Are You Still ‘Reformedish’?

Cribbing Bavinck

I admit being entirely dependent on him theologically, but, for the record, that photo predates my Bavinck readings.

(Pardon me for the somewhat indulgent, self-referential post that follows. Then again, it is my blog, so that’s a thing. Also, on that note, I’d like to dedicate this post to Matthew Lee Anderson.)

“When are you gonna drop the ‘ish’, and just cop to being ‘Reformed’?” That’s the gist of the challenge I received as I was sitting around chatting theology with some friends last week. I can’t remember exactly what we had been talking about, but after my fifth or sixth time opening a statement with, “Well, Bavinck (Calvin, Turretin, Muller) says…”, apparently enough was enough and an intervention against my terminological obfuscation was called for.

It’s not the first time it’s happened, either. Over the last few years of blogging under the title “Reformedish”, I’ve been growing increasingly Reformed, tended to cite mostly Reformed sources, and written mostly for broadly Reformed publications. Understandably, I’ve had a number of people ask me what all the hesitation is about? Why not just own the term “Reformed”?

Well, there’s a few things to say to that, but first, I figure it’s wise to quote my own earlier explanation of my chosen blog-name:

Why ‘Reformedish’?
The title is an indicator of both my spiritual reality and theological outlook. Also, of the fact that I add “ish” to the end of a lot of words–more than I should really. The spiritual reality is that, while I’ve been saved in Christ through that ridiculous Gospel of grace and am even now being indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God, I am still in serious need of reformation–I am a work in progress. Much grace has been given–more will be needed. This will likely be evident in my writing.

Theologically I’ve become increasingly rooted in the Reformed tradition. I was drawn to this little patch of Christian thought by a few guys: Kevin Vanhoozer, Alvin Plantinga, Tim Keller, and N.T. Wright. They introduced me to their buddy, John Calvin. We’ve been friends ever since. This hasn’t always been the case, though, which means I’m still fairly new to this wing of things. I am not knee-jerk Reformed, nor an expert in the tradition. Consider me an increasingly avid novice. Still, I know that the Christian tradition is a broad and deep one so I try to read outside of what I’ve come to think of as my theological home.

So there are two dimensions. One is spiritual, the other theological and, honestly, I think both still apply. I’m not spiritually reformed by a long shot. Just ask…pretty much anybody I talk to on a daily, weekly, or centennial basis. I still stand in need of quite a bit of reformation. Consider it my own version of Kierkegaard’s unwillingness to call himself a Christian because it was too high a thing.

On the properly theological side, I still feel like I’m fairly new to the Reformed tradition. I’ve read far more now than I had when I started this thing, and can quote far more dead Reformed guys than I could then, but I’m not an expert by a long shot. In which case, I feel rather uncomfortable presenting myself as some sort of authority on “Reformed” theology. I’m not. I mean, I know more than some, but that’s not saying much. The more I read, the more I realize I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of the riches of the Reformed tradition. So, yes, I think “Reformedish” is still applicable.

Now, that said, I’d like to be clear that I do own the name “Reformed”, certainly more than I did previously. I mean, I’m certainly not Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Wesleyan, or any of the other venerable theological traditions that get that sort of designation. I also don’t tend to call myself a “Calvinist” as that usually triggers a very specific reference to a narrow set of truths connected to the theology of salvation, instead of the broader panoply of Reformed theological distinctions connected to covenant theology, the sacraments, and so forth. So yes, if you asked me on the street, beyond simply saying “Christian”, or “Protestant”, or “Evangelical”, I’d call myself “Reformed.”

Finally, “Reformedish” is my blog title and I don’t feel like changing because I’m rather loyal. And in any case, it would take way too much work to think of a different name and I’m also kinda lazy like that.

So there you go.

Soli Deo Gloria

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