What Is a Reformed Christian?

If you ask a Christian what a “Reformed” Christian is you’re bound to get a different answer with each person. I went to the definitive repository of all truth and asked, “Hey Siri, what’s a Reformed Christian?” She replied, “Calvinism.”  Angela and I also put this question out to our friends on “Reformed Twitter” and it proved difficult to get a definitive answer.

A common theme seemed to be that a Reformed Christian is one who holds to the Five Solas of the Reformation or the Five Points of Calvinism. Others said covenant theology, 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

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 is one who confesses the Three Forms of Unity or the Westminster Standards. He went on to say this means Lutherans and Particular Baptists (1689) like him would be excluded.

While we love and value the Reformational heritage we share with others, for The New Geneva Blog we want to have a working definition of what we mean by “Reformed.” It’s our view that being Reformed is more than holding to the Five points or Five Solas.  While these things are essential, we believe being “Reformed” includes being willing to subscribe (to express or feel agreement) to objective content, such as a confession of faith.  

The historic Reformed confessions such as the Presbyterian Westminster Standards, the continentally Reformed Three Forms of Unity, or others such as the Anglican Thirty Nine Articles and the Congregational Savoy Declaration together give us a historical benchmark for understanding what Reformed Christianity believes. They include “Calvinism” but encompass so many more essential doctrines such as Covenant theology, which historically includes infant baptism.

For our blog, we’ll be writing from the perspective of what Dr. R. Scott Clark has called the “Six Forms of Unity”—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 redefine 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.  

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