the question on why Reformed Christians tend to be wary about our non-Reformed brethrens, it's because a downplaying of Scriptural authority, let alone outright deviations from it, lends itself to the acceptance of heretical teachings that could affect its listener's salvation.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2021
  17. zoidar

    zoidar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks for the explanation! God bless!
     
  18. EpicScore

    EpicScore Member

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    You're welcome. I hope my explanation was useful.

    And in my experience in the Reformed church, the TULIP has never been treated as that big of a deal, in the sense that's it's rarely, if ever, preached, whether in regular sermons or even in the more in-depth Bible study sessions (which is why I somewhat object to using that as the primary label for the Reformed movement). Our church are a lot more cautious about certain Charismatic sects--which often put a greater emphasis on spiritual experience/gifts and miracles, particularly the "prosperity gospel", and habitually proclaim extra-biblical prophecies that one really need to be cautious about--rather than Calvinism vs. Armenianism distinctions anyway.

    If I understand the OP's question correctly, they're seeking to be a more Biblical Christian, and wants to know if following the Reformed teachings will help them in that direction. I'd say yes, but with regards to the finer details of the theology... unless the issue directly challenges the tenets of the five Solas, I don't think getting caught up in interdenominational differences is really helpful.
     
  19. ViaCrucis

    ViaCrucis Evangelical Catholic of the Augsburg Confession

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    The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century can be broadly divided into roughly three types of reformation.

    In the first, there were the Magisterial Reformers, this is the term we use to describe Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, etc. It refers to those who, more-or-less sought for reform within the already established church structures as they already existed.

    The Magisteral Reformation can itself be split into two camps: Lutheran and Reformed. The Reformed Tradition refers to the reformation work of John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli (as well as John Knox and others). Whereas the Lutheran tradition is seen in, well, Lutheranism. Both Lutherans and Reformed agreed (and still agree) on many very important points. For example, the chief doctrine of the Reformation was that we are justified by grace alone through faith on Christ's account alone. This was Luther's rallying cry, which Calvin and the Reformed leaders also took as their own.

    In the second, there was the English Reformation, which refers to when King Henry VIII broke ties with the Pope in order to establish an independent English Church, with himself as temporal head--basically because he wanted to divorce his wife and marry another woman, and the Pope said no. This began a period of turmoil in English Christianity between Protestant-friendly factions and anti-Protestant factions. Henry himself was anti-Protestant, which is also why he had William Tyndale put to death; of course Henry's successors would be more pro-Protestant and would, instead, have Catholics put to death. Eventually the Church of England would undergo further Protestant reform, largely influenced by the Reformed tradition. And high-church, catholic revival movements such as the Oxford Movement would also lead some Anglicans toward a more Catholic expression of Anglicanism in later centuries--giving us the modern Anglican Communion, including the Episcopal Church in the USA (Anglicanism was renamed Episcopalianism in the United States after the American War for Independence).

    And thirdly there is what is called the Radical Reformation, which is largely a catch-all term referring to numerous individuals, groups, and movements that arose that were entirely outside the usual church structures. Many of these groups viewed themselves as restoring original, primitive Christianity, and turned to teaching old, long since rejected heresies, such as Adoptionism and Arianism. Some groups were apocalyptic cults, some literally used military force to occupy cities, and inciting violent peasant uprisings, which resulted in massive destruction of churches. Even in Wittenberg, Luther's home, while he was hiding, his old friend Andread Karlstadt tried to incite revolution and rebellion, having crosses and crucifixes burned, holy images were destroyed---until Luther returned and put a stop to that. Some of these groups were simple Anabaptist pacifists, like the Mennonites.

    As for how Reformed differs from Evangelical, that is a larger topic:

    The word "Evangelical" has been used to mean different things over the centuries. The first to use the term "Evangelical" to describe themselves were the Lutherans. Lutherans didn't call themselves "Lutheran", they called themselves "Evangelical". That term "Evangelical" was also used by Reformed Protestants as well. As such "Evangelical" effectively just became the term for "Protestant" in Germany. In fact, even today, the common word in German for Lutherans and Reformed Protestants is "Evangelische", and hence even today the largest Protestant denomination in Germany is the Evangelische Kirche in Deutchland (Evangelical Church in Germany).

    In America and Britain, "Evangelical" was then applied to Protestant revivalism in the First Great Awakening, such as the sort of work being done by John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, etc. Jonathan Edwards was himself very Reformed, George Whitefield was a Calvinist Methodist, while John Wesley was an Arminian Methodist.

    A word about Arminianism: In the 17th century in the Dutch Reformed Church, a controversy arose from the teachings of a Reformed theologian, Jacob Arminius, and his students who were known as the Remonstrants. They believed that there were problems in the Calvinist orthodoxy prevailent at the time, and proposed Five Points of Remonstrance. Orthodox Calvinists countered the Five Points of Remonstrance with their own five points, which came to be known as the Five Points of Calvinism, or the accrostic TULIP. In this sense, while Calvinism and Arminianism are very different theological positions on several key topics, both are part of the same Reformed Tradition.

    Finally, the modern use of Evangelical has come to be used to describe the Neo-Evangelical movement that emerged in the early-to-mid 20th century. Modern [Neo-]Evangelicalism emerged largely as a response to the cultural isolation of Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism had began at the turn of the 20th century as itself a response to the Modernist controversy of the late 19th century. Theological schools in parts of Europe, mostly in Germany, were embracing certain Enlightenement ideas, and these were influencing the seminaries and theology schools. When these ideas traveled across the Atlantic, and began to appear in American theology schools and seminaries, more theologically conservative/traditional Protestants sought to affirm what they saw as biblical and Christian fundamentals of faith, and thus they began to be called Fundamentalists. The early Fundamentalists actively engaged with the wider culture, but over several decades would largely retreat from the wider culture, retreating from academia, and the like. In response to this isolationism, some chose instead to actively engage the culture, and this would give birth to the Neo-Evangelical Movement.

    Arguably the most important person in the rise of Neo-Evangelicalism was Billy Graham. It was Neo-Evangelicalism because it was seen as a revival of the older Evangelicalism of the Evangelical revivalism of preceding centuries. But where the 19th century Revivalists would have tent meetings, Billy Graham was able to fill stadiums.

    So, today, in the 21st century the term "Evangelical" is largely a term to refer to the Neo-Evangelical movement.

    Also, Evangelical and Reformed are not mutually exclusive categories. There are many Reformed Evangelicals: Evangelicals who subscribe to Reformed theology.

    -CryptoLutheran
     
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  20. StillGods

    StillGods Well-Known Member

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    reformed believe God created some people for destruction and some for salvation and theres nothing anyone can do about which group they end up in.

    the rest of Christendom believe God made a way (Jesus) so that every single person God created gets to choose to repent and be saved or not.
     
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