Why a Reformed Presence is Important in the City

I am a Reformed minister through-and-through, and I feel very strongly about the Reformed theology.  I do not think Reformed theology is the only way of being a Christian, I simply think that it is a good way.  I think that is Biblically sound, and I think that it speaks to our world in a way that other traditions do not.  Some people tell me that theology doesn’t really matter in the inner-city, particularly when educational attainment is not incredibly high.  This is, of course, something that I vehemently disagree with.

First, I think that it is wrong to assume that educational attainment alone dictates someone’s capacity for understanding is short sighted.  I have known many wise people that had a 9th grade education, and I have known many dull people with master’s degrees.  Secondly, it downplays what Reformed theology has to offer the world.

I don’t use the words sovereignty, providence, election, irresistable grace, or atonement in the regular course of my preaching and teaching.  These are all terms that are near and dear to Reformed theology.  However, I talk about them all the time.  These doctrines are prevalent in my preaching and teaching, they are what I stand on, and they are the avenues through which I communicate the faith.  Reformed theology is not important so that we can use big terms like this or be able to understand the finer points of the differentiation between orthodox Reformed theology and Arminianism.  Reformed theology is important because it stands on the bedrock of God and God’s grace.

Rather than starting with humans, the Reformed start with God.  The idea of starting with ourselves makes sense when we feel as though we can depend on ourselves, on our abilities, on our capacities.  However, if we feel (or better, when we finally realize) that we cannot depend on ourselves, suddenly relying upon a theology that begins with us is not as comforting and stabalizing.  We understand that it is a foundation which is not solid and will shift around a lot, causing the building of faith to fall.

When we feel as through we’re empowered and that we largely direct our own destiny, the idea of the sovereignty of God can offend our individualistic sensibilities.  When we feel as though we can provide for ourselves through employment, the providence of God doesn’t seem to be that relevant.  When we feel as though we are able to make the decisions for our lives and that our lives are under our own control, irresistable grace and election seem to contradict the respect for our own agency.

It is true that no one really cares about soverginty, providence, irresistable grace, election, etc… but people do care about the fact that God is in control and nothing is out of God’s reach, people do care that God provides for us, people do care that God pursues us even before we begin pursuing God, that graciously chooses us for God’s own. These are all benefits of a distinctively Reformed witness in the city.

In the midst of a community where people are told that they must speak in tounges, that they must be careful not to lose their salvation, that if they do something wrong God will leave them, that if they sin, they must turn back to God on their own…I am proud to be a witness that stands upon, first and foremost God’s action and then secondarily our response, and a witness that is founded upon God and God’s grace.  This is why I think and believe very strongly that a Reformed presence in the city is so very important.

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