As a pastor of a Church, a member congregation in a Reformed Denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, I am often asked by visitors what is Reformed Theology? My response is that Reformed Theology is Biblical Theology. It was recovered by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th Century. Perhaps, a better question is “What is theology?” Reformed is simply an adjective describing the noun, theology.
Theology is the study of God, His attributes and mighty works. Reformed Theology is precisely the same thing. The Reformers understood what the fathers of the Ancient Church understood. All theology finds its roots in one very clear attribute of God that He revealed throughout Scripture. That one attribute is His sovereignty.
The words of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of ancient Babylon recorded by the Prophet Daniel is the most definitive declaration of God’s sovereignty in all of Scripture. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”’ Daniel 4:34-35
God humbled the pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar, who was full of pride. God caused him to live like a wild animal. Even his appearance was changed. Daniel wrote this description of the king, “He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” Daniel 4:33
We can choose to believe whatever we want to believe. But we are not free to define God in our own image or comfort. God has revealed Himself to be the Holy Sovereign One.
You may be thinking, “Doesn’t every church believe that God is sovereign?” You’re right. Every church that professes belief in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ also believes in the sovereignty of God. So then, what’s this “Reformed Theology” all about and why does it represent the truth of Scripture? The reason is simple. Reformed Theology looks at every aspect of life through the lens of a sovereign God. He does as He pleases and He always accomplishes His will!
For example, salvation depends upon a sovereign God. God said that men are incapable of turning to Him. He said that all men are born spiritually dead. Only a God who is absolutely sovereign can save us. God breaks into the life of a man causing him to see the truth of life in Jesus. We do not have the ability in us to believe in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. God must raise us from death to life.
I can’t think of anything in life that doesn’t depend upon the sovereign God. The Prophet Jeremiah was in mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” Lamentations 3:37-38 Jeremiah declared that God ordains everything that happens!
I can hear the skeptics, “If the sovereign God ordains everything then what’s the point of doing anything?” God did not create robots. God’s sovereignty does not contradict our wills. Every single human being will do whatever he desires. God holds us accountable for what we do. But, God’s will stands above man’s will. He acts without any encumbrances. Whatever He wills is done.
God’s rule is absolute and inclusive because He is sovereign. The fact that all men do not submit to God’s rule does not nullify it. There will come a time when God’s sovereign rule will be seen. When Jesus, the sovereign King, returns, every creature will submit to Him. Until then the visible rule of God is seen in the church. Reformed theology affirms that the church is the visible kingdom of God.
So whatever your perspective happens to be, I propose to you that it is only relevant if God’s sovereignty is your absolute guiding principle. If you are in a church that teaches, “God is sovereign but you must choose to believe” invest in one that teaches the truth, the whole truth revealed by the sovereign God for your spiritual growth and health are at stake!
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)