For some background of what it means to be “reformed”, we look back to the Protestant Reformation as it was sparked by Martin Luther. For a quick historical overview of Church History since the Reformation, please view the Timeline of the Reformation.
If pressed to make generalizations, one might sum up the common elements in most Reformed theologies like this:
- Reformed theology is not some new revelation, or new brand of theological thought, but is, in its best examples, what the church has rightly believed throughout its history. Similarities between its doctrines and that of other traditions should be welcomed and celebrated as a “family resemblance” with others in the household of God.
- Reformed theologies take seriously the idea of God’s sovereignty over all things. Therefore Reformed theologians seek the implications of God’s creation of all things in space and time.
- Reformed theologies traditionally base their convictions on the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments. Most Reformed theologians would go on to say that the Word of God is, first and foremost, Jesus Christ, and theology must always find its first allegiance to him.
- Reformed theologies affirm that Jesus Christ is God’s witness to the world in terms of love, grace, mercy, and justice. Reformed theology has always affirmed that God’s salvation, offered in Jesus Christ is always granted without regard to merit.
- Reformed theologies have upheld the importance of the two sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and contend that both have correlate effects in spiritual reality, if not actual change in the substance of the sacramental elements.
- Reformed theologies, believing that God’s sustaining providence suffuses all things, have always instructed Christians that the proper response to God’s provision for all creation is fervent gratitude that shows itself in devout thought, speech and action. Therefore, Reformed communities have always been involved in shaping and ameliorating the civil societies in which they live.
- Reformed theologies take the ministry potential of the laity very seriously, and many Reformed groups (not all) have the peculiar tradition of ordaining certain lay members to participate in the ministry of the church as elders and deacons, but not making them members of the clergy.