The Reformation: Who is Reformed?
The Reformation is one the single greatest moments in our church history. It was the time where biblical boldness arose and pounced like a lion upon the ill-taught heritage of the Roman Catholic church. One of the most unique moments in history as well, a monk, who saw the error being planted throughout the church, decided to write 95 points to encourage the return of the Church to the Biblical Principles and Theology.
However, this article is not going to be a history lesson on WHAT the Reformation was but rather a current state of the term Reformed and compared to its original meaning. Today, somehow, like many things in History, the Reformed word and tradition has been narrowed and convoluted to a sect. Subsequently, the Calvinist.
This is NOT an anti-Calvinist article in any subjective way. I want to preface that I cherish much of the Calvinist perspective, just not the entire neo-Calvinist perspective that it has grown into. I've read Calvin's Institutes a total of 3 full times and his wonderful commentaries (highly suggest both).
This article is a historical perspective on who is inherently Reformed. We all know Jacobus (Jacob) Arminius who was a Dutch Reformer who brought on the Remonstrants. John Calvin was the Geneva-based Reformer and Theologian. These two are usually the centerfold of the Reformation along with Luther, though that is a gross error, there were many other Reformers who stood by the call to boldness that should duly be noted. That will be another article for another time.
The Reformation is historically known as The Protestant Reformation which gives immediate light to who is Reformed. If you hold to Protestant theology, which majority of Evangelical Christians do, you are by definition Reformed. That will alert, hurt and poke people because (and I remember when I was a Calvinist) I thought Reformed was simply for those who held to TULIP.
There are many reasons why that is false but mainly that the Reformation itself predates TULIP and TULIP was a response by Calvinist who wanted to oppose the Remonstrants. Note, this happened years after Calvin had died, so Calvin did not in any form verify the theology, principles or byproducts of Dordt. It should also be noted that this Synod of Dordt was a Non-Ecunemical council that was not pertaining of any other view other than Calvinism [That is, it did not represent the entire church]. It should lastly be noted that Arminian Theology was later accepted by the State and thereby eradicating the Synod of Dordt in much of its attempts.
The Protestant Reformation produces a number of Reformers and Reformed Traditions. None of which can be reduced solely to that of Calvinism. Though, I will concede that the majority of Reformers held to either Lutheranism or Calvinism. Much of what Luther taught was carried out by those who held Arminius type theology and those who held to Calvinism did not continue to fight against that in a large way although disagreements continued (See Whitefield v Welsey, though even they reconciled at the end).
Something I want to come back an add is a quick section of summary and addition of the Solas' because I think those are the bedrock of the Reformation. This should further show that Reformed is a broader term encompassing many rather than being held be a SUBSET of The Reformation (Calvinism).
The five solas are five Latin phrases popularized during the Protestant Reformation that emphasized the distinctions between the early Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church. The word sola is the Latin word for “only” and was used in relation to five key teachings that defined the biblical pleas of Protestants. They are:
1. Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone”
2. Sola fide: “faith alone”
3. Sola gratia: “grace alone”
4. Solo Christo: “Christ alone”
5. Soli Deo gloria: “to the glory of God alone”
Each of these solas can be seen both as a corrective to the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church at the start of the Reformation and as a positive biblical declaration.
Sola scriptura emphasizes the Bible alone as the source of authority for Christians. By saying, “Scripture alone,” the Reformers rejected both the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Pope and confidence in sacred tradition. Only the Bible was “inspired by God” (2 Peter 1:20-21) and “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Anything taught by the Pope or in tradition that contradicted the Bible was to be rejected. Sola scriptura also fueled the translation of the Bible into German, French, English, and other languages, and prompted Bible teaching in the common languages of the day, rather than in Latin.
Sola fide emphasizes salvation as a free gift. The Roman Catholic Church of the time emphasized the use of indulgences (donating money) to buy status with God. Good works, including baptism, were seen as required for salvation. Sola fide stated that salvation is a free gift to all who accept it by faith (John 3:16). Salvation is not based on human effort or good deeds (Ephesians 2:9).
Sola gratia emphasizes grace as the reason for our salvation. In other words, salvation comes from what God has done rather than what we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Solo Christo (sometimes listed as Solus Christus, “through Christ alone”) emphasizes the role of Jesus in salvation. The Roman Catholic tradition had placed church leaders such as priests in the role of intercessor between the laity and God. Reformers emphasized Jesus’ role as our “high priest” who intercedes on our behalf before the Father. Hebrews 4:15 teaches, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is the One who offers access to God, not a human spiritual leader.
Soli Deo gloria emphasizes the glory of God as the goal of life. Rather than striving to please church leaders, keep a list of rules, or guard our own interests, our goal is to glorify the Lord. The idea of soli Deo gloria is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
The five solas of the Protestant Reformation offered a strong corrective to the faulty practices and beliefs of the time, and they remain relevant today. We are called to focus on Scripture, accept salvation by grace through faith, magnify Christ, and live for God’s glory. (Excerpt from GotQuestions.Org)
The majority of Reformers (if not all) wrote on these, affirmed these and lived by these. They are the opposition to the Roman Catholic Church going wayward. They are the call to come back to the Biblical Perspective.
So, I write this in hopes that those who feel isolated by Calvinist can feel less isolated and cherish the heritage that is the Reformation. I also write this in hopes that those Calvinist will have a historically open mind about what they call Reformed or even Heresy.
It's a small call to Ecunemical thoughts as far as Protestant faith goes.