In the comments section of the below post called “Never Reforming,” a visitor asked if the Outhouse has ever posted on “what it means to be Reformed.”
She, like me, wonders why, in the cradle of Dutch Reformed confessionalism (Grand Rapids, MI), does one often end up asking this question more often than if one were in another American outpost that can claim no such status. So it is a good question. For my part, I have always rather liked Richard Muller’s words. They seem a fitting antidote not only to those who call themselves “Reformed,” but also to those amongst us who I consider “Calvinist Fundamentalists,” otherwise well-intentioned folk who seem to be under the impression that what is needed is to chase others around with soteriological sticks. Given our patently un-Calvinist cult and culture, it is understandable why so many Calvinists lash out the way they do (Calvinist Gadfly, anyone?); I, for one, cannot say I am beyond the impulse to feverishly set everything un-Calvinist in its place. But, firstly, foolishly blaming those who don’t take the Calvinist-collar in the first place seems quite misguided to say the least. Secondly, even if we get folks to sign that dotted line—and behave accordingly, something I would add to the list of frothy demands, as long as we are fantasizing—it doesn’t make anyone Reformed.
To be honest, while the term “Calvinist” certainly has, strictly speaking, soteriological dimensions in it, I have come to actually discern even broader implications about God’s sovereignty and human responsibility—two phenomenon that disappear behind a big, black circle and I have no idea what happens behind it, as it were. The right appreciation for mystery (contra mysticism, by the way) seems one lesson. We Calvinists are often mistaken for mere Determinists, but I think that may be a function of two things: bad hearing on the part of some non-Calvinists, and some Calvinists doing bad Calvinism as they over-realize God’s sovereignty against human responsibility. But we are no more fatalistic Determinists than we are horrid little moralists. If you think we are one or the other, whatever the cause, you have misunderstood Calvinism.
Anyway, it seems Dr. Muller could have made millions in modern science, what with his skill at amputating a self-identifying term from those who really shouldn’t have it.
I give you, How Many Points?