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Part 4 in a series on The Work of Our Hands

In a 2006 article in Christianity Today titled “Young, Restless and Reformed,” Collin Hansen noted that under the radar there has been a quiet and steady growth of interest in traditional Reformed theology, saying,

While the Emergent ‘conversation’ gets a lot of press for its appeal to the young, the new Reformed movement may be a larger and more pervasive phenomenon.

The contemporary Reformed revival has grown out of a reaction against anti-intellectual Christianity, with its over-emphasis on personal experience. It longs for a robust and coherent theology which engages believers to live sacrificially in all spheres of life.

Traditional Reformed theology is simply a return to the understanding of the scriptures as stated by the reformers like Zwingli and Calvin. As great nineteenth century British preacher C.H. Spurgeon once said, “Reformed theology is nothing other than biblical Christianity.” Contemporary Christian leaders who embrace this tradition today would include pastors like Tim Keller, John PiperAl Mohler and Mark Driscoll.

Commenting on this Christianity Today article in his blog The Confessions of a Hedonese, Dave Chang, a Christian Believer from Malaysia, suggests the three greatest draws of Reformed thinking are:

  1. The robust and coherent theology (that many of us have missed in our anti-intellectual Christian culture with its emphasis on personal experience)
  2. The tendency of Reformed believers to engage their Christianity in all spheres of life (avoiding a compartmentalized life of religious v. secular)
  3. The fact that much of Reform theology is grounded solidly in scripture

Even today over six years after this article was written, young men and women are still striving for more substantive and experiential Christianity. No expression of Christianity combines substance with experience as coherently and cohesively as does the traditional Reformed approach.

As we saw in our last post with the example of “Calvin’s School of Death,” the Reformation Christian worldview acknowledges the importance of sacrifice. Calvin himself wrote in his Institutes:

We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal.

For Calvin these were not empty words. He meant them in an intense and personal way. In 1538, after he had spent two shaky years as pastor in Geneva, the General Assembly ordered him to leave the city within three days. Calvin went to Strasbourg to take up his new position as minister to French refugees. In Strasbourg, Calvin’s ministry prospered, and his church grew to 400-500. In 1541 the Geneva Council requested Calvin to return to Geneva. Calvin was emotionally torn; he wanted to stay in Strasbourg, yet he wanted to be faithful to God’s call in his life. He wrote to a friend, “When I received that letter, I would have rather died than go back to Geneva, but I am not my own. I belong to God and therefore that is where I am going.”

An authentic Biblical worldview does more than avoid the artificial religious/secular division of life; it motivates us to be willing to sacrifice ourselves for the gospel of Jesus Christ. The only appropriate response to the free gift of salvation is obedience to God’s call in every area of life.

Question: How has this conversation about sacrifice affected they way you view your career decisions? Leave a comment here.

Hugh Whelchel

About Hugh Whelchel

Hugh Whelchel is Executive Director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and author of "How Then Should We Work?: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work." Hugh has a Master of Arts in Religion and brings over 30 years of diverse business experience to his leadership at IFWE. Read More...

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  • http://www.facebook.com/worleyk Kyle Worley

    I was drawn to the Reformed tradition because a God who demanded nothing gave me no foundation to live a meaningful life. A God who demanded only my morality gave me no beauty. A God who demanded only my worship gave me no mission. A God who demanded only my mind gave me no passion.

    But a God, the one true God, who demanded EVERYTHING, but gave me EVERYTHING in Christ…supplied me with an inexhaustible well of beauty, joy, hope, truth, and love.

    For God’s Glory
    Kyle Worley
    http://www.thestrife.com
    twitter.com/kyleworley
    facebook.com/thestrifeblog

  • Sam

    “The contemporary Reformed revival has grown out of a reaction against anti-intellectual” – for me it was the opposite I found emergent theology increasingly prideful and with a personal intellectualism that was alienating for many of my poorly educated community. I want a more straightforward theology that is accessible to all and unites. I think that is the blessing of reformed theology it is as simply as necessary and incredibly deep also. Structural, systematic, biblical, and dare I say traditional have help me.
    Great article thanks