Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reformed theology vs. Reformed culture

I agree with what Ray Ortlund says here:
"I like Reformed theology. I believe it's what the Bible teaches. But I don't like Reformed culture. I don't believe it's what the Bible teaches.

Reformed theology is all about grace deciding to treat people better than they deserve, for the sheer glory of it all. Sometimes Reformed culture doesn't look like that, feel like that, taste like that. It gives people exactly what they deserve, as judged by the Reformed person. But who exalted him as judge in the first place? Our true Judge stepped down to become our Friend. That theology of grace must translate into the sociology of grace as we treat one another better than anyone deserves, for the sheer glory of it all."
I've had many conversations with people over the years about this very issue. Many are unattracted to the doctrines of grace because of the types of people that believe in them. I lament that this is the case.


  1. What is reformed culture?

  2. Just the culture that can sometimes be very arrogant and judgmental. I've often heard from people that they don't like Calvinists. It seems many reformed people are not very compassionate with people who disagree with them. So, the reformed culture can sometimes be one that is cold towards others.

    Going to a reformed, PCA church, I really have not run in to too many people that fit this description. In fact, I came across reformed theology from some of the most loving and compassionate people I've ever known. So, I hope that can soon be what characterizes this reformed culture rather than the negative characterization.

  3. Hey David,

    Interesting post.

    Why do you think that those who subscribe to reformed theology struggle with the arrogance described by Ray Ortlund?

    Do you think it has something do with the whole “chosen” idea? Like those who are chosen know/think they are God’s elite VIP’s, while the rest of just hope they are. Just a thought.

  4. Bailey
    That could be a big part of it. And that sounds a good bit like hyper-Calvinism where people not only believe they are the elite, but don't really care to share the gospel with anyone.

    I also think a big part of it has to do with the "I'm right" mentality. Believing that we are right theologically can lead to arrogance about how smart we are to know this truth. Of course, that's ironic because reformed theology only gives us room to boast in Christ for any wisdom, salvation, etc. that we have.

  5. Thanks, David. Also, I have one more thought.

    Assuming that Calvinism is correct, how do you think Christ views a Calvinist Christian vs. an Arminian Christian? Again, just curious what you think.

  6. Based on what you are saying, David, it sounds like reformed "culture" is really sin. Like you, everyone I've met in my reformed church (University Reformed Church in East Lansing, MI) are humble and generous people. And some of most committed, biblical and mature people I've ever met.

    Dennis and I have lived in many cities and attended different churches as well as been members of different denominations. I think that as I think back, it would be easy to stereotype different denominations. Like, all Baptists are teetotalers.

    A lot of the adjustments in terms of culture that I've had to make here in Michigan is not so much reformed church (that was almost easy) but getting re-acquainted with the midwest (Mom was born and raised in the Dakotas, I lived there as a young kid). And Dutch culture, which I've come to like a lot, actually.

    I serve coffee to a pastor of a charismatic church, and when he asked me where I attended church he responded with a comment about a reputation of legalism. It surprised me. I responded that sometimes self-discipline and commitment might look like legalism to others, when it actually isn't. He and his wife were expecting a baby at the time, and when she was born, they named their daughter after me.

    As "outsiders" Dennis and I have often found that we make a unique contribution to this congregation, and we appreciate many of the things we've learned over the last six years, during the good and the bad times. We've been welcomed and encouraged warmly so many times and in so many ways!

    Anyways, thanks for the post, gave me lots to think about.

  7. Althea
    You're welcome

    I don't think God views either one differently. Both are sinners. The only difference I could think of is if there is sin inhibiting someone from believing what I believe to be the Truth.