Wednesday, February 04, 2009

How Do We Form Our Theology?

On a list we were talking about Calvin's catechism, which seems to many reformed folk to be teaching something they don't believe in. A friend of mine wrote the following, and it piqued my imagination;

> > The Institutes are a far better judge of what Calvin was saying and
> > where the reformed formed their theology IMO.

Not Calvin's catechism, but Calvin's Institutes.

I've made several CDs of Bible songs, some of which are more important and useful than others, but I don't think someone else could say of my works that *this one* represents Jamie's thoughts better than *that one*, since they were all my thoughts in the first place. Same with Calvin.

But on to other things...

How have the reformed formed their theology? My friend suggests that in his opinion the Institutes have had a greater effect on this formation than Calvin's catechism, and presumeably for good reasons; most of the folks here have a copy of the Institutes, and hardly any of us have ever heard of Calvin's catechism. Stands to reason that the Institutes are more influential.

I would suggest, however, that neither of these are the fountainhead of how the reformed developed their theology. One should look to their liturgies for that. Compare how often the average reformed person has read Calvin with how often they have attended a whole worship service from start to finish. Our liturgies are our prime teachers, and they shape us far more than the things we read. And they do so in ways that are deeper than we are able to grasp.

God sometimes, in His kindness, teaches us things about Him and His ways that we didn't learn in worship. And when this is the case, and I want to share with you some great thing I have learned from the Bible about baptism, or communion, I naturally run into opposition from my brothers. The Lord has not opened their eyes to see what I see, and until he does, their default position will be what they have learned in worship.

This is not a bad thing; it is in fact a very good thing that we operate this way. God shapes us into certain kinds of people thru the way we worship Him. Have you ever wondered why evangelicals are so very different from us reformed folk? It didn't come because they have not read Calvin and we have; it came because they approach God differently in worship. That's just the way God made the world; if you worship Him differently, you become a different sort of person.

God has made us to worship Him. That is what we are for. So I think it is very important that elders and pastors everywhere continually review their worship service with a view to making it conform to Scripture. Has God revealed something to you that is different from your normal practice, oh elder? Then be prepared, for the sake of His kingdom and for the glory of God, to be opposed. But pray, also, that God would open the hearts of your fellow elders so that you might have a good conversation about it. But be prepared also to start working on some new wineskins, because sometimes you get kicked out...