Creeds & Confessions Prayer & Devotions C.R.C. Stuff
Who We Are: A Ten-Best List
by William Lenters
(This article appeared in the October 31, 1994 Banner,
and is reproduced here by permission.)
We know who we are.
We Reformed Christians know that we are an enlightened and precious people of God who have the inside scoop. We are in the loop as far as God is concerned. We know what the truth of God is. We are
That didn't stop the Chicago Tribune last summer from calling us "A Calvinist sect." Here's the headline it ran a few days after synod adjourned in June: "Calvinist Sect's Synod Rejects
The story was positioned next to a major article on the Jehovah's Witnesses. You could read that we have some 300,000 members. Then you could read that the Jehovah's Witnesses number close to 5
million in 231 countries.
The Tribune identifies the Witnesses as a denomination. It calls us a sect. We're a sect?! The Jehovah's Witnesses are a denomination?! I guess so.
What this world thinks of us is altogether too close to the truth. But what is closer to the truth is that this world doesn't have a clue about what it means to be Reformed. Nor does it care. Too
bad for the world.
So let's tell the world who we are. Let's get into the face of this broken and deceived world and give it a piece of our mind. What we need is something that'll get the attention of our sound-byte
culture -- a list of the top 10 indicators of what it means to be Reformed. I offer the following:
- Reformed Christians are Conservatives.
We conserve ancient treasures. We love old languages. We preserve old manuscripts. We cling to old traditions. We cherish historic creeds. We listen to old men and old women tell us stories about
their faith and how God kept his promises to them.
We do whatever it takes to conserve the health and well-being of our aging parents.
We do whatever it takes to protect and care for our precious children. We lavish them with costly educational opportunities. We teach them to value their education more than the red Camaro that
they covet. So that our kids can go to a costly Christian college, we put off buying the new Town Car that we covet.
- Reformed Christians are Changing Christians.
Ambiguity, paradox, and inconclusiveness are some of our favorite words.
To think creatively, to explore freely, to search eagerly, to listen openly to perspectives that are in conflict with our own, to identify with broken and wounded people, and to confess sin
fearlessly are some of the tangible joys that come from knowing that in becoming whole, we have not arrived: we are on the way.
- Reformed Christians Tell Kids the Truth.
We tell them the truth about sex: Sex is great, but it's off-limits for kids. Period.
We tell them the truth about death: Death stinks. We are afraid of it. We tell them that we do some wishful thinking about death. But we also tell them that when we die we go to be with Jesus. We
aren't always certain about that, but then that is the nature of faith.
We tell them the truth about faith. Faith is an up-and-down deal. Sometimes you have it. Sometimes you don't. No matter. We tell them that God has us whether or not we have him.
We tell our kids the truth about what we know. We tell them that we don't have all the answers. We do a lot of groping in the dark. But we hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is the light
- Reformed Christians Are Not Hip at Public Worship.
Historically, we have preferred the music of white, dead males. We make attempts to adjust to a changing culture: we introduce a little soft-shoe or two-step, strike up a band, raise holy hands,
look up and spread our hands when we pray, clap loudly, cheer wildly.
We try cool stuff. But it gets embarrassing. Most of us prefer dignity, order, predictability, balance, and a dash of boredom thrown in just to make it uninteresting.
- Reformed Christians Talk a Lot About the Bible.
We argue over matters of interpretation. We claim that the Bible is infallible. By that we mean the Bible is trustworthy and authoritative when it talks about our salvation in Jesus.
That is where our agreement ends and our trouble begins. Some of us believe that the Bible is authoritative and trustworthy on any matter on which it chooses to speak. Others question that. We
wonder if the last word has indeed been spoken in regards to such controversial issues as homosexuality, creation and evolution, divorce, and women in ecclesiastical office.
- Reformed Christians Are Generous Christians.
The world belongs to God. In his novel The Blood of the Lamb, Peter DeVries paints a wonderful portrait of grace: After a day of throwing rotten waste into the hopper of a truck, the
garbageman enters the spiffy cocktail lounge. He walks in like he owns the joint. He is regal. "Drinks all around," he says. Reformed Christians live as though they own the joint. We understand, too,
that ownership brings awesome responsibility.
- Reformed Christians Are Super Snoops.
There is not a nook or cranny that escapes our eye. Colleges that are Reformed bless and protect professors who conceive odd research projects. Why not? This world and beyond belongs to God.
Reformed Christians have learned to tag along and go where God goes. We are committed to knowing this world, understanding how it ticks, checking out what is under every rock and behind every star,
doing what we can to promote growth and development to the glory of God.
- Reformed Christians Are Passionate.
We are passionate about what we believe. We like a good fight. We love the game of politics and we play it well. We love power. We love to control the game and run the church.
It is a wonderful game. It would enhance our health if we didn't take the game so seriously. If we could only remember that the one who sits in the heavens is the one who holds the high card, it
could be a hilarious game. It is God's game -- the church. It is God's table -- the world. And God will run the table when God is good and ready. Meanwhile, wouldn't it be terrific if we played the
game full tilt and enjoyed one another in the process? How truly Reformed.
It is not in our charter of faith to be so power hungry, to win at any cost, to cast aspersions on one another, or to alienate one another. Nevertheless it is true: We are often merely a gathering
of schismatic sectarians who want our own way. We are not gracious compromisers. We want to win.
- Reformed Christians Think They Understand Grace.
You want a logo for you business card or bumper sticker? Here it is: The World Is Full of Grace. The mystery and magic of God's grace in Jesus Christ is the answer to life's most important
question (as posed by Christian Reformed theologian Lewis Smedes): "How can it be all right when everything is all wrong?"
To understand that we are worthy, that we have been accepted, there is no hell to pay, that "deserve's got nuthin' to do with it" (Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven), that it is by grace that we
have been saved -- these are life's most precious gifts. How do we get them? We get them by believing they are true. By faith.
- Reformed Christians Talk Funny.
We say things like this: Once buried, now raised with Christ. Once dead, now alive. Once condemned to live the old life, now empowered to live the new life. That is magical thinking. Funny talk,
according to this world.
Reformed Christians take seriously some preposterous presuppositions: We believe that God hears and answers prayers. We believe that God counts eyes, ears, noses, and hairs. We believe that God
was in Christ, a Jewish peasant. We believe that God is present in baptismal water, in communion bread and wine. We believe that God's Spirit fills men and women with power. We believe that God wants
our lives to be acts of praise. We believe that God has not spoken his last words. Not yet.
Take this to our sound-byte culture. And put it into their face. For Christ's sake.