“Paging Dr. Muller…You Are Needed for Yet Another Amputation.”

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?

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11 Responses to “Paging Dr. Muller…You Are Needed for Yet Another Amputation.”

  1. Rick says:

    Thanks, Zrim,

    As we sitters know from our behind the scenes e-mails, I’ve been looking for a way to link to Muller’s article with some of my own thoughts. Well, I’m experiencing brain constipation at the moment. So again, thanks.

    Love the post title.

  2. RubeRad says:

    If only I had the time this week (month? (year??)) to read! A 20second perusal of the other end of your link looks very good, and reminds me of a small book I’ve seen floating around, I think it’s called “More than TULIP”?

  3. Zrim says:

    Tsk-tsk, Rube. Any good Reformed person finds the time…;)

    Tolle, lege; tolle, lege.

  4. Rick says:

    Any real Reformed person would have read it already.

  5. Zrim says:

    And an even realer Reformed person would have had it in his cyber-library and easily posted it between the times other posters didn’t know what to do with the question “What Does It Mean to be Reformed?” and when a visitor asked in a previous thread if it had ever been attempted here.

    …Ok, that is quite enough of that. The yellow stain on the floor, while appropriate, is getting really annoying.

  6. rana says:

    an even more real Reformed person would have answered my question in one paragraph or less.

  7. RubeRad says:

    Are you kidding? How about 50 paragraphs or more!

  8. Zrim says:


    I tend to shy away from Reformed versions of Ted Haggart’s NAE statement on what it means to be an Evangelical.

    There’s being succinct (read: the five solas), and then there’s being minimalistic (and positively un-Reformed to boot):

    “I define an evangelical as a person who believes Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that the Bible is the Word of God, and that you must be born again.”

    And sometimes even being succinct doesn’t help, since being evangelical (little “e”) itself comports under what it means to be Reformed.

  9. rana says:

    i was kidding.

  10. Zrim says:

    I know; I was just trying to get some discussion going.

    …or maybe you were speaking to Rube…in which case, good one.

  11. Pingback: Presbyterian Sociology, Part II | The Confessional Outhouse

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