Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Some Reasons for Being Reformed

Recently a friend asked me what is the impact of being a Reformed Christian vs. a Pentecostal Christian on my life. Here was my response:

I never really thought about it before because the journey for me was such a gradual shift from Pentecostalism to Reformed (it was over a 2 year period). But I do think that your question is a fair question given such a radical shift in ones theology. Reformed theology has changed my practical Christian walk in the following ways:
1.Christian liberty - Reformed theology has given me a sense of liberty that I did not have as a charismatic. My experience as a Pentecostal Christian was one of "you could not do this or that" because you’re a Christian. It’s well known that Pentecostals believe that drinking alcohol is a sin. But biblically that is not the case; it is getting drunk that is the sin. This is only one minor example, but typifies the legalism within Pentecostalism over Christian prudence. So I have become freer in a sense to enjoy wine, a good movie, a jazz club, etc. with out the guilt of thinking its sin.
2.Reformed theology’s doctrine of justification by faith alone has allowed me, first, to
clearly distinguish between justification and sanctification, then secondly, to free me from the constant feeling that I had to live a ‘perfect’ life or lose my salvation. Now I clearly understand that I am justified before God through faith in Christ work alone and not based on anything that I have done. And my obedience comes out of my love for God, not out of some feeling that I could lose my eternal position. I live a life of repentance knowing that I will struggle with sin until the day I die or Christ returns. But I also know that through the Holy Spirit’s effective application of Christ’s work of atonement, I am not a slave to sin and He has given me power to overcome sinful habits. I no longer have a fear that my eternal destiny is in jeopardy because I’ve sinned. Now I confess and repent of my sins and move on knowing all along that it’s God who is keeping me.
3.Reformed theology has allowed me to develop my intellect for the glory of God. Within the Pentecostal/ charismatic sects you have a very strong strain of anti-intellectualism. If you think about a theological issue or doctrinal point you are thought of as unspiritual. What makes it even worse is that it is subtle and undermines any intellectual endeavors. On the flip side I do acknowledge that within reformed circles there is an extreme intellectualism that disregards experiential forms of Christianity. I believe that is just as dangerous as the Pentecostal extremism.
So these are the three major practical implications of my change from Pentecostalism to the Reformed Faith. There are other practical implications such as how I view worship (God-centered as opposed to Man-centered), how I view the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and hermeneutics. There is also an historical context to my Christianity. Furthermore, I’m still working that out in the context of how do I as an African American fit within the reformed tradition. This is good because within traditional Pentecostalism there never was a historical context to
contend with.

My response in no way was meant to be all inclusive nor as a put down for Pentecostalism. Most people dont want to realize that what you believe affects how you act. This principle applies across the board, and especially to religious beliefs. Maybe we all should stop and think "What is the impact of this on my life?"