Someone asks: “You sometimes mention “Reformed” teaching or “Reformational” theology. What does that refer to?”
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“Reformational” theology is the God-centered and Christ-honoring teaching which produced the Protestant Reformation — much of which had been taught also by Augustine and certain other Catholic fathers. On major points, Luther and Calvin agreed, as later did Thomas Cranmer of the English church. These Reformers challenged the authority of the institutional Church to formulate doctrines not taught in Scripture, the saving power of sacraments apart from faith, and monetary payments as a means of obtaining deliverance from purgatory. The adjective “Reformed” sometimes refers to Calvin’s thinking in distinction from Luther’s.
The Reformation itself was but another major episode in the ongoing struggle between those who focus on the grace of God and the all-sufficient saving work of Jesus Christ on the one hand, and those who stress human reason and moral achievement on the other hand. A thousand years before Luther and Calvin, Augustine had championed sovereign grace against Pelagius’ human-centered teaching of salvation. Five hundred years before that, the Apostle Paul championed the work of Christ and the grace of God, in response to certain “Judaizers” and others who supposed that they could boast in their own record of performance.
Whenever people truly preach dependence on Christ for salvation instead of depending on a “plan of salvation,” or “the true church,” or our own obedience (“man’s part”), their opponents frequently try to discredit that gospel message by calling it “Calvinism” or some other label they despise. The careful Bible student will learn to ignore such labels and to ask instead, “What do the Scriptures teach?” I do not agree with everything Calvin taught, but he taught far more truth than he is given credit for by most of those who use his name as a byword — and certainly more truth than some of his critics seem yet to understand.