In the last two decades we have seen the rise of the “young restless and reformed” and something of a resurgence of “reformed” theology generally. Whether you think this upsurge is to be lauded or condemned, it is clear that “reformed” has become something of a buzz-word. It shows up in Twitter bios, memes, and in the self-descriptions of celebrity pastors and teachers.
This sudden proclivity for identifying oneself as “reformed” has caused both confusion and controversy. What does it really mean to be reformed? Can anyone simply adopt that term? What about those who say that most of these newly self-declared “reformed” folks aren’t really reformed at all? As someone who has come to identify as reformed in recent years, I’ve given this a good bit of thought. Though I don’t expect to solve the debate for most, if any, I do hope to explain and defend my own use of the term.
For those who are grieved at being unable to gather as the church on the Lord’s Day because of stay-at-home orders, here is some encouragement from J.C. Ryle.
“The day is coming when there shall be a congregation that shall never break up, and a Sabbath that shall never end, a song of praise that shall never cease, and an assembly that shall never be dispersed. In that assembly shall be found all who have ‘worshipped God in spirit’ upon earth. If we are such, we shall be there.”
Keep a strong grip on this argument, as I do, and let it ever be secure and steadfast in your minds: not only when He blesses, but even when He chastises, God is good and loving. His very chastisements and judgments are the greatest sign of His good-will, the highest form of His gracious providence. Whenever you see famines, plagues, drought, rainstorms, atmospheric disturbances, or anything else that chastens humanity, don't be tormented or downcast. Worship the One who caused these things; be awe-struck at His tender love. He does these things so that in chastening the body, the soul may be healed. “Does God actually do these things?” someone asks. Yes, God does these things! Even if my whole community, indeed the whole universe were my audience, I wouldn’t flinch from saying this. In fact, I wish my voice were more piercing than a trumpet, that I could cry aloud from a mountaintop to everyone: God does these things! This isn’t my own rash opinion; the prophet stands at my side—“There is no evil in the city which the LORD has not done” (Amos 3:6)… We don’t praise a physician only when he leads the patient into gardens, meadows, baths, and water-pools, or spreads before him a well-supplied table. He is just as much a physician when he makes him go without food, weakens him with thirst, forces him to stay in bed, makes his house a prison, deprives him of light, shadows his room with curtains, and when he cuts, cauterizes, and offers bitter-tasting medicines. Why, then, is it acceptable to call him a physician when he does so many “evil” things, yet to blaspheme God, rejecting His providence over all events, if at any time He does one of these things—if He decrees famine or death?
— John Chrysostom Against Those Who Say that Demons Govern Human Affairs 1.4
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14
I always enjoyed listening to the late Paul Harvey on the radio. He had a talent for thoughtful commentary that is, unfortunately, a rarity in modern media. I particularly enjoyed listening to “The Rest of the Story.” Harvey would present some little-know fact or forgotten bit of history in his usual engaging style; then at the end, he would reveal that a key element of the story was tied to some famous person, or event. He always concluded with a variation on the tag line, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
I think that the Christmas story would have made a good candidate for the show. Certainly the Christmas story is very well know in western culture. Most non-Christian are familiar with the story of Jesus laid in a manger, angels visiting shepherds, and wise men bringing gifts. Yet there is a lot more to this story than just what we find in the opening chapters of Matthew, and Luke.