What Is a Reformed Christian?

by Tony and Angela

If you ask a Reformed Christian what a “Reformed” Christian is you’re bound to get a different answer with each person. I went to the definitive answer of all truth and asked, “Hey Siri, what’s a Reformed Christian?” She replied, “Calvinism.”  

Angela and I put this question out to our dear friends on “Reformed” Twitter. It proved difficult to get a consensus answer.

A common theme seemed to be the 5 Solas, the doctrines of predestination/election, covenant, great beards, and craft beer…hah! While each of these is true (mostly), many of the answers did not say something that Lutherans, Baptists, and Evangelicals could also claim to a certain extent. So, what is the sine qua non of being Reformed? What is its essence?

Image by Samuel Zeller
Image by Samuel Zeller

One of the best and simplest answers we received was from a Particular Baptist (1689). He said that he would answer his friend or family member that a Reformed Christian confesses the Three Forms of Unity and/or the Westminster Standards. He went on to say that this means Lutherans, and Particular Baptists (1689) like him would be excluded.

For The New Geneva Blog, Angela and I want to have a working definition of what we mean by “Reformed.” It’s our view that being Reformed is more than being a five-point Calvinist or holding to the five solas of the Reformation (Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria).

We believe being “Reformed” is confessing/subscribing (to express or feel agreement) to objective content: a confession and a theology. Historic Reformed confessions such as the Presbyterian Westminster Standards (Westminster Confession, Larger & Smaller Catechisms), the Continentally Reformed Three Forms of Unity (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt), or others such as the Anglican Thirty Nine Articles or the Congregational Savoy Declaration together give us a historical benchmark for understanding what Reformed Christianity believes.

For The New Geneva Blog, we’ll be writing from the perspective of what some have called the “Six Forms of Unity”—that is, the Westminster Standards together with the Three Forms of Unity.

You may find us joking that we don’t want to contribute to building a generation about which it could be said, “Everyone does what is Reformed in his or her own eyes.” We prefer to be a part of helping newcomers understand the historic Reformed faith, rather than re-define it—because with all the fluidity and vacillation in evangelical culture today concerning what is “Reformed,” we believe the Reformed Confessions offer the most sensible and stable answer.