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How Reformed are the Young Reformed?

May 4, 2009

Phillip Benedict observes,

The Latin motto of many Reformed churches today, “Ecclesia reformata, quia semper reformada” (The Reformed church because always reforming) was coined in the middle of the seventeenth century by the Dutch churchman Johannes Hoornbeeck. It captures perfectly the restlessness of a tradition that recurrently generated internal revitalization movements inspired by such hopes even after they had not been immediately realized–as inevitably they were not. Committed adherents always had to ask themselves if they were doing everything possible to serve God and to observe his strict ordinances of worship.[1]

This observation led me to wonder if the “Young Reformed” are really that committed to a “reformed church.” If anything, some (at least) seem to be going away from a reformed church, introducing new worship and fundamentally “contextualizing” the church toward popular culture (never high culture), not the Scriptures. It is well known that the terms “Calvinism” and “Reformed” are riddled with difficulty, and that boiling down “Calvinism” to an espousal to “TULIP” is a bit of an historic alteration.[2] Perhaps in so emphasizing the doctrines of grace, which should be preached and taught (at least 4.5 of them), the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” have neglected past one of the key matters for Reformed churches (who are always Reforming): that our practice should strictly conform to God’s inspired revelation.

Compare this to John Quincy Adams (not the President), who said that Baptists were the “only true religious Reformers.”


[1]Christ’s Churches Purely Reformed: A Social History of Calvinism(New Haven: Yale, 2002), xvi.

[2]The article to read to appreciate this point is “How Many Points?” by Richard Muller.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. brad permalink
    May 5, 2009 7:37 am


    I know what you are trying to say at the beginning. But I do not know what you are trying to conclude.

    I have had a couple of discussions on this general subject lately– i.e. the Bible as authority for faith and practice–which have done little to dissuade me from thinking that the Baptist mantra is not much more than an excuse for doing whatever I want to do according to my interpretation of Scripture.

    I think the clearest example is singing Psalms. I believe we grew up in more-or-less similar environments. How many Psalms can you sing from memory? Not choruses from the Psalms but Psalms? How many Psalms did we ever sing at NBBC?

    Yet Baptists believe the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice? When we do not even sing the very parts of the Bible itself which we are commanded to sing? How can this be?

    But I will try to read through the work you linked to and see if I can figure out what you might be trying to get at in your conclusion.

    Please forgive my tone if it comes across as too harsh. The questions are of grief, not anger.


  2. May 7, 2009 5:23 pm

    My original thought here was that some “Young Reformed” like a certain youngish pastor in Seattle, and some of those other “Young Reformed” I know personally are more about dancing in public worship to Getty and Townsend tunes than about having a pure church that really strives to do things as prescribed by the Word.

    I just threw that last line in there because I thought of that title by the old Baptist J. Q. Adams, and how much Baptists traditionally strove to be the true Reformers, all the way down to Baptism.

  3. brad permalink
    May 9, 2009 1:26 pm


    I read the book. I definitely enjoyed the first three chapters. As for the rest… There might have been 4 good passages. I hope that in your contact with Reformed types you do not try to carry out his arguments.

    I am not sure which fact Menno Simons would be more amused at: the repeated reference to him as Simon Menno or the assertion that he was a Baptist. But this historical issue is small compared to other matters.

    But I really do thank you for the first three chapters, they truly ministered to me. And I am sympathetic to the main point of your post. I do wish we could be as excited about reforming as we are about being Reformed.

    I pray you will be able to serve with fear and rejoice with trembling tomorrow.

    And every Lord’s day.

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