One of the worst things about the contemporary reformed is the inability to distinguish friends from enemies. It’s a primary facet of biblical wisdom but we don’t have it.
Taking a little heat recently for hanging around people with bad theological reputations. Geez…they have no idea what kind of people I’m known to hang with…I have a history of consorting with heathens, heretics and reprobates. Theologians are often worse and sometimes better.
This word “Reformed.” We use it when it when, if and how it is helpful. It’s used so often it often means nothing. Tellingly, if it’s not right out of the heart of the Reformational thought forms it is not Reformed in any way that means anything very important.
When I’m using it seriously I can barely use it at all. It’s a serious word and people apply it like frosting at a birthday party. It can mean almost anything. We say George Whitfield was “reformed”. And Jonathan Edwards. And Charles Spurgeon. On Spurgeon, I’ve said it myself; does that really mean anything intelligible? He wasn’t “reformed” in any obvious sense. He was barely an anything if you’re trying to nail him down to a specific category – and I love him very much. The Prince of Preachers and all that.
Was Martin Luther Reformed? It’s a silly question. Maybe no one is if Martin Luther isn’t but he could never be ordained in my very reformed denomination, not at any level (and we have three offices). We love him from afar like a hero of the Greek poets, pretending he was not a real man and so we don’t have to make a judgment as to his orthodoxy on very important matters.
Could John Knox have been ordained in the contemporary Reformed churches (he started the Presbyterian church)? I don’t think so, he was too forthright a personality. I’ve been to a lot of ordinations in the PCA and I can tell you, I don’t think it’s possible he could make it through committee in most. Can you imagine them sending him off to one of their “ministry suitability workshop” and having him come back approved for winsome ministry by their psychologists and trainers?
And JOHN CALVIN. Really, It’s been a long time since I’ve met a minister that has read him (at least more than the famous footnotes version). Everyone claims him, no one reads him. I know everyone loves Tim Keller and John MacArthur and the other stalwarts of contemporary evangelical calvinistic culture but can you imaging him ordaining any one of them? More likely he would have had them arrested. Maybe, he would have been more serious than that… Anyway, I think he was Reformed.
That’s not to criticize those guys, they do noble and beneficial work but “Reformed”? It’s not even close, right? I mean, we could easily call John MacArthur a “Calvinist” but at that point we are winnowing down what we mean by following Calvin to such a skinny extreme its really lost its temper.